How long have you been with your current employer? Just a few months? A few years? Ten years? And how many jobs have you had in your entire IT career? Last question: What are the reasons you’ve left previous jobs? Your answers to these questions say a lot about you as a person and an employee. Your resume and your career are defined by these answers. So how long should you stay at your job? Are you making the right choices?

A Little History

We recently talked about the generational shift in the southern California tech industry, which brought to light a greater understanding of the needs and motivations of the Millennial generation and how this relates to hiring, retention and leadership development. However, another interesting concept we’re striving to understand is how long different generations expect to stay with one employer.

A recent survey found that 53% of older generations expect to stay with one company for most of their working lives. On the other hand, younger respondents believe it’s better to move from one company to another every 2-5 years. In fact, the BLS reports that the average time a younger worker stays at one job is somewhere between 16 months to three years.

Why is there such a wide divergence in perspective between these generations? Most likely, it goes back to these workers’ career motivations.  Millennials are known to want a job in which they can make a difference – and in which they can enjoy a satisfactory work-life balance. Baby Boomers have typically focused their careers on stability, making money to support their families, lifestyles and future retirements.

All this to say that when you’re asking the question, how long should you stay at your job? your answer very likely depends upon your generational identity. That said, at KORE1 we interact with hundreds of people looking for new opportunities, which has given us insight into some parameters that are important to keep in mind.

Should You Leave in Less Than a Year?

The short answer to this question is: probably not. Leaving a job in less than a year – particularly if you make a habit of it – is usually a Red Flag in the eyes of future hiring managers.

Companies invest a lot of money into the hiring, onboarding and training process, and business success is based on return on that investment. Consequently, they’re looking to hire people who can contribute to the company and deliver high performance and consistent productivity. And the assumption goes that if you’re leaving after just a handful of months, your contribution and performance won’t be enough to achieve a positive return on hiring you.

Frequent job hopping also suggests that you’re easily bored or quick to be tempted into better opportunities. This kind of disloyalty and lack of commitment is highly disruptive to a company’s performance, teamwork and culture.

Of course, there are exceptions: maybe you were laid off through company downsizing, or maybe you encountered a toxic environment that made it impossible to stay. Make sure you explain these circumstances in the interview so a potential employer doesn’t depend on their assumptions.

Should You Stick It Out for 2-5 Years?

2-5 years seems like the sweet spot to be in, although this certainly depends upon your level of experience and seniority. Early in your career, the 2-3 year range is more normal; once you become more mid- or senior-level, staying for a mere two years is once again going to appear like you’re job hopping.

So what’s the advantage to this regular change of career scenery? Essentially, it allows you to gain a wider set of skills and build greater expertise. Every company has its own nuances, even within the same industry and service offering. Applying and building upon your skills in a variety of situations makes you highly adaptable. This will also help you establish a wider network of professional connections.

Finally, we want to point out that this 2-5 year time period typically applies more to the role you’re in, rather than the company you’re with. So if you’re promoted or your responsibilities change significantly over time, that time span resets itself.

Should You Stay Longer Than Five Years?

If you’re stuck in the same role with the same responsibilities at the same salary level within the same company, five years is typically the maximum amount of time you’ll want to spend in that position. After that, there’s a greater risk that your skills will stagnate and that your opportunities for innovation will be all but lost.

The best companies want fresh ideas, new energy, and goal-oriented employees. If your resume shows ten years stuck in the same role, the assumption will be that you don’t fit their dream candidate profile; that you prioritize safe and comfortable over learning and innovation.

So How Long Should You Stay at Your Job?

These days, companies are faced with a rapidly changing business landscape and are challenged by hiring for the evolving IT role. This is an important perspective to keep in mind when you’re searching for new tech opportunities because your past achievements and experiences play a huge role in how these companies will prepare themselves for future success.

So how long should you stay at your job? There’s no easy answer, but it’s important to comprehend that employees and employers have a somewhat transactional relationship, in which both should be contributing to the other’s growth in some way. While that sweet spot is typically between two and five years, there are exceptions and extenuating circumstances.

Need a hand in searching for new IT opportunities? Search our IT jobs here.