How long should i stay in my current role? 

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How long should i stay in my current role? 

I can think of one person who’s in their 40’s and still working for their first employer. It’s fair to say most people will work for a number of different employers over the course of their career.  

Forrester Research predicts that those entering the workforce today will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. 

In this post I would like to explore one of the questions I’m asked frequently and that is, how long should I stay in my current job? 

When I google this the first response is, 2 years with the following qualification: 

Experts agree that you should stay a minimum of 2 years which is sufficient time to learn new skills … 

This is a difficult question to answer without having some points of reference to work off. Allow me to make up a commonish profile and hopefully come up with a few ideas, tips and maybe even a conclusion at the end.   

I will start in sales and only because  a large part of what I do is  sales recruitment and to be frank it really is a job like no other.  

Lets say you’re 8 years into your sales career and working for your second employer,  a publicly listed multinational. But things aren’t going as you had hoped. You’re 18 months in and you’ve been contacted on LinkedIn by a recruiter…decisions decisions, what do I do.?

Well let’s wind back the clock to see how you arrived at this point in your career. 

Your first job was working for a start-up and you quickly moved from customer support to a quota carrying sales role. You rose to every challenge, honed your sales chops and began earning on top of your salary a very nice quarterly paid commission cheque. Starting as an Inside Sales Rep you were promoted into Account Management  and from there you turned your talents to a hunter style Business Development Manager role acquiring and onboarding new customers.  

Sounds amazing right, and it is but there is more to it.  What most people including a lot of your colleagues outside the sales team don’t see are the insane hoops you jump through to make this happen, the knockbacks, the setbacks, the late nights, the travel, drinks with clients ( ok maybe not so much lately but you get the picture) , having to report back every week on your target and how you’re going to achieve it. It’s never easy, you rarely switch off and it’s not for everyone.  

So why do it? 

Is it because nothing quite feels as good as when you issue that purchase order which enables you to smash your target propelling you from mere mortal to that of rockstar. Or do you just love getting out there amongst it, meeting people, wining & dining, pitching & closing.. 

That all sounds a little cynical and borderline disrespectful to the literally thousands of sales people I have worked with over the last 20 years but we did say things weren’t going great so this is the lens you are looking through right now. When in fact closer to the truth and despite what some might think, working in sales is a noble pursuit (bear with me naysayers) in that you are the person responsible for introducing the sum of a group of people’s ideas, ambitions and hard work to the marketplace. Be it as an Account Manager, Business Development Manager, Sales Executive, hunter, farmer and so on, it is you who is on the front-line ( different front line) unearthing opportunities, building and managing relationships, and converting all that hard work into revenue. Because as the old adage goes, nothing happens until someone sells something. And ain’t that the truth.  

Why did I leave the exciting start-up when it was going so well. Were you sick of competing with the established multinationals who just seem to have endless marketing, demand generation, R&D resources… can you continue competing against those deepest of pockets you ask yourself.  Or perhaps the decision to leave was made when they flew you business class to HQ to meet the VP of Sales and you thought, I could get used to this like it was going to happen every other day. Or maybe they just made you an offer you couldn’t refuse. Let’s go with that one. A decent bump on the base salary that the start-up couldn’t match and with you being in market for your first property that additional 30K base salary opens up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to mortgage approval. After all those banks do love a base salary and really couldn’t give a fiddler’s for the commission cheques you’ve been earning. 

So it’s bye bye start-up and hello big shiny multinational with its Michelin star grade canteen, stock ticker on the reception wall because these guys are on the Nasdaq don’t you know and holey moley they have a sales team of 1000+. Woohoo, the bigtime. 

After a couple of days in sales and product training you’ve been assigned a territory. This isn’t what you’re used to, back at the start-up you could literally sell into any company anywhere in the world without treading on your colleagues toes but here that’s not how it works and if that wasn’t enough not one of the accounts you’ve previously sold to are in this territory. Uh oh, who do I sell to and where the hell is all that marketing and demand generation I’d heard the VP reference over dinner that magical night they offered me the job.. And to cap it off you overhear someone say the Veep got the boot….is that because he hired me…nah , couldn’t be, could it?

You dig deep and you get a win here and there but you’re on the backfoot the whole time, bogged down with endless processes and reporting that you can’t get used to and you never quite hit your target. You’re starting to lose that confidence in your ability that you took for granted and  18 months in you get that message on Linkedin from a recruiter who apparently has the perfect job for you to look at. But it’s only been 18 months, and you pride yourself on your work ethic and commitment which is reflected in the 6+ years you did at the  start-up. 

Picture painted albeit a bit of a bleak one, so let’s go back to the question: how long should I stay in my current job?

In this case the person I’m describing doesn’t sound happy working for this particular multinational. And by no means am I saying don’t join a multinational, that’s not the point.. The point I’m making is this. Here we have a person with legitimate job issues they’ve tried to remedy. They’ve been assigned a tough territory; the role is heavily process driven and it’s affecting their confidence which is never a good thing in a customer facing  / sales role. 

This is something I encounter with sales candidates all the time. They’ve been successful at one company and less so at another. And when we talk it through it’s more often than not down to the cultural fit rather than the person’s ability. Some people thrive in certain environments and until you experience a variety of them it’s hard to know what suits you best. 

At this point I think it’s a good idea to be at least open to a new opportunity and if someone contacts you with one then I highly recommend you take that call. After all it will cost you nothing.  The recruitment process can often be long and arduous. And that’s particularly true of sales recruitment. Be open to every opportunity that comes your way, I guarantee you will not regret it.