is it ever okay to leave a job after less than a year?

I’ve been wanting to address this topic for a while, and this letter gave me the perfect opening. A reader writes:

I took a new job just less than a year ago that I was incredibly excited about. It wasn’t exciting for the pay or benefits, but I really wanted to work at this organization that I had very strongly admired for years.

Since day one, I have felt deflated by the job. I am disconnected from most of my coworkers, I have no team, and I don’t feel connected to our mission at all – which is such a blow considering my excitement from before I started. On top of the frustrations I have personally with my role, a lot of our cultural issues bother me a lot. We’re not transparent, and respect between coworkers and from management to coworkers is often lacking.

I’ve been struggling for 10.5 months to make this job feel right, but it just doesn’t. I’m now exploring other positions, and one or two look promising and would pay more. I have never left a job before 1 year before, but I feel like this might be it. Should I hold out longer, or should I take a new opportunity even though I haven’t reached that very important milestone?

I often hear from people who have internalized the idea that you should never leave a job before a year is up but who are totally misapplying it.

Leaving a job before a year is up is not a horrible sin that will instantly render you unemployable. There are times when it’s reasonable to leave a job after a short period of time — when you were offered a job doing X but have ended up doing Y (or when the job was otherwise significantly misrepresented to you), when the terms of the job change significantly (location, pay, etc.), when your health or safety is at risk, when your family is moving to a different state, when a health crisis (yours or a family member’s) requires you to quit, and even when you’re miserable and it’s gone on long enough that it’s clear that’s not going to change.

The catch is this: You can only do it once with impunity. If you do it a second time, then yes, employers are going to start wondering what’s up with you.

But you get one freebie. You get it because Things Happen, and employers know that. It’s when it’s a pattern that they start wondering what’s up with you and you start looking like a risky bet.

You don’t want to use that freebie lightly, though. If you leave a job quickly, you’re pretty much committing yourself to stay at the next one for a good long while in order to avoid these perception problems … which means that you need to be really careful about the next job you take, since you’re going to need to stick around there.

What’s more, making it to one year isn’t some magical mark where you’ll no longer look like a job hopper if you leave. One year actually isn’t very long in most fields, and if you have a string of multiple one-year stays, you’re going to look like a job-hopper. Job hopping means multiple stays of under two or three years (whether it’s two or three depends on your field), in jobs that weren’t designed to be short-term (i.e., contract and temp jobs don’t count as job hopping).

So back to the letter-writer. Whether or not you should jump ship now depends on what the rest of your job history looks like. Do you have a stable job history with reasonably long stays before this one? If so, it’s much easier to justify leaving this one now. But if you have a history of a bunch of short-term stays (less than two years), then leaving this job any time soon is going to add to a worrisome impression. That’s something you want to avoid unless you truly can’t, because that will make your future job searches harder.

Other exceptions to these rules: retail and food service jobs, where shorter stays are common and more accepted.

{ 332 comments… read them below }

  1. League of Librarians

    Do promotions and moves to different locations within the same organization count as “job hopping”? Or is it mostly organization hopping that’s the issue?

        1. AdAgencyChick

          In fact, I’d look at multiple promotions in a short space of time as “they really value this person,” and I’d be intrigued to know what it is that they love about you so much.

  2. Meredith

    Alison, what is your take on people taking their “freebie” early in their career? One or two of my colleagues from my grad school program took jobs just after earning their Master’s that were really bad fits for them – mostly dysfunction within the organizations. Is it okay to use your freebie really early in your career, or are early career professionals expected to stick it out for longer because they don’t have other job history?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s actually easier / more understood to take it early in your career, so I wouldn’t worry about that … except to the extent that it then makes it harder for you to do later. (You don’t want to close off options for yourself down the road if you can avoid it.)

      1. Meredith

        Excellent, I thought that this might be the case. Thanks for taking the time to write back! I now work for the same grad program I graduated from (a MA program in Library and Information Studies), and I recommend AAM to all of our students!

    2. AnonyMouse

      Related to this, I think it seems like even less of a big deal if you do this early in your career and there’s an obvious reason for you to leave the role, which is pretty common when you’re starting out. For instance, it’s usually pretty understandable if you stay at your first job a year or two and then go back to graduate school. I work in a field where it’s not uncommon to have an advanced degree, and most people will work at the same job for roughly a year before they get theirs – no one really holds the short stay at the first job against them when they’re looking again.

  3. K.

    It seems like millennials (hate that term, but I’m one of them) are bucking this idea en masse. Anecdotally, I don’t know a single one of my college friends who stayed at a job for more than 2 years and I’ve heard that it’s a common thing that employers are seeing. Do you think the job landscape will change based on this, especially as (eventually) millennials move into managerial and hiring roles?

    1. Canadamber

      I have definitely heard about this! I’m curious about whether this might change things, as well.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’ve heard that said about every generation since my own, and never seen real evidence of it. It’s more normal to change jobs more frequently when you’re very early in your career and figuring out what you want to do. It doesn’t stay that way once you get more experience though (and for the people who continue it, it generally gets much harder to find good employment).

      1. Mike C.

        It also doesn’t help that in many companies, the only way to get a raise or a promotion is to find a new job.

          1. Mike C.

            What if your company doesn’t have a new title for you every three years, but you get tons of nice pay raises instead?

            1. LQ

              I think that depends on the person, I’d be totally fine with nice pay raises and not getting a new title as long as I also got new work. But doing the same work even for more pay would bore me even with money.

            2. Xay

              This is actually why I am leaving my current job. I’ve had regular pay raises but no growth in my responsibilities or skills. The title isn’t as big of a deal because I work in a field where a variety of roles can have the same title. But I can’t move up with my current employer unless I get additional experience and they aren’t structured to give opportunities to get that experience through promotion or training.

        1. Traveler

          Yep. This has been the complaint for so many people I know. One company even said they were willing to pay an external candidate 30K more than they would pay an internal one, because they internal one is “already working for them for a lower salary, and they could not justify the bump in pay”. This mentality has got to stop, before we can stop moving around.

          1. Relosa

            this. Employees are an investment.

            But nowadaways, it’s very much you get what you pay for.

            I hear so often that it’s a buyers’ market, and in some ways it is which is why my age group hops jobs so much – if you treat people like crap AND pay them like crap, they will leave to find not crap.

            But at the same time, employers still have just as much influence, just because of the job supply alone, so I think it’s an overall equal market, but that soon enough it will lean back to the job seekers’ favor.

      2. Dasha

        Alison, when you say early in your career are you meaning like the first three years, first five years, or something else? Or does it just depend on industry/person?

    3. BRR

      I’m a millennial and I don’t think we’re bucking this idea as much as responding to the environment as well as it’s been said about every generation when they’re young. Most people my age are desperate for a job and will take anything, even if it’s not in their preferred field. Since they don’t want to be there in the first place they’ll leave for something they would rather enjoy devoting 40 hours a week to. Couple that with most jobs don’t pay enough to make it worth it to stick it out. Salaries haven’t kept up with inflation and many have student loans. People need to take the new job for the higher salary. Add in that it’s become much more difficult to go up the corporate ladder at the same company so you have to change companies and it makes it appear my age bracket are job hoppers when we’ve just really adapted to the current internment.

      If given the option I would love to stay where I’m at but it would take a while to advance so I’d be sacrificing wage (and the things that come along with higher income) and would probably get bored without additional responsibilities.

      1. Lanli

        Just to add to the millennial thing, I don’t think I have a single friend at this point who hasn’t been laid off. It happens a lot, especially I think to those of us earlier in our career/newer at the position. A lot of my job hops have been made because I see the ax coming (i.e. the entire department is gone other than me, or being laid off then brought back as a contractor, but told they’re not sure how long I can stay in that position) and would prefer that my neck’s not in the way.

    4. KJR

      Just my two cents, as someone who hires fairly regularly — I am wary of anyone who doesn’t stay for longer than two years on a regular basis. Could be my industry though – we are manufacturing based, so it might be different based on the industry. Generally speaking, I’m hiring for the long term, and we aim to keep turnover low. Additionally, some of our positions require a lengthy training process (6 months – 1 year), so that may affect how I’m looking at it. Again, that’s my company and my experience, others’ mileage may vary.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        +1. I’m in a high tech field, and I hire people with 10-15 years experience. Any turnover under 2.5 years is a loss for me. Someone doesn’t need to stay here forever, but if I don’t see several stints of 3-4 years or more on your resume, you aren’t even getting an interview.

        I don’t think the fact that a certain generation is more likely to make frequent changes will alter what hiring managers look for in the long run. It still takes time (aka money) to get someone trained up. As such, managers will continue to give preference to candidates whose history does not indicate that they’ll bolt after the investment in acquisition, training, etc. the only thing that may change is managers are going to have to wade through more resumes to find the right fit.

    5. PEBCAK

      Personally, I think it takes 2-3 years to really master a job, so when I see shorter stints, I look at them as still being effectively entry level. That’s not to say nothing would be learned in a year, but to really learn a job in the depth that they are possibly bringing real knowledge and ideas to my organization, I want to see more time before I consider someone qualified for something other than “entry-level.”

      (Of course this can vary by industry, but let me give an example…let’s say our development cycle is around 9 months…a developer who has been there a year has been around barely long enough to see what happened after the code went live and the users really got into it.)

