Through extending the resource perspective, drawing on the temporal comparison theory, this study examines career development opportunities (CDOs), focusing on knowledge workers and considering the relative changes in CDOs before and after their job change in the Chinese context. Findings from a survey of 379 Chinese knowledge workers who have transferred their jobs at least once reveal that the improvement of CDOs can have a double-edged-sword effect on knowledge workers’ well-being, shown as emotional exhaustion in this study. Although the improvement of CDOs negatively predicts knowledge workers’ emotional exhaustion in general, findings of a three-way interaction reveal that offering more high-quality CDOs can aggravate emotional exhaustion when knowledge workers have been working in their present position for a relatively long period, but have not received a pay rise. This study makes a theoretical contribution by introducing boundary conditions and testing their interactive influence. It helps broaden understanding of how CDOs can affect knowledge workers’ emotional exhaustion. It also has implications for enhancing the well-being of knowledge workers, particularly in national and organizational contexts where there are significant skill shortages and retention problems.