How Long Should You Stay at a Job? (6 Questions to Ask)

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May 29, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • Prospective employers review your job history when looking at candidates. 
  • Changing jobs frequently is becoming more common and known as job hopping. 
  • Teal’s AI Resume Builder helps you organize and optimize your resume during your job search. 

Whether you’re seeking new growth opportunities or feel stuck in an unfulfilling job, there will come a time when you think about leaving your current job. 

Gone are the days of working at the same company for decades. As part of your career development, it’s important to gain experience and acquire new skills to help you land your next job. But you don’t want to leave your current role too quickly. Which brings up the question, just how long should you stay at a job? 

There’s no magic number or hard requirements, only recommendations based on your circumstances. This article walks through the average job tenure and guidelines for how long to stay in a job based on various situations.

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

Understanding job tenure

Job tenure refers to how long a person has worked for a specific employer. This is an important metric as potential employers typically look for someone with several years of experience. When a company hires someone, it takes significant time and resources. So it’s in their best interests to first gauge the likeliness of you staying long-term. 

Having short stints at multiple jobs on your resume can be a red flag for hiring managers and might put you in the “job hopper” category. While the term carried a negative connotation in the past, times are changing. It’s no longer taboo to job hop and most people don’t expect you to stay with the same organization for more than a few years.

Elena Sarango-Muniz, an experienced leadership and executive coach and HR consultant at Sarango Executive Coaching, says:

“Job hopping is no longer seen as negative in today's labor market, especially with the current working generation mix. As long as the employee can clearly and honestly articulate why transitioning from one job to the other, the right employer will understand and potentially give them the opportunity. The interview process here is key.”

So if you can explain your career transition in a job interview, most industries and hiring managers won’t hold it against you.

Why do people leave their jobs? 

The reasons people leave jobs vary widely. Based on a Pew Research Center survey, the top five reasons workers left their jobs in 2021 include:

  • Pay was too low (63%)
  • No opportunities for advancement (63%)
  • Feeling disrespected at work (57%)
  • Because of child care issues (48% of respondents with children)
  • Not enough flexibility to choose when to put in hours (45%)

Teal's Job Search feature lets users save jobs directly to their Teal Job Tracker
Teal's Job Search feature lets job seekers find and filter jobs then save directly to the Teal Job Tracker

How long does the average person stay at a job?

The median employee tenure in January 2022 was 4.1 years, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. However, there’s a big generation gap influencing the average tenure of the typical employee. 

Employees 20 to 24 years of age had a median job tenure of 1.2 years in 2022. That number jumped to 2.8 years for employees 25 to 34 years of age. The median continues to increase to 4.7 years for employees 35 to 44 years of age, 6.9 years for employees 45 to 54 years of age, and 9.8 years for employees 55 to 64 years of age.

How long should you stay at a job before leaving?

If you’re getting that nagging feeling that it might be time to leave your job, you might wonder how long you should stay at a job before quitting. Typical advice is to stay in a job for two years.

Two years is long enough to have worked on multiple projects but short enough that you can move on and pursue other opportunities. While that might be the ideal timeframe, things happen and there are plenty of reasons you might choose to bow out earlier than anticipated. 

To make an informed decision and consider all sides, here are some questions to ask before leaving a job:

1. Do you like your job?

You spend a good chunk of your life and waking hours at work. While it’s not a requirement, it makes a major difference if you like your job. If you’re thinking of leaving, honestly evaluate your job satisfaction and whether you like your job. Do you have work life balance or enjoy the company culture? If you do, those are major pros to consider. If not, that could influence your desire to depart.

2. Are you satisfied with your compensation?

Your overall compensation is a reflection of your work. Ask yourself if you’re satisfied with your pay. Do you feel you’re making enough for the work you’re doing? Based on your own research, are you getting paid industry standard for your role? Lastly, are you able to make your salary work for your lifestyle? If not, it’s worth researching high-paying skills to learn as you plan your next move.