      1. Hey nonny nonny

        I completely agree – the first year on the job is just figuring things out. The second and third years are when you can start to make a real difference in the organization and improve your own skills and processes over that first year.

      2. Ruthan

        I’m curious about how you would handle a candidate coming from, e.g., a consultancy, or even a devotedly agile SaaS employer, where the release cycle is weeks or a month. It seems like they’d have a lot more experience incorporating feedback, but I’m not sure where the tradeoff would be.

    6. Christian Troy

      IMO, and I hate saying this, I have a lot of friends that have done this and I have not seen it negatively impact them. Not sure if that is the norm, but I really don’t know of anyone who has stayed in a position longer than ten months even in their field.

      1. Koko

        This rule doesn’t seem to apply to IT workers with in-demand skillsets. I don’t know a single programmer/developer/coder that isn’t routinely head-hunted away for more money. Most of the coders I know have strings of 8-12 months stays and it’s clearly not hurting them because it’s the recruiters coming for them–none of them are actively seeking to switch jobs when it happens.

        1. Adonday Veeah

          In Silicon Valley this is a Thing. A programmer who stays too long at a company is just as suspect as someone else who job-hops. The question there is, “What’s wrong with him that he couldn’t find work at another company?” Strange but true.

          1. HR Manager

            Is this the nature of a start-up where there tends to be less stability as they try to “make it” or do you think someone who’s been at a Facebook or Google for 2-3 years has people wondering what’s wrong with them for not leaving?

            I am not in Silicon Valley, but have done a lot of programmer recruiting for a hot tech market on the east coast and I see tons of people who have moved around, usually because of working for small starts up that fail or are on last legs. That is quite different from someone who always gets bored and decides to leave in less than a year, or seems to have a pattern of finding work at undesirable companies.

            1. AGirlCalledFriday

              This is not usually the case in Chicago, which is a huge market. Most of the companies that have people moving around are big ones. If you work for a long time at one company you will end up underpaid compared to others in your skill set at other companies. You have to move around to get the big bucks. I find that when recruiters call, one of the first questions will be “Are you going to be paying me more, and how much more?”

          2. GrumpyBoss

            This is so true, and not just in Silicon Valley. I recently held a job where the average tenure of my team was 20+ years. Were they really loyal, or did they have nowhere else to go? Who knows, but what I inherited was a team of apathetic individuals who had stale skill sets and were resistant to change. I learned as much from that stint as dealing with job hoppers.

            I’m not saying all people who stay somewhere forever are bad hires, just as people who stay somewhere short term may not be either. But as hiring managers, we have to make decisions on relatively little data, and there does seem to be a sweet spot for how long someone stays in one role.

        2. Christian Troy

          The people that I’m thinking of are under 30 and work in all different fields, ranging from accounting to marketing/communications to research. They haven’t seemed to have any problems getting another offer, which is why I’m really curious why so many people here are concerned about how their job history looks. Why does it matter to some hiring managers and not others?

        3. AGirlCalledFriday

          My roommate is a programmer in Chicago, and gets calls from recruiters every week. He’s worked with some well-known companies, and has been in the business 5-10 years. According to him, once you have that first job and get some experience you are expected to job hop – desirable programmers don’t stay longer than a year or so. This is how someone who starts out at 60k can rise to 120k and several levels up in just a couple years. His managers and coworkers routinely discuss looking for work together, everything is very out in the open.

    7. Fawn

      I don’t necessarily think that we’re actively changing the trend – I think a huge part of it for millennials (I’m also one) is that so many jobs are contract positions. I would LOVE to have a job where I could stick around for a couple of years, develop a sense of mastery in the role, and really feel like a part of a community at work…but most of my peers, myself included, are only hired for a fixed term of 4, 8, or 12 months. It’s very difficult to commit to an organization when they can’t (or won’t) commit to you.

      1. Traveler

        Yes. Even if it isn’t a fixed term – the contract part of it – not being included with other employees on bonuses, benefits (from healthcare to gyms to PTO), to trainings, etc. gets old quickly. And then its on to the next place, in hopes that the next one will actually have the opportunity of contract to perm.

        1. Fawn

          Exactly. I’ve been in a job for a year (it’s been extended three times over the last 12 months for a few months at a time). And on one hand, I get it – it’s the nature of the beast when you’re a recent grad in an industry that tends to move slowly (higher ed). I can put in my time and hope for permanence in a couple of years. But the lack of access to basic resources for workplace well-being (like ergonomic assessment and even some office supplies) is incredibly demoralizing.

      2. esra

        A++. My industry is rife with contract positions and poor job security. Generally the tradeoff is that you get paid more because you don’t get the same benefits, but instead I’m seeing more and more contracts pop up that pay the same rate they would a full-time employee, except you’re responsible for your own deductions, get no sick time, no health bennies etc etc.

      3. LV

        Co-signed. I finished my Master’s in spring 2013 and I’m reaching the end of my second contract. My first job out of school was 11 months, the current one is 8 months and I’m scrambling to line up another job before it ends because there just aren’t that many vacancies.

        I really resent older people talking out of their hats about how the horrible Millenials can’t be bothered to stick around for longer than a year, they feel entitled to promotions and perks but don’t feel the need to put their time in and pay their dues and they just hop from job to job, etc. (I’m not saying anyone has been doing that in this thread, but I hear it a lot.) I’d love the opportunity to stay in the same job for more than a few months, but that opportunity is very rare in a lot of fields!

      4. Anx

        It’s kind of funny. So many of my friends’ parents talk about busting out of the 9-5 rut and changing things and dream of going into contract work or something more flexible, while most of my friends would love the opportunity to stay put for a few years.

      5. Spooky

        Agreed! My first full-time job was also contract – it was a university, and they couldn’t guarantee that they’d have the money for the position long-term. Which I understand, of course, but it certainly doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

    8. Allison

      I think we’re a product of the economy we came of age in. We saw a lot of people get laid off after being with their employers for decades, and the idea of “loyalty” crumbled in front of our eyes. It’s sort of like how people whose parents are divorced are more likely to be skeptical of marriage. A common attitude these days is “your company doesn’t care about you, you’re disposable to them, so you don’t owe them anything.”

      1. Noelle

        Excellent point. I would love to be loyal to a company, but there haven’t been many places I’ve worked where I’ve felt like it was deserved. It’s not like I want a guarantee that I’ll never be fired or anything crazy, but there are some basic things I expect from an employer. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect loyalty to be a two-way street, and at many jobs it just isn’t.

        1. Beancounter in Texas

          I work with a small family business with two 20yr+ employees, two 15yr+ employees & two 10yr+ employees amongst an employee group of 35 people (not all in the same office). The owner is old fashioned in his values and with that comes loyalty for employees that demonstrate their value. He’s got a good heart, but I suspect he’s been burned many times in his generosity by people taking advantage of him, so he’s a bit guarded for a while. He knows who is doing the physical work that makes the company money. One employee is approaching her 20th employment anniversary with him next Friday and I believe we’re going to give her a two week cruise on a ship or something else for a two week vacation she’d enjoy. He pays a generous severance to retiring employees & many retirees come back and cover a temporary opening for him in a pinch.

          Every year at insurance renewal, he frets over how much money the employee is going to have to pay & regrets that he cannot afford to pay for the entire insurance plan himself! Truly, he’s one of the good people I’ve encountered. Perfect? No. Striving to do his best? Always.

      2. AnonTwentySomething

        Bingo. My father got laid off from a company he gave 30 years of his life to. My mother said for most of their marriage, he might as well have been married to that company, not her. I look at that and I see that employees are disposable commodities and that employers are unrealistic because they demand your loyalty and longevity, but would not hesitate to turf you out if they wanted.

        A lot of company’s also don’t give you any incentive or reason to want to be loyal to them.

      3. Relosa

        This, too. The company I worked for for 6 years that got me into my field and was by far the biggest influence on me as a professional – part of the reason I stuck with them was the healthy give and take. Yeah they expected a lot and I delivered a lot, enthusiastically. They were clear they wanted me long-term (I was seasonal, in school, and a candidate for full-time) but things changed because of other long-term dysfunction – myself as the perfect “monster” they created came back to bite them in the butt and we dropped each other like a bad habit, cold turkey.

        But when I was there there was very much a sense of community, responsibility, quality leadership and just overall good structure. I even miss it a lot but unfortunately once we lost each others’ trust…well, there’s just no way to go back.

      4. Spooky

        Definitely agree with this. Several of my parents’ friends worked for the government in states that have had major financial problems of late, and have had their retirements either revoked (there’s no money to pay them with) or substituted with a “golden parachute” of far less value. That makes a lot of people in the younger generation very guarded and less likely to count on the plans and long-term benefits employers offer.

    9. AnonTwentySomething

      I have my fingers crossed our generation will be the one to put to bed this idea that we have to stay in jobs for over 5 years and that we have to stick out toxic situations just to not look ‘bad’. Here’s hoping.

        1. R2D2

          They might have been referring to Grumpy Boss, who said, “Someone doesn’t need to stay here forever, but if I don’t see several stints of 3-4 years or more on your resume, you aren’t even getting an interview.”. Not quite 5+ years, but requiring multiple 4+ year stints in a high-tech field seems to be in a similar spirit.

