How Long Should You Stay At A Company?

How long should you stay at a company? This question is usually asked under one of two circumstances.  1) You are unhappy at a company but suspect you might damage your resume by leaving too soon or 2) You are happy at a company but suspect you might damage your resume by staying too long. So what guidelines should be followed, you ask? Here are some things to think about before putting in your two weeks:

What’s Too Soon?

Two years is a good general minimum amount of time to give a company before moving on. Consider how much time is needed to get you up to speed in a new role at a new company. It can take up to a year or more for a company to feel the value they have received from you is worth the initial investment of time, training and resources that they expended. Then add one more year to this “breakeven point” to actually provide consistent positive value and be able to argue that you left this role in better shape than when you got there. Plus, two years gives you enough time to have been promoted, which is invaluable to show on your resume. You can be forgiven for having a shorter tenure, but there better be a very good reason and it must not be a pattern on your resume. Several short tenures on your resume puts you at risk of being labeled a “job hopper”, which is very difficult to overcome. Before accepting a new role, ask yourself “Am I willing to spend two years here even if I’m miserable?” If the answer is “No”, you should probably keep looking.

What’s Too Long?

In earlier times, staying at a company for decades was a huge positive on your resume, as it showed loyalty and long term value. In the last few decades, however, that has shifted. The speed at which all aspects of business change requires a very important skill: adaptability. Now, the internal dialogue from a hiring manager that sees twenty years at the same company on a resume can sound like this: “She may have been successful at Acme, but we’re not Acme. I’m not certain she can be as successful here.” Hiring managers like to see that you can be successful in different environments, which can include different industries, sizes of companies, ownership structures and even cultures. A very safe zone of time to spend at a company is between four and ten years with promotions being earned every three to five years. Ten years without a promotion can signal that you’ve either peaked or you lack drive.

What About Being Happy?

As with all “guidelines”, there are other relevant factors that might throw them out the window. “I’m not happy” is the main reason people consider leaving a company earlier than planned.  Lack of happiness comes in many forms, including having a bad boss or company culture, a lack of variety, challenge or promotional opportunities, working in a sweatshop or concern the company is going under. Everyone has their own breaking point and there are many degrees of these different situations. You just need to weigh whether your level of misery is worth showing a short tenure on your resume. Hiring managers want to feel their new hire will stick it out if the going gets a little tough and job hoppers are viewed as wimps. On the flip side, “But I’m happy here” is the main reason people stay at companies longer than needed. Happiness comes in many forms also, usually, the opposite of the list above and only you can determine if you’re willing to risk your happiness to prove you can be successful in other situations. Many people confuse “happy” with “comfortable” though, so make sure you take a good hard look in the mirror to determine if you’re truly happy or is it more a fear of the unknown or you just don’t feel like going through the hassle of changing jobs? If you have any questions about what you read above, or you are ready to search for a new opportunity, contact the Talance Group at 713-357-9565.

Happy Hunting!