job-hopping is killing your career

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39% of recruiters and hiring managers say that a history of job-hopping is the single biggest obstacle for job-seekers.

This will come as no surprise to most people, but might be a surprise to some 20somethings who have been told  that job-hopping is the new normal and nothing to worry about. That’s always been BS, of course.

(And Nick Corcodilos says it best when he noted that one particular blogger fond of telling Gen Y that “loyalty doesn’t matter and job hopping is good” is “sticking a needle in your vein, pumping you full of happy juice, and leaving your career to die while she drives off to the bank to deposit the GoogleAds checks she collects for advertising career crack to confused GenY’s.”)

Other interesting findings from the Bullhorn survey:

* There’s greater demand for candidates in their 40s than in their 20s.

* The amount of time that you can be unemployed before it becomes difficult for recruiters to place you in a job is between six months and one year, according to 36% of respondents.

* 79% said that being unemployed for less than six months doesn’t make it that much harder to find a job.

{ 170 comments… read them below }

  1. Beth

    I graduated from school about 2 years ago, and I’ve done a lot of internships/fixed-term and contract positions. This doesn’t seem to be that uncommon for people entering my field, since there is lots of competition.

    Does it look bad that I’ve had so many jobs, even though from the beginning there was never the option to stay on longer? Should I note this somewhere in my resume, like Chocolate Teapot Maker, 8/2009-10/2009 (fixed term position)?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Job-hopping is multiple short-term stays that weren’t intended/designed to be short-term stays. Internships, temp work, contract jobs, campaign work, and anything else designed to be short-term from the start doesn’t count.

      Just make sure that your resume makes it clear, by writing “contract job” or whatever next to it.

        1. simple simon

          Same here! I think that contract work is becoming the norm unfortunately. One of those contracts was at a unionized position and somehow the contracts save them from some union obligations. In Canada contracts also release companies from some obligations to the employee as well. Sneaky stuff…

          I just moved into my first open-ended contract – or will move after my notice period is up – and am beyond excited to not have to job hop anymore!

  2. Aj-in-Memphis

    I agree but I don’t hold this against contractors , contracts can end without it having anything to do the person doing the work.

    But I am leery of those applicants that have of 6 months of experience here, then 9 months there and then voluntarily quit because of “job issues” somewhere else (these are not my words).

    Yes, there are some jobs where you were hired and it just didn’t work out, you have had a horrible boss or it was a temporary job. But when I see resumes that show this pattern over the course of 2 or 3 years (or more), I tend to think that there might be something going with this candidate.

    1. Kelly O

      Can I ask a question?

      How long do you need to stay in one role before you start mitigating that two year period?

      What I’m sort of wondering is, how is the almost three years at my current employer helping me deal with the prior two years of temp positions and a couple of short term things that didn’t work out?

      (Also, does it help at all that those two years were in another city? Part of why I jumped around was taking whatever paid the most at the time, since my spouse was out of work. I know it doesn’t excuse it, but it was a huge factor in those decisions.)

      1. Wilton Businessman

        It depends. To me, the fact that you have been consistent for three years takes more weight than some job hopping five years ago. I am looking for stability and progressive responsibilities over time, so your three years says a lot in this context.

        If you did it the other way around with three years of stable employment at the same company and then job hopped for two years, I’d be afraid I was just the next 6 month stop.

        1. Emily

          I wondered about this too. I had several short term jobs. I was young and dumb and screwed up and job hopped. Then I had some bad luck (my department was shut down and everyone laid off) and then we moved out of state. I have been at my current job for 3 years but worry endlessly about my previous job history for the future.

          1. Wilton Businessman

            I’m expecting you to test the waters when you’re in your 20′s. Otherwise, how do you know how great a place my company is?

            I think your three years more than make up for a tumultuous two.

            1. Emily

              Well I had more like 3 years of screwy history from 20-23. It’s good to know that won’t look so bad on me though since I’m still in my 20s.

              1. Jamie

                Seriously – I wouldn’t worry about this at all – and I worry about everything. :)

                20-23? Followed by a layoff (out of your control) a move out of state (life does happen) and 3 solid years with one company?

                You’re in better shape than 80% of the resumes I see.

              2. Kelly O

                I wish I could go back and redo some of my twenties, as far as employment decisions go.

                Granted, I have an ex-husband I might be tempted to erase a bit sooner too. Your twenties can be rough, man. I can deal with the physical changes in my thirties way better than the emotional rollercoaster of the previous decade.

  3. Jamie

    I haven’t even hit the link yet and I would bet a paycheck that I can name the blogger to whom he’s referring…

    Something about a suitcase…valise…trunk perhaps?

      1. fposte

        She’s made her career on being the person who contradicts received wisdom (no matter how true the received wisdom may be) and who says outrageous stuff just so that people will talk about her. Sort of an aged adolescent.

      2. Jamie

        “Who is this woman and why is she infamous?”

        You know how AAM provides real world advice from someone who has experience in the trenches so she knows what works? And when something is outside of her area of expertise she acknowledges that, as well as an understanding that while there are some universal principles there are differences between people and industries?

        It would be the opposite of that.

        1. Kelly O

          Don’t forget talking at length about your self-diagnosed Aspergers, showing pictures of the bruise on your backside (with full rear view) and talking about your miscarriage in a boardroom.

          Only a few of the follies of one Ms. Main Branch of the Tree, whose name I don’t even want to give a Google hit to.

    1. Kelly O

      The thought of that one in particular makes my blood boil, for a number of reasons.

      Although I will say that one is not the only one saying “oh it’s okay to job hop, and if they don’t understand that, then they’re not worthy of you” to all sorts of job seekers. (Believe me, I fell for it at one point and I regret it every time I start working on my resume.)

    2. Patti

      Wow… Just read her article. I’m stunned, and sad for all the folks who are falling for that advice. It almost reads like a parody. Yikes.

    3. Doug

      Oh no…HER.

      Job searching is hard enough as it is, but I can’t imagine how much harder it is following her “advice.” There are few people out there who would make my blood boil at the sheer nonsense that they spew. She is one of them.

  4. LOLwut

    I’m having trouble finding a definition for what constitutes “job hopping”. It seems like it basically boils down to “I know it when I see it.”

    This is kind of an issue for me right now, since I’m going on three months in a job that I now see was a huge mistake. I’m 35, my longest tenure at a job was three years (I would have stayed longer, but the axe was falling uncomfortably close), and my shortest was 18 months. I was also laid off from a job I had for a little more than two years.

    If I go looking for a new job now, am I going to be labeled a job-hopper? Should I stick it out in this miserable place?

    1. Bridgette

      Right there with ya. I was wondering this the other day, and yes, the answer is nebulous. It seems like there is some magic value involving number of jobs held and person’s age. So it would depend on how many jobs you have had since beginning your working life. Then factor in industry culture. Can someone write me up a formula???

    2. Wilton Businessman

      It depends on the company you are interviewing with. My company, yes, you’d be a job hopper. I like to see stable employment with progressive responsibilities over 5 years for senior level positions. Granted, I wouldn’t hold multiple job changes in the last 3 years against you, but before 2008 I want to see stable employment.

      In your 20s I expect you to bounce around a couple times. Not everybody gets the right job at the right company for the right money upon graduation. But the further along you get in your career, I want to see more stability.

      That being said, the last company I worked for had a lot of turnover. We considered 2 years of employment stable. But that was a lot of underpaid young people, so YMMV.

      1. Piper

        It sucks because “further along in my career” has been: laid off after 8 months, 1 contract job that lasted a year before I moved out-of-state, and another contract job that I plan to leave as soon as I find permanent employment. I only took the contract jobs because that’s what was available. Previously, I worked for 2 years at my first job out of college, then 4 years at my second job. But the last two years have been a bouncy-job-hopping-ball-of-fun. I hate it.

        I know people say contract jobs are different, but I still feel like there is a stigma for me with three short-term jobs in a row

        1. Patti

          I think the difference to focus on is whether not these were intended or “planned” changes. A contract job where you go into it knowing that it will only last a specified amount of time is different than working at a place for three months and deciding it’s not for you.