          1. Sketchee

            3-4 is still only 3+. If you’ve never been in a job for longer than 3 years, then the benefits aren’t readily apparent. Most every company in every industry has a seasonal flow that you couldn’t understand in at least a year and better in two. There are benefits to the candidate and strong candidates are aware of what those are =)

    10. MK

      Even if this were true (that most millennials object to having to stay somewhere they are not satisfied with), the big question is whether the millennials who do move into managerial and hiring roles will be the ones who did the job hopping. After all, no one is saying job hopping is morally wrong or something, just that it can damage hiring prospects/a career.

      1. A.

        I’m a former job-hopping millennial manager. *shrugs*
        Obviously one data point and I could write a book on my path/circumstances, but most of my jobs were under 2 years. I’ve been at my current company for just two years now and I’m doing my first hiring. It’s true that proven track records tend to come from longer term jobs. However, if all things were equal with delivered excellence, job tenure wouldn’t be a tie breaker.

    11. Student

      I know quite a lot of friends (millennial generation) who have bucked this concept of staying in a job for at least a year entirely. Some are on their fifth short hop since college graduation.

      They are all in the technology sector. It does not seem to affect their ability to find new jobs with good salaries in tech hubs.

  4. Holly

    I’ve been struggling with the idea of this perception for ages now…I’m in my first full-time, post college job (previous jobs were less than 1 year long/each internships) and I’ve stayed here for a little over 2 years, despite being somewhat miserable, because I don’t want to look job-hoppy, especially if some hiring managers (fairly or unfairly) classify my internships as my freebies this early in my career.

    1. CAA

      Make sure your resume clearly indicates that these were internships that had a set duration. No sensible hiring manager is going to hold against you the fact that you worked someplace for 6 months while in college, especially if it’s relevant experience.

      Personally, I think you are fine to start looking now. Just have an answer for “why are you looking to leave your current position?” If you can, try out your answer on one or two managers you know personally outside of work to see how they’d take it if they heard it from a candidate they were considering.

  5. Parsnippy

    I am currently in a very bad boss situation and am only six months on the job. I moved to a different city to take this job and am quite young, so I was afraid it would come off as “job hopping.” I am transferring within the institution, so hopefully it looks ok.
    I should have listened when, on my first day, three people warned me that it was going to be a hellish situation and that it was a mistake for me to have accepted the position. Luckily my entire team is trying to help me. Sacrificing your mental health is just not worth it.

    1. LizNYC

      I personally think if you’re transferring within the institution, it looks less alarming. Many things can come up, among them promotions, shifts in the business’ needs (so they repurposed you).

      1. Judy

        I don’t know of anyone that includes changing jobs within an organization as job hopping. If so, I’m pretty sure most of us are job hoppers. My longest stay within an organization was 13 years, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the same role for more than 2 years during that time. Between promotions, changing groups and reorganizations, roles were similar, but certainly not the same for any length of time.

        1. LBK

          I would actually be more wary of someone who DIDN’T have any job changes within the same organization during that long a period. Unless you were the CEO, there was no way for you to move up? Change roles? Take on new responsibilities? Do anything that would shift your title?

  6. Carrie in Scotland

    By this letter, and Alison’s comments I have a very shaky job history. Excluding retail and restaurant jobs, in the past 5 years I’ve had 4 different jobs. 2 were contract only (up to 1 year), and I left both before the contract expired. The other job I had 20 months and was both dysfunctional and after personal circs changed, didn’t pay me enough to live…which brings me to my current job.
    My experience is admin-based but I haven’t seen it be a problem. I have learnt a lot at each of my jobs and apply my new experience and knowledge to the next position.

    My job history isn’t going to look much better any time soon either – next year I plan to move so will be in my current job for less than 18 months.

    Life is short – if you aren’t happy, hanging around a job that makes you miserable isn’t worth it.

    1. Colette

      There is a cost to leaving multiple jobs after a short period of time, including that you may not be able to demonstrate significant responsibility since you’re not around long enough to get really good at your job or work on long-term projects. If you’re willing to accept the consequences of those decisions, then it’s fine to do – but you need to be aware that there are consequences, and that at some point you just won’t be offered jobs that require significant training or where they want to hire someone who will stick around for 2-3 years.

      1. Whippers

        I don’t really get this idea where people say you can’t get really good at your job or add value to it in the space of a year. In my current administration job, which I have had for almost a year, I have improved processes considerably and gotten to know the workings of the organisation better than other staff who have been there significantly longer. I think that there are still things that I could improve but I don’t think that would take another 1-2 yrs.
        Maybe in fairly high level jobs, they take at least a year to master and then another 2 years to add value to. However, in most lower level jobs, I really don’t think you have to be there any longer than 18 months to master them and make improvements. Obviously, being there 18 months doesn’t necessarily show that you have commitment but I don’t think it’s true to say that you can’t have made any significant achievements in that time.

        1. Chriama

          I think it really depends on the job and level. I can see lots of administrative positions having a shorter learning curve, although if a company doesn’t want to hire a new office manager every 12-18 months then you still run the risk of looking undesirable.

        2. Colette

          It’s not that you can’t add any value – but in a lot of roles, you can’t add the value that you can if you’re there longer.

        3. Joey

          It’s not so much that for me. It’s more that the ROI is lower than Id like. That is- for the resources I spent covering the vacancy, recruiting, hiring, and training you it’s not that hard to find someone who’d give me a better return on my investment.

          1. Chriama

            I like that explanation. Some employers may have a business model where they hire often for the same role (I’m thinking the huge accounting firms where new grads either get promoted or leave for a slower work life after 2 years). But for most companies, hiring costs money and they don’t want to spend more than they have to.

        4. hnl123

          I totally agree! I have a ‘spotty’ job history, but I’ve been able to do a LOT in my short time that people in the 2-3 years range have not been able to. It’s all about taking initiative, asking the right questions, and…. just doing! A lot of the people I’ve seen…. esp in roles that aren’t project based and thus more or less the same every day…. they get….stale. I’ve surprised all my bosses at how quickly I reach mastery where other people took a year or more. It all depends.

    2. majigail

      Like with internships, I don’t think contract jobs or grant funded jobs that have a set time period count either. Again, if there’s a good reason like that, it’s pretty easy to label them on the resume.

    3. BJ

      Agreed, my resume is similar to yours and my experience is admin=based as well. Because of my skill set and my educational background, I find that the work history I have hasn’t really been a problem for me.

      I’m also of the opinion that if a job makes you miserable, there’s no point in staying. There’s a difference between disliking things about your job and just plain disliking everything about your job as a whole.

      One problem I repeatedly run into is that employers present the job one way in an interview and the job turns out to be completely different. Because of the economy, they want to hire you to do the job of 2-3 people (without telling you upfront, of course) and then want to pay 10/hr to do it. It leads to burnout really quickly and why would anyone want to stay loyal to an organization that does those kinds of things?

  7. BOMA

    I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for awhile now as well. My SO and I are currently in a long-distance relationship (and have been in one for over a year), and we’re getting to the point where we’re seriously considering moving in together, which requires a major move for at least one of us. We’ve talked about this at length, and eventually figured out that it makes the most sense for me to move to him (which I’m completely fine with), and coupled with growing frustration in my job, I’d like to move within the next 6 months. However, I’ve been at my job for just under two years and I don’t want to seem like a job-hopper as well and limit my future options. It’s so frustrating!

    1. holly

      but leaving a job because you moved to a different area wouldn’t really look bad, i don’t think. it’s an understandable reason.

      1. holly

        more on this. all of my reasons for leaving jobs are things like: moved; finished school (therefore got a job in my field instead of the job i had to support myself during school); contract ended. all understandable reasons to leave a job. i’m pretty employable.

      2. hayling

        Yes and you should mention in your cover letter why you are moving. It makes employers way more comfortable to know that someone is moving to somewhere they have a connection to.

        1. EmilyHG

          My husband followed me to a doctoral program, a post-doc, and then a job (bless him), and he had to explain the multiple moves and jobs stints at his interviews. I think he even added it to his cover letter. He just blamed me, btw, which was completely fair. It hurt him a bit, but he landed a really good job after a while.

        2. BOMA

          I feel weird saying that I’m now applying for jobs in this region due to my relationship – I mean, my relationship is personal, not professional. Should I not worry about that then? I’ve never been in this situation before so I honestly have no idea.

          1. Sheep

            I am in the situation now, and it feels odd to mention it in my cover letter. But it is the reason why I am looking for a new job, and will hopefully show employers that I am committed to this new place (country – in my case).

      3. Joey

        Lots of reasons for leaving are understandable. But if theres a pattern of leaving jobs every few years the reasons become less significant and the pattern becomes the focus. At that point you’re going to have to convince someone that you’ll buck the pattern.

    2. Whippers

      But Alison addressed this in her post. You will be there over 2 years by the time you leave which is generally considered acceptable and you have a valid reason for leaving. I don’t really see the issue?

  8. August

    I changed my job within the organization last year in August. It turned out to be a terrible job with horrible people and bad management. I decided in December that I need to quit this job. I prepared for the interviews and started applying to other departments in the same company (I chose not to apply outside due to visa restrictions that can cause lot of annoyance), first question I was asked was why was I leaving so soon. I couldn’t really answer that question well. I some how pulled myself through till August. I started applying in September again and I am being asked the same questions again. I am just telling that the management is considering a reduction in headcount (which is true). But still people don’t want to trust me. This is my third job. I left first job after two years to go back to college for graduate studies. I was for 4.5 years in my second job and it is the third job that I am trying to get out of so soon. It has been so tiring convincing people that I am not a job hopper.

