How long to stay in a role? That is a common question I’m often asked in my profession and one I ponder myself in my own journey.
I don’t think there’s a concrete answer to this…really, it all depends.
One thing I do know and very much believe, is that you don’t need to change roles every 18-24 months. This is something I’ve experienced and felt some pressure in doing when working within larger corporations.
In these types of companies, it is not uncommon to see people change jobs every 12 – 24 months. In most cases it is encouraged as part of a supposed 360 career experience.
I wonder if these organisations have researched the positives and negatives to promoting such an approach to career development? I bet their findings might surprise them. I’m not saying it doesn’t work for everyone as obviously, some people have done well with this approach.
Yet, I find myself wondering if the pressure to move around so often could cause negative repercussions to skill and experience development in the long term? Could a finite mindset of aiming for the next role catch us short in later years?
That’s a lot of questions I’ve thrown out there.
My simple spin on it, is that you can still grow in your role in the 3rd and 4th year of your tenure. It’s not uncommon for many to get bored in their current role in years 3 and 4. Their heads are turned by new opportunities, yet I feel many are missing out on more opportunities to evolve by moving so quickly.
I’ve worked in the area of HR and people development for nearly 15 years now. The common reasons I’ve seen for people wanting to switch roles in their 3rd or 4th year is lack of challenges and learning opportunities.
It’s no surprise that those two reasons are also the most common for employees to leave their workplace too.
We know that people don’t thrive and become easily demotivated when they aren’t learning and being challenged. This is how we are hardwired so it should come as no surprise really.
Yet, why do so many of us think we cannot keep learning and find new challenges in the 3rd and 4th years of our tenure? Is it that the role has stopped providing these moments or is it because we become lazy and no longer create those learning moments anymore?
I think the truth as always, is somewhere in the middle.
I’m part of the anointed millennial generation. If data is to be believed, it’s not uncommon for people in my generation to move roles every 3 or so years. Many of our reasons to move on are due to boredom, lack of progression, challenges and learning. Of course, money is in there too but that’s kind of standard.
I believe that the fear amongst most of my generation is that if you stay anywhere too long you become stale. Now this is possible but it is no means a certainty. We also know that the job for life mentality of the generations before is long gone. We mostly live in an age now where it’s rare to be in one place for 5 years, let alone 25 years.
Don’t misunderstand me here. Moving to new roles to acquire new skills and experience is necessary to successful career development. But, for me, the question is, when is the right time to move from where you are now?
Move too soon and you will miss out on opportunities to evolve. Move too late and you could find your skills have become stale. So, we want to know the answer to when not if.
Here’s a few things you can ask yourself to understand if it’s actually time to move on or you just need to be more realistic on what more you can do in your current role.
- Am I still learning new things? Our brains thrive on the process of learning new things. It’s wise to reflect on if you still have the opportunity and space to learn new things where you are now. Sometimes you can find that the opportunities to learn new things do still exist but the space to pursue them is limited due to your current environment.
- Am I still finding the role challenging? Challenges are closely tied into the opportunity to learn. A role without continued challenges which provide the moments to gather new experiences can become quite dull. Are you doing the same old thing over and over again? Or are there continued new areas for you to explore and learn from. If you’re finding the role too easy, then it might be time to move on.
- Does the work still make me happy? Sometimes it’s not always about pushing for more development. Some of us are content with just being happy in a career and there’s nothing wrong with that. If the role still makes you happy and you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, then continue on my friend.
- Does the work still align with my purpose? This is a rather deep one but oh so important. Anything we do, should give us purpose and align to what we can call our reason for rising in the morning. Does the role still give you a buzz? Does it still align with why you do what you do?.
I’m sure there’s more questions you could ask yourself but these are the ones I often reflect on when assessing my own career journey.
Hopefully, these help you answer the question of when it is the right time to move on.
As I said at the beginning of this piece. It is absolutely possible to continue to grow in your current role beyond the first 2 years. Whether that’s right for you, is something you’ll need to explore yourself.
Before you go… 👋
If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.
You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.