Should you stay or should you go? On a job, that is. The answer varies on how long you should stay before you leap to a better opportunity. Some say eight months is long enough, while others insist you should stay at least 18, 48 even 72 months to prove your worth.
We turned to question-and-answer site Quora to find out how long someone should stay at a job. Here’s what respondents had to say.
Laying the groundwork
Ultimately, how long you linger depends on your career goals and is driven by two factors: how much you’re learning and what the job is doing for your career, according to Michael Church.
Church suggests you look at your tenure by months. Specifically, durations of eight, 18, 48 and 72 months. “Under eight months is perceived to be terrible, unless you can point to an objective reason,” Church wrote. “It suggests that you didn’t pass your six-month review or the first performance cycle.”
“Eighteen months is the socially accepted minimum,” Church continued. “It suggests that you survived at least one review cycle.
“Four years (48 months) will get you ‘full credit’ for working there, unless something makes it clear that you were an underperformer or stagnating,” he wrote. “If you had increasing scope of accomplishment and preferably at least one title change, you’re fine. If you haven’t been promoted and your projects aren’t getting better, you’re still OK at this point but you have two years in which make your next move.”
“Six years (72 months) is the point at which it starts to hurt you if you’re not getting promoted or better projects … After six years without an obvious record of promotions, it suggests that a person is unambitious and, while not so terrible as to be unable to keep a job, thoroughly mediocre,” he added. “If you keep getting promoted, however, there’s no upper limit on how long you can stay at a job.”
The case for stability
Still, there is something to be said for stability. “It takes the average person two years to learn everything about a certain position on a demanding office job; if you are very good you will get promoted … If you are not promoted you should leave only if you hate your job or a golden opportunity comes,” wrote Teodor Dumitrescu.
And too many jumps in too short a period can raise eyebrows. “There are few things that sound alarm bells more for a CEO or hiring manager than seeing someone with three jobs in four years, or similar,” wrote Matt Mickiewicz. “Either you get bored really quickly, are fired for underperformance, or are disloyal and willing to jump ship at a moment’s notice which is incredibly disruptive to the company team culture and productivity, especially on smaller teams.”
One rule doesn’t fit all
Hiring decisions, however, are subjective, and some rules are meant to be broken. Jeff Ronne reflected back to a former manager reviewing two resumes. Both candidates, he wrote, had eight years of experience and the same calibre of education. One had four two-year jobs, the other two four-year jobs. Which was better?
“The manager thought the one with two jobs was nice but preferred the diverse experience of the candidate that had four jobs,” Ronne wrote. “A greater number of substantial jobs demonstrates flexibility, versatility and adaptability. So if you stay a company for a long time, make sure you accomplish something substantial and then take on demonstrably new challenges.
Follow your heart
At the end of the day, tenure rules don’t really matter if you are staying in a job you don’t enjoy, Stefan Von Imhof said.
“If you don’t like your job you should leave. Period,” Von Imhof wrote. “Attempting to define a ‘minimum’ amount of time to stay at a job is a joke. There (are) a few answers on here attempting to establish complex rules for when it’s okay to leave. It’s all baloney. This is your life, and you don’t have to live by anyone’s rules but your own…If a job isn’t right for you, you leave whenever you want. Have full confidence in your decision.
“If a future employer asks you why you left after two years, two months, or two days, you tell them…the truth,” he continued. “Tell them what you’re looking for. Tell them why your old job was terrible, what you learned, and why this new job is different. Stay strong. Have confidence.”