You don’t need TikTok to tell you “outside is expensive.” Inflation is at a high and your take-home pay probably isn’t going as far as it did. If your income isn’t cutting it, ask for a raise or prepare for your performance review by documenting your work achievements. If your current employer just won’t budge and you’re not satisfied, often that’s a telltale sign it's time to move on.

3. Are there opportunities for growth?

Your job is a place to gain more experience, create new relationships, and acquire in-demand skills. But if you’re coasting because your job is too easy or you’re simply bored at work, that can pose a problem.

You might feel challenged at work, but stuck in the same place. Ask yourself if there are opportunities for growth at the current company. Growth can look different for everyone, but you want options.

4. How recently were you promoted?

Sometimes you jump through hoops, do your best, work hard, and your work still isn’t recognized. You try to score a promotion and get ignored. It’s frustrating and disappointing. If you’ve been skipped over for a promotion several times, it’s natural to want to look for a company with more opportunities for growth.

5. Do you need the job? 

Asking if you need the job for the money or the experience is crucial. You don’t want to leave triumphantly and then realize there are bills to pay and no income. While there are always exceptions, avoid leaving your current job before you have another lined up, especially if you have little job experience to fall back on. 

6. Is the job affecting your mental health?

Everyone has bad days at work where moods are low and nerves are high. That’s to be expected. There’s a difference if your job is affecting your mental health. For example, if you’re having crying fits or anxiety attacks, feeling apathetic or low, or your self-worth has plummeted and it’s directly related to your job, it’s probably time to look for a new job.

After asking these six questions you’ll have a better idea of where you stand.

Related reading: If you're considering leaving your job, you might be wondering how long does it take to find a job.

How long should you stay at a job without a promotion?

If you enjoy the job, are compensated fairly, and receive annual cost of living raises, you could stay three to five years at the job without getting a promotion. Getting a promotion takes time. You want enough job experience and achievements on your track record to receive proper outside credit for that work and to make a better case for a promotion—at your current company or elsewhere. After that time period with no upward mobility? All bets are off.

Of course, this depends on your ambitions and career goals. If you’re happy with where you’re at and other perks of the job are worth the tradeoff—summer vacations, flexible hours, travel—then you can continue as-is. If you yearn for more meaningful work and more responsibilities (and let’s be real, higher pay) you can consider pursuing something else after three years.

It could be a good opportunity to have an honest conversation with your manager about why you haven’t received a promotion. This could shed light on what’s going on with the company or what core competencies you could develop. 

How long should you stay at a job you hate?

If you quickly realize you hate your job, you might think about quitting right away, but it’s smart to stay at least a year. 

That can be enough time to put the role on your resume. If it’s something you think you can’t endure, then leaving earlier is up to you. Just be ready for potential consequences, like burning bridges, or leaving a job before you have something else lined up (here’s how to find a job fast). 

There’s technically no right or wrong answer when you’re talking about your happiness and well-being. Before submitting your two-week notice or making a rash decision, identify what you hate about the job. Is it the culture? A particular staff member? If possible, talk to your manager about your dissatisfaction. There could be a potential solution you haven’t thought about. While figuring it out, you can start your search to find a job you love.

How long should you stay at a job for experience?

To get the most experience out of a job, it’s a good idea to stay at your current job for at least three years. While the recommended minimum is often considered two years, staying at least one extra year can help you gain more experience and could put you on the path to a promotion or with enough experience to go after your dream job. 

Here’s how to find your next career opportunity online

How long should you stay at a part-time job?

It’s a good idea to stay at a part-time job for a minimum of one to two years. If you get a job offer for a full-time role earlier than that, it makes sense to quit for more hours, pay, and benefits.

Some part-time jobs might be seasonal, like working at an afterschool program during the school year or as a lifeguard during the summer. In these cases, it’s best to stay the entire season, if possible. 

How long should you stay at a fast food job?

If you’re working a fast food job, figuring out how long you should stay depends on your career goals, future employment opportunities, and financial situation. Like most other jobs, sticking around for one to two years can be good for your resume. But it’s not the corporate world and you may have a short tenure. 

