Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Stephen Bubb

Q. I'm thinking about moving on. Are there any rules on how long you should be in a job before you move?

No. It depends entirely on you, the seniority of the post and the organisation you are with. But it is a real test for all of us - do you tarnish your CV by jumping ship too early or unambitiously late? These are the rules to consider:

- Don't go too soon

You have to stay long enough in a job to show you have made a positive difference. How long that is varies according to your age and seniority.

In a senior job, you can't make a real impact in less than three or four years - the minimum is two.

If you move at any level within the first 18 months, it will raise questions with prospective interviewers. It raises more questions about you than about your previous employer, perhaps implying you are getting out before you are sacked.

- Don't stay too long

Again, seniority matters. If you are involved in directing major change at the level of director or chief executive, six or seven years is in no way too long to stay - ten may well be. We can all get stale in a job.

Stay too long and you risk missing opportunities and failing to rise to new challenges.

- Be ambitious

Aim high - if you are not yet a director, think about how to get there.

The ultimate goal must be chief executive. If you are talented, don't wait too long to get there. But remember that if you want to be a chief executive, you really are going to have to demonstrate leadership qualities and an ability to deliver. If you hop around in jobs, there won't be many achievements to list.

- Are you having fun or are you flatlining?

Don't fall for the line that there are rules on times in jobs. If you are really enjoying what you are doing and making a real difference, then why not carry on? But don't get complacent, and avoid flatlining. Ask yourself: "When did I learn something new or do something different?" Are you just rehashing what you've been doing before?

If you are enjoying the organisation you are in but have been in a particular role for a long period, talk to your boss about new challenges and new roles within the organisation.

- Plan your career

This largely involves thinking for yourself and is about what you want to get out of your career. It is amazing how few people actually plan their own careers. Most of our organisations have three-year strategic plans. Do you have one for your own career? If not, get out a piece of paper and start writing it now.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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