        2. Wilton Businessman

          This is not something I would worry about, your situation is not uncommon. The last three or four years have been an exception to the rule.

        3. anon

          Are the 3 short term jobs with the same agency? Pehaps you could list the agency and then the companies (with dates if they are longer term).

  5. Anonymous

    I recently interviewed someone via phone for a CFO role.. every 1-2 years she switched companies (all in a CFO capacity), sometimes with gaps in between each role… so I was asked to follow-up and see what that was about as it was a red flag.

    When asked about it, it turns out she left each job because they required her to work outside of normal hours sometimes (weekend events, etc), and to sometimes work past 5., which was not what she negotiated. Sorry, but if you’re a top executive, isn’t this basically a job requirement?! To me it seemed she didn’t grasp the requirements of the career path she was pursuing… at least she was honest about only wanting to work 40 hours a week, i guess.

    Just an example of why job-hopping throws up red flags, and usually deservedly so!

    1. Nikki J.

      Good for her on setting an example and standing up for the way things SHOULD be. I’m sure more people wish they were able to do that.

      1. Wilton Businessman

        I love my job and I love what I do. I’d work 80 hours a week if they let me. If they only let me work 40 hours, I’d either find another job or take a second job.

      2. fposte

        For a CFO, though? Where the compensation packages are stunningly high because of the expectation that this is actually going to be the most important thing in your life? I mean, she’s within her rights to keep asking for that, but it’s kind of like leaving job after job after six months because they don’t promote her three levels in that time–it’s not a reasonable expectation, and I would therefore presume she won’t have reasonable expectations about her time with me, either.

      3. EM

        Yep. I’m part time and work around 30 hours a week, which is considered full time in the rest of the industrialized world. I really do love my job, but I love my family too.

        1. Jamie

          I don’t judge anyone for making different choices than I do – everyone should do what works for them.

          But statements like this bother me:
          “I really do love my job, but I love my family too.”

          The inference is there that those of us who work a hell of a lot more than 40 hours a week maybe don’t love our families as much. It’s along the same lines of people saying that they don’t want to work over 40 hours a week because they have lives. Forgetting that those of us who work more also have lives.

          It may not be your intent, but it does seem to imply that the less hours you work the more you love your family and that’s emphatically not true.

          1. some1

            Well said, Jamie. Also, some people would love to work 30 hours a week to spend more time with family (or do whatever), but they simply need the extra money or need the benefits, and most employers I’ve had require you to work full-time to qualify for benefits.

            1. EJ

              Come on guys. I think we’re missing the point here.

              I think that EM was just saying that, although she could work more, she is choosing not to in order to spend more time with family. Kudos to her for being in a position to do that – I would do, if I could!

              1. Jamie

                And that is great – that’s her choice and that’s what works for her.

                But the implication that love of family is in any way tied to hours worked is ridiculous and it seems firmly entrenched for a lot of people – so I point out the fallacy of that when it comes up.

                Taking me for example. I didn’t work at all when my kids were small I was a SAHM for 15 years. Did I love my kids more than a mom who worked full or part time? Did I love them more then than I do now, because now I have a job? Of course not – all of those things would be absurd. And that’s the point.

                People toss comments around all the time about people who work a lot having no lives, or I’d work more but I love my family kinda thing…they sound harmless until you put a real life example to them like I did above – then it shows how silly that is.

                I think it’s an important point to make, because it’s my opinion that the off-hand comments like that do perpetuate the myth that somehow it’s more noble to work fewer hours. It’s not inherently more noble, just like it’s not inherently noble to work a lot. It’s not good or bad – it just is – and people should make whatever choices are right for themselves and their family.

                This is an issue for women in the workplace – because the perception that those of us who spend more time at work are somehow less dedicated to our lives and our families is false.

                Do I think a couple of posts here will change how the world sees this – nope. However, I just think it should be pointed out when it happens as maybe that will spur one person to think before sitting in judgment of someone else’s life choices.

                1. Patti

                  Well said, Jamie. I still have TONS of what I call working-mom-guilt. My kids are my life, but I can’t support them without putting in the time I do at work. It’s not a choice to spend less time with them.

                2. Anonymous J

                  Having to work more than 40 hours because you have bills to pay is totally different than CHOOSING to work tons of overtime. Am I saying you love your family less? Maybe. I know that if I didn’t have to work more than 40 hours I sure as hell would rather spend that time with my kids.

                  A simple measure of love is time. If that makes you feel defensive or guilty then you should take a look at how you spend your time.

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Wow, Anonymous. Are you also going to argue that people who go to a ball game or read a book instead of spending that time with their family love their families less? Come on — people have all kinds of things that fulfill them, in addition to their families … not in place of.

          2. Julie

            I don’t think there was any intention of saying that people who work more than 40 hours a week love their family LESS — I don’t think anyone would ever say that. (Or at least, I hope to never meet the person who believes that.)

            What is true, though, is that every hour spent at work is an hour not spent doing something else. A hobby, a date night, reading to your kids, cooking, or even the ubiquitous sitting in front of the TV. Ten hours extra per week spent at work is ten hours NOT doing something else. Someone who works 40 hours a week has 10 more hours available to help kids with homework, play catch, or go camping than someone working 50 hours a week. They may not actually use them to spend time with their kids or spouse, but the opportunity is available.

            As with so many things, it’s a trade-off. Usually (but not always) the trade-off is for more money. I have deliberately chosen to make less money so that I have more time outside work to do the things I love. Some people choose differently. A very lucky few get to work at the things they love, thus avoiding the choice entirely, but they’re in the minority.

              1. fposte

                And that’s what struck me on Anonymous’ CFO example–this is somebody who isn’t willing to make the tradeoffs for the level she wants to work at.

                1. KellyK

                  The thing I wonder about with her is that she says it “isn’t what she negotiated.” If companies promised her something completely out of line with what they needed for the role, that’s their fault, not hers.

                  The fact that it’s happened multiple times suggests her expectations are probably out of whack for the role, but if she’s presenting as a strong candidate (which it sounds like she is if red flags merited a call for clarification rather than a short trip to the circular file), interviewers may also be glossing over their expectations in order to get her. That or there are different assumptions about what “working late” actually means.

        2. Anonymous

          “The rest of the industrialized world”?

          Most European countries have 40-hour weeks as the default. Some have 37, in very few is 35 common.

  6. kristinyc

    I’m admittedly a bit of a job hopper (it wasn’t intentional at first, but there were a few rocky years involving freelance/temp work and a company acquisition that resulted in a layoff).

    I’ve had no trouble getting interviews/getting hired, but I have had interviewers criticize me for job hopping before. :shrugs:

    I feel like if employers want longevity out of their employees, they need to treat them in such a way that encourages that. Fortunately, my new/current job is amazing and I see myself here for a long time.

    1. Josh S

      You’re hitting on something important here, Kristinyc. While I understand the desire of employers to value those who don’t have a history of job-hopping, it’s a two-way street.

      Many employers want to treat their employees as though they are a fungible resource–cogs in a machine that are exchangeable with anyone with two hands and half a brain. There is little loyalty shown by employers. They expect their new hires to come pre-trained, even with entry-level positions–and then they aren’t willing to commit the resources to train or develop those people, or to offer them a career path that keeps them engaged.

      It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. If employers won’t invest in their employees, the employees aren’t going to want to stay long term. If employees are expecting (and expected) to jump ship within 2-3 years, it’s barely worth investing in them since you won’t get positive ROI.

      1. Piper

        Rumor has it that around my current company employees used to be called “disposable assets” by the higher ups. So, yeah. Why would I be loyal to a company who’s going to dump me at any moment.

        Sorry, but I do think the days of staying at one company for years and years and expecting a promotion are pretty much gone. Most people I see who have been at companies for years and years are in the exact same position they were when they started. In my experience, to get promoted, you leave and do it somewhere else.

        1. Wilton Businessman

          I think if you’re expecting a promotion, you’re in the wrong company. I promote people because they work hard and take on additional responsibility.

