How Often Should You Change Jobs?

Posted on: October 24th, 2019 in mindset by Pat Mesiti | 1 Comment

Very few people sit in the same job for life. Some do. They might get into an extremely well-paying, prestigious organisation like the Department of Foreign Affairs or the ABC and decide to stay there for the rest of their life, but most Australians will change jobs 12 times in their life. They stay on average 3.3 years in their position.

Why are people changing jobs so frequently?

You have probably heard of the gig economy. This applies to people who work in temporary positions and go from short-term contract to short-term contract. These people have brought down the average job stay for Australians.

Often gig-economy workers are contractors or freelancers or young people trying to land their first full-time role. This is different from working casually. Casual employees usually work for one or two main companies. They don’t get holiday or sick pay, but they receive an extra loading to compensate for this. The occupation groups with the highest rate of casual employees are hospitality (79 per cent of all workers) and food preparation (75 per cent). Casual employment is not necessarily temporary employment. Around 81 per cent of casual employees in Australia expect their job to still be there in a year compared to around 93 per cent of permanent employees.

What exactly are gig-economy workers?

Gig-economy workers are not employees. They are self-employed, independent contractors.  The five most common platforms used by Australian gig workers are Airtasker (34.8 per cent), Uber (22.7 per cent), Freelancer (11.8 per cent), Uber Eats (10.8 per cent) and Deliveroo (8.2 per cent). NSW has the highest level of gig economy workers (7.9 per cent), followed by Victoria (7.4 per cent). Gig or ‘platform’ workers reported high satisfaction with the flexibility of work but are usually less satisfied with their incomes.

Older workers stay in jobs longer

 Older workers are less likely to be in the gig-economy than younger people. For workers over 45, the average job length is 6 years and 8 months, while for under 25s it is only 1 year and 8 months. However be aware, women are more likely to work casually – 53.4 per cent of all casual workers were female compared to 46.6 per cent male.

Often young people, in the early years of their career, take on temporary jobs in hospitality or food preparation (aka MacDonald’s) to earn money while they train or study. Do you know that 5 per cent of the Australian population has worked for McDonald’s? It opened in Australia in 1971. That’s about 1.3 million Aussies who have worked at Macca’s over the years!

The work habits of young Australians have not changed since 1975. The average job length for under 25s then, is the same as it is today. What has changed is how long older people stay in jobs. Since 1975 it has dropped from almost 10 years to 6.8 years.

Is it a good thing or bad thing that we change jobs so often?

Changing jobs can be a great thing. You can look for new challenges and opportunities and a pay rise … if you have skills in demand. By changing jobs you build up professional contacts and do new tasks, get to know new workplace cultures and management styles. This is great for advancing your career. However it is not great when you are forced to change jobs because you have a bad boss or your job looks set to end, and the reality is that it is hard to find a job once you are over 50 years of age.

Age discrimination exists in Australia

Sorry, but if you lose your job past the age of 50, you are actually in the hardest age bracket to find work because of age discrimination. A 2017 study by the University of South Australia’s Centre for Workplace Excellence confirmed there was a strong perception people aged over 50 were not suitable for employment.

“Older job seekers that we spoke to felt they were rejected based on their age alone,” the centre’s Justine Irving told the ABC.

One-third of people surveyed aged over 50 revealed they had experienced age discrimination when applying for work.

“Feedback given about being overqualified or too experienced was interpreted as being just too old for the job,” Dr Irving said.

Dr Irving said age-related discrimination was causing many to withhold their age on résumé.

“Some people feel a subtle pressure from their colleagues and management to stop working in order to make room for a younger generation,” she said.

There is a rise in long-term, mature-age unemployment. The report found the average length of time job seeking for those unemployed over 55 was 68 weeks. People aged 25 to 54 spend an average of 49 weeks looking for work, while it was a mere 30 weeks for 15 to 24-year-olds.