      1. Yet Another Allison

        Agree. Just because you get the question does not mean that is the reason you didn’t get the job. You should still be doing all the other things recommended to improve your chances.

      2. August

        I left my second job in good terms because my current job seemed to be a great opportunity and my managers have given good reference. My current job, I don’t trust my manager and I want to quit before it can do too much harm to me. I don’t think interviewers are talking to my current manager. I have an interview today (after convincing them that I am not hopping jobs) and I am waiting for the result of another I had late last week (again after assuring them that I am not a job hopper). I just hope I get out of this situation soon.

        1. The IT Manager

          Hmmm … If you are applying internally (within the same company), there’s a really good chance the hiring manager would talk to your current supervisor before even inviting you to the interview, but if not before probably after.

          I’m not saying that you’re not having the problem, but it doesn’t sound like people think you’re a job hopper from your resume.

    1. LBK

      I don’t think this is people saying you’re a job hopper, actually. That would be if they were questioning you on a history of switching jobs frequently. You’re just not really being clear on why you want to leave, which is making people question your commitment to this new position – it can come off like you’re desperate to do anything else, and that you might just be using this new job as a stopgap for stability until you can find something you really want to do. I think you just need a more compelling response to “Why are you looking to leave?”

      1. August

        I really don’t know how to say my manager is being an ass to me and the entire atmosphere is toxic. I am being targeted and bullied here. If I say the truth, people will just not trust me and think that there may be some problems with me and I am scared that even if I get a job there, people will be biased against me. The only saving grace is I can make a case that my entire department is unstable, volatile and may be shut down (which is true). This reason will again make me feel desperate for any job but I really don’t know what else to say.

        1. Kyrielle

          What is attractive about the new job, besides not having toxicity problems? Can you spin it as “I want to grow in X direction” (something they do that your current department doesn’t) for example?

          They don’t need your primary reason; they’re probably less interested in “why are you leaving” and more interested in “why do you want to come here” despite what they say. (And “I’m trying to leave because your department sounds like what I want to work on” is a reply most managers are primed to like in any case.)

          1. August

            Good one…I will start thinking about it before applying to jobs and try to find something good which interests me in that position.

        2. CTO

          If you feel desperate, you probably come across as desperate. Your current answer (potential layoff) will make employers think that you’ll take a job, any job, just to avoid getting laid off. You need to show that you’re interested in THEIR job, not just any job. That’s the trick: to let the employer know that you’re being selective and are really excited about whatever you’re interviewing for. Maybe something like this:

          “I’m looking for new work because my current employer is considering a reduction in headcount. But I’m also looking because the department I moved into a year ago ending up focusing its work on X and Y, when I’m really excited to work somewhere where the team is more forward-focused and working on A and B instead. Given my background, I think I could bring a lot of my experience to your company to really help A and B move forward through…”

    2. August

      Thank you every one for advising me yesterday. I want to let you guys know I got an offer today which I will be accepting :-).

  9. Anon for this

    My daughter left her job at the end of her first shift because the person training her slapped her.

    On the hand as she went to touch something, but not in a playful oops way but in a naughty toddler way hard enough that it stung. I was not happy she finished the shift.

    She did call and quit and when they tried to talk her into staying and didn’t care that they slapped her she climbed the complaint ladder up to corporate HR being a huge pita while professional and civil all the way.

    I was really proud. I know – it’s an anomaly – but even my work ethic allows for walking out when slapped.

    1. fposte

      It’s also not going to have any effect on her future career, because you don’t put a job on your resume when you only worked a single shift there.

      1. Anx

        Do you think you have put them on your applications? The electronic ones?

        I ask because if I’m signing that I am answering the questions openly and honestly, I don’t want to lie. But it also seems like a lot of clutter on the application that isn’t helping anyone. Then again, omitting a short stint (a shift or a few) seems helpful to an applicant, so could editing your application being dishonest?

        This is something I really struggle with. I have left off a job that lasted a day (it was not a good fit at all and apparently it’s very common for people not to advance past their ‘audition’ shift there), but I have another one that is very brief (3 shifts, 1 month if you included training. I admit my desire to leave it off is to help reduce the amount of short stints on my resume and that I’m hoping not to get pigeonholed as a food-service worker.

  10. HeyNonnyNonny

    Another exception: contractors. I’m a contractor with the government, and I’ve had 3 jobs at 3 companies within the past 2 years, because contracts are always running out and moving around.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        Oops, my bad, I only saw the retail and food service part and was starting to feel all self-conscious about my spotty history!

      2. Dan

        Fed contractors are a different kind of contractor. HeyNonnyNonny herself probably is a full time W2 employee for a company that makes its money doing work for the government. That means HeyNonnyNonny herself isn’t a contractor, her company is.

        Alison’s exception is for those who truly work on a contract basis.

        I used to be a W2 employee for a federal government contractor. HNN is right, contracts move around a lot.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny

          Yeah, the W2 contractor for government work can be a pain to explain– establishing a regular job for a mortgage is a pain if the company doesn’t work with government contracts a lot!

  11. Mike C.

    In the same breath, I always find it amusing that some hiring managers look down on folks who stay at a job “too long”, as if they’ll never again be able to learn something new or adapt to a different situation.

    1. Yet Another Allison

      I’d really like it if Alison could do a column on this opposing dynamic. Is it real? What are the warning signs? How can it be mitigated?

      1. Yet Another Allison

        Ahh – of course you have already. Thanks for the link!

        It’s a tough thing to call. I’ve been at the same organization for 15 years but have worked drastically different jobs and missions here. Luckily, this is a place that is big enough that I can spend my whole career here and still won’t run out of challenges. It is a little worrisome that future options are taken away though.

      2. Mike C.

        What exactly do you mean by “raise questions” and what questions would you actually be asking such a candidate?

        It’s not your doing of course, but the idea that it even raises questions is a bit unfair to the employee, given that there’s so much pressure from employers to “be loyal to the company” and that changing jobs is such a huge undertaking.

        1. Cat

          It’s always seems a bit unreasonable to me too, but perhaps that’s because I’m in a field and a place where many, many people do stay at one employer their entire career. A minority of people do switch after 25 or 30 years and, at that point, it’s not really an issue that they hadn’t before.

          1. HR Manager

            Staying with one employer isn’t a huge problem for me at a recruiter; staying in one job, especially if it’s a very narrowly defined job with a set of responsibilities might be. It’s different if the company has gone through changes, and the candidate can demonstrate taking on different things, using new skills and tools, even if the job title may not have changed significantly. But if someone tells me they are Customer Service Rep at XYZ company for 20 years, and responsibilities is to answer client calls for all 20 years…that might be a problem for a job that isn’t being a rep in a call center.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          For efficiency’s sake, I’ll just quote what I wrote in the post I linked to:

          “The worry is that you’ll be stuck in one company’s way of doing things, won’t have been exposed to a wider variety of practices and cultures, and thus won’t adapt easily. So anything you can do to demonstrate that’s not the case is helpful. Certainly being able to show a progression in responsibilities and job titles — as you can — is helpful, and you should think about what else you can use to demonstrate that you’re flexible, open to change, and don’t have an insular viewpoint.

          And for anyone who’s now worrying about what this means for them, this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should leave a job you love before you want to … but you should be aware that it could be a potential concern for future employers, and balance it against other factors.”

          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            You definitely have to be ready to talk about it. During the periods I’ve gone through where I apply to jobs almost just to see what else is out there this is what I use: “I’ve been at my current company for going on XX years with regular promotions, contract extensions, and pay increases. I also do freelance work because in addition to the extra money, it exposes me to new people, new technology, and different ways of doing things. It keeps me fresh and allows me to bring those new ideas back to my company. An example of that is XXXX.”

            It helps that freelancing on the side is a very accepted hobby and, in some places, it’s expected. You could use volunteer work to talk around it as well.

    2. BRR

      I was just thinking about this. I have to people above me who have both been here 7-8 years. There are limited opportunities in our field in the area and one just bought a house and another lives an hour away and wants to buy a house here. I want to make sure they know to not stay in one place too long (obviously for selfish reasons).

    3. Joey

      Well for me it’s more that I’ll have a harder time gauging how long it will take you to become highly productive. Obviously if you’ve been promoted within a company there’s a learning curve, but the learning curve is usually much greater when you’ve changed companies.

  12. Jen

    I’ve done less than a year at two jobs – one was my very first job out of college and the pay was so terrible (as a TV news producer in a small town) that I was able to get a much better paying job in a larger city. That sort of thing was extremely common in news so it didn’t look bad. I stayed at the next job for 3 years though.

    A few years ago I moved with my husband for his job and took a job that I probably wouldn’t have even applied for if I hadn’t been unemployed. I tried to give it a chance but it was the wrong fit in every way. I sat away from the other members of the team and never felt a part of things, I couldn’t stand the subject matter of the company and I was having to do PR for them, I couldn’t handle the super serious culture and the endless meetings. My supervisor was condescending and nasty and gave me primarily administrative tasks despite my decade + of experience. I received a job offer elsewhere after 4 months and left. They were not pleased but I stayed at the next job for a few years.