          1. Josh S

            The trouble is this:
            It used to be that if you worked hard and took on additional responsibility, or otherwise went above and beyond the expectations, you got promoted.

            Now, if you work hard and take on additional responsibility, or otherwise go above and beyond your boss’ expectations, you get to keep your job. (Unless there’s layoffs that will make the company more attractive to VC or private equity, in which case you have just slightly improved your odds of making the cut.)

            This is the despair and learned helplessness that many in the younger generation are feeling at the moment. Yeah, they have their professional flaws that are recounted elsewhere in detail. But they feel disposable regardless of what they do. So why bother?

            1. Jamie

              You can’t paint all workplaces with the same brush, though.

              I’ve seen people get promoted at my company and I’ve seen management bend over backwards working with employees to promote internally. We go outside only when there is absolutely no one interested/qualified on staff.

              I am sure 10, 20, and 30 years ago there were people working at companies where they weren’t getting the promotions to which they felt entitled.

              I understand the frustration that’s out there – and I think a lot of it stems from companies running leaner and there just aren’t the quantity of jobs at this time…but it’s not like it was great before and it sucks now.

              It was great in some places and sucked in some places before – the same as now. It’s just that maybe it didn’t sting so much because historically there were more jobs in play than there seem to be now in some sectors.

              1. Hari

                I agree and I’m also thinking this may depend more on the industry and whether your job is corporate or not. In my industry, advertising, I’ve noticed from researching different agencies that 9 of ten 10 times for corporate owned agencies there are more complaints of external hiring and having to leave the agency for experience and comeback later in order to get a higher position. However in a boutique or larger but non-corporate agencies not only do they report better work/life balance but rarely are there complaints about external hiring over internal.

      2. Anonymous J

        It would be nice if companies still valued long term employment, but they don’t, even if they think they do. It doesn’t benefit the employee to stay long term. Blame the economy if you want, but wages are stagnant and the only way to increase your earnings is to find a new company every 2 or 3.

        It’s weird, but for some reason companies are willing to pay outside hires more than promoting within. But then again, I suppose I have simply not worked at a “good” company.

        Case in point, my old boss balked when I asked for a minor 3K raise. 6 weeks after I moved on I saw the posting for my old position and my boss was offering a starting wage 16K than I was making . I spoke to former coworkers and apparently it wasn’t as easy to find a replacement as they thought it would.

    2. Katie

      Kristinnyc’s post hits at the heart of the disconnect I’ve been feeling since I started reading this blog. I was so taken aback to hear that the fend-for-yourself job hopping attitude didn’t get a lot of respect here. It seemed strange to find myself in an internet place that ran contrary to every message that emerged from my job search. Most everything is part time, contract, no benefits, at will, short term, churn and burn kinds of work. These aren’t the kind of conditions that foster long-term employment, and I don’t think it’s done accidentally.

      I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, or maybe I didn’t have the right skills, or maybe my expectations are out of whack with what’s realistic. But I just don’t see a lot of jobs geared towards long-term development and growth. And if they’re not, what’s a job seeker to do? Am I missing something?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Again, it goes to the difference between how things should be and how things are. Yes, companies that don’t offer their employees any loyalty are unreasonable in expecting it in return. But the reality is that they do anyway, and you will be judged for job-hopping. Sure, it’s not fair, but if you want to have a successful career, you need to be aware that it will be perceived as a negative (at least by a lot of employers) and some cases as even prohibitive.

        There are a lot of blogs out there that traffic in “how things should work.” This one traffics in “how things do work,” and they’re definitely not always one and the same.

      2. fposte

        I don’t have the broader view of hiring in general that somebody like Alison can see, but my feeling is that you’re describing something a little different. The impermanence you’re talking about is particularly evident in the early years of one’s work life and in the kind of entry-level positions you tend to be in then. Those, as we discuss, you get a certain amount of a pass on, while “job hopping” is a reflection on the employee’s leaving jobs by choice after a short time, not on being employed in jobs that had an expectation of term from the get-go. (If you haven’t, you should also look at the page Alison linked to for the actual survey, which describes who took the survey and what was meant by “job-hopping” in it.)

        So I don’t see the message as “You’re screwed if you haven’t found a company to stay for years at by 25″; I think what people are saying is that leaving jobs of your own free will after only a year over and over again is going to make a prospective employer think you will only stay there a year too. And most employers don’t want to spend time hiring and acculturating somebody who’ll only be there for a year, regardless of what some bloggers think they should do.

        But if I’m wrong and you are talking about moving jobs after a year or so just out of restlessness and a search for greener grass, then it’s probably an important piece of information for you to realize that a lot of employers really see that as a deficit in a candidate, and that you might want to factor that into your work pattern.

        1. Barbara Saunders

          I agree that employers have every right to see a red flag in multiple short-term stints ended with an “oops!” However I see another disconnect.

          In one corner of the Internet are people promoting – and romanticizing entrepreneurship/self-employment for any and all. I don’t believe this is wise. In the other (this) corner, are people criticizing “red flags” that might well be seen in a much more positive light – as HALLMARKS that one should seriously consider being an entrepreneur. (There’s a TED talk about this, about how schools fail to recognize entrepreneurial traits, and punish children for them rather than cultivating them.

          I heard it from self-employed people time and time again and didn’t recognize it until it happened to me: “I worked myself out of a job.” I.e., one is hired to perform a function, sees the function not as tasks to be repeated forever and ever but as a problem to be solved, and solves the problem. Job over. This is an EXCELLENT trait for a consultant or business owner! In a stagnant job it looks like rebellion, insubordination, etc.

      1. Maria

        Oops I hit enter too soon. I have worked for several companies that treated workers badly. I stayed at a couple a long time, then I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. So, I have some “jumping” as a result.

  7. KayDay

    Just wondering what do you consider “short-term”?

    I realize that it can vary by industry, but my general thought has been less than 1 year for entry-level, less than 3 years for mid-level, and less than 5 years at the senior level would be considered short-term.

    On the flip side, while many short term stays can look bad, it also looks bad if people don’t move on when they should (e.g. staying in an entry level job for many years).

    1. Jamie

      I have kind of a stupid question – but I’ve wondered if there’s common knowledge about what constitutes entry level, middle management, and upper or executive management?

      I always found it was kind of different at each company and except for the obvious (no skills needed, first day on the job being entry level – President being executive management) I’ve always wondered how people use these categories.

      It can’t really be title dependent, since titles mean different things at different places…is it to whom you report?

      1. Wilton Businessman

        Entry Level: No Responsibility
        Middle Management: All of the Responbility, none of the Power.
        Executive: All of the Power.

        1. Ivy

          +1

          Although I think there’s a difference between senior and executive. Something like: Entry > Mid > Senior > Executive

          1. Guest

            I’ve also seen it broken down by whether you supervise or manage anyone and whether anyone manages you.

            Entry level: Don’t supervise anyone; highly supervised yourself
            Middle management: Manage some people; still have a direct boss
            Executive: Manage many people; only answer to customers/stockholder

            1. Piper

              I don’t know about this. There’s a whole see of workers you’re leaving out. I’m most definitely not entry level, but I also don’t directly manage anyone nor am I highly supervised myself. There is middle ground between “entry level” and “middle management.”

              1. Jamie

                This. It’s why it’s so hard to define – all company structures are so different there is no one rubric fits all – I was just hoping someone had an answer I was missing.

              2. Anonymous

                At least on job application sites (like Taleo), those seem to be termed “Experienced” “individual contributor”s

              3. KellyK

                Definitely. Some companies use number grades or Junior/Mid-Level/Senior to differentiate the individual contributors. Senior Technical Writer, Mid-Level Teapot Designer, Chocolate Technician II, etc.

                There’s also middle levels of management. There’s a difference between supervising a couple people and supervising 30. Or whether the people you manage are managing others.

