How Long Should You Stay in Your Current Job?

Businesswoman runs hurry through handsThe obvious answer to the headline question is…. it depends. The answer could be anywhere from, “not a day longer” to “you should never leave”.

The historical wisdom is that you should minimally stay at a job for 12-18 months, but that wisdom is flawed and not as relevant to today’s world. Still a year is hardly a long time. That doesn’t mean you should bolt after a week if you don’t like the vending machines at your new employer. It just means that the pace of job movement is increasing.

In growing up in the ad business in New York in the 70s and 80s, job hopping was a common occurrence. Since the industry was concentrated heavily in New York City in that era, it was relatively easy for successful professionals to find a higher paying job. If one was not bluffing, that offer would often be used as leverage for a bump in one’s salary. I admit having done so once with what I thought was a terrific offer from a firm then named Cunningham & Walsh, a big Procter & Gamble agency. I was prepared to leave BBDO, but re-thought it, and I did turn down the opportunity and stayed. I was very fortunate that I did not jump as Cunningham & Walsh was shortly acquired by NW Ayer, and the end of the Ayer story was very sad a few years later. I worked at BBDO for 12 years, rose in their ranks and probably would have stayed longer had I not moved to Philadelphia in 1989 when I had the opportunity to be President of an agency there.

Fast forward to today, the pace of job movement in general now mirrors the New York ad business back in the 70s and 80s. But some of the reasons for job hopping are changing:

• Technology is changing the nature of the employer’s business

• The weakened bond between employer and employee, in both directions.

• The pace of change makes businesses fail and succeed at a faster pace

So here are my guidelines for those who are fans of the Clash and asking themselves, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”

• Do not make a decision to leave in haste in response to a tough patch at work. Err on the side of longevity. Always best to take a long view. The cliché, “Grass is not always greener” frequently does apply.

• If motivated by $, make sure the $ of the new position are really substantially more. Don’t leave for additional 10%.

• Be sure the possible future advancement opportunities of the new position are real.

• If there are “promises” made in your new employer, let them be written. If they are reluctant to write a promise, is it really a promise?

Lastly, if you’ve decided to go, leave your current employer gracefully and with integrity. It reflects well on you. Be smart as, you never know, your former employer could be your future employer. Companies often seek the “good ones who got away” as future employees. In any event, no burnt bridges.

Now get back to work…..

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  1. ks says:

    This is excellent advice, wonderfully simple and direct. I’ve been on both sides of the “grass is greener” discussion a few times. When I was supervising a team, I had colleagues accept job offers from competitors that I knew they’d ultimately regret. Still, I get the attraction; it’s intoxicating to feel wanted. That marginal bump in compensation or title means recognition. Turnover is part of the game — just be certain that your reasons for leaving aren’t simply a matter of “making a statement” against your current employer, who probably values your contributions a lot more than you believe.

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