How To Tell if You’ve Stayed Too Long in Your Job
How can you tell if you’ve stayed too long in your job? Job hopping gets a bad rap. Change jobs too often, the story goes, and hiring managers will file your resume under “no, thank you” and move on to candidates with lengthier tenures.
But while it’s true that changing jobs too often can be a red flag, it’s also possible to stay in a role until you find yourself treading water professionally. Over time, this can lead to lower earnings, a less robust professional network, and a less impressive skillset.
So, how do you when it’s time to change jobs? The answer will vary depending on your occupation, industry, and employer. However, it helps to get some perspective about job changes—and to understand the signs that it’s time to move on.
How Long Do Most People Stay in a Job?
If you’re trying to figure out whether it’s past time to change jobs, the first thing you probably want to know is how long people usually stay in one place. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of U.S. workers is around four years. That measure has declined slightly over the course of the decade, from 4.6 years in 2012 to 4.1 years in 2022.
However, as we said earlier, median tenure varies significantly depending on a number of factors. Older workers tend to have longer tenure than younger ones. Public-sector employees often stay at their jobs longer than those who work in the private sector. And many folks who work at startups won’t last till their first anniversary, mainly because only about 80% of startups make it that long.
5 Signs You’ve Stayed Too Long
Given all these factors, how can you tell if you’ve overstayed your welcome at work? Although company culture makes a difference, it’s less about what others are doing and more about what’s working for you—or what isn’t.
Your Job Title Is Stagnant
Have you been doing the same thing for quite some time now? Maybe you’ve had the same job title longer than others on your team. Perhaps you feel like your official title doesn’t reflect your responsibilities. Or maybe you’re just not making progress on your professional goals as quickly as you’d like.
If you’ve had the same title for several years for whatever reason and you don’t see room for advancement, it may be time to look for new jobs.
Your Merit Raises Feel More Like COLA
Many private-sector jobs base raises solely on performance. This sounds good in theory until your excellent annual review leads only to a 3-5% raise—basically a cost-of-living adjustment. Figure inflation into your bottom line and you’re looking at a pay cut for top-notch work. Eventually, you may have to move on.
Your New Responsibilities Help the Company, Not Your Career
Even if your job title and paycheck stay the same, you’re likely to gain responsibilities if you stay at an organization for more than a few years. Sometimes, this can help you develop new skills or achievements to add to your resume. Other times, it’s just more work for no pay.
Pay attention to these added duties as they appear. Although you’ll want to maintain a good relationship with your employer, you shouldn’t find your role expanding indefinitely without compensation.
You’re Not Learning Anything New
Think about your dream job. What do you need to learn in order to move into that role? If your current job isn’t helping you hone those skills, you might want to think about how to fill the gap. That doesn’t always mean jumping ship—you might find that your employer offers continuing education benefits or tuition reimbursement that will help you get to where you want to go. But if not—and if you’re not learning on the job—think about whether it’s time to move on.
You Don’t Feel Like Part of the Team
Organizations change. Big companies buy smaller companies. Management teams hire and fire executives. Cultures evolve. If you’ve been in the same job for a while, it’s worth thinking about what’s changed since you first came on board.
If you feel less connected to your colleagues, less able to communicate with your boss, or less comfortable at work, you may want to ponder your next steps. As a bonus, thinking about these issues will help you identify what kind of work environment helps you succeed.