    2. Adam V

      > it also looks bad if people don’t move on when they should (e.g. staying in an entry level job for many years)

      I feel that depends on the company – I stayed at my first position for 3.5 years, but I was learning quite a bit along the way and toward the end I was considered to be fairly “senior” within my department. However, there were no title updates along the way (every non-supervisor had the same title), and the only promotions available were to the few supervisor positions that occasionally opened up, so to an outsider it might have appeared that I was still in the same entry-level position.

      To me, what matters is that when I left, my position at the new company was “senior developer”.

      1. KayDay

        Oh, yes, I agree–it totally depends on the industry and/or company. (In my comment, I was speaking in very broad generalizations.) A good company will hopefully give you a bump in your title or something to indicate the increased responsibility, but many do not do that.

      2. Wilton Businessman

        I kind of disagree with that, with a caveat.

        If your position was “Junior Developer”, then yes, I agree with you.

        Otherwise, if you are hired as a “Software Developer”, I don’t care that your title changes. I want to see your responsibilities change over time and you take on more and more complex projects. I want to see you have a hand in the architecture and design. I want to see that you not only seek out new technology, but implement it to save time or money. If you are a Senior Developer writing Excel macros, the title means the company you came from is probably not very sophisticated.

        1. Jamie

          I agree that it’s not about the titles as much as it’s about the expansion of responsibility.

          A good way to look at it is for one to look at their job today and compare it to the job for which they were hired. Could you walk in today with the skills and experience you had then and do your job as it is today?

          If the answer is yes, I’d be concerned about stagnation. (Assuming you’ve been there a while)

        2. Scott M

          I think that I.T. jobs are a special case when people talk about ‘increased responsibility’. In I.T., developers have to constantly learn new technology, which I feel shows growth in their careers, even if they don’t increase their responsibilities over time.

        3. Erica B

          I think this is good to know. I work in an environmental engineering lab at a university and have been working here over 8.5 years. My job title has changed once, and it was only when my position switched from non-benefited to benefited 5 + years ago. Not only that my new title is the very vague: “research fellow”, so it does nothing to describe what I actually do, but rather where I am on the university’s pay scale. I have been given more duties over the years, so there is that, but although I do have a boss I am hardly “managed or supervised”.. lol clearly I don’t work in a standard place

          1. KellyK

            If you have a title that doesn’t mean anything in the field you’re applying *for,* it makes sense to put a short description or alternate title in parentheses. E.g., Research Fellow (Environmental Engineering)

            That way you have an accurate title for reference checks, but someone reading your resume can tell what it is you actually do.

  8. Louis

    How do usually write in consulting work in your resume ?

    I have somethink like this :

    1995-2004 Consulting company A – title senior consultant
    - jun 95 – aug 96 client A, duty XYZ
    - aug 96 – sept 97 client B, duty XYZ
    ….

    Because I want to show that I stayed for the same employer for a long time but at the same time I want to show work I did at each client site.

    In IT, multiple 1 years contrats at different company is usually a plus because it means you have been expose to different technological architecture.

    1. Jamie

      That’s how I did it on mine. I had freelance consulting that I put under the freelance heading and then I was with one agency for a couple of years so that had it’s heading and the longer term assignments under that.

      The only thing I’d suggest is changing duties to accomplishments. It’s more positive phrasing.

      1. Erica B

        but what if “duties” aren’t “accomplishments”. My job has clear duties that I am responsible for but are clearly not accomplishments. These two words are not synonymous IMO.

        1. Jamie

          They aren’t – but when possible you should list accomplishments instead of duties. I wasn’t clear enough.

        2. MalPal

          I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to add that if you read the articles and ebook from this blog, you should list accomplishments at a job, NOT job duties. You had a job and it had responsibilities, but why did YOU do that job better than someone else would have. Always list your accomplishments.

    2. Wilton Businessman

      1995-2004 Consulting company A – title senior consultant
      - jun 95 – aug 96 client A, duty XYZ
      - aug 96 – sept 97 client B, duty XYZ

      yes, exactly. Show you’ve been with company A for a while and the different projects you worked on.

  9. Danielle

    From what I’ve seen in my field (librarianship), it really doesn’t matter. I have a former schoolmate who’s had 5 librarian positions in less than 2 years and she keeps getting jobs! She was just hired as a head librarian/branch manager, and she just graduated this past May. She is taking positions in small towns, so this may have something to do with it (attracting young blood, new ideas, etc.) , but I’ve seen this happen to other friends and schoolmates as well. Maybe it’s just this field…

    1. Joey

      Good managers with an MLS are extremely hard to find. And executives with an MLS even moreso. I always had to recruit nationally because the pool is so small. Librarians on the other hand, not so much.

  10. Scott M

    I have the opposite problem – I’ve been at the same company for 20+ years. That’s pretty standard here too. When/if I have to look for a job, I hope that pays off and doesn’t count against me.

    1. Joey

      Scott, you’ll find a whole range of opinions, but generally it will be of value the more the company and position has in common with your current. And the more you’ve progressed professionally.

  11. Chinook

    Does having a different city and/or province for each job mitigate the perceived job hopping? I always explain in my cover letter that I am married to retired soldier/current Mountie but that we have been told that his current transfer should last 4-5 years and that I always give as much notice as possible and they can verify that with previous employers.

    Ironically, when one temp agency submitted my resume without said cover letter, the interviewer asked me straight out if I was on the run from the law or a wife (a line I have since used in many interviews). But, I always wonder if it is the reason why I wasn’t always getting calls for office hobs when we moved to a place with low unemployment (proof of which was I was able to get a retail job before we had even moved into our house).

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It depends. Someone who takes the time to read your cover letter is going to have context that will make this a non-issue. My worry would be someone not reading your cover letter, and I almost wonder if there’s a way to work a small explanation into the resume somehow.

      1. Anon

        If applicable, s/he could list any involvement with military family groups under volunteer work.

        1. Anonymous

          Which opens a whole can of worms with vehement ‘anti-military’ types, but you probably don’t want to work there either

          1. Josh S

            Yeah, but those sorts of attitudes are going to be pretty limiting in areas with military bases (which is where Chinook is going to be based). I doubt you’re going to have lots and lots of anti-military types, or those who actively discriminate against military families around Ft Bragg or Ft Leonard Wood (though I could be wrong). Apart from maybe the notion that the worker is short term because of the military application.

  12. CRP

    Good discussion . I think that if a candidate has less stable/tenured job history than your company culture expects, it is probably the best to pass on them its that much of red flag, then no one’s time is wasted. If they seem like a strong candidate, you could always dig in and inquire as to why there are these issues. All of the aforementioned issues by other posters… lay offs, career exploration, etc… could factor in, especially with recession we had. A resume can’t pick up everything. You may just have a great candidate there.
    With that certain “other” career blogger…. some of her posts resonate, and others leave me scratching my head thinking “WHAT?”
    I think her intended audience is GenXers who are entrepeneurial minded, but that isn’t for everyone… so you’d wish it would have a big WARNING on each blog posting for the more impressionable :)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, she tends to write as if everyone will have a career like hers (which she’s said involved being fired from every job she had, if I’m remembering correctly, before starting her own company).

      1. CRP

        whoopsie- I should clarify my earlier statement- I meant GenYers! not Xer’s… I don’t think Xers take too well to brand of advice.

  13. some1

    The HR person who hired me at my last job told me one of the big reasons they chose me was that I had been at my then-current job for 6 years.

  14. Trisha

    Job hopping is not always voluntary. Two years I was a manager at a retail store when they decided to let nine managers go due to downsizing, later that summer they had replaced each manager with a new manager. I found a new job selling manufactured homes for Clayton Homes, the store was in pretty bad shape hadn’t sold but three homes in ten months, in the last year I have sold almost twenty homes and have been promoted to manager once again.
    Manager was not my goal, what I wanted was a long term job with no politics, just a do my job and go home kind of job, my regional manager convinced me to take it, with a small raise and a little more commission I agreed with reservations.
    Five days ago I passed my first audit taking the store from a score of zero to a seventy eight, pretty good numbers, next friday would be my very first bonus and commission check for almost $5000 and approximately $20,000 in the next few months, now things are looking good, right ?
    My district manager fired me the very next day, because I live in CA. he can terminate at will without cause and guess where my bonus and commission go ? that’s right, he will get my money, sure does seem like stealing to me.
    I will find another job but it sure won’t be with a company owned by berkshire hathaway.
    Sorry had to rant.
    Sometimes job hopping just isn’t the workers fault.

