Your Career Q&A: The Best Time to Change Jobs

By Martin Yate May 9, 2017

​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

I need a new job, but I can wait until the time is right. How do I know when it is the optimal time to change jobs?


There are three questions we need to answer here, all of which play into making a successful move:

  • Is there a best time of year?
  • Is it a job change or a strategic career move?
  • How can you make the right move as painlessly as possible? 

The Best Times of Year for Job Hunting

While all times of year are likely viable, there are a couple of time periods that offer special opportunity.

Hiring budgets are usually finalized by September or October, with the funding typically being released at the start of the new year. Employers post a few jobs in January, then the next few months of the year offer the widest range of opportunities for the job hunter. But companies often set target goals for number of hires for each quarter, which means that job availability continues throughout the year.

July and August present more challenges for higher-ranking workers because hiring considerations are more complex and often involve more interviewers and interviews. Since someone on the selection team is almost always on vacation during these months, the selection process tends to take longer.

On the other hand, the number of applications and therefore the competition for jobs drop during the summer months, and because the dog days of summer tend to be less busy in many professions, getting into a conversation with the right people is easier.

Even November and December can be good months. Yes, the holidays are scattered through the two months like confetti, but if budgeted hires have not been made, there is a conscious effort to spend the money still left in the year's budget. Over the years, more than a few of our career coaching clients have gotten job offers in the last four days of the year, up to and including on New Year's Eve. The takeaway: If you are in transition, remember that it's a numbers game—job postings will be available throughout the year. Keep a steady and manageable pace in your job search until you land the right opportunity.

Job Change or Strategic Career Move?

Perhaps the most important overriding consideration is, "Am I just changing jobs, or am I making a strategic career move with due consideration for advancing toward my professional goals?"

Most people delay a job search until they can't take their current situation anymore and then accept either the first or second offer they stumble into. Accepting what is readily available equates to making a job change and does not help advance your career. In the end, you've just changed your desk and your co-workers.

If you have career goals, you will want to make carefully considered strategic moves that deliver the best opportunities to progress toward those goals. What becomes of your career, your success, the quality of your life and your personal happiness is very much up to you. The transitions you make and the smarts with which you make them determine your path in life.

Making the Process as Painless as Possible

Making the right move in pursuit of realistic career goals requires a well-thought-out plan. If you have not made a successful career move in the last few years, everything you ever knew about changing jobs is, most likely, different now. You'll need to completely reconstruct your career management skills and tools:

  • Your resume needs to work in entirely different ways.
  • Your job search tactics must undergo a radical change.
  • Your preparation for interviews will be harder because interviewers are smarter.

It's said that 50 percent of the success of any project is in the prep work, so bring yourself up to speed in each of these areas before you launch a job search.

Fortunately, none of this is impossible, but whatever you think you know about how to manage a successful career transition is likely to be out of date or plain wrong. And because job changes are major curves on your career path, it's best to have a reliable compass.

Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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