    1. Zillah

      If you were only there for four months, and especially since you took it following a move, it seems like it wouldn’t even make sense to include it on your resume, right?

      1. Jen

        That’s been my feeling too and I leave it off my resume. I do include it when I have to fill out the applications and I’m supposed to list all of my past jobs but it’s not on my linkedin nor is it on my resume.

  13. Phoenix

    I’ve wondered this since I left my previous (highly dysfunctional, never intended to be permanent) job – is there any leniency for jobs which are at least somewhat relevant to your career, but for which you are overqualified?

    I worked as a Teapot Assemblyperson, for instance, when my degree is in Teapot Design and I hoped to do something more in line with my degree very soon. The job market and my own financial situation made the Assembly job an attractive option at the time, with a hope of moving up in the company (based on conversations with the hiring manager at hiring). As it turns out, the company had Assemblypeople be responsible for their own teapot designs, while still paying them the wage of an assemblyperson. There was no possibility of advancement with this company, after all.

    After eight months at that job right out of college, I was offered a job as a Teapot Designer with a different company and took it. I have no plans of leaving this company soon, but I’m wondering if my early eight-month stint in a job for which I was overqualified would count as my freebie. I’m considering, if I leave this company after five or more years, of leaving that job off my resume entirely – what does everyone else think?

    1. Colette

      I think you can mitigate concerns about being a job hopper with long-term stays – so I don’t think it’s necessarily one freebie for life; once you’ve had a couple of jobs that you stay at for a few years, the long-ago short stay isn’t awful.

      As far as keeping in on your resume, that depends on what it offers (and possibly what positions you’re applying to) – is it relevant experience that will help you get the job you’re applying for?

    2. Yet Another Allison

      My 2 cents… the breadth of experience within the Teapot business may outweigh the negative of the short span. You could easily say that you were happy to have the opportunity to see that side of the business to better inform your work on the design side.

      1. Phoenix

        That’s actually about how I framed it during my interview for my current position – I highlighted that the small size of the company let me see many aspects of the business, and how it was similar to the business I would be moving to in the new job.

        1. Yet Another Allison

          I’m just amazed that the teapot company description is a functional enough medium that I understood that. Ultimately, we are all just making teapots.

          Back to the topic, that is a good message to hold onto so imho that may outweigh the potential perception concerns of the short time. And if this job and your next one are both a decent length, then I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

          1. Chocolate Teapot HR Dept

            Yet Another Allison, Please remember we don’t just make any teapots here. We make chocolate teapots and they are the finest chocolate teapots in the entire worldwide chocolate teapot market.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              Ah but over here at Wakeen’s we have introduced the Value Line of affordable chocolate teapots as well as the Extremely Affordable Line of chocolate flavored teapots, both coming to a Sam’s Club skid near you in time for the holidays.

              Why buy quality when you can just buy more?

    3. M

      I am in a similar situation right now, and for what it’s worth, my thought is that I am so overqualified/underpaid for my job right now (requires HS diploma and pays ~22K per year, while I have a relevant Master’s degree plus 2 years of experience, market rate is about 45-50K), that any potential employer who would look down on what would appear to be “job-hopping” is a moron. Money aside, why wouldn’t I want a job that’s in line with my education and experience over one that’s not?

  14. Jess

    I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts are if you are leaving a job after a year for a fellowship…
    My background has both long stays and short stays: I was at my first job out of college for over 4 years, then switched industries with 6 months at a terrible job, switched to the one I am currently at where I’ll end up leaving at the “year mark” for an incredible fellowship opportunity in Europe. I’ll only be at the upcoming fellowship for 8 months to a year… I’m wondering what others think about this kind of job history…

    1. University Allison

      I think fellowships fall into the “internship” category — this is something that has a defined time frame. If you’re in a field where fellowships are available, potential employers should be familiar with this.

      1. Jess

        Right but there was a choice in leaving a job after one year (AFTER leaving another job after six months) to take the fellowship… that’s more what I’m concerned about.

    2. Zillah

      I’m not a HM, but I’m curious – those that are, would you recommend leaving the 6 month stint on there at all?

  15. 20-something

    My resume out of college is 31 months with one agency then 18 months with the next. I’ve now been with my current agency 8 months and would consider leaving sometime between the 12 – 24 months mark. Since I work in state service leaving for promotions upon eligibility (usually time based) is not stigmatized, even if you leave the agency. It is understood that moving up and improving yourself is more important than sticking around being paid less than you’re worth. There aren’t always openings with the home agency, so leaving within 1-2 years of taking a job is okay as long as you’re moving up.

  16. Jax

    I first heard about the stigma of job hopping from this blog, and I’m grateful for it! I’m a person who craves change and never stayed longer than a year. I needed to hear, “Hey, short stints at multiple jobs looks bad!” to ground me and make me think before jumping carelessly.

    On the other hand, my job hopping lead to lots of on-the-job training in different administrative work and made me qualified for higher admin positions. Receptionist, data entry, estimating, and now project coordinator–I would not be here today if I had stayed in reception for 2 years, data entry for 2 years, etc. All those 1 year stints lead to me being qualified for almost any admin job available. I don’t regret my job hopping, but I’m aware that I need to stay here for 3 years before moving on again.

    1. Lily in NYC

      Yes, you gained experience, but you have to be aware that your job hopping can still hurt you when you apply for new jobs – there will probably be places that you want to work who might not consider you because of your previous short stints. I don’t care if I see one 3-year job on a resume – if I see a bunch of one-year jobs, then that candidate doesn’t get an interview (unless it’s the exceptions Alison mentioned).

      1. Jax

        My current job is one that took a solid year to fully understand, and even after 2.5 years there are still things that crop up that leave me saying, “Wow! I just learned something new.” I think for higher positions, leaving after only a year is like leaving before you’re even fully trained. The company probably spent more teaching you than you gave back in output.

        Reception, data entry, office assistant, etc. are jobs that take about 3-6 months to become a pro. I’m probably biased but I wouldn’t hold several short stints (around 1 year) against a candidate as s/he climbed up the ladder from entry-level. Jumping around in lateral moves? That’s bad. Moving up? That’s different.

        1. Lily in NYC

          I would probably hold it against an admin candidate. Loyalty and reliability are two of the most important qualities I look for when hiring admins. Why would I hire someone who is likely to jump ship for “something better” in 8 months? You aren’t even giving them a chance to give you a raise or promotion. I started as an assistant at one job and was made a manager within 3 years. If I had left for a higher level admin job, that would have never happened.

          1. Jax

            Relevant training and past experience are the most important qualities to look for. If you’re looking to hire an upper level executive assistant, my experience with tracking metrics in Excel, creating presentations and leading weekly team meetings should rank me a bit higher than someone who has entered data entry into a company specific software for the past two years.

            I’d hope my resume wouldn’t be tossed aside because I worked my way up through various small businesses rather than one large corporation with room for me to advance. But if it was, than it’s probably a good thing. I wouldn’t fit in with a company that valued loyalty above all else–that’s not me and I couldn’t respect a company that stubbornly hired that way.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It’s not really about valuing loyalty. It’s about wanting a return on your investment in training and not having to fill the position again in a year (especially when there are plenty of great candidates whose job histories don’t raise that concern).

              1. Justin

                What if they offer no training and the industry/profession is known for shaky job security and instability? A lot of companies, especially smaller and less stable ones in certain industries, or certain positions, offer little more than a computer, some logins, and a weekly checkin.

                Your advice here seems tailored to your industry/profession and ones like it.

    2. BRR

      That’s good that you have a plan. Job hopping looks bad because often times employers don’t want to invest the time and money in training someone who will only be there for a short time.

  17. Leslie

    On an academic tangent, I’ve found a similar principle applies to switching advisors/research labs when pursuing an advanced degree (master’s degree, PhD, etc.). It’s usually OK to switch advisors once (due to factors outside one’s control – such as the lab is moving/closing, poor funding; or just a personality conflict/poor fit), but if your reasons for switching are in the latter category (personality conflicts), it may be difficult to find another advisor willing to take you on (because you now have “baggage,” or department politics come into play, etc.). But, trying to switch advisors twice is usually a big no-no, and often it ends with you having to move to a different institution and enroll in a degree program there (at which point you still have “baggage” that makes you less attractive to prospective advisors).

  18. Erica

    Anecdotal and my two cents: I stayed at my first job for 5 years, then at my second for 6 months. It was just not the right fit. I got another job quickly because … it was clear that I DID have longevity. Sadly, as poor AAM can attest, that new job was so awful that I could fill up multiple columns with horror stories. I lasted 11 months. I was super lucky to find a great job, and I’ve been here for 2 years and counting.

    I think that short job stints only really suck if you aren’t finding jobs/getting interviews. If you are at a job that’s awful, but you are still getting bites on your resume/scheduling interviews, then don’t worry so much about leaving.

