Whatever you think of the so-called “Great Resignation”—a trend some believe actually started well before the pandemic, and others think doesn’t actually exist—many working people are currently planning to make a career change. What’s more, according to a recent Bloomberg article, this is a smart move, as some experts suggest switching jobs at least every 10 years. Their reasoning comes down to “basic human psychology” driving a need for change, plus the benefits of reassessing your needs and goals, which will naturally evolve over the course of a decade.
Others bristle at the idea that you “need” to switch up your gig on a certain timeline—especially if that timeline is based more on principle than anything else. For more insight into whether you should allow a ticking clock to influence your career plans, I spoke with career experts Sharlyn Lauby, Jenny Foss, and Dan Schawbel to get their take on whether there’s an ideal timeframe to make a change. Here are their tips for determining how long you should stay at any one job.
There’s no magic number
Despite what some headlines claim, many career consultants like Foss find these sorts of hard and fast rules to be dangerous. “You could be in a role for 10 years that constantly evolves, expands, presents new challenges, etc., so why would you leave if you’re getting all the challenge and fulfillment (and compensation) you want in one spot?” he says.
Likewise, Schawbel and Lauby agree that any rule dictating you need to switch your job after a certain amount of time is likely an overgeneralization. “If you like the company, the people, the work, and the pay, then that’s great,” Lauby says. “That’s a tall order when it comes to jobs.”
Then again, she adds, staying with the same organization for years and years could mean you’re not earning as much as you would if you occasionally changed companies. Ten years might not be universal enough to be considered set in stone, but a decade is a significant chunk of time—certainly long enough that it’s worth reflecting on your job satisfaction. So how can you tell when a career change is the right choice for you?
Signs it might be time to get a new job
Lauby says most people she encounters in her work as president of the HR consulting firm ITM Group Inc. are looking for the same things. “They want to work for an organization they can be proud of. They want to do challenging and enjoyable work. They want to work with people who support them. And they want to be paid fairly for what they do,” she says. If your job isn’t checking one or more of those boxes, it might be time to start browsing the job listings.
Schawbel notes a particularly strong sign it could be time for a change is when it feels like your work is the same old story, day after day. If you’re concerned about advancing as a professional, you’ll need to be able to show that you know how to take on new challenges at work. Daily boredom means you’re not being challenged enough.
Foss puts it similarly: If you can do your job in your sleep, you’re not growing. She lists other signs that it’s time for a switch, such as disenchantment with the company’s values or management team, a feeling of anxiety or dread that sets in every Sunday evening, or fear that you’ll someday regret not making a change.
How to make the leap away from your current role
Thinking about leaving your job is one thing. How do you practically take the leap? Foss advises you should first ask yourself why you’re clinging to your current job, since it could be for all the right reasons. Health insurance, income stability, work-life balance, and other benefits are all realistic reasons to stick with a job even when it doesn’t make you happy.
On the other hand, if the main thing holding you back is fear of leaving your comfort zone, a first step could be to talk to people working in a job or industry you’re really interested in (but maybe afraid to make the leap into). “Informational interviews and job shadowing can be amazing ways to get a true picture of (and get excited about) something that you might be interested in stepping into,” Foss says.
Impulse decision-making likely isn’t your friend here. Lauby says she sees people who are so anxious to leave their current role, “they jump to a new role or company without thinking it through completely.” (Such accounts have been more commonly reported in the media since talk of the Great Resignation gained steam.) To avoid rash decision-making, Lauby suggests, “[knowing] what your must-haves and nice-to-haves are before you start looking.”
It’s never “too late” to make a career change
Foss, Lauby, and Schawbel all reject the idea that it’s ever “too late” to switch jobs. For inspiration, Foss says to find stories of people who have made huge life and career changes later in life. “Read about them, learn from them, be inspired by them. And then start making some moves,” she sys.
Lauby points out that many job search resources are specifically targeting “encore and/or second careers.” At the same time, today’s job search strategies are much more focused on technology. Lauby says to, “be prepared to engage via social media, apply online, and participate in a video interview.” A huge part of being a strong job candidate these days requires you to cross a certain threshold of currency with your tech skills.
If you do stay at one company for many years
As we noted, there’s no rule saying you need to change your job after a certain amount of time in order to be happy. Foss suggests that if you do decide to stick with one company for over a decade, it will be to your advantage to “seek out fresh challenges, new or expanded roles, or opportunities to learn and grow along the way.”
Changing careers or not, it’s also in your best interest to keep up-to-date on what’s going on in your industry outside of the four walls of your company. Staying current on new trends and technologies is vital career advice for anyone in the workforce—whether you’re trying to make yourself a competitive job candidate, or simply trying to avoid restlessness in your longterm role.
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