It’s natural to worry about looking like someone who is just coasting or totally lacks ambition.
Few people nowadays land a job at age 25 and expect to keep it until they’re handed a gold watch at age 65. In fact, a work history of two to five years with each employer is considered entirely normal, especially for younger workers.
Such flexibility is a great thing, but it also puts pressure on you. You may start to wonder how long you can stay at a given job before it looks as if you’re “coasting” or, even worse, if you lack all ambition.
It’s the flip side of the job-hopping problem, where the concern is that moving too rapidly from employer to employer reflects a worrying and possibly fatal inability to commit.
Before you go down the rabbit hole on these issues, however, consider this: As with most things in life, what’s important is that you’re able to clearly articulate the reasons for what you do and that, furthermore, you can show how said reasons fit into the big picture. You never need to leave a job you love just because you fear you’ve been there too long, as long it looks like part of your overall career plan.
Specifically, if you’ve been working at the same company for more than a decade but can point to steady increases in responsibility, title and salary, then you are clearly not stagnating. You’re growing in place.
Do remember, when contemplating whether to leave or stay at any job, to always ask yourself if you are running to something or from something. Both are valid reasons for making a change, of course.
If your work environment has grown toxic, your industry is being phased out, or you have ceased to grow and learn, then it’s time to head for the door. If you are simply seeking to move up (more money, a better title), then that is super. Sometimes even a lateral move is the smartest choice, if the new position affords you more opportunity. Just be clear in your own mind on your motivations, so you don’t find yourself worse off than you were in the first place, or off on a time-wasting detour.
A final note: No matter how long or short your job tenures, do make sure to always leave your employers on excellent terms.