No, I am not describing a prison term although some people feel incarcerated with jobs that are taking them nowhere, leaving them stuck, chained in place, withering away their full potential. I know there are those who might say in the current overall jobs market you should be happy just to have a job. Sorry, but I don’t belong to that crowd. I’m cursed or blessed, depending on your perspective, with being an optimist. I think in terms of potential opportunities that can improve and elevate one’s station in life. I consider most obstacles to be distractions and bumps along the road of life, to be avoided or overcome.
Three to five years is my general guideline when I advise people about their career forecasting, development, occasional self-appraisal and progression planning.
Even if you are gainfully employed and relatively happy, I think it is wise to periodically stop and take stock of where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going, even if it’s momentary and you conclude all is generally okay.
I also suggest this unit of measure when you will ask the interviewer, someone who would potentially be your direct hiring manager, “If I perform well in this job, where can I find myself in 3 to 5 years?” It is also a great question to ask someone who might be your future boss and you can learn a lot with this question. Even if they evade you, this has value to you regarding your decision to continue to pursue that particular job, or not. Asking what may occur in one year is too shortsighted, as you’ll have had barely enough time to truly settle into the job, and asking about a longer time frame, such as 10 years out, is unrealistic and silly. But 3 to 5, as Goldilocks (of the three bears fairy tale fame) would say, “…is just right”.
I am often asked how long a person should stay in a job before making a move and this same time frame applies. Again, using this same measure, if you find that after 3 to 5 years your career progress is stalled, and you don’t see any development or progress ahead of you, maybe it’s time to go elsewhere, where if you do your part, you can advance. Your periodic performance review is a good time to raise these questions without adversely attracting attention. This attitude of periodic appraisal and subsequent goal setting helps to maintain your value as an employee, because to keep you they should be investing in you; if they are investing in you they are less likely to let you go. And if they invest in you it will also make you more desirable, whenever the time comes and you will be searching for a new job.
I’ve spoken with people who worry that changing jobs every 3 to 5 years could have a negative affect as to how you are perceived by future potential employers, but this is not the case. Consider this; as a headhunter I know that companies, for various reasons, are sometimes reluctant to consider a person who hasn’t advanced themselves, who sat idly in the same job and position 11, 12, 13 or more years, as they are to a person who’s changed jobs every 10 to 18 months, time and again. I intend no ridicule of those who have been in the same job and have performed the same function for a long time, but it is a fact that if you are not making an effort to continually further develop your professional skills in the current jobs market, you are limiting your potential for both retention in your current job and future opportunities with other employers. That’s just how it is. The jobs market is fluid and you need to adapt to and move with it to your best advantage. Using the forecast measurement of 3 to 5 years is my best recommendation to periodically consider what is on your horizon.
Feel free to comment about this post (no registration required)