  19. Dawn

    Yay, thanks for answering this! I’m working on getting a job in another state within the next 4 months, and when that happens it means my husband will be leaving his job either right before or right at his 1 year mark. I was so worried that would reflect poorly on him, so it’s great to hear that doing it once, for a really good reason, is no big deal :)

  20. Former Job Hopper

    I had to overcome this very early in my career. I began my career by dropping out of a PhD program after 2 years because I had realized I didn’t want any jobs that required a PhD and I was miserable in the small town where I attended grad school, so it made no sense to spend an additional 3-4 years pursuing a degree I didn’t need in a place I hated. My first career job was a great fit in terms of the work, but the organization went through a lot of turmoil and funding issues that led to laying off half its staff, including me, just shy of my 1-year mark. My next job was truly a bad fit. I was hired to run a program and provide light administrative support to the ED, but within a few months of hiring me, the office manager was fired and not replaced, and I ended up spending only about 1/3 of my time running my program and the remaining 2/3 serving as office manager and executive assistant to the entire small staff. I wasn’t terrible at it, but I wasn’t great at it, and it was crushing my spirit and making me dread coming to work.

    After about a year there, I had a phone interview with the hiring manager, a career nonprofit woman around 30 years old, at another organization that went well and led to an in-person interview. The President of the Board, a finance industry type man in his 50s, immediately peppered me with aggressive and accusatory questions about my series of short stays. “I see you dropped out of grad school, you left your first job after a year, and now you’re trying to leave another job after a year. Do you have problems finishing things?” Of course I’d had a perfectly reasonable explanation for leaving grad school, and my position had been eliminated at my first job through no fault of my own, and the second job was truly a bad fit. It didn’t matter…the surface impression was that I was a flight risk–maybe I would have an equally “perfectly good reason” for leaving their organization in a year. They had no evidence to suggest I wouldn’t. That initial line of questioning set the tone for what was probably the worst interview I’ve ever gone on, and I was not offered the job.

    After that, I created highly targeted job search alerts on one of the job sites. Every time I came across a job description that sounded like my ideal next position, I copied and pasted the description and qualifications into a Google Doc. On the front page of the Doc, I compiled a running list of all the qualifications listed for all the jobs in the doc. This became my, “Things to Get Experience Doing,” list. I spent another year+ doing my best to get experience doing those things to make me more competitive in the future. Around the 2-year mark I felt ready to start applying for jobs again, but promised myself that I’d only apply for a job that seemed like a true upgrade and not just a different place. After all, I’d survived two years there and wasn’t in danger of being fired. That gave me the luxury of holding out for the right job. I applied for another job around that time and heard nothing back, and then six months later I sent a third application out for what seemed to be a dream job. I was offered that position, and have now been here more than two years and still think it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I’m really glad that I stuck it out through my soul-crushing but bearable job long enough to find a “forever home” with my current org.

    1. Anonathon

      I’ve totally done something similar! It’s such a good idea. I’m not looking right now, but I always check job listings to be sure that I’m building up the experience that I’d need for the next step up.

  21. Nervous Accountant

    What about taking that “freebie” after a whole string of temp/seasonal jobs? Its a shame because I was so excited in the beginning–but then saw all the textbook examples of an abusive boss, crazy work environment and “how to scare away new hires.” It LOOKS like I choose to work only 4 months out of the year, but I truly don’t (one year, I was working part time in an unrelated position so it’s not on my resume at all but I do bring it up in interviews if necessary). It wasn’t easy making the decision to quit this job but I couldn’t take the constant bullying and yelling every day.

    1. Nervous Accountant

      One day I realized I’d never learn much nor ever get a good reference from the person based on the way he spoke to us and about former employees….the day I realized that I knew any extra day there would be wasted. I know once I find another job, I’ll look back at this and see the positives and have a better attitude, but right now, sitting at home on a Tuesday morning/afternoon, filling out job applications and seeing depressing job listings (CPA/5 years of experience required for 1-2 days a week at $12 an hour????), I’m regretting every.single.decision I’ve ever made.

    2. plain jane

      I’m wondering if it is better to include the unrelated position, just so you have a couple of longer stints in the resume. Is there any way to make that unrelated position look related somehow? I mean project/time management and customer service are often transferable.

  22. Hey nonny nonny

    But here’s the thing….if you are only leaving your previous job once you already have a new (better, higher-paying) job secured, then the new company does not care that you are a job-hopper. If you can get a better job, and the new organization is willing to hire you even though you’d be leaving the previous job at only 10 months, why not take the better opportunity??

    If at any point you are perceived as too much of a job-hopper, then the decision is made for you – you won’t get hired anywhere new and you’ll have to stay at your current place for 2-3 years!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      … until you want to leave your current job because your boss is an abusive nightmare and suddenly nowhere decent will hire you because you have a string of short-term stays.

      1. LBK

        Yes – it’s not the person who’s giving you a bigger salary and a better job you’ll have to convince, because to that interviewer it’s obvious why you would want your position. It’s the time you’re leaving for reasons other than “you’re offering me an obviously better job” that you’ll have to try to explain your short stints.

      2. Kelly O

        This, a thousand times.

        Please take a look at my story below. I have a valid reason for every single move on my resume, but it still holds me back. I’m 36 years old and still considered for entry-level positions because I hopped around in my 20’s like my shoes were on fire. It WILL eventually come back to haunt you.

        And trust me when I say that the money is absolutely tempting, but I sincerely wish I had stayed put and not jumped the first time someone called me with more money. Because that extra $1,000 a year was nice then, but it’s not helping me now.

    2. Yet Another Allison

      I get what you are saying, but that goes back to a saying that I saw on here somewhere. Whenever you choose take a job, you should be thinking of how it will help you get the next job after that. One 2-3 year stint will not erase a pattern.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny

      Hey, other Hey nonny nonny! We have the same name for comments it looks like. Was I first, or were you?

    4. Colette

      If at any point you are perceived as too much of a job-hopper, then the decision is made for you – you won’t get hired anywhere new and you’ll have to stay at your current place for 2-3 years!

      Unless, of course, you’re unemployed when you are perceived as too much of a job-hopper.

  23. Something Else

    I’m in a situation where I’ve been at a job only a couple of months. The office politics are awful. I’ve already witnessed screaming fits and tears, there’s ethical violations galore, and no one has been doing this position in months which has led to an almost insurmountable workload. A lot of the things that were stated in the interview/hiring process, have completely changed now that I’m working there. I’m still terrified to quit.

    1. Cautionary tail

      I was in a similar situation. After being hired and being given the “we’re ethical” speech, I was told be a company director to not do something the company was contracted to do and then to attest that it was done and that there were no issues so there was nothing to report to the client.

      After I refused to do this the director did the written attestation himself. I could say that was the beginning of the end but actually the beginning of the end was on my very first day when I pointed out an issue in something that was to become part of my primary responsibilities and it turned out that a VP had made the mistake and didn’t consider it a mistake. I was an expert in the field and it was a rookie mistake with major consequences that, by the time I left the company, was dragging the company towards a deep grave.

      Note to self: Never piss off the VP on your first day on the job.

  24. Kelly O

    Allow me to explain my situation, so you can learn from my mistakes.

    I moved to another city after a divorce and my dad’s death. In the course of “finding myself” it took a year or so to get a great match with a good company. I felt like this was a fairly normal learning curve, and was settling in for the long haul when my husband’s company let everyone go.

    We had to move back to my hometown, and I was the primary breadwinner for a couple of years. In that almost two years, I went through two full-time permanent jobs, one temp-to-hire that didn’t pan out, and working seasonally in the mall during Christmas.

    Both full-time jobs were left for valid reasons, and both included raises in pay that made sense in the short term. But now, even nearly six years after the fact, I am constantly explaining that period of time to recruiters and hiring managers, and it’s hurting me. Bad.

    I’ve stayed in two jobs that I (in a previous life) would have abandoned quickly. One “band-aid” job that was supposed to just get us by, lasted nearly four years. The second job, the one I’m losing now, is going away because the company is closing down. That’s twice in a year, for those keeping track.

    I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent trying to put a positive spin on my career path from 2006-2008. I’m a completely different person now, but getting someone to take a chance on me is proving very, very difficult. The lack of response is causing issues in my relationship, it’s causing all sorts of stress, and it’s something I would go back and change in a heartbeat if it were at all possible. I followed some dumb career advice, and made moves based on salary alone.

    Please, if you possibly can stick it out a year, do so. Like Alison has said, you get a freebie. You can explain one short stint. But when that starts evolving into two or three or four, you find yourself having a harder and harder time even as time goes on.

    I know the right thing is out there for me, and am just working and hoping and praying for that company that is willing to give me a chance to show them who I am now, not who I was then. But it is SO incredibly challenging, and I would not wish this struggle on anyone else.

    I guess my main take-away is, just be really absolutely sure what you’re going to is going to be worth it, and you will be able to stay longer than a year, because otherwise it will be challenging explaining things down the line.

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      Kelly, I hope you find something soon. Your comments here are so true and so eloquent about how much it sucks, and I so feel for you. Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there for other people to read–and I really do hope you find something excellent and soon.

    2. Whippers

      I know that Alison says that contract jobs and temp jobs are not considered job-hopping. However, I had a pretty nasty experience (well I thought it was anyway) during an interview when the interviewer started grilling me rather aggressively about my job history. I had two fixed-term contract jobs and one agency job on my CV, and were clearly labelled as such. With regard to the fixed term contract jobs he said, “So why’d you leave these jobs?” and with regard to the agency job “So what happened there then?” in a really accusatory manner ( as if he was completely unfamiliar with the concept of agency work. Here’s a clue: it ends)
      It was almost as though he’d got me in for the interview to grill me on the short term jobs on my CV as he asked me very few other relevant questions.

