Imagine accepting a position out of college and working in the same role at the same company for the rest of your life. Sounds ridiculous right? Well, it wasn’t too far in the rearview mirror that this story was the norm.
In past generations voluntarily leaving a position was practically unheard of. Fear of change, fear of being viewed as unreliable, flaky or lazy caused many people to simply stay put. Thankfully, the world has changed, so has our view of career paths.
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Now leaving a position to pursue a passion, move to a new city or take on additional challenges is not only embraced but expected. Having said that, there is still a fine line between constantly jumping from company to company and staying too long. So how do you know when to leap?
10,000 Hours to Mastery
Determining the best time to begin a job search comes down to mathematics and mastery.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. To that end, your first step in calculating the ideal time for you to begin a job search is to reach the 10,000-hour mark in your current position. I bet you’re thinking 10,000 hours is a crazy amount of time and reaching that number seems absolutely impossible, but hitting this milestone is actually pretty easy to do.
Let’s imagine you work 5 days a week, 10 hours a day. For most of us, this is easy to imagine because it happens to be our reality! Between time spent at the office and work you drag home, you are easily working 50 hours a week. At 50 hours a week, you’ll reach 10,000 hours in about 4 years!
So there you go. You’re thinking easy, problem solved. Become a master of your role and look for a new job in 4 years! Not so fast.
While it’s true that after 3.5 to 4 years you’ll hit the master level in your current position, waiting until you get there to explore new roles doesn’t make sense. The idea is to use the 10,000-hour mark as your guidepost, not a deadline.
When To Strike
It’s perfectly fine to wait to begin your job search until you’ve reached a master level in your role, but as you get closer to that 4-year mark, boredom will begin to set in.
A lot of what makes a role challenging are the unknowns. New issues arise, projects you’ve never had exposure to pop up. There seems to be something new every day. As time passes though, less is new at work and much more becomes predictable.
As your position becomes more predictable, you’ll become less challenged; a sure sign it’s time to make a change. For most people, signs of boredom begin to show at the 3-year mark; making it a great time to begin exploring new opportunities.
Why Three Years
Escaping boredom and remaining challenged definitely makes the 3-year window an ideal time to explore new positions, but an often missed consideration is compensation. Simply put, your value in the job market will increase at this point.
The more seasoned you are in your career, the more valuable you become compared to peers with less experience in the same role. You’ve spent time in your current chair, have learned a ton and are ready to exhibit your base of knowledge by taking the next step in your career. Your confidence in understanding your current role will allow you to interview better, which also increases your ability to grab a higher job offer.
While it’s true that you’ll still be learning at the 3-year mark, it’s also an ideal time to take professional inventory. You’re comfortable enough in your position to clearly define what you enjoy, what you dislike and what you’re good at. You’ve had a few successes and a few failures, and you’ve learned to manage through change and challenge.
As you take inventory, be candid with yourself. No sugar coating it. What have you learned in your current position? What aspects of your role would you like to explore further? What aspects would you like to leave behind? What type of leader do you enjoy working for? What type of leader will help you reach the next level? Jot down your answers and refer to them as you begin targeting new opportunities.
Your career requires a plan for success. Instead of winging it and hoping for the best, start working towards hitting 10,000 hours, take time to formulate your ideal role and then begin taking steps to find it. Until next time, Be Amazing! Jeanna