Those who thrive in fast food and enjoy it, can stay longer and potentially move up the ranks. If fast food is a job you took because you needed cash and isn’t related to your career, you can jump ship and leave a job early when a better opportunity arises with a new company. If short term, simply leave the current position off your resume.

Find out how many applications you should apply for. 

How long should you stay at a job to put it on your resume?

The minimum amount of time you should stay at a job if you want to put it on your resume is one year. However, staying for two years is often considered the minimum.

There are some exceptions, though. If you can explain the short timeframe and have valid reasons, you may want to put your job on your resume. For example, after six months you might need to move cross-country for your spouse’s job or education or become the primary caretaker for someone in your family.

Additionally, these guidelines don’t apply to contract or freelance positions which typically have shorter lengths of time. 

Ultimately, how long your resume should be and how many jobs you include is up to you. Just remember to put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. What assumptions might you make based on your resume alone?

Pro tip: The Resume Formatting feature on Teal’s Resume Builder makes it simple to format date ranges and reorder or remove positions on certain resume versions. When it comes to deciding which jobs to include, here’s how many jobs you should list on a resume.

Teal's AI Resume Builder allows users to add new jobs to their resume by filling out fields
Teal's AI Resume Builder makes it easy to manage, add, and remove jobs on a resume.

How long should you stay when you know a job isn't right for you?

If you’re in a job that isn’t a good fit, it’s best to cut your losses sooner rather than later. Leaving something that isn’t working can open up space for something more aligned with your career goals.

That’s the straightforward answer, but there can be more to it. For example, how long should you stay at a job when you know it’s not right and you just started? How long should you stay at a job before looking for a new one?

If you’re a new employee, consider giving the job a shot for a minimum of a year. It can take half that time to learn the ropes and get settled in the role, according to HR consultant Elena Sarango-Muniz:

“Many employees leave their roles because of the culture of the company. I usually tell my clients to give it about six months to evaluate the "fit" into the company. In my experience, this is how long it takes for someone to be able to make an objective decision on their workplace."

However, if the job is negatively impacting your mental health or is not what you signed up for based on the job description, you may want to give your two weeks’ notice letter. After such a short time, simply leave this off your resume.

For those who can’t afford to quit, you can start looking at other opportunities right away and see how far your savings can stretch. The goal is to look at all of your available options. 

Should you stay or should you go?

Figuring out if you should stay or go is a real dilemma employees face every day. While there is the standard advice of sticking around for two years, maybe even one, ultimately it’s a personal decision. 

Nobody else is in your shoes. Making a decision like this isn’t something you can outsource. The best advice is to review your options, discuss with your manager if you’re comfortable, and trust your gut. Sometimes that means making tough decisions and potentially disappointing people. Whatever your choice is, your career is in your hands. 

As you consider your job tenure and weigh your options, it's important to think about how the decisions will affect your resume and your ability to get your next job. 

Teal’s AI-powered Resume Builder will help you manage every achievement, skill, and experience gained from every job, to create different versions tailored to each application. So whether you stay or go, you’re prepared for whatever is next on your career journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I switch jobs?

To stay competitive and pursue professional growth, switching jobs every two to three years can be a good idea. Having several years under your belt is ideal for your job history and enough time to learn new skills and establish expertise. After a few years, you can research your options and apply to better opportunities.

How long does Gen Z stay at a job?

Gen Z stays at a job for an average length of two years and three months, according to data from CareerBuilder. Compared to Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, Gen Z stays in a job for the least amount of time. However, Millennials come in a close second staying at a job for an average length of two years and nine months. 

How long should you stay at a job to not be considered a serial job hopper?

Staying at least two years at a job is the typical recommendation to avoid the job hopper label. If you leave a job before two years, you might be considered a job hopper, especially if you leave multiple jobs after a year or two. However, it’s worth noting that attitudes are changing toward job hopping and they are not viewed as negatively as they were in the past.

Melanie Lockert

Melanie Lockert is the founder of the blog and author of the book, Dear Debt. Through her blog, she chronicled her journey out of $81,000 in student loan debt. Her work has appeared on Business Insider, VICE, Allure, and more.

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