How Do You Decide When It’s Time for a Job Change?


When you seriously consider a job change, is it more likely because of circumstances or do you start listening to an internal clock?

What makes you think about a job change? I started my first job 35 years ago. I have spent the majority of my career — 31 years and counting — in television. But I learned that no two people come to contemplate career moves quite the same way.

I’m not talking about those far-too-seldom phone calls when some recruiter presents some wonderful opportunity that you just can’t pass up.

I’m talking about you making a conscious decision to start looking, to put yourself out there, to find a new job.

I’ve worked with many people over the years. Some will start looking for a new job, no matter happy they are at their current one, every two to three years. They can’t always explain that. They just feel motivated for something “new.”

More power to them. I don’t like moving that much.

I’ve worked with others who’ve stayed in the same job or with the same company for more than 30 years. I’ve worked with a few who’ve stayed in the same job for more than 40.

That seems to be increasingly rare these days. While I don’t doubt that some of the complaints about burnout may be valid, there are folks these days who feel that getting stressed out a little suddenly qualifies.

If you’re in that boat, you might be surprised by what job career advisors think about the preferred frequency for job changes.

Should you stay or should you go?

I found a recent article on Lifehacker titled, “The Longest You Should Ever Stay at Your Job, According to Career Experts.” That article points to a Bloomberg article that argues “a radical career shift every decade or two can be good for both workers and employers.”

Every 10 years.

That strikes me as better than every two to three years, at least. But why 10? Why not five or eight or 12?

If you’re a Bloomberg subscriber, you can read their take. I’m not.

Lifehacker’s article explains the rationale of the Bloomberg article 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.”

I suspect the “Great Resignation” has driven a much faster evolution of those needs and goals. At least for some people.

Lifehacker, meanwhile, points out that some people “bristle” at the notion of a timeline.

I suppose I fall into that category. When I asked a couple of the two-to-three-year switchers, they couldn’t give me a firm answer about why they felt that need. I didn’t consider, “Oh, just wanted something new” as a valid reason for a job change.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t see anything wrong with wanting something new. But if there’s nothing specific — no goal, no accomplishment — that you’re hoping to reach, “something new” will always be a temporary, fleeting thing.

You’ll never be happy anywhere if your priority is “something new.” Within a few months at best, what’s new will no longer be.

The question I always hated

A former employer had an annual review process that involved a detailed questionnaire. I hated one of the questions it asked toward the end focused on the future:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I didn’t hate the question because it was so unrealistic or unreasonable.

But there were a couple of reasons I did hate it. First, when you feel you’re bogged down among individual trees trying to accomplish one thing or another, it’s hard to set aside all of that to go climb a mountain for a look at the forest.

Yes, I agree that we all should make that time more often. But when you’re in the middle of an annual review, where you’ve been focusing on your job performance and how it measures up to your responsibilities, it felt oddly out-of-sync to then shift to bigger picture things if you didn’t already have some “big picture’ notion in mind.

I also hated it because I knew that no one was going to read that five-year hope. So it felt disingenuous to explain where I hoped to be or what I hoped to be doing in five years when I knew the person who’d see it wasn’t likely to do anything to help me get there.

It seemed like a major waste of time to me. At least, in that context.

The question itself is a good one, though.

Maybe it’s a question we need to ask ourselves a bit more often.

In fact, Lifehacker spoke with ITM Group President  Sharlyn Lauby, who set out the following qualities that should resonate with you in your current job:

  • You work for an organization you can be proud of.
  • You do work that’s challenging and enjoyable.
  • You work with people who support you.
  • You are paid fairly for what you do.

If at least one of those don’t sound like your current work, the article suggests, it might be time to consider a job change.

I find it interesting that they put the money question at the bottom. When I look to hire a position, that’s the first question I am generally asked. It is generally the first reason someone who doesn’t take the job cites.

The list, of course, was offered in no particular order. But I wonder if that was an attempt to prioritize other things above salary, even though it seems like that might not be real life.

In a perfect world, money shouldn’t necessarily top the list. No one is ever going to be paid as much as they probably think they’re worth. A salary that makes you feel appreciated can go a long way.

But there are other ways to feel appreciated, including working for an organization whose people — particularly your managers — appreciate you and make that clear.

That pesky old saying tells us that when you love what you do, you don’t ever work. I don’t know that it’s a true statement, but I understand the sentiment behind it.

The timetable idea makes little sense to me.

Maybe I’m in the minority here. But to me, changing things up every 10 years or so just to change things up seems a bit random to me. I’d like to think one could take a serious inventory of their accomplishments and goals on any timetable. In fact, if the point of the decennial job change is to make sure you’re not losing sight of your goals, that might be an argument that we should reassess more often, even if we don’t switch what we do.

If you’re happy in your job — by whatever measure of happiness works for you — stay. If you aren’t happy in your job, start putting yourself out there.

If you’re not 100% certain how happy you are, or if you feel like it’s been too long since you’ve run your numbers, do that now.

You may give yourself the push you need to improve your situation. Or, at worst, you may give yourself the reminder you need that things aren’t as bad as you think they are!

How often do you decide on making a job change and what leads you to that point?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.