Consider These 3 Questions Before You Scratch Your Itch for Career Change

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Lorelei Yang718
Wonky consultant with a passion for words
If you've been at a job for a while and are starting to feel that it's no longer the right place for you to be, you may be wondering if it's time to start looking for a new job. In some cases, this is an easy call — if you've been somewhere for a long time and aren't seeing growth or aren't happy in your role anymore, leaving is a no-brainer. 
However, things are a little less clear-cut if you're relatively new at your job. In these cases, it's a bit harder to be sure if leaving is the right call. Read on for guidance on how to decide whether it's the appropriate time to leave your job.

How long should you stay at a job?

It really depends on the industry, your career path, and your particular situation. According to Nina Semczuk, a career expert at Fairygodboss, one year is usually a minimum target to hit. For the most part, out of the stacks of resumes she sees during recruiting, no red flags are raised if the work history displays a few year-long stints; that's pretty normal in the New York City market and in the startup space. However, if a candidate has multiple jobs of less than a year in a row and they aren't a freelancer, that's when the questions about the candidate's durability arise. 
For another take, Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert at TopResume, recommends that in an ideal world, you should try to stay at each job for a minimum of two years. She notes that too many short stints may cast doubts on your employability, causing recruiters and hiring managers to "question your judgment, your career goals, and your performance as an employee."
James Philip, founder and managing director of executive search firm JMJ Phillip Holdings, notes that if you must leave a job within a year on your own, that's not too bad — but you should absolutely avoid making a habit of it. If you rack up a series of non-contract, full-time jobs that are all under a year in length, it'll be a red flag to anyone reviewing your resume.

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

Understanding your company's system for promotion is also a good metric for knowing how long you should stay at your job without a promotion. If you start to see people getting promoted above you despite being at a similar experience and seniority level, it's time to start asking tough questions about why you're getting passed over. Having a conversation with your manager about why others are getting promoted and how you can set yourself up to be next for a promotion is a good move in this case.
An important variable to bear in mind as you consider how long to stay at your job without a promotion is your company's structure. If you're at a company with many layers of management and corresponding positions and job titles, promotions are going to be a more common occurrence. On the other hand, if you're at a company that's flatter and has fewer levels of management or a startup that's too small to have a formal management system, promotions may be few and far between simply because there aren't positions in which to promote people, including you.
That said, if you're working hard, exceeding your job responsibilities, and still getting passed over for promotions without a good explanation, it may be time to consider looking for a new job. After all, a job is a two-way street — and if your employer won't recognize your value with improved pay and increased seniority, odds are that another employer will.

What if you feel stuck at your job?

If you're feeling stuck at your job, try starting with these tips to help you get out of a career rut. You never know — it may be the case that you're feeling restless at work due to being in a rut, rather than because it's time to move on from your job. If that's the case, putting in the effort to get yourself unstuck at work will likely be enough to address the factors that are making you consider looking for a new job.
However, if you're feeling stuck at work because of a bad boss, severe workplace stress, or a change of heart about the type of work you're doing, it's absolutely the right decision to consider looking for a new job, even if it's a little earlier than you'd originally planned on. If you genuinely have a good reason for choosing to move on from your current job, you can speak to this reasoning in interviews for the next role.
If you do decide it's time to find a new job, it's important to ensure that you won't be labeled a "job hopper," since that's a surefire way to kill your employment prospects. Being honest about why you've made job changes (especially if they were due to factors out of your control, simply because a role was a short-term contract or due to a  partner's relocation), focusing on your achievements at each role and using your cover letter and interview to tie your experiences together into a cohesive narrative will all help you avoid looking like a noncommittal employee who'll be out the door the minute something better comes along.

This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

What piece of advice would you give someone who's thinking about a career change? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!