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Sick of your job? Here’s how long you should stay before job hopping

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After nine months and little career growth at his job, Mark Landon* feels “it’s time to move on.”

The 21-year-old, who’s says he’s burnt out after working 12-hour days for Dropbox, has already been with six different tech companies (including Apple and Facebook). He’s considering starting his next chapter in Canada, so he just spent a few of his 25 hard-earned vacation days getting a feel for Toronto.

His job hopping is relatively normal in the tech industry.

READ MORE: The top 8 careers of the future in Canada

It’s also a sign of changing times when it comes to workplace loyalty, as recently shown by a Leger survey of more than 1,500 Canadians.

Job hunting platform Monster Canada, which commissioned the survey, found the sentiment around how long one should stay at a job varies not just with age (younger people tend to be less willing to stick it out), but also sex (men often have less workplace loyalty than women).

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There’s a disconnect, as well, between what people say and actually do.

Here’s a look at some of the key findings:

  • 74% believe it helps their career to be loyal to one employer, yet 40% have had at least four employers since graduation.
  • 57% of millennials feel 6 years or less is the ideal length of time to stay with one employer.
  • 51% of those aged 55-64 think the perfect time is more than 10 years.
  • Those aged 35-44 are most likely (22%) to see employer loyalty as harmful to their career.
  • Men are more likely to view loyalty as harmful to their career than women (18% vs. 14%)

When it comes to the gender difference, Arturo Gallo of Monster Canada guesses it’s because “men are more salary driven” and women may seek stability.

How long should you stay at a job?

For those contemplating a career change, or maybe just a new job in your industry — there are a few things you should think about before you make the leap.

“Make sure you do your research and investigate whether this career change will benefit you,” urged Gallo.

“Don’t just job hop for the sake of job hopping until you find the perfect career. Recruiters might look down on that.”

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Global News spoke to two recruiters, both of whom think two years at a job is the sweet spot.

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Some companies have even started to write a two-year minimum into contracts to “reduce the job hopping that exists,” according to Darryl Moore. He’s the vice-president of the Executrade recruiting agency, which has offices in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

READ MORE: 6 job search tips from the pros to help get you hired

“Loyalty is a cherished attribute but it has seen better days,” Moore said.

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“The 20- to 40-year career still exists, but it is dwindling with the older generations.”

Moore questions anyone who’s looking to move after less than two years at a company. For him, three to five years on a resume looks “strong and stable.”

If you stay in a job longer than five years, recruiters like Ari Aronson start to wonder (and you should as well) whether you’re still learning new skills.

“If you’re not growing in that position and you’re still in it for that long, you probably should move on,” Aronson says.

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The 46-year-old runs his own boutique digital marketing and advertising recruitment company in Toronto.

READ MORE: Job interview questions — possible curve-balls to watch out for

Of course how long people stay in any given job is dependent on the industry, which the job-hopping survey didn’t delve into.

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When it comes to the tech industry, Landon says people will stay at least three years at more established companies like Google and Microsoft (with the average being eight to 10 years) and anywhere from nine months to a year-and-a-half in newer start-ups.

Two years in one job, he says, is “quite rare.” Unless you’re in higher management roles, employees who stay long run the risk of being classified as “too comfortable.”

“People within this industry are often very ambitious and hard working. They get burnt out easily and are always looking for a new challenge,” Landon explains.

“Showing that your roles consistently step up helps [as well].”

Luckily, there’s a vast amount of choice in his industry. And he’s no longer willing to be lured just by high pay and perks.

“They aren’t worth it if you never get the chance to make use of them. It’s all for the sake of recruitment.”

Money isn’t everything

While it’s important to know your worth, don’t be fooled into thinking more money will bring you more happiness.

“There’s a lot more to job satisfaction and your career growth than money,” Aronson stressed. “The grass is not always greener.”

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In fact, the top-paying companies make Aronson “pretty leery.” They sometimes use salaries as a way to make up for what they lack in workplace culture, he warns.

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Employees should recognize when they’re fortunate enough to work with a great team and boss — something he thinks “you only experience, if you’re lucky, maybe once or twice in your career.”

For those who are absolutely ready to make a move, Aronson says there’s nothing wrong with taking a pay cut for an opportunity you’re super passionate about.

“What it’s worth to love your job and have more work life balance?”

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‘Get inspired’

The biggest obstacle to finding that job you really love can sometimes be your current job.

Not only can it give you a sense of false security, but working full time can leave you time strapped and stressed.

Being caught in that bubble of unhappiness is not exactly the most conducive environment for figuring out what you want to do and where.

It doesn’t hurt to get some outside perspective and advice from someone within your industry (or the one you hope to enter),” Aronson said.

“Sometimes taking a holiday or break to think about what’s next is helpful.”

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A bit of time off could help you “get inspired” and remind you of what you truly want.

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That’s exactly what Landon’s trip to Canada is doing for him.

As for how long he’ll stay in whatever gig he lands next?

“I could definitely do three to five years if I’m happy enough,” he said.

“I need to see light at the end of the tunnel, something to aim for. You cannot feel like you’re stuck.”

*Mark Landon’s name has been changed so his job hunt isn’t jeopardized by his candid comments.