Breaking the Three Year Rule?

Published: 12 July 2016

On the eve of the 21st Century, Kurzweil published The Law of Accelerating Returns regarding exponential growth of technology. He summarised “An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense 'intuitive linear' view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century - it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate)”. I also read with interest a recent article on LinkedIn suggesting that certain interview questions had reached their sell by date. One of the questions deemed redundant was ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ – the theory being that we live in uncertain times and life is moving too fast to predict that far into the future.

This got me thinking about one of my unwritten rules of what makes a good CV; the ‘three year rule’. I have always viewed three years as a good minimum stint in an organisation, based on year one you find your feet; year two you become effective; year three and beyond you truly deliver and progress. Is this still a reasonable time span to judge someone on? Do companies expect quicker results? Do individuals need to experience new horizons in order to cope with the pace of change? 

I certainly agree that the accelerating pace of technology related transformation (driverless cars, collaborative robots), combined with job trends (portfolio or independent working, globalisation, millennial attitudes) makes career management more challenging today than it has ever been. That’s before we even consider the economic shocks that Brexit may unleash, and the impact this might have on job stability/creation. On this basis five years does seem like a long time.

However, the pace of change does not mean you shouldn’t have a career plan; in order to get somewhere you have to set a course. Sure, you may not reach your destination but there is nothing wrong with having a vision of what your career could look like in the medium to long term. Evidencing that you have delivered something tangible is still paramount to progression and justifying to a future employer why you are their best hiring option. I may be less rigid on the three years but I still think it’s a reasonable length of time in which to judge someone’s results.

David Thomas is a Principal Consultant in the Manufacturing and Engineering Practice

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