Career 101: The Two Year Itch
I'll admit I have commitment issues. When people tell me they've been in a relationship that lasted over two years and things didn't work out, I think: Yeesh! It took that long for you to realize that wasn't what you wanted?
Two years is a long time. I believe we all tend to know what we want for our life in the moment. When it comes to relationships, I also believe in exponential humps to an extent: crises starts in month three, followed by month six, year one, and then year two. After that it hits at intervals of five. Puppy love is fresh, smells nice, and is wonderful, but once the allure is gone, frustration sets in. Is this what I really want? I wonder what it would be like if I went somewhere else. But society conditions us to stick with it. It's why people have bad relationships with spouses, friends, family members, and work environments.
What More Is There?
I've never stayed at a single job more than two years. When you start a job, the first three months are a fairy tale; everyone is nice, you're learning a lot of different things, you're developing new skills, and you're glad to be part of the team. But around month three, comfort sets in. People show their true personalities, you're no longer "training" or a fresh face, you're part of the everyday system, and that puppy love stage is over. One day you realize: this stinks.
But that feeling is fleeting.
After those initial feelings of discomfort in month three, you rationalize that things are still new and will take some time to get used to. Month four and five go smoothly and then something else is triggered during month six. But you stay on course; no relationship can be really judged within six months.
Things go smoothly and then you hit a year and you start to feel you're better than the situation you're in. But then again, what can one year really tell you; and what can you accomplish in one year?
Between year one and two, there are ups and downs as comfort sets in on all sides. You're used to your role and constantly over-exceeding your responsibilities — maybe you've taken on a bit more responsibility to stay interested in the job — but there is no solid promotion yet — which you say is what you want. If you're working smarter and doing everything you're supposed to do, after year one, there isn't really much for you to learn in your role. Truth is, after year one, the right people see how competent you are and slowly give you next level responsibilities. More responsibility, same money is how the story goes.
If you are competent at your job, have mastered your role, constantly take on new challenges and are successful, once year two hits, leave.
A Job Is Temporary
If year two hits and you haven't been promoted yet, don't stick around waiting for something that may never come. Better yet, don't stick around no matter what. You've worked hard for two years, so build your resume and find a better paying job that offers a new challenge and possibly a more vital role.
A job is not a career. A job is something you do while working towards your career. I've had plenty of retail jobs; my career is writing and I've been in it for five years. Retail was never my end all but I knew the experience would benefit me throughout my future professional career. Over the course of eight years I worked four retail jobs — all jobs I left within two years. In retrospect, I wasn't aware of the two year deadline, but I see how much it has benefited me. My first job hired me as a sales associate; I left my last job managing four departments and over 35 people, combined with being a Buyer, mentor, and innovator. If I had stayed at my first job, the best I would accomplish would be managing a single department of about 10 employees.
At every job, as time passed, I developed the exponential itch, with the final one usually occurring every year and a half. Although I was successful in each role, I would get antsy, feel unmotivated, and feel incompatible with the work space. I'm better than this. My end goal was always in front of me, and the success I found in those roles meant nothing longterm since I wouldn't be taking them with me into my career.
When you work in a specific role for a lengthy time, at what point does your day-to-day become autonomous? Clients, customers, and interactions may be different, but your responsibilities become the same. If you're just looking to get by on a paycheck or working to build experience, once you hit two years, look for a new job. It can be the exact same role, but in a new business. My first job was being a sales associate in a home goods store; my second was being a sales associate in a sports store. I had the same job title, but different engagement, role responsibility, and knowledge was required to get the job done.
Two years shows steady commitment on a resume. Personally, two years is enough time to learn everything and anything there is to know. If you're at a job, every two years, be ready to ask yourself; What's next? What's bigger and better than this? What more can I learn here? If the answers are something more challenging, anything, and nothing, respectively, move on.
If you're career oriented, regardless if you know or don't know what you're looking for, there's no reason to commit to anything that doesn't help your end goal. Just like when dealing with any type of relationship; if you've put the effort in but don't see the person with you towards the end, it's time to move on. Treat your job the same.
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