    1. anon

      This is terrible! I’m sorry this has happened to you? Are you sure you don’t have any recourse? I’d start with the State dept of Labor and a labor attorny. That’s alot of money to lose. Good luck and please keep us updated.

  15. Anonymous

    Can we get an entry sometime about all the managers and directors who b*tch and moan that good help is “so hard to find?” I hear it all the time, and then I read about all the reasons good people get weeded out.

    Give me a break. You can’t have it both ways.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      You might find this interesting:
      http://www.askamanager.org/2012/07/why-good-people-cant-get-jobs.html

      But it sounds like you’re disputing that job-hopping is a good reason to weed someone out. From my perspective as someone who hires, it makes a lot of sense. The best predictor of how someone will behave in the future is how they’ve behaved in the past — their track record. So if someone has a pattern of leaving jobs relatively quickly, I’m going to assume there’s a good chance they’ll do the same with mine.

      1. Anonymous

        That was interesting. And I agree that if someone has a string of four-month jobs on their resume, it raises a red flag. But there are some of us in the middle, who needed to go to escape a hostile work environment, advance even one rung up the ladder, or squeeze out an extra 5 grand (you know, that much money does mean a lot to those of us without a corner office). Some of us needed to do it a few times, so we jumped after two or three years. But now we wear a scarlet letter on our resumes? Screw that.

        I realize that’s just the way things are and you have to play by the rules. It’s useless to fight that. But don’t tell me there aren’t good people out there to hire, with skills and the willingness to be loyal to the right company. Just don’t. My blood pressure can’t take it.

        I suppose I’m just jaded, working for four months for a boss who refuses to hire Indians or anyone older than 50, cracks homosexual jokes at staff meetings (I’m a queer. Who knew?), and then complains that we can’t find anyone for a Sales job who can’t pass a drug test. A drug test, for a sales job.

        I have nothing else of substance to add, so thanks for letting me rant.

        1. Anonymous

          BTW, when I made that statement about being homosexual, I was being sacastic. I’m actually not, but it’s insinuated in staff meetings. I’m tough to offend and can take that if it’s my friends watching a game with some beers. But at work?

          And I really can’t say that to a manager who asks me why I’m looking for a new job after four months. So there’s my frustration.

          1. Answeringbeforecoffee

            That’d be called “hostile work environment”, or possibly “the company’s values and mine aren’t as congruent as I’d hoped.”

            I feel quite sorry for anyone in those meetings who truly is gay, as the attitude that seems prevalent there sounds extremely negative. Hostile work environment all around; bedroom preferences are not management’s (or coworkers’) business.

  16. Anonymous

    When companies offer loyalty, then they’ll have standing to ask for loyalty.

    When companies offer training, they have some standing to expect a certain length of stay.

    When companies have the grace to spell out how long they’d like you to stick around (minimum and maximum would be lovely, but I’ll settle for a minimum) then they have the standing to ask you to commit, as best you can, for that entire minimum – and they ought to also commit to you for that minimum, as best they can.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think this gets into the difference between how things should be and how they are. You’re absolutely right that this is how things should be, but job seekers still need to deal with the reality of how things are and manage their careers accordingly.

    2. Yup

      The Corcodilos blog gets into that a little bit. A lot of Gen Xers like me grew up watching their parents get laid off with no severance/benefits/pension after 25 years with the same company. It really shook up the idea that companies and employees expected loyalty to and from each other. After watching it or going through it multiple times (early 90s, dot com bust, recession), a lot of experienced workers have healthy skepticism for whether an employer will have their back when times get bad. Certainly there are plenty of great, loyal employers out there. But the bad ones – just like the bad employees – usually get all the press.

  17. Job Seeker

    I really don’t understand a lot of job-hopping. Maybe, because I am someone that has always been very practical and reliable. I realize in today’s job market many people leave jobs involuntarily. Sometimes, I feel like the whole working world has changed. I am playing catch-up and willing to learn, but the rules are so different. I have recently changed the format of my resume and have finally learned how to do a good cover letter. I am getting responses again, but be assured when I do get employed again I am not going to be a job-hopper.

    1. Snufkin

      THIS. I’ve been laid off twice in the past 2 years and now doing freelance/contracting work. Guess if somebody looked at the chronology of my career the past 2-3 years in a really bad job market, they’d just write me off as a flake based on those circumstances.

  18. Unemployed20Something

    Question for Allison:

    Ive written in before (http://www.askamanager.org/2009/12/recent-grad-in-dispair-over-job-market.html) and i have a short question based on this topic:

    I have worked in varying capacity over the past 2 years with a large educational institution. I have completed three internships and held two temporary positions. I am now since unemployed (laid off at the end of a contract/receiving unemployment) despite doing everything in my power to get a permanent job with them (i have recommendations, a 30 page portfolio, networked, etc).

    What can I do to mitigate the “job hopper/problem child” label and not give off red flags red flags to hiring managers?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Your internship and temp jobs fall under the exception in my first comment up at the top of this thread (second comment from the top), so you’re not dealing with a job hopper situation.

      1. '09Grad

        Far be it from me to disagree with you, Alison, because I love your advice and read your blog daily, but in this case I have to beg to differ.

        Internships and temp jobs *should* fall under the exception, but they don’t seem to anymore. I’m three years out of college, and I have only been able to secure internships, contracts, or gigs that were funded on soft money which ran out. I’ve been repeatedly told that my stints of eight and nine months at these same positions make me look like I can’t commit, even though my resume clearly lists each position as “intern” or “contract.”

        I’d love to stay at one company for a few years, and would have eagerly taken/held a permanent full-time job had it been offered to me, but a girl’s gotta pay her rent and her student loan debts, so I took what opportunities I could to keep my head above water (and thus far, not one of them has been full-time.) It’s the same problem many commenters have lamented–companies seem more interested in churning and burning employees with temporary work–especially new grads–than offering viable, long-term careers.

        I also thought that most companies would understand a “weak” employment record given the current economy, but I have been quickly and repeatedly been told otherwise. Perhaps another example of how things should be, not how they actually are?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I actually think that’s more likely (a) some bad luck with getting dumb HR people who aren’t reading what’s right in front of them and/or don’t have critical thinking skills, or (b) concern about why you’ve done multiple internships post-graduation. (The answer to the latter is the economy, of course, but that might be what they’re reacting to more than short-term stays.)

  19. Angela S.

    Some guest on CNBC had just said on TV about a few hours ago that one should attempt to stick with the same organization for at least 10 years. 10 YEARS????

  20. PJDJ

    What if you’ve had your share of bad luck, working at two startups that bombed before the two-year mark? How do you justify that in a resume?

    1. Anonymous

      I live in San Francisco and I feel like I know a lot of people around my age, (I’m in my late 20′s), who have a similar job history.

      I’m curious what people have to say about this.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      As someone else wrote somewhere in here, when people talk about job-hopping, they’re talking about voluntarily leaving jobs, not being laid off.

      1. Katie

        Yeah, but it’s not like a pocketful of layoffs is going to look great either. Or would you disagree? When you see a resume peppered with part time/contract jobs, or lots of layoffs, what’s your reaction?

        1. fposte

          It would depend how long you’ve been working, what industry you’ve been in, and what you’ve been doing, but it really doesn’t carry the “you won’t stay” red flag that job hopping does.

          I think people are misreading “job hopping” as being any string of short-term jobs, and it’s really a particular subset of it.

    3. Karthik

      Startups are a different beast. They’re expected to fail from day one. Google “serial entrepreneur” for some more background, but — if you’re in an area with a lot of startups (SF, Boston, Austin to some degree), this is seen as an asset and not a bad thing. You have experience working at early stage companies and probably wore dozens of different hats simultaneously: picking up coffee and copies from kinkos on the way back from pitching to a VC, etc.