All I can say to you is that it’s a numbers game. If you are looking for work, keep trying because you will eventually crack it. Think positive thoughts. If you feel defeated, people will sense it but if you are positive you will attract people to you.

It is truly time Australian companies realised that the population is aging. They need to adapt and adjust to an ageing workforce or they just aren’t going to find the right people to employ. Companies need to find workers right for the job and stop making stupid assumptions about age.

Should you leave jobs when you are older?

This actually depends on how senior (well-paid!) your position is. The more senior the role you’re aiming for, the more important it is to show some stability in your employment past.

In junior positions, two years is long enough. That’s usually enough time to master the responsibilities of the role and feel ready to take on challenges. You may have one or two positions that are even shorter than that, but if possible, you should consider two years as a good minimum to aim for once you’re working building a career in your chosen field.

For more senior roles, three to four years is appropriate, five years is ideal. At executive levels, it often takes a long time to get up to speed with all the responsibilities. A company may invest significant time into training you. It takes time to learn about the company and understand the relationships and challenges. In senior levels, you work on long-term projects. You might aim to change the strategic direction of the organisation and introduce new technology or turn around the profits. Businesses are looking for people who will see those processes through and are accountable for the outcome. A resume filled with short stints will not fill potential employers with confidence that you are the right person to be a manager. Be ready to explain why you have so many short-term jobs on your CV.

Ask yourself why you keep changing jobs

Ideally you do not want a CV (resume) that only has two year roles. If you consistently move around then potential employers won’t expect you to stick around. If a company is looking for someone to invest in long term, they will be reluctant to recruit you. Job-hopping on your CV, also looks like you’ve been asked to leave your previous jobs. This will really hurt your chances. If you have come in and out of employment because you have been looking after children or elderly relatives, like parents, then explain this in your cover letter and say that you are now ready to come back to work and commit to a job long-term.

Do you know why you keep changing jobs? Is it because you only want to come in and out of roles because you have a lot of family responsibilities? Or do you leave work because you struggle to get along with your co-workers? Take a big-picture approach and examine the roles you’ve held, why you left them and the skills you got out of each job. If you can identify an unfavourable pattern, look at how you can change it. Would it suit you better to become a contractor with an Australian Business Number and go in and out of contracts?

When do you need to move on?

If you’ve achieved all you can within your role and you’ve lost your passion for the job or a new opportunity has fallen into your lap, then it is time to go.

You need to manage the job change professionally – that means you don’t get to tell your boss what you really thought of him or her. Ideally you want your managers and co-workers to remember you fondly because informal references are a great asset. Offer some explanation as to why you are leaving. Just don’t insult the boss or the company, and point out what you achieved while working there. Remember, never burn your bridges.


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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


  1. Jonathan Edwards says:

    Hi Pat.

    Jonathan Edwards here. I am sure that you remember me from July.

    It seems that Australia & the UK are not all that different when it comes to employement.

    My CV is full of short stints as in the UK we have zero hour contracts. For example you could sign a 3 month contract, be promsied the work & then you may only get used once, maybe twice and then the client feels that they no longer need contractors and terminate all the contractors art once regardless of how far you are in the contract.

    In the IT field it can take weeks, even months to find new work & its a lot easier to get a contract role than a permanent role. The pay is only enough to survive & one reason why my money story has only recently improved.

    My family and I are looking to emigrate to Australia but with the EOI it only takes into account the work that you have done & does not allow you to explain the gaps in employment so it takes my 6 years down to 3 and half years which makes it harder to meet the points reuqirements & means that I have to pass an English Language Test as anyone who has English as a mother tounge get 0 points for it. Anyone from a non-natvie English speaking country get 20 points automatically. That’s wrong.

    There is a IT skill shortage for jobs in Australia & in the last 6 years that we have tried to emigrate we see the same jobs on over and over month after month but companies will not offer job offers or sponsorships to people who live the UK.

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