Employment Opinions

Apply the Bathtub Curve to Your Career To Know When To Leave

bathtub curve
Written by Faizan Patankar

The bathtub curve is a term widely used in reliability engineering. Bathtub curve is mostly related to the lifecycle management of a product.

However, I will flip it round and instead of a product, apply the bathtub curve to people’s career. And explain how you can find when is it too soon or too late to leave.

A bathtub curve is as below. In a product life cycle, there is decreasing failure rate as defective products are identified and discarded. Then the product reaches consumer and failure rate is more or less constant. Finally over time due to wear out issues, the product failure rate goes up.

bathtub curve

Applying the bathtub curve to your career


When is it too soon to leave?


When you join a new company or start in a new team, you can feel like you are not part of it or not interested in it. However you have to go over that phase because your mind is going through a changed environment and it can be stressful.

Think about it this way, your brain has to work harder to not only do the work you know you can do, but also learn new names, remember new paths, understand new procedures and there is just so much to take in.

You may feel you can’t handle it, but most of the times it takes some time to settle in. So remember, whenever you start in a new role or company, you are at the start of bathtub curve and your feeling of this is a failed move will reduce over time.

Your career and constant failure rate

After a few weeks you start feeling comfortable with your environment. Your brain has more power for useful stuff without having to work on remembering names, procedures etc.

This is where you start thinking; glad you didn’t leave too soon.

It doesn’t mean you will be happy with everything, failures will still happen. But I’s a up and down course, some days will be better than others.

The constant failure rate phase is also the best time to try out activities that will help your career. Because you’ve been there for a while and people around you are more acceptable of you. At the same time you’ve not been there long enough to feel like a ‘part of the furniture’.

Some people leave it too late in their time at a new organisation to try out things they always wanted to.

Is it time to leave yet, you feel worn out

Like I said right at the start, you shouldn’t leave too soon. But neither should you leave too late!

Over time you may start feeling that you need something new. You feel the current job you are doing is mundane and you need a new challenge.

It could be because over time your brain has become efficient at doing the same task for less power and you have the spare power to think you can do more.

Of course, you can always do more!

So, when this wear starts creeping in, it is time o seriously consider what is good for you and the business. No point staying at a place you are not adding value to.

This is the increasing failure rate part of the curve. And it is same of our career. You are the best judge of knowing when to leave.

Over to you now. Find out where you are on your career bath tub curve. And do like this post if you find it useful. Thanks.

About the author

Faizan Patankar

I started Career Geek Blog in 2011 to share my experience in job-hunting. I now focus on careers industry and blogging is just a tool to share that info. Love hacking careers. During the day I focus on my hobby - Engineering.