  21. Rosemarine

    The longest-lasting job I ever had was one I took when I was in my 20s; it ended up lasting almost 15 years before I got laid off. My job history since has been much more scattershot; various temp assignments (most of which got extended because the employers liked my work, at least), one non-temp job that was a disaster lasting less than a year, and some contract and freelance work. So my younger self’s job history was a lot more stable than the recent 10 years has been. I also worry about being seen as a job-hopper.

  22. Ella

    There is a real lack of nuance in this post which surprises me. The value of job hopping, like everything else, depends.

    I’m six years out of college. My first 4 years, I had 4 jobs. the last two years, one job. I rose very quickly in that first 4 years from making 16 thousand pounds to making 36 thousand pounds. I jumped from intern to project coordinator – all in different organizations. Without exception, every single one of my friends was able to get another job within the first 2 years which greatly increased their pay. The friends who stayed did not.

    When you graduate college, you have no idea generally what it is you want to do. There is no reason to spend 2 or 3 years in one job testing it out. The time to make mistakes is right then! This is the time to experiment! The only underpaid people that I know have been in the same job for six years. What is even the point? You have your entire career to work and be consistent and stable and blah blah blah. True high fliers are not being judged by what they did when they were 22.

    Besides, if job hopping is so detrimental, how are all these people getting jobs to hop to in the first place?

    1. Shawn

      Agreed. When you’re fresh out of college, trying different jobs is just a rite of passage. Who the bloody hell knows exactly what he wants to do at 22?

      If I were the hiring manager and had it my way, I’d probably forgive my candidates for job-hopping in their 20′s.

      Onto your point of leaving for better pay, I must once again agree with you. When you’re barely making $35k, a $5k increase makes a whole world of difference; that’s an additional $416.67 of spending money per month, a 14.29% increase. Who’d say no to that?

  23. Penelope Fan

    Alison, what makes you think you know more about hiring practices than Penelope Trunk? She’s started three companies!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      She has hired very few people, and I believe has said she doesn’t manage people. She’s also written that she’s been fired from every job she’s ever held.

      More to the point, though, her job advice just isn’t good (lie about your job title, women should get plastic surgery to succeed in their careers, don’t worry about burning bridges, etc.), probably because her whole set-up is designed to get traffic by being provocative/counterintuitive, not to actually give good advice.

      She’s often a beautiful writer though; I just wish she’d stick to writing about topics unrelated to careers.

      1. SW

        What a great way of stating it. I agree, as someone who used to read her blog off and on — it was fascinating but not very useful.

      2. Anonymous

        I dunno, so many folks take financial advice from a guy who declared bankruptcy, instead of their elderly relative who has always lived within their means. (cough – dave ramsey – cough) Who says advice givers have to know what they are talking about?

    2. Bobby Digital

      I’ve read this comment four times and I still can’t tell if it’s tongue-in-cheek or not. So, at the risk of sounding like I don’t have a sense of humor:

      This post isn’t titled “I Know More About Hiring Practices Than That Other Lady.” The way I understand it, Alison doesn’t feel compelled to compete with The Other Lady. Instead, Alison was concerned about the erroneous message that screwing around for ten years guarantees you wild success.

      1. Emily

        I had the same reaction. It seems too unbelievable to be serious so I want to assume it’s a joke, but I can’t be 100%.

        Reminds me of when I see a couple fighting in a restaurant or another public place and my first instinct is always to think that they must be playing around because surely no one would actually be having a big fight like that in public? And then lingering disbelief as I realize that yes, this is really happening.

  24. Miss Displaced

    Well, I’ve done quite a bit of job hopping in my career.

    In the 90′s in the creative field in Los Angeles this was very normal. Often, the only way to gain experience in graphic design was to move onward and upward in order to be given more responsibility and senior/management roles (companies NEVER promoted from within).

    Now what I find is that most JOBS are temporary and much of my so-called “job hopping” is not of my own choice. Over the last 8 years, I’ve had two companies go out of business and had one layoff. I worked 3 part-time or contract jobs, because, well, that’s all you could get in 2010 and ANY job was better than NO job.

    Why is it that this now hurts potential employees?
    Punished for actually trying to work 2 part-time jobs instead of unemployment? That’s very sad.

  25. Michael

    I will have to agree with you on this one, but let me chine in with my big BUT.

    Recruiters’ quick dismissal of candidates with a history of multiple jobs is often ill-informed and misaligned with today’s realities.

    I’m a not-so-fresh college grad (B. Sc. 2009) with 3 years of experience on the job market. Due to the stinking economy, I’ve never been able to obtain a permanent position within my field of expertise. Rather than working in an unrelated field and running the risk of losing the skills I’ve acquired by paying unconscionable tuition fees, I’ve decided to take up temporary and contractual employment with employers that offered me a chance to perfect my skills and knowledge. So far, I’ve worked for 4 different but amazing companies.

    To the judgmental eye of the typical recruiter, this may seem like a lack of loyalty. However, a nuance must be made here: job-hopping is not always a sign of an unstable character. In my view, recruiters ought to examine the circumstances surrounding a candidate’s shaky employment history. The recruiter should ask the candidate outright why he had so many jobs in the past. Better yet, simply forgive job-hopping in the 20′s.

    The days where someone would be hired at 21 and would continue to work for the same company until he reached pensionable age are rapidly waning away. The reality today is that the average tenure of an employee is 5 years and if the trend continues, this number will likely decrease in the near future.

    Recruiters seem to live under a rock. They ought to wake up and smell the coffee. Today’s job market just doesn’t follow the textbook rules that they learned in college. To refuse to acknowledge this shift in ethos would be a grave mistake.

  26. Amanda

    Since this article talks about both the problems of staying at a company only short-term and being unemployed long-term, I was wondering what looks worse–for someone to take a job that they know they are going to hate and quit as soon as they get a better offer, or to wait for a job they will actually like a want to stay at, thus extending their period of unemployment. Basically, is it worse to appear flaky or to appear unhireable?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      There’s no great option there. If you take the job but continue to apply, employers are going to want to know why you’re looking to leave so quickly. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t — just that neither option is drawback-free.

      However, you can absolutely get away with one (non-contract, non-otherwise-planned) short-term stay. It’s when it becomes a pattern that it gets problematic.

  27. Ella

    Alison, you seem to have agreed that job hopping is bad unless:

    1. You are involuntarily laid off (though the resume would look exactly the same to an employer anyway AND this is also contradicted by the survey results which indicate that gaps in employment history hurt candidates almost as much as job hopping does.)
    2. You are in a field in which it is customary (that includes a lot of fields)
    3. You’ve taken short term positions (i.e. internships and contract work – which again, is responsible for much “job hopping”)
    4. You have a genuine reason to move around (i.e. military spouse)

    That probably accounts for MOST job hopping!

    And the survey answer is informative but also completely useless. There is nothing in the survey which contradicts Penelope Trunk or proves or even indicates that job hopping in your 20s/early in your career is bad for your long term career. The recruiters surveyed skew towards placement of older, more experienced, candidates. The further survey results indicate this (40s more valuable than 2os etc). It also makes more logical sense. Entry level candidates simply do not get the same in depth recruitment attention as C level executives. Job hopping by someone in their 40s =/= job hopping by someone in their 20s. And the biggest obstacle for job seekers is job hopping… really? The biggest obstacle to what? Getting hired? So not having the qualifications isn’t the biggest obstacle to getting hired. No social skills? Interviewing badly? They are all less of a big deal than job hopping?

    Please do a proper in depth post on why job hopping early in your career despite being counter to every single piece of evidence that I’ve ever seen (age 27).

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The first three examples you give aren’t what’s being talked about when job-hopping is being discussed. Job hopping doesn’t refer to a series of contract jobs or leaving because you were laid off. It’s voluntarily leaving multiple jobs after only a short period.

