As the world of work undergoes overwhelming change, does the idea you have to stay in a job for a year still apply?

One of the unwritten rules of taking a new job is keeping it for at least a year – even if you hate it. The thinking goes even if the environment is tough, you need to show professional commitment and stickability before moving on. But as employment and the workplace continue to undergo overwhelming change amid the pandemic, does that rule still hold true?

Maybe, say experts. The timeless factors underpinning the one-year rule are still in place: on the employer side, an employee who stays at least a year is a better investment than one who doesn’t, and their loyalty is also viewed as a positive. On the employee side, staying for 12 months means time to pick up skills and competencies that are not possible to learn in just one business quarter.

Still, the changing way we build our careers combined with the unprecedented impact of the pandemic have brought more flexibility. While employers might well still prefer a more traditional CV, experts suggest that a short stint or two in previous roles shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker, as long as you can provide a good explanation for moving. 

Proving stickability

The one-year rule is founded in practicality: starting a job is a huge adjustment, and it takes time to fully get used to it.

“After a year, employees usually feel they’ve hit their stride and understand who’s who within their team and department,” says Alison Sullivan, senior manager of corporate communications at jobs site Glassdoor. “A year gives people time to make an impact at a company, learn new skills and show how they’ve grown. When looking for your next role, what you’ve done within your year can help you make a case for why you’re the right person for a job and arm you with real-world examples.”

Make credible why the new job is a destination of choice, rather than an escape route – Michael Smets

Demonstrating growth is much harder to do if you’ve only stayed in a role a few months, plus a short period at a company can also raise uncomfortable questions about character and professionalism. “People who move jobs quickly have, in the past, been associated with a lack of commitment or resilience, an inability to grow and thrive in the face of adversity or even a preparedness to leave your team in the lurch,” says Michael Smets, professor of management at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Sullivan believes that while one or two short stints on a resume can be explained away, employers “could interpret a series of brief stints as a candidate who may avoid challenges or isn’t reliable”. Companies also don’t want to invest time and money recruiting and onboarding staff only to see them leave soon afterwards – which means they’ll lean towards recruits who have solid stints with previous firms under their belts.

“If you feel unsure about your job, try to stick it out for at least a year. Anything less than a year could be a red flag to a hiring manager,” says Sullivan.

A new reality?

Yet while the one-year rule remains the optimum, there are some signs that it isn’t being seen as quite so unbreakable as in the past. In fact, requirements seemed to be relaxing somewhat even before the pandemic, as employment trends among workers changed.

Experts say that if a job is truly miserable, you can leave quickly. Just be prepared to explain the speedy pivot on your CV to future employers (Credit: Getty Images)
Experts say that if a job is truly miserable, you can leave quickly. Just be prepared to explain the speedy pivot on your CV to future employers (Credit: Getty Images)

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