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How often should you change jobs?

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay | 19 April 2019


Changing jobs is an all-too common practice in nearly everyone’s professional journey. In fact, a 2018 ABS report found that over one million Australians had changed employers (or even their own businesses) from the 12 months to February 2018. 

With the future of Australian jobs only set to expand, workers are provided even more opportunity for career changes, should they find themselves a better fit. There is estimated to be 886,000 more jobs by 2023, and plenty of these openings can be credited to workers switching one job for another. 

But how often is too often when changing careers? Does your thick resume of past experiences point to high employment value, or simply your instability as a worker? 

Changing jobs as junior-role employee

  1. You have more flexibility.
  2. Changing jobs two to three times can lead to a highly diverse skillset.
  3. Changing jobs too frequently is frowned upon.

1. You have more flexibility.

As a newbie to the workforce, you generally have more flexibility in your career. This when you’re having a feel of what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and what you hope to learn from your experience. 

At this point, it’s imperative to soak up as much knowledge as you can about your industry and begin building your network connections. ]

2. Changing jobs two to three times can lead to a highly diverse skillset.

Australia’s Leading Recruitment Agency (ALRA) advises that exposure to at least two to three different companies can lead to a highly diversified skillset in your area – an attractive asset for any prospective employer. 

As for how long most junior employees stay in their roles, there isn’t a solid rule. Australian experts recommend at least a minimum of one year at your first job, with any subsequent junior positions keeping to at least two to three years

These time frames should allow for the optimum amount of entry-level experience to get your career off the ground. 

3. Changing jobs too frequently is frowned upon.

That said, jumping from one job to the next should be done with caution, even at this early stage. Leaving a negative pattern of numerous short-term stints can set off warning bells for future employers - implying a lack of commitment or failure to keep up with the roles

To avoid this, make sure each change marks actual growth in your skillset, rather than simply restless “jumps” in-between jobs. This way, you’ll be able to explain your achievements in each role to future employers, providing substantial reasons behind your career changes. 

Changing jobs as a senior-role employee

  1. Senior employees stay in the same job for an average of almost seven years.
  2. Minimum stay for senior-level positions is three to four years.
  3. There are long-term objectives that need to be achieved.

senior male employee smiling

1. Senior employees stay in the same job for an average of almost seven years.

Australian statistics show that today’s young workers aren’t the only ones guilty of frequent career-switching. Compared to four years ago, older workers aged 45 and above also experience a higher number of job changes in their lifetime.

In 1975, senior-role workers commonly stuck to the same job for almost 10 years. Today, they average about six years and eight months per job. 

While the current data shows this, those looking to progress their career in senior-role positions should take extra care when changing jobs. A pattern of job hopping this far in the game places you at a higher risk of low “hireability”.

2. Minimum stay for senior-level positions is three to four years.

In a LinkedIn article, recruitment manager Perminus Wainaina states that consistency is key at this stage in your career. A minimum of three to four years is considered appropriate for senior-level positions, as such roles require a more significant amount of time to master.

3. There are long-term objectives that need to be achieved.

These higher-level jobs will also require you to work on projects with long-term objectives. Employers will expect you to be around for the long haul, which could include leading junior-level workers, seeing their business take on new directions, and developing new strategies. 

It’s therefore best to stick to senior roles for the long term, immersing yourself in all they have to offer. They’re much more demanding and consistently challenging, and often come with greater financial benefits. 

Advice from professionals

  1. Employers will ask you the right questions when it comes to job hopping.
  2. It takes a while to fully immerse yourself in a job role.
  3. A regular patten of job changing can raise red flags.

advice concept

1. Employers will ask you the right questions when it comes to job hopping.

While we’ve gone through the gist of switching careers at both a junior and senior level, what do actual employers have to say? 

A series of Australian interviews by Executive Style point to many of the same sentiments. 

Junior-role positions do allow for more flexibility, though executives like Heather Linaker say that she would “be looking at senior hires who’ve stayed places or three to five years, and possibly longer.” 

While she wouldn’t dismiss a long line of short-term gigs, she explained that she’d “ask several questions” as to why. 

2. It takes a while to fully immerse yourself in a job role.

Executive headhunter Ben Derwent takes on more understanding approach, explaining that plenty of employees have been thrust into multiple roles involuntarily – and thus “shouldn’t be judged for it”. On the other hand, CEO Russell Evans maintains a tougher mindset, stating how it takes time to truly immerse oneself into a role. He struggles to see how one can “know it all” after being in an organisation for a mere one to two years.

3. A regular patten of job changing can raise red flags.

From a human resources perspective, Denise Loraine of Melbourne’s Symmetry HR share show there aren’t any “hard and fast rules”, but that a pattern of jobs that last “less than 18 months” could pull up red flags for potential employers. 

Ultimately, she explains that your accomplishments in each job matter more than the time spent within them. While employers do pay attention to number of years (or months!), they also ”want to know what your achievements were during that time.”

Be sure you're switching for the right reasons

  1. Weigh your options.
  2. Consider upskilling.
  3. Change jobs if you encounter management or company culture problems.

business man trying to make a decision

1. Weigh your options.

At the end of the day, it’s important you’ve got the right motives for making a change. 

Take time to weigh out all your available options before taking the plunge. If you’re seeking a higher salary, for example, be sure to consider the other benefits of your current job: perhaps you’ve settled into a great company culture, you’ve got great flexibility, and you’ve got vacation and sick leave benefits you may not find in a new job. 

2. Consider upskilling.

If you’re bored, you’re not being challenged enough – upskilling may help you progress within your company, allowing you to take on bigger, more exciting projects to broaden your skillset further.  

Those looking to pursue a passion project full-time may find it more practical to have a stable, full-time job as their side hustle begins taking off. 

3. Change jobs if you encounter management or company culture problems.

However, for those dealing with a difficult boss or lacking company culture, it may be worth a change of setting. Anything putting your mental or physical health at risk is a good enough reason to head out, according to TopResume’s career expert Amanda Augustine

Everyone’s employment journey is different, so be sure any changes you make align with your professional goals – and bolster, rather than hinder, your career progression.

Ready to advance your career?

As mentioned, upskilling can provide both the knowledge and practical ability required to take on new professional challenges. At Upskilled, we provide over 100 qualifications in industries that span from information technology to community services, delivered with flexibility online. Unlock your career potential and get started on a course today.  
 
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