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How Long Should You Stay at Your Job?

Before the 2000s, it was generally seen as a negative mark on a resume if someone held a position for less than a couple of years; many employers thought that the short stint made you undesirable to the company you worked for, or even difficult to work with. You were seen as finicky or less dedicated than those who worked seven to ten years before moving on.

However, it’s becoming less uncommon for younger workers to jump from workplace to workplace.

Opinions are changing

Professionals are now saying that 18 months is the real minimum for job stints. The year-and-a-half mark suggests that not only have you survived a 6-month to annual review, but that you did well enough to stay on.

Unless you’ve got a family-related reason or a big corporate action pushed you from your position, sticking it out for a year and a half can greatly increase your chances of finding another job later on.

Listing jobs for less than 18 months on your resume

There’s no shame in including some of these positions on your resume. In fact, a short period of employment looks a lot better than a short period of unemployment. 

If you were affected by a large corporate layoff, such as a plant or factory closing, there’s no fault in that (at least that belongs to you), and you should list that position on your resume. Chances are if the closing was large enough, your potential employer will have heard about it in the news and won’t ask too much about it.

If you were affected by a smaller layoff, be wary of including that position on your resume, especially if it didn’t reach even the 6 month point. Layoffs on a smaller scale often appear to be performance related, even if they weren’t in actuality. If you have a good reason for the layoff like family complications, or a merger, then you should include it--but be sure to explain the circumstances in your interview.

Don’t make it a habit

Sometimes, you hate your job. You accept an offer without really knowing the ins and outs of your work or your co-workers, many of whom you won’t meet until you actually start working. Almost every professional will have a job that they leave because the work (or their co-workers) is soul-crushing.

And to an extent, it’s acceptable to say in an interview that a position just wasn’t a good fit for you. If you only have one or two positions shorter than 6 months, being honest and saying that the work wasn’t challenging or your views didn’t align with the company’s isn’t always a bad thing.

However, when you have five or six positions shorter than six months, you begin to appear as the common denominator in why these jobs didn’t work out. 

Don’t stay too long

On the same token, staying too long in a position with no growth or change can really hurt your resume, just as a short job can. Typically, if you stay on for 6 years or more with no promotions or better projects, you may appear mediocre or even unambitious to your current company and future employers.

Though timing is everything in the job market, staying too long or not staying on long enough are both equal threats to professionals who may want to seek out another job later on. Typically, 4 years is a safe number to go by; if you haven’t seen any growth or change after that amount of time, it’s safe to move on without questions of dedication or ambition.



Image source:  flickr photo by candrews.

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