      1. Whippers

        Whoops, sorry that wasn’t really meant as a reply to your comment Kelly.
        Although I had meant to say in response to you that I really feel for you and think it’s completely unfair you’re still being penalised for something so long ago.

  25. unemployed :(

    How does this work when you have been in the unfortunate situation of having had a freebie a while back but have found yourself unemployed but will have to take any job just for the money but with the intention of leaving as soon as something better comes up. Because everyone keeps telling me to just apply for everything, take what I can get and quit as soon as something better comes up. I can’t afford to be picky, but I really don’t want to lock myself into having a horrible job I have little interest in for 2 years out of necessity to feed myself.

    1. MT

      This is why employers have to be picky when they hire people. Too many people in the mindset that they will take jobs with the intention of leaving as soon as something better comes along. That’s why employers have second thoughts with hiring someone with too much experience or qualifications for the job being applied for.

    2. BRR

      If you take anything then leave shortly after it might work but you’ll be stuck in that position for a long time. Not to mention you have to worry if word gets around. It can really damage a reputation. I’ve seen someone get away with it because it was right after they graduated so they left the job off their resume.

    3. Anx

      When I was unemployed, I figured that whoever gave me a chance would get 2 years of my life, unless a truly amazing can’t-turn-it-down opportunity came along. So long as I could get 20 hours a week of work. I told my partner that under no circumstance would I just quit my job and leave (even if it was retail or food service).

      I never did find the opportunity, though. I currently work somewhere I hope to stay for at least a year, but since it’s <20 hours a week I just can't commit to more than a year.

      I was really trying to get a foot in the door in admin and custodial work but couldn't find a way to break into that. Now I'm learning how hard it really is to move out of those positions and up through a company, so I guess I can see why noone would hire me.

      I have a public health and biology background and applied to a ton of hospital and university positions, thinking it could be advantageous to have a that background in those settings. I thought that after having some steady work history, I could apply to positions within the company, but wanted to do custodial work for at least 2 years so I'd have time to really learn how to do the job efficiently.

  26. BJ

    Fortunately, this hasn’t been much of an issue for met (yet). I firmly believe that your mental health is just as important as other aspects of your health and if your job is detrimental to your health, you should leave regardless of the time spent there.

    I left my first job in this new state because the job environment was very toxic and abusive (call center, need I say more?)

    The job I had after that was a non-profit with an equally toxic environment and I ended up being fired after a year.

    I still had several interviews and job offers after this because I was able to explain what happened. Maybe I’m lucky, I don’t know. I understand how this stuff can look on paper but I still can’t justify staying somewhere where I dread going to work every day or become physically ill at the thought of going into work.

    1. AnonTwentySomething

      I absolutely must agree here. I have a friend popping Xanax to deal with a nightmare company/boss because of this insane pressure she feels to hit the 2 year point at this company to not look like a ‘job hopper’. It makes me so sad this issue is forcing people to put their mental health second, and the needs of wealthy companies first. Work to live, not live to work folks….

    2. AVP

      Well, see above for a few horror stories of this type of thing coming back to haunt you a decade later….but it’s a trade off. For me, I would rather be unemployed for 3~ months than be miserable, but if I hit Month 4 with no work I would be begging for any terrible job out there. A lot of this is about what you’re comfortable with, your industry and it’s norms, and what career trade-offs you;re okay with making to preserve sanity or lifestyle.

  27. CTO

    What I find tricky sometimes is making it clear on a resume that my short-term jobs ended for really valid reasons. My history since college looks like this:

    Job 1: 12 months (AmeriCorps fixed-term position)
    Job 2: 3.5 years
    Job 3: 14 months (layoff)
    Job 4: Only been here 3 months, but I plan to stay at least 2-3 years and probably need to

    I do mention the AmeriCorps aspect of my first job on my resume, so I hope employers actually see that. And, of course, I mentioned my layoff as my reason for leaving in cover letters this time around. But we often don’t put even valid reasons for leaving a job on our resumes: layoffs, relocation, things like that. We just have to hope that people read our cover letters.

    When I was looking this summer I actually had really great success getting interviews and offers and am so happy with where I landed. So I don’t think my shorter-term jobs have hurt me yet, and I believe I’ll be able to stay in my current role long enough to show that I can and do commit long-term when given the opportunity.

    1. Joey

      What’s even more frustrating is that when you have a pattern of short stints then have a legit layoff many managers will say “I wonder if that was a REAL layoff or not.”

    2. Lizzie

      I do the same with my Peace Corps experience (although I stayed 3 years so it’s less of an issue) and my subsequent 8 month research assistant gig.

  28. AnonTwentySomething

    I realise this will not go down well because most ‘younger’ opinions don’t fly well here, but I actually sometimes feel like the Baby Boomer emphasis on not being a job hopper is why so many people are so miserable and I wish it would ease up. That mentality keeps people trapped in jobs they don’t like, stuck at companies that won’t get them where they want to be, working for bullies and generally feeling like life is the pits. I have a friend who pops Xanax every morning because of her horrible boss and a company’s expectation she put in tons of unpaid overtime. She’s trying to get to 2 years at a company because she doesn’t want to look flakey because she left another job after 6 months for this one, hoping for better. Another friend is not progressing pay wise like his peers are, but feels like he has to stick it out where he is. Yet another friend wants to hop to another job that cuts her commute by 50 minutes each way but she feels like she HAS to make it to a year there. This horrible expectation to show loyalty to employers is what makes us all unhappy because it makes us feel like we just have to ‘suck it up’ when our lives are not meant to be lived miserably. Let’s be real here, employers will not hesitate to lay you off if they want to move in a different direction, so why are employees made to feel at their mercy? I honestly can’t wait until this antiquated ‘suck up things that make you unhappy’ retires with older generations and job hopping becomes the new normal. Let people be happy, let people do what’s right for THEM, not what’s right for a Fortune 500 company and not feel stale because you’re expected to do the same thing for years….and years….and some more years.

    1. MT

      Just like people who don’t want to work for companies with bad reputations/histories, companies don’t want to employ people with bad reputations/histories. It costs a lot of money to find, on board and train a new hire.

      1. AnonTwentySomething

        It does cost money to find and train a new hire, but it can also be equally devastating to the new hire to find that their new boss is an emotionally abusive a-hole or you’ve misrepresented to position to them or even quite simply that you don’t quite fit in with the culture or your team. I had a (temp, thankfully) job where I asked all the right questions, it seemed like it would be great….until I met the team of people I’d actually be working with and I within two hours was relieved it was only a temp job (all women, asked me if I had kids. I said no, I’m only 22 (then) and they made snide comments about how I must think I’m so great I don’t have kids to deal with and then they were rude to me the whole time and did nothing but bitch about their offspring all day to each other. Ugh!). But businesses are able to let you go with much less damage to their reputation, while the poor employee feels obliged to stick it out, often at a great personal cost.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep, it’s unfair. And it’s all the more reason to build a stable job history and awesome reputation so that you have options and aren’t at the mercy of a crappy employer.

    2. BJ

      I agree, very well said. I also feel like “job hopping” isn’t as frowned upon as it once was because people understand the aftermath of the poor economy. Tons of people were laid off, lost jobs, tons of employers rehired people at the low-end of the pay scale so of course people aren’t going to stay at those jobs for any length of time.

      I’m really disappointed that everyone keeps pointing the finger at “job hoppers” but nobody addresses how employers have been treating people since the economy took a dive.

      I worked for a large company that continually laid people off who had been there 10+ years, then rehired them into other departments at the bottom of the pay scale. That’s how much they appreciated their long-term employees.

      I’ve been to plenty of interviews where the job wasn’t presented honestly, where I got hired and the job wasn’t what they said it was going to be at all, where the hours changed after I was hired (as well as the duties), and other things. Lots of abusive bosses, bosses who took advantage of employees, bosses who did extremely unethical and possibly illegal things to save money.

      We told the millenials that if they went to college, they could be anything they wanted and they’d have a career. Then they got out of college and had to take these low-paying jobs outside of their field just to get by, and we expect them to stay because “job hopping looks bad.” I don’t think that’s realistic.

      1. fposte

        It’s not about pointing fingers, though; it’s about explaining how hiring managers look at things. If you’re in an industry with a lot of churn, people who move fast aren’t a drawback. But a lot of hiring finds people more valuable with longer-term stays–I find it a considerable value, and I’m not going to rule it out of my hiring goals for jobs where it’s relevant. A candidate who’s left four jobs in five years looks less likely to bring that value than a candidate who’s held one or two jobs in five years. (A candidate who’s had only contract jobs or jobs that ended for company closures is a neutral–no real info either way.)

        It’s not evil any more than the candidate who hasn’t worked on that database system is evil. But from a hiring manager’s standpoint, somebody who has a track record with the quality/skill I’m looking for is going to be a stronger candidate than the candidate who simply asserts that this thing I want could totally happen.

        1. AnonAnalyst

          This. Employers are making hiring decisions based on limited data. Unfortunately, a hiring manager doesn’t know you and know you’d be totally awesome and stay for 25 years and were forced to leave those other positions for completely logical reasons; all she sees is that you’ve left several jobs in short succession. As others have already noted elsewhere, if you have understandable reasons for several short term stays a lot of hiring managers won’t be concerned, but it will still be at least a question that you’ll get asked during the interview process.

