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Here's how long you should stay in a job

CNBC logo CNBC 11/13/2018
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Excessive job-hopping can be damaging to your resume. But according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, staying at a job for too long can be equally harmful to your career.

"Eons ago, it was standard for graduates to sign up for a career at a company with the expectation it would end with a gold watch and a retirement party," Welch tells CNBC Make It . "Today, of course, the economy changes too quickly for most people to get on a 'lifer' career track."

That's why, Welch says, "almost no one expects their first job, or almost any job, to be their last." At some point, she says, you'll switch jobs for opportunity, pay or personal growth — the big question is simply when.

"In my opinion, a reasonable timeline for your departure from a job is three to five years," she says. "The longer you stay at one company," Welch says, "the more hiring managers start to ask, 'Can this candidate adjust to a different culture, a different pace, a different way of doing things?'"

Ultimately, she says, hiring managers want to know "if they can teach an old dog — you — new tricks." She advises employees to start thinking about their next career move on their third anniversary at a job, because she says "it will give you enough runway to take off before your resume starts to raise red flags."

There is, Welch warns, one exception to her three-to-five-year timeline. "If you've got a passion for what you do, and see an achievable path to the top, by all means — stay put. There's no reason to leave a job you love if it holds an exciting future for you."

"But if, like most people, you know your departure is only a matter of time," says Welch, "don't ask for whom the bell tolls. At five years, it tolls for thee."

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