Did you know 41% of Baby Boomers think workers should stay with an employer for at least five years before looking for a new job. I haven't met many millennials who are planning to stay with any employer for that long...even in their dream jobs. In fact, according to research, only 13% of Gen Y are staying put this long. If we aren't being compensated appropriating, feeling challenged in our position, or see opportunities for advancement, our attention is already redirected on what's next.
So then what is a realistic amount of time to stay in one job? And how long should you stay if you're not happy?
The Argument for Staying
Early on in your career it's certainly important to "try things on for fit," but serial job hopping can actually hurt your career. If you're jumping from company to company, you risk not appearing dedicated and scattered in your experience.
There's no globally accepted rule for how long is an appropriate tenure, but make sure you're staying put long enough to gain mastery of a skill. Whether it's seeing a project through its full life-cycle or becoming the go-to person for a specific task, this is how you develop your professional niche. No matter how you slice it, you can't refine your specialty if you're constantly on the move.
Give it a Year
Practically speaking, it takes about 6 months to learn a new role and 6 months to prove yourself. Blame it on being overqualified for the job from the get-go or wanting a new challenge, the one year mark is when a lot of millennials start itching for change.
For better or worse, from a recruiter's perspective, you should stay at least one year in your position. 2-4 years is the sweet spot for professional tenure. As long as you're growing, it's worth it to stay.
If you've hit your limit, been passed over for a much deserved promotion, or your company is headed in a new direction that you don't agree with, make sure you can clearly articulate why you're job searching and what you're looking for out of a position. Shorter tenures are going to be questioned more by hiring managers, but in many cases are completely justifiable.
Sometimes we get the gut feeling early on that we made the wrong decision. Maybe you missed something in the interview or have uncovered an environment that is vastly different from what you expected. You can certainly wait it out, but you need to be honest with yourself whether the situation is likely to improve or worsen with time.
If you don't see any future with your employer and you've been there less than a few months, you don't owe them to stick it out. It's better for you and the company to come clean early on and chalk it up to a bad fit.
However, if you're in a position that's making your miserable - you're not sleeping, you have an emotionally abusive co-worker or supervisors, or your personal life is suffering because of your work - regardless of how long you've been there, it's time to move on. No job is worth sacrificing your well-being.
When You Decide to Leave
When it's time to search for something new, take the time to define exactly what's motivating your decision to seek alternative employment. Use this information to guide your search and to decide what type of position and employer will satisfy your needs.
And finally, regardless of how unhappy you are, make sure you don't jump to the next thing just to get out of your current job. Jumping haphazardly most of the time results in a new environment with the same unhappiness culprits. Follow your intuition and enter the job search knowing that finding the right fit is worth the time it takes.