Question: How long should one stay in an entry level position? – Nashika T., Chicago
Answer: The short answer here is that it’s relative. The question here shouldn’t necessarily be about how long one should stay but rather how to optimize an entry level role. Of course, no one’s expecting you to stay for ten years—but two years? Absolutely; there’s a point in the beginning of everyone’s career where you have to pay your dues. Sure, you may not be in the ideal role at the moment, but there are steps you can take to make the best of your entry level job. Some things to consider:
Do you have a career map? Do you have an idea of where you’d like to head next and how you can flourish in your current position? One great way to illustrate your next steps and better visualize your goals is by making a career map. Career mapping is a great way to view your progress, set goals and anticipate changes; it’s as simple as putting your ambitions down on paper and assigning them timeframes. For example, you can designate two years or so to your current role and allot certain professional milestones to each month or every six months.
Are you still learning? Building and expanding upon skills and learning from mentors and colleagues are often what keep an individual engaged in the workplace. If you’ve found that you haven’t been absorbing as much as you could, consider reestablishing your connections to your mentors and colleagues. You could ask your mentor to coffee if you haven’t in a while, or inquire into your desk mate’s latest project. This serves to foster a productive relationship between you and your acquaintances; you might also learn something new over cappuccinos!
How’s your work life balance? Many times, articles and discussions about work life balance seem to be directed at those who are in high powered careers and have been in them for years. Though that’s not untrue, work life balance is often overlooked in entry level candidates—many who tend to let the late nights in the office build and their emotionally fulfilling side projects dwindle. Even if you’re right out of the gate and the greenest person in the office, your work life balance should be a priority. Your time in your entry level job will only seem longer and drier when you’re working 60-hour weeks and haven’t seen your friends and family in months!
How long you stay in an entry level position depends on your goals (whether they’re long-term or short-term) and your circumstances. Regardless of what they are, consider volunteering, freelancing or working on passion projects on the side to build new skills and gain experience. This way, you stay refreshed and cognizant of life outside of your work, which will only serve to enrich you and make you all the better at tackling challenges in not only your current role, but in roles to come!
Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen is president of Careers In Nonprofits, the experts in nonprofit staffing and recruiting with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.