How long to stay in a job?

The evolution of time in recruitment and the world of employment has brought about many changes.  The obvious ones like technology and the ability to work remotely but also there are changes in behaviour of employees that adapt with each generation.  Back in the day, a job was often considered to be for life and you'd work until you were 65 and then leave with a nice clock.  Things have changed hugely since then but for the last few years, there has been a rough rule of thumb that a minimum of 2 years in a job shows future employers that you have staying power and that if they invest in you, then it's a reasonable investment.  Hiring and training costs are not insignificant and there are not many employers who are keen to hire people for a short period of time - particularly in agency land where clients like to have long-standing relationships with their agency teams and that continuity is essential for client growth and development.

The counter side of this argument often makes me suppress a smile because, as with all things,  there is a balance.  If a candidate has stayed with an employer for too long , a potential employer might consider that person to be without ambition or someone who is not a go-getter.  Having said that, if the employee has developed from Account Executive to Account Director in that time, they can entirely justify their decision for staying but most agency employers have a middle ground where they do want to see staying power and progression within previous job roles, but also having worked with different agencies, the employee would have worked with different clients and sectors and therefore will have a more rounded CV. 

Employers assess and judge CVs with many criteria in mind but individuals who have not stayed in a role for less than 12 months, particularly if there is a theme of this happening multiple times, they will ask questions and if you're on the job hunt, it's worth bearing this in mind.  Is it worth holding fire until you have at least 18 months to 2 years in a role?

Clearly there are several parameters and situations which may affect these decisions.  In the old days, I'd generally advise candidates to sit tight unless they are particularly unhappy - at the junior level, this is where you 'earn your stripes'.  And if you've jumped ship a couple of times, then potential employers will be concerned.  There may be very good reasons for looking for a new role but I would counsel that multiple roles where one has left a position after a relatively short period of time is going to make job hunting a little trickier. 

Recently, I had a candidate up for a final interview with a client - it was a Senior Account Executive role and the candidate had some good agency names on their CV.  They had, however, stayed in their first role for 12 months and 11 months in the second.  For my client, this was a Red Flag.   The candidate's first role in particular, had been with a global agency and to my client's mind, this candidate was clearly 'good' as they'd secured that particular role (the global agency is fiercely competitive at the junior level).    My client couldn't get their head around why someone would leave this agency after such a short period only then to be looking for another new role 11 months on. 

It struck me that I do increasingly see this in my junior candidates.  Analysis of my current clutch of Senior Account Executive CVs showed that these individuals are leaving their first role in around 12-14 months.  This would have been unheard of in the past.  I think it's attributable to many factors.  Not least salary.  Often, an AE/Junior/Graduate will accept and entry level role and feel grateful that they have made it onto the career ladder.  Within 12-18 months they will be feeling confident in their abilities and be seeking more money.  Salary is the number one reason for moving role so for employers, if you are not increasing junior salaries regularly, you will lose those people.  Another observation is that Gen Z candidates do not seek 'safety' - they are way more curious and more adventurous than Gen X and I would say than Millenials too.    The other significant factor is that there are the Cowboy LinkedIn Recruiters who run daily searches to identify these individuals with 12 months experience.  They'll be busy proactively targeting the juniors and showing them how much more money they could earn by moving role.   This is why I recommend to employers that with junior candidates, they are given regular promotions and a clear career development plan where objectives and KPIs are linked to reviews on salary.  If you have strong juniors and you don't look after them, they will be off. 

To the juniors, I generally advise them to weigh up the options carefully.  Don't shoot yourself in the foot by blindly looking for money - assess what will be different in the new role, does the new employer offer good progression, what are the working conditions, are the clients 'better'?  If yes, then fair enough but I'd generally suggest to try and stay in that role for a bit longer, secure the next job title and then you'll be able to command a higher salary in your next role. 

I don't see many Senior Account Manager or Account Directors moving with this kind of frequency but for the most part, these individuals are at a different life stage with perhaps growing families and a mortgage to pay.  They potentially relish the stability more and do not seek the 'excitement' of a new role. 

In the case of my recent Senior Account Executive, they got the job.  The client asked for 3 references and spoke to each in detail - from both a work performance and a character point of view.  Fortunately for the candidate, each spoke of them glowingly and my client's mind was put at rest.  So my final recommendation is to always leave an employer on good terms and if you can, secure a written reference before you leave.  If a potential client has any concerns, those references will be the defining point for whether you have an offer or not. 

I'm always on hand for objective advice so if you are keen to chat - get in touch.  07976 125963 or

Fiona.  29 May 2024.