How much time should you REALLY spend in a job?

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Once upon a time, young workers took on a company for life, but those days are long gone. With plentiful opportunities and broader options, today’s young people demand more from their employers. This means they’re more likely to hop around different companies until they find the conditions they want.

“This is primarily due to the fact that we’re in an extremely candidate-driven market, with low unemployment,” explains Marianna Mood, General Manager at Adecco. “Candidates have more options to select future employers that have better benefits and culture than their current employer may have.”

But as job-hopping becomes the new normal, it raises the question: how much time should you really spend in a job?

  • There’s no magic number: it’s about quality, not quantity. One might think staying too long or too short a time in a job would give a negative impression, but it’s not as simple as that.“There are no hard and fast rules,” says Denise Loraine, Commercial Victorian Business Manager at Symmetry HR. Though she admits if there is a pattern of jobs “less than 18 months” on your resume, “employers may be nervous”.Ultimately, what you achieve during your time in a role is more important than how long you were in it. As Mood says, “Future employers do look at how long you have worked for an employer and want to know what your achievements were during that time.”But, she adds, “There’s no right or wrong amount of time you should spend in a job, as in your working career you will enter different phases. Whether it’s your first job out of school or university and you’re keen to gain experience and move on to the next opportunity, or you have just landed your dream role and want to progress your career within that organisation.”

    It’s important not to remain in a role just because you feel you should. Loraine says, “Staying in the wrong job for the wrong reasons can be just as harmful for both the employee and employer.”

  • How to identify whether you should stay or go. It all comes down to whether or not you’re continuously developing and finding passion in your role. If you’re among the 29% of Australians SEEK research found expect to progress internally, then it makes sense to stay. But if you’re in the 45% of Australians who feel they need to leave their current employer in order to progress in their careers, then a change might be needed in order for you to continue to grow professionally.“Staying longer than the average is fine, provided you are growing and being challenged,” Loraine explains. “Providing the impact you make is recognised, you feel valued and remain challenged, you should stay as long as you like.”Conversely, if you’re not growing, being recognised or feeling challenged in your role, leaving your job earlier than expected is also acceptable.
  • Focus on the positives. Whether you stay a short time or a long time, it’s important to let potential employers know why you stayed the amount of time you did, and why you left. “Knowing that you will stick around is a key factor in their hiring decision,” says Mood.Therefore, “making sure you explain to potential employers what kept you at that employer and ensuring all of the positives are clear are just as important as explaining why you left after a short period of time,” says Loraine.It’s clear that spending a considered amount of time in a job helps potential employers feel comfortable investing in you as your skills increase. But at the end of the day, you can only do your best work if you’re happy. So finding a balance of both is crucial when considering your next career move.

Ultimately, what you achieve during your time in a role is more important than how long you were in it.


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