When is the best time to switch jobs?

January 2, 2018 3 mins read
When is the best time to switch jobs?

Throughout the interview process, many of our candidates often ask questions such as, “In general, how long should I stay at one company before switching jobs?” “Do you think that now is an appropriate time for me to switch jobs?”

In truth, there isn’t really a set of objective criteria according to which you can decide whether or not it’s the right time to leave your current job.

Regardless of whether they’re an employer who works at the company for which you’re applying or a headhunter belonging to a third party, your interviewer will invariably put on emphasis on your professional stability or “degree of loyalty”. Generally, interviewers will interpret less than two years of experience at one company as a lack of loyalty, whereas less than one year will be interpreted as professional instability. However, this doesn’t mean that three years’ experience will invariably be viewed as stable; the value of your work experiences isn’t necessarily defined by their length.

Switching jobs varies according to your personal circumstancesBelieve it or not, the amount of time you should wait before deciding to switch jobs varies according to your personal circumstances. If you’ve been working the same job at the same company for 3-5 years without being promoted or receiving a considerable raise, then you should consider changing positions within the same company or switching to another company as a means of accelerating your professional development.

When it comes to employment, staying in the one spot is really just another form of moving backward. Why three to five years, you may ask? Your first year in a company is really the period in which you begin to familiarize yourself with the company environment, the content of the position, the company’s hierarchy, etc. Your second year is when you gradually fall into the role of the position, where you appreciate its significance and come to understand the actual tasks that the job entails. The year that follows these two formative years is your time to shine: now that you know the ins and outs of the job, you can start making real achievements.

At this point, the company should start to consider whether or not to give you a raise or a promotion. If you are in your fourth or fifth year at a company and you’re still being rewarded for new progress, that means that the company recognizes your value—in which case you can consider to keep working for them. However, as you work on professional development and improve your skills, it’s still wise to establish new career objectives for every three years.

If you have missed the golden window of opportunity that begins at your third year and ends in your fifth, then it’s likely that you value the comfort of what you already know more than any opportunities for progress. As your external environment changes ceaselessly, it will become increasingly difficult for you to gain the confidence needed to overcome the challenges inherent in finding and changing jobs.

Employers will not necessarily turn you down if you have frequently changed jobs—especially if you have a valid excuse for leaving your last job or were forced to leave due to circumstances out of your control (such as a company closing down or removing your function from its organizational structure). However, why you left your last job remains highly sensitive information which may cause the employer to doubt your competence.

Except in circumstances where it is absolutely necessary, we strongly discourage candidates from resigning without having already received another offer. Leaving one job without having another lined up is risky behaviour: such candidates face enormous pressure as they search for another job, and as a result are prone to making irrational career choices.

I hope my insights into when is the best time switch jobs have been valuable and helpful. For further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact me. 

Marlon Mai's picture
Marlon Mai
Managing Director, Greater China