Whilst each industry and individual is different the research (and our experience) seems to indicate that the answer to how often you should change jobs depends on where in your career’s lifecycle you are sitting.
There is one constant however across the board – that 12 months is regarded as the minimum time a person should spend in a job (without good reason). As a general rule, hiring a new employee can cost up to 25% of their annual salary once you take into account loss of opportunity / productivity costs, advertising, recruitment fees and having other staff cover workloads. A hiring manager will be wary of hiring an employee if they believe they will leave in less than a year.
When you’re starting out in your career, we generally find that the best length of tenure for a position is between 2-3 years. This may seem short, but at this point in your career, you need to be as “sponge-like” as possible to soak up information.
Yes, there is nothing wrong with remaining with one company longer but often, exposure to 2-3 companies within the first 10 years provides a more diversified skills set to continue into the more senior phase.
Consider the following two scenarios:
Candidate 1 – has been in the same job for 10 years. They’ve shown incredible commitment, but have only been exposed to one set of operating systems, one style of working and one mode of thought. They haven’t necessarily had to adapt to new styles.
Candidate 2 – has the same 10 years of experience, but at 3 different companies. Their experience contains multiple business ideologies, exposure across multiple operating systems, project types and working styles and they generally earn slightly more than Candidate 1 due to the fact that most people receive a higher salary when they change jobs.
Neither scenario is wrong or right and both would be attractive to a hiring manager. We generally find however that Candidate 2 will contain a wider range of skills and be more slightly more versatile.
Once you start heading towards the more senior employment levels, the ideal length of tenure lengthens. Due to the often significantly higher salaries and expectations of skills / experience, hiring managers tend to expect senior candidates to remain in a job for a minimum of 3-5 years.
For senior roles (particularly very senior roles), this is due to the idea that it takes that long to become really familiar with a company’s systems, styles and to really make your mark on a position. Immersion within a company takes time, as does getting to know and understand your team (if you’re a Manager), so there is an expectation of a much longer term investment at the Senior level.
Walking a fine line…
No matter where you sit on the scale, you do have to tread a fine line in how often you change jobs. A hiring manager wants to know that if they hire you, they are making a valuable, long term investment. A ‘choppy’ CV (without good reason) usually emits negative connotations (lack of commitment or potentially being a money chaser etc).
For us, the same rules should always apply. Whilst we might have found that the above timeframes seem to be common, we always ask our candidates to consider a few very important questions.
- Why are you leaving? Leaving a job for the right reasons (regardless of length of tenure) is imperative.
- Will leaving a job now impact your future hireability? Never burn a bridge and think about the potential timing of your move. Is it going to reflect well on you?
- Can the problem be fixed? If you’re leaving due to a specific problem, have you spoken with your Manager prior to looking around? They may be able to fix the issue.