Articles From the Team

How long should you stay in one job?

An interesting and very subjective question! As I approach my two year work anniversary at BCL Legal I have been pondering on the fact that 3 years is pretty much the longest I have ever worked at one company. So does that make me normal or an anomaly in 2017?

I come from a family of teachers where my mum worked at the same school for 35 years and my dad worked in two schools during his career. To them, my desire to change roles and ultimately change careers was an alien concept to them. My parents grew up in an era with more traditional hierarchy and structure, staying at the same company or in the same public sector organisation for a set number of years before being promoted or progressing was the norm.

So what has changed? According to life insurance firm LV, a UK worker will change employer every 5 years on average, in the US it is even shorter. But in a society with ever changing working environments, flexible working, zero hour contracts, remote working and millennials is that figure already out of date? Young people are no longer motivated by the same factors as previous generations – work life balance is more important than a job for life and having a sense of purpose is preferable to financial success.

So in answer to the original question – it very much depends on the individual and lots of factors will play a part; the sector you work, career development opportunities, remuneration, and mobility. In some sectors such as technology, advertising and PR, professionals are known to change jobs every few months, in order to keep up to date with changes in the market.

For more traditional sectors – such as legal, it is a little different. Too many moves on a CV will catch the eye of a prospective employer and questions will be asked. Gaps in a CV can also be a cause for concern, unless there are legitimate reasons.

Ideally the decision makers at law firms – partners and HR managers like to see candidates who have had continuous employment throughout their career and who have stayed in their previous role for at least 12 months – it shows stability and a commitment to learn and development. Clearly there maybe extenuating circumstances which mean a person has to change roles sooner – redundancy, illness, relocation etc but if a person has left a number of permanent roles after less than 12 months then it will raise suspicions.

As legal recruitment specialists we speak to candidates on a daily basis that are looking to move jobs. At the outset we have a detailed discussion with candidates to understand their motivations for the move. It is important that these motivations are well thought out and considered. If you are not really committed to a move, this will come across in the process.

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