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Stay or switch? How to decide when to move jobs

There is no set rule on when you should or shouldn't move jobs.We asked the career experts for their advice.

There is no set rule on when you should or shouldn't move jobs, but there are a number of factors you should consider before making the jump. Switch too soon and your career could feel the repercussions for years to come. So should you stay or go? We asked the career experts for their advice.

How long to stay with a company

Everyone knows that leaving a job too soon can harm your chances of finding future employment – but how soon is too soon? This varies between sectors, job types and even certain levels of seniority, according to Sid Barnes, Managing Director of Cordant Professional Staffing.

'For example, in sales or IT people tend to move around quite frequently, while in industries like construction, you're often expected to have a good understanding of the sector, which takes time.'

Generally, employers expect you to stay with a company for at least a year or two, according to John Lees, career strategist and author of How To Get A Job You Love.

'Be prepared to explain your decision if you're looking to change jobs within 12 months, especially if you've switched jobs several times without staying at any one company for long.

'The cost of recruiting and training employees is a major expense, and hiring managers tasked with keeping the turnover rate down will be wary if your CV shows a lot of swapping and changing.'

When you first job/chosen industry isn't for you

If it's your first job or you are just starting out in an industry, it may be worth sticking it out to get some experience under your belt. If you do decide to move on, you need to consider your reasons carefully. Otherwise a potential employer may question whether you're serious about your future.

'Be straight in your own mind about what you want from a new job. The clearer you are, the more confident you will be during an interview and the better you will sell yourself,' says Sid.

If you are relatively new to your industry, working in another sector may be possible if your skills are transferable – and will widen your job search and may throw up options you hadn't considered before.

'Before you switch, consider how your chosen industry may look in say 10 years' time. What challenges could it have in the future? Is it very dependent on the economy? What future opportunities could it offer? Are there new emerging industries suited to your skills with better career prospects?' asks Sid.

Remember, cultures within companies can vary hugely, dependent on whether it's a start-up or huge corporation for example, so a change of company may be all you need. If you decide to move sectors, do some work experience or work shadowing and speak to people working in your new industry first.

Talk it over before you walk

Every job has its ups and downs and there will always be times when we feel demotivated. But when are these just temporary blips and when is it really time to jump ship?

'Too often people don't assess their career situation when a job is getting them down and will jump ship at anything – which is often a big mistake for them, their existing and new employer,' warns Sid.

Before you start looking around, Sid's advice is to discuss your concerns with your line manager.

'Bosses aren't mind readers, so don't automatically think they know how you're feeling. Your manager may think you're getting the learning and support you need from more senior members in your team.'

Don't just go to your boss with a list of complaints. Think through why you are unhappy with the job and consider, what, realistically, could be done to improve the situation, suggests John.

'Think about these in terms of short and longer term changes, and be open to suggestions from your manager. For example, there may be changes ahead in the business which could present new opportunities that you're currently unaware of. Until you have the conversation, you won't know.'

Sid agrees, adding: 'If it's because you're dissatisfied with your pay, properly research how much others are paid in similar positions in other organisations and present your case to your boss, including key achievements in your role and main responsibilities to show why you're worth more.

'If you are worried about developing your skills, could internal or external training help? Informal 'coffee catch ups' as well as formal appraisals can help to build relations and develop your career. Check how the business plans to support the next stage in your career and how you can work on this together.'

If you have exhausted all the options, no longer feel that you are progressing, and can clearly express what you want from a new job to a potential employer, the time could be right to move on.

Image Copyright: Viorel Sima, Shutterstock.com