      And yes, there is plenty of that out there; you might not see it in your circle of friends, but I certainly see it in plenty of job candidates, as do other hiring managers. I’d caution you against drawing conclusions from your particular social circle; what someone sees in their social circle, or in their first five years in the workforce, usually isn’t the entirety of what’s out there.

      And I’m not usually one for orders that I produce a “proper post” (you do hear how that sounds, right?), but fortunately Mark Suster has already done it anyway, when he wrote this:
      http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-suster-never-hire-job-hoppers-never-they-make-terrible-employees-2010-4

      1. Ella

        Wow, I realize it reads pretty badly. I’m genuinely sorry. Thanks for responding anyway. It’s interesting stuff.

        I have to be honest then: I don’t really know what you mean then when you say “job hopping”. You specifically mentioned Penelope Trunk and 20somethings. Her blog is geared towards the “typical Gen Y employee”. Your comments and the comments of Mark Suster seem to be geared towards Gen Y employees. So this advice is geared towards the “typical Gen Y job hopper”, right? That’s a reasonable conclusion to draw.

        The problem is that the typical Gen Y job hopper, whom everyone is so keen to disabuse, tend to start their career in internships and vague fuzzy job titles. Most of these highly sought after jobs (international development, non profits, journalism, start ups, graphic design, publishing etc etc) require short term jobs. It’s actually the norm. So when these articles come out, then have TONS of caveats, I’m unsure of what the message I’m supposed to glean from it. Who is the target? I think the underlying message seems to be one of disdain. Those stupid Gen Ys. But why do they ignore the fact that many (if not most) of the people “job hopping” are not actually job hopping. I guess my question is: Who is this “job hopping person”? What is their motivation? I don’t know anyone like that. I don’t know any Gen Ys without career plans. I don’t know ANY Gen Ys who fit the profile of the people in your article minus all the people we’ve caveated out. In a very, very non rude non prescriptive way because I’m genuinely curious: would it be possible to say a little more about what these people look like? Because I’ve hired a ton of people (including all of my replacements) and I’ve never seen it.

        And maybe I’m horribly, horribly arrogant… but I feel like my friends are my peers and are as good a sample size as any. We have similar resumes, similar ages, and similar careers so I would expect them to be a better indicator for my own success than something broader. This guy is pretty great (though he won’t hire any consultants?) but I’m not sure why a guy who hires into start ups is the last word on my (non start up) career. And he even qualifies that “quitting 1-2 jobs early when you’re young is acceptable”.

        Like I said, I may be horribly wrong and I’m happy to learn the lesson… but I feel like there is way too much joy taken in the supposed generational failings of Gen Ys and that often leads to a bit of storytelling. Everyone LOVES the idea that we are screwed. I know plenty (tons) of people who are unemployed who’ve gotten new jobs… so I guess I’m a little skeptical about reports of the sky falling in.

        1. Julie

          All right, here’s an example. I’ll use my own career because until this current job, my career is exactly the sort of job-hopping that would raise red flags for some employers:

          - Graduated with a Master’s in History in 2006, worked summer jobs 2003-2006 as an admin assistant.
          - November 2006 to November 2007: Taught ESL to adults through a variety of companies, in a variety of part-time, short-term courses. I decided that TESL was getting me nowhere, so I mostly stopped doing it.
          - March 2007 to May 2008: Part-time writing tutor at a local college. Yes, this overlaps a bit with the TESL, as they were both part-time jobs. I was still trying to apply for teaching positions at colleges during this time, but that eventually fizzled out and I didn’t renew my contract.
          - May 2008 to December 2009: Subtitle editor at a single company, going from part-time to full-time. If you look only at the full-time, it was about 15 months. I eventually got frustrated doing the same thing every day, and also my shoulder was giving me some severe ergonomic problems that a half-dozen attempted solutions seemed unable to fix. I resigned.
          - January 2010 to December 2010: Unemployed except for a 6-week stint as a research assistant at a non-profit I immediately realized was a bad fit for me. I would have resigned even sooner if I hadn’t felt pressured to “give it a few more weeks to try it out.” This 6-week job is not on my CV.
          - January 2011 to present: Working at the same company, moving from temp (Jan. to Oct. 2011), to admin assistant (Nov. 2011 to Sept. 2012), to executive assistant (Sept. 2012 to present). I intend to stay here 1-3 more years and stop whenever I have kids to be a stay-at-home mom, maybe doing part-time contract work for this company if they’ll let me.

          So you see, none of my reasons were part of AAM’s caveats, except maybe the TESL/writing tutor stuff, which I knew would never pan out into a full-time job for me. I was trying to teach college, but when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, I worked one job and resigned after 15 months full-time, took a 6-week job in a year of unemployment, and finally found my current job via a temp agency, which has thankfully (and serendipitously) really worked out well.

          I’m *exactly* the type of person this entry is written for, even though I’m hoping this current job will change that profile.

          1. CRP

            ok… well, your stints are short, but they are not exactly 4-5 months in length (unless I am reading this incorrectly). They seem to go for about a year in length, which is on the short side but… . when I think of a serious job hopper.. I think of 3 months here, 4 months there… etc… Any other thoughts?

    2. Miss Displaced

      “You are involuntarily laid off (though the resume would look exactly the same to an employer anyway”

      I agree with you Ella. Yes, we all know that contract jobs or layoffs are not the same as job hopping. However, to the employer looking at resumes, it often appears much the same thing—you didn’t work there very long = JOB HOPPER.

      I’ve even resorted to placing a note on my resume by certain short term jobs: (layoff due to company closing) or (part-time student job) so as to clearly indicate the difference. I’m not sure this helps though. I have been questioned about it during job interviews.

      1. KellyK

        I think this is a really good point. The negative thoughts people have about actual job-hoppers are going to carry over to *perceived* job-hoppers because a resume rarely shows the difference. If someone makes it to the interview stage, asking them why they left the previous jobs shows the difference, but that requires that you get to that point.

        Not having hired people, I don’t know how your strategy comes across, but if you’re asked about it, why not just say that you try to stay [however long] minimum at a job and didn’t want the jobs that ended due to outside circumstances to make you look like a job-hopper.

    1. CRP

      I’ve wondered about this exact issue… I have a friend who has done very well for himself, worked at a large company from high school all the way into his mid 30′s…. he’s worked in different positions there, gone to school, etc… but I am curious as to how that would affect him if he were to face a lay off. I know that personality wise, he is somewhat “change averse” and I wonder if he could overcome that in an interview, or if it would show…

  28. Rana

    I think this confirms my suspicion that I’m best off building my freelance business and giving up on trying to find employment outside of my original, deadend career. I’d thought the big hurdle was explaining how my background would translate to another field, but it’s looking more and more like this is a flat-out fools’ game.

    Basically, my entire work history from high school on consists of jobs of two years’ duration or less, and while most of that was academic work assigned by the year or the semester, I doubt that any employer not familiar with academic adjuncting would understand that, even with a cover letter explaining it. I could, I suppose, point out that I only left one of these jobs voluntarily (all others ended when the term ended, save the one job I was laid off from about a decade ago) – and that was because we moved – but eesh. I read reactions like I see here from hiring managers, and I just think – why try?

    Good thing I like freelancing!

  29. BCranston

    I have become an avid reader of this blog in the last few months whilst working through some horrible manager issues and have always found the information and discussion to be insightful and educated. This post today struck a chord with me so I thought I would actually post!

    I have a fairly checkered resume that has jobs within the same functional work area (consulting), but for non profits/government, specialized consulting firms, and internal teams. My short stints include 7 months (for having ethical concerns with the company/work), to 10 months (layoff) to 18 months (personal freelancing), and another 6 months at my first job (visa expiration). I also have a lot of moving around (cross country and overseas) and an almost year-long gap from when I moved overseas and changed job markets in the US. It didn’t prevent me from getting my current job as I was able to explain the changes and there is some interesting experiences in there to boot that is appealing to people in my line of work.

