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Job Q&A: How Long is Too Long to Wait for a Promotion?

Q: I have been in my job for the last five years without promotion, am I getting stagnant? Does this hurt me in the job market for future employers?

How long is too long to stay at a job?


Thanks for your questions. The answer to the first is not necessarily straightforward. Have you received a raise and or bonus during this five-year period? Have your responsibilities expanded? Your answers to the above questions will help determine if you are getting stagnant … but then, if you are asking the question, you probably know the answer already.

For the second question, most employers want people who are serious about their careers, and holding the same title for a long period of time may be perceived as a lack of ambition. It is therefore important that you highlight any changes in responsibilities, raises or bonuses in your resume. On the plus side, five years at the same company is likely less worrisome for a potential employer than  numerous brief stints at various organizations. So be sure to frame your five-year tenure at your company as proof of your dedication and loyalty rather than a sign that you are not ambitious.

Although you did not specifically ask the question, here are some thoughts on how to get that promotion and stop feeling stagnant: work late nights. Help on projects that are not your responsibility. Ask for more responsibilities. Raise your hand for new projects. It is important to remember that, these days, promotions are not generally given to the most senior people but rather those who work the hardest in their current role and who take on new responsibilities. Being good at your job is not enough; if you want more, then you will likely have to do the job you want for a good six months before you will be considered for the role. If you feel that you are doing all of these things and your contributions are not being recognized, it is probably time to move on.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series from Jeff Lundwall, a founder and managing partner of Mercury Group LLC, a retained executive search firm focused on the media, marketing and advertising industry. In this series, Lundwall will answer your questions — big and small — pertaining to getting the most out of a job and career. Please send questions to

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