1. Careers
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

How Long Should An Employee Stay at a Job?

By

Woman circling day on wall calendar, close-up

Being considered a job hopper can impact your chances of getting hired.

Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

Worried about being considered a job hopper? Not sure how long you should stay at your job, even if you don't like it, because it might impact your future employment options? You're right to be concerned.

A Bullhorn survey reports that 39 percent of recruiters believe that the single biggest obstacle for an unemployed candidate in regaining employment is having a history of job hopping or leaving a company before they have been at a company for a year. In fact, hiring managers said that a 58 year old with a steady employment history is easier to place than a thirty year old job hopper.

Average Length of Time at a Job

How long does a typical employee stay at a job? The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer is currently 4.6 years, according to an Economic News Release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, that varies by age and occupation:

  • The median tenure for workers age 25 to 34 is 3.2 years
  • The median tenure for employees age 65 and over is 10.3 years
  • Workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure (5.5 years)
  • Workers in service occupations had the lowest median tenure (3.2 years)

A History of Job Hopping

If you look at one year as a guideline for staying at a job, that can work for a job (or even two), but if you work at several jobs for only a year you are creating a job hopping work history and your resume isn't going to impress any hiring manager.

Obviously, lay-offs can't be avoided, but if you are moving on by choice it's a good idea to consider what, if any, impact the move will have on your future prospects. Sometimes work becomes so negative and difficult that staying may not be an option. Or, you could have been recruited for your dream job. In those cases, you don't need to think too hard about what to do.

In other cases, it can be simply a question of being bored or not challenged and that's when it's time to think twice about leaving.

Questions to Ask

If you have short term jobs in your employment history, ask yourself some questions before you decide to start a job search or resign:

  • Are you leaving for the right reasons (better job, more money, more flexibility)?
  • Are you prepared to assure employers that you aren't a high risk hire?
  • Is changing jobs now going to help or hinder your career?
  • Is there anything you can do to improve the situation at your current job if the timing isn't right?
  • Is this the right time to move on for both personal and professional reasons?
  • Will changing jobs now impact your chances of securing a new job later on?

Staying Too Long at a Job

On the other hand, staying too long at a job can also hinder your employment prospects. A lengthy tenure with one company can give the impression that you aren't interested in growing your career. It can also lead employers to think that you may not have the flexibility for success in a new role.

When is the best time to change jobs? The bottom line is that it's a question of balance. There isn't really such a thing as a perfect resume, because there are so many reasons for leaving a job and for staying at a job. However, do be cognizant of the fact that your decisions matter on a long term basis as well as a short term one.

Related Articles: Can Staying at a Company Hurt Your Career? | When Can I Leave My First Job?

Read More: What To Do When You Hate Your Job? | Top 10 Warning Signs You Need a New Job

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.