    However, my current job has changed completely since I first started and there is no clear line of progression, training, career coaching, and the complexity of work has decreased in difficulty to the point where I am doing work I would have done 10 years ago. I stuck through a horrific micromanager for 2+ years thinking I would be perceived as a “job hopper” if i left earlier. My confidence was wrecked and I struggled to gain more responsibility under someone who was determined to never let me rise above a certain point. I run the risk of stagnating completely in my career if I don’t start putting up some leadership and successes on my resume – but what is a person to do? In order to get that greater responsibility I have to jump again soon and hope the next company doesn’t decide to also cut the career ladder in half and pull it up behind them. Jumping is exhausting, especially as you get older, but what are the alternatives?

    One last thing: at my current company it is actually considered a career option to leave the company and come back after 6-12 months in order to be considered for a higher job/pay. No joke.

    1. Katie

      One last thing: at my current company it is actually considered a career option to leave the company and come back after 6-12 months in order to be considered for a higher job/pay. No joke.

      Leaving a high school teaching position and returning as a meth kingpin doesn’t count. :)

      1. sara

        hahaha excellent!!!! I don’t watch BB (B-cranston will always be Malcolm’s dad for me) but I loved this reference! :)

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ugh. Yes, you don’t have good options here. Ultimately it’ll have to be a calculation of which is the “less bad” option, but you’re in a tough spot.

  30. Suzanne

    If it is true that job hopping is so bad, why then, do I know numerous people who have successfully job hopped for years…and always, always landed that next job very quickly. Much quicker than me finding a job after being laid off from a company I had been at for years?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Because no job advice is a 100% absolute. Different things work (or don’t work) for different people. What there are, though, are things that in general tend to help or hurt.

  31. sara

    SO GLAD this topic is here!!!!
    I’m in my 20s and my longest job was 18 months….since then, I’ve had a bunch of seasonal/temp/contract jobs and that’s it. They were fine for a while but I’ve been looking for full time/permanent work for so long now, and I haven’t been able to find ANYTHING. It’s so frustrating, and I believe it’s the history of short jobs that’s turning off hiring managers. :( It’s the conundrum of how can I get a long term experience if no one’s willing to hire. :(

    1. sara

      I know contract jobs aren’t considered job-hopping, but I don’t think it makes any difference to any hiring managers…all they see are short term jobs one right after the other; I’ve worked during tax season, and for the US census…anyone who has ever held a job or lives in the US knows that these two are only temp jobs. yet interviewers still ask and it feels like a huge red mark. I mean I’m willing to stay for at least several years, work hard and have stable income…

      1. KellyK

        If you’re still having trouble, it might help to explicitly list them on your resume as short-term positions. Anybody who’s *thinking* is going to see “US Census” and realize that it’s a temporary stint, but if a hiring manager only has a minute to look at a given resume, they might not be paying enough attention to make that connection.

        I also wouldn’t absolutely assume that anyone who asks sees it as a black mark. In lots of interviews, “Why did you leave X job?” is a standard question for all of them, especially the most recent.

  32. Keith

    I think that in the last few years (post-financial collapse), job hopping is probably a not looked down as much provided that it seems that it was necessary to hold a position. Far too many instances of companies either going under or not hiring/promoting to stay with a sinking ship.

  33. Lee

    Need Help please????
    In Nov 2004 I quit my job at a company I worked at for almost 2 years to travel overseas for personal reasons.
    (relationship with a foreigner) My boss would not give me the time off I requested so I made a rash decision which I regret now and quit.

    I returned to the US in Dec 2004 and temped several places for several temp agencies in 2 cities as well as doing independent contractor work for a destination management firm until Jan 2008.
    I also participated in a work abroad program in the UK for 6 months in 2006

    Then in Jan 2008-June 2012 I pursued a degree in Canada

    I feel that I am scaring potential employers away due to my travel and well as job hopping.

    I am now living back in the Washington DC area and am essentially starting over professionally in Corporate America armed with 2 Bachelors degrees.

    Please advise me on how to explain all of this on my resume or in a cover letter. I am trying to keep my resume to 2 pages but with all of my travels it seems to be a challenge and I feel a potential turn off.

    1. Michael

      Don’t let people scare you. For one thing, you might want to focus on getting a website up and writing about your amazing life experiences and journey. Surely you could work easily for a British or Canadian company based in the United States, for one. You have more worldly experiences and need to sell that aspect. It’s valuable. Don’t be afraid, and don’t let people scare you. You might also want a strong cover letter. Tell the employer what you can do for them, especially because of your international presence, and delve only as deep as you need to regarding the personal matters. Good luck.

  34. Anonymous

    Seriously? Who can keep a job these days. Really? We’re all stuck in contract positions and freelance, and there’s no shame in that. There’s a difference between job-hopper, a term popular back in the late 1990s and what’s going on now, which is layoffs, office closings and turning all those “employees” into a revolving stream of contractors. Duh. And, who would want a recruiter to hire them, you take a pay cut before you get your foot in the door, so that that same judgmental recruiter (who obviously isn’t in touch with the workplace) can get paid. Stay the heck away from recruiters and staffing agencies and do what it takes to make a living these days. Be prepared to work for yourself, because that’s the underlying situation and truth when you are a contractor. So, instead of acting like a person who never works, remember all those contract jobs are as your OWN BUSINESS OWNER. Sign up for a business license and call it a day. I don’t live for rejection, I make my future.

  35. Anonymous

    Just got out of High School had one job during High school, after I graduated I had one quit in a day didn’t like it and kept one for a couple months took another didn’t fit me went back to the other I left, Then got a good job offer and got laid off within 5 days their and currently no job now. I would say I been through 6 jobs already and it’s the new year! Would someone least hire me? I really need help?

  36. Ken

    I’m nearly 50 and have jumped jobs throughout my career. I’ve worked for 13 companies in 27 years. While friends of mine, some smarter than I, have remained in the same company since graduating college, they have yet to make management and probably never will. I , on the other hand, sored into the executive ranks of the Fortune 500. I’m a millionaire as a result. Consequently, I’m not one to suggest putting your trust in one company if joining the ranks of executive management is your intended goal.

  37. Bre

    Why do people give the term “job hopping”? As long as a person doesn’t have fifty jobs in one year then give me a break. It’s better than being laid off. Recruiters aren’t exactly loving people with no jobs.

  38. Leena

    Part of this depends on the industry you work in. In real estate/property management multiple jobs are the rule rather than the exception. My resume has a nearly five year stint that has made for some “wow” comments at interviews. In hiring in this field, I do not have an issue with a few short stints. Again, it is more common than not to see resumes with 6-12 month jobs on them. I just don’t want to see more than one or possibly two of those over a ten year resume.

    A few things I do agree with though: yes, I think it should effect employee behavior and decisions that employers are not loyal to their employees. Companies that honestly expect loyalty but don’t give same are not run by realistic people and do not hire the best employees. Honestly, I have never worked for a company that was loyal to its employees, I have also never worked for a company that thought every senior level person should be in the job 5+ years and have a resume full of previous 5+ year jobs. That is just not the way the economy works for anyone now in my business.

    Finally, I think it is a mistake almost always to be in a bad job situation and decide that you are going to stay an arbitrary period of time to show how stable you are. If an employee truly does not like what they are doing or the culture of the company they are in, I would much rather they quit at five months and let me hire someone who will be a better fit. I have done that very same thing, and honestly I would much prefer that anyone on staff do that if they are dissatisfied with things I just can’t fix. Does it raise a “red flag” to some employers? Yes, but honestly I am not sure I personally would want to work for people who do not understand that some jobs just do not work out. At nearly fifty, I have had to many years of working with inflexible, demanding people who want the moon and stars from their “perfect resume” hires and give little in return but an average paycheck and a superior attitude.

  39. HS

    Josh is totally right. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. If employers won’t invest in their employees, the employees aren’t going to want to stay long term.

    And respect needs to come both ways. Some employers are insulting employees and do not treat them correctly. They are bullying them. Some are also firing employees very quickly, for almost no consistent reason. How can you then expect employees to stay for a long time, and to be respectful and loyal?!?
    I would say: two can play at that game. You will be treated as you treat others.

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