          Here’s an example of how this plays out in a hiring process: I’m in a role where it typically takes about a year to really master the job. I was part of a hiring committee when my organization recently hired for a similar position, and while we didn’t disqualify any candidates for having short term stays at previous jobs, it was definitely a concern and something we asked about when we saw that pattern in a candidate’s background. If we’re going to invest the time to bring someone in and train them to do the work, by the time they can independently produce at the level we need them to, we need to try to make sure they’ll stick around so that we get some return on that investment; therefore, we want to hire someone who isn’t going to leave right when they reach that level. Obviously things happen and it’s completely possible that we’d lose the person in that role regardless of what their previous employment history or best intentions upon starting the role were, but it’s an attempt to mitigate risk, and one of the ways to do that when you have limited information is to use the information you do have.

          1. Colette

            I think it’s important to remember as well that while the employee may think “my boss was unreasonable and abusive”, the manager may think “I can’t believe I hired someone who comes in late every day and takes 2 hours for lunch”.

            Without knowing the people involved, there’s no way to know whose point of view is more accurate.

      2. AnonTwentySomething

        “I’m really disappointed that everyone keeps pointing the finger at “job hoppers” but nobody addresses how employers have been treating people since the economy took a dive.”

        This this this! Since employers know how desperate people are for work, they know they can treat them however they want and people feel forced to stay. Doesn’t help when year read stuff like ‘you only get one job hopping freebie’. But with so many toxic employers out there…..and you somehow get a second one, you’re meant to stay there for 3 years just because ‘job hopping = bad’. Seems pretty crappy. So an employer completely misrepresents their job….and we have to suck it up for 2 years? Yeah. Bring on change.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          And what’s your response to fposte’s comment before yours, which totally refuted the idea that it’s about pointing fingers? Judging by your comments below, you seem to be here pushing one point of view and not thinking about or truly engaging with anything anyone says that’s contrary to that, which is sort of at odds with the point of having a discussion with other people. (You’re also engaging in some pretty annoying age stereotyping throughout this thread.)

          1. AGirlCalledFriday

            I think that all people are asking for is the benefit of the doubt. Don’t look at a resume with a couple short term jobs after graduation and assume that the person is a job hopper and doesn’t want to work. If everything else aligns, give the person a shot.

            For what it’s worth, I think the notion is a bit antiquated anyway. People should be hired based upon their knowledge, professionalism, and personality. Whether you worked at a job for 2 years or 10 is irrelevant as length of time doesn’t really guarantee all three.

          2. Not So NewReader

            Age stereo typing: My parents were in The Greatest Generation. Their belief was you had ONE job for your entire life. Anything more than that meant you failed.
            Guess I failed a thousand times over! hahaa.

            Speaking as a baby-boomer, I am very please to see that we can move about, change jobs and it is acceptable. This change has been a long time coming and much needed.

            Every generation questions what the previous generation did or beliefs they subscribed to. This is actually kind of healthy. But it does not come without pain.

        2. Koko

          The solution is to be choosier and do a better job screening for toxic employers.

          There’s a whole host of questions I know to ask in interviews now that I didn’t before I had some bad working situations. How involved is the board of directors in day to day management? How typical is it for employees to work on nights or weekends? Would you say this is the type of organization where plans are set in stone and difficult to change, or the type of organization where plans are very fluid and change constantly? What happened to the previous person who held this position? How long have the people on this team worked here on average? Has anyone in this department been promoted to their current position, or are all senior staff hired from outside?

          I could go on. Most of these questions are directly related to bad experiences I or a friend have had on the job. The best part about sticking it out in a crappy but tolerable job instead of blindly leaping to any available option? You can go on job interviews and ask a bunch of questions like the ones above and it very clearly telegraphs to the interviewer: “I’m choosy. I’m looking for a position where I’ll be happy for a long time. I’m willing to stay at my current job if this one isn’t better.” Or in other words, “I don’t take changing jobs lightly.” If they’re confident that what they’re offering you is actually a good job with a good team, this will help to reassure them that you’re not a flight risk.

            1. Emily

              Ah, yes, my advice was for people currently feeling trapped in a crappy job to not race away from the job so fast and rather to endure it until they can make the move to a job they’ve been choosy about. If you’re already unemployed, my advice doesn’t apply as well.

              1. Koko

                Oops! That was me above. I’m sharing a computer at home temporarily and we use and log in to all the same websites!

          1. BJ

            This is true, I think that’s the one thing I’ve truly learned out of all this. The interview is just as much for myself as it is for the person doing the hiring. I’m responsible for asking certain questions to figure out if the place is a good fit for me. Sometimes it’s hard to keep that in perspective – when you’re unemployed for a while, you kind of go into “panic” mode and think you should take the first thing that comes along. But that can end up hurting you in the long run.

            Thanks for putting things into perspective. Maybe some bad work experiences are good for you. You certainly learn a lot!

            1. Koko

              Yes, basically I think to myself, “What would make me hate this job? What questions would get them to reveal to me if those conditions exist here?” With the cultural questions, I find it especially helpful to try to ask the questions as neutrally as possible so the interviewer can’t try to guess at just telling me what I want to hear.

              The question about how fast plans change is one of these – I thrive in fast-paced environments where rapid turnaround is possible and feel stifled and held back by overly rigid adherence to plans, but others feel more comfortable when their to-do list doesn’t change every other day. Without knowing which type I am, my hope is the interviewer will tell me the truth.

              Or if you’re worried the interviewer might talk up the benefits package only for you to discover nobody uses their vacation time because the workload is too much, you can try something like, “Is there a dead season when everyone tends to take vacation at the same time, or do folks take vacations scattered throughout the year? [pause for answer] And when was your last vacation?” It sounds a bit more conversational than, “Are you really going to let me use my vacation time?” and presumably the interviewer isn’t going to outright lie and say they went somewhere this summer if their last vacation was last year! People who might “fudge the truth” on a policy question are more likely to be honest about direct experiences and concrete facts. (My “how many of the senior staff were promoted vs hired externally?” question is modeled this way, too, to ask about a concrete fact rather than a hiring policy which could be presented more favorably than it is in practice.)

          2. AnonTwentySomething

            People can’t always afford to turn down jobs until something better comes along, particularly young people who may not have partners who can help out and haven’t had time to accumulate savings yet. Young people often do have to take whatever they can, even if it is awful just so they can pay the bills, and I think it’s ridiculous to expect them to set up shop for 1-2 years even if they are unhappy there.

            1. Koko

              Again, I’m speaking of someone who already has a job and is just unhappy. I think that in the long run, it’s smarter to stay at the job where you’re unhappy and try to build your skillset and wait for a better job than to run for the hills. It’s a pretty extreme abuse situation that makes unemployment or leaping blindly into any other job a good choice. You can suffer for one short year, keep earning income and building your skills and experience and track record, and a lot of doors can open for you to help you move to a better, higher-paying job that doesn’t abuse you. Or you can quit, lose your income, stop gaining skills and experience, and become increasingly desperate to take any job, until you find yourself in another crappy job again.

              And honestly, a little perspective: 1-2 years of a job you don’t like leans more towards “character-building experience” than “traumatic experience” side of things. It’s not ridiculous that sometimes, making poor choices leads to unpleasant experiences. That’s part of how we learn to make smarter choices. I was forced to stay in a crappy job for 2-1/2 years when I was younger. It was the job I’d left a short stay for, and it was a mistake, and I had trouble getting interviews with two short stays in a row on my record. But it paid the bills (barely), so I stuck it out and it eventually led me to the job I’ve had for the last 2-1/2 years, which is so perfect for me with such a great employer that I intend to stay here for another decade if I can. I was still only 27 when I finally left that crappy job, with decades of time in the workforce left ahead of me. I was fine with, as my mom says, making a tuition payment to the school of life to learn how to be a better advocate for myself and choose my future jobs more wisely.

              1. anita

                Great comment Koko, I’ve learned this the hard way and thank God for your great insight into this topic. I wish that I had considered the things that you mentioned several years ago before I made quite a few career missteps.

        3. Kyrielle

          There are two issues here, though: one is the view against job hoppers, and the other one is problem employers forcing people to be job hoppers.

          The latter is definitely a problem.

          The former is just a reality, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that we can change it just to address the fact that the latter exist.

          It takes 3-6 months before a new hire into (the entry level form of) my role is contributing as much as or more than they are taking from the team, generally. It takes a year before they are fully up to speed. It probably takes 1-2 years before we’ve “broken even” on the initial investment of training them relative to what we get back, if I had to guess.

          Someone whose job history suggests they might vanish after a year or less is, therefore, likely to not be worth the cost in terms of on-boarding, training, etc. At the 6 month mark or less, they’re actually likely to *reduce* our productivity for that 12 month cycle.

          So yes, if the job history plus any other info we have suggests they just get bored and move on or otherwise bounce around, we’re going to be a lot more hesitant than if we see at least a general tendency to 2+ years at a place.

          We’re not asking for a lifetime commitment, or even 5-10 years commitment. We are hoping (not demanding, just hoping) that someone will last for at least a couple years. We are thrilled when they and we find the fit so good that they do stay for 5, 10, or more years, of course!

          But the key thing is not *losing money* or, more impressively, *losing money and productivity* on the addition of the new hire.

          I’m sorry if someone has to move on from any employers, let alone 2 or 3 or more, because they are toxic. I’m doubly sorry if that costs them opportunities. But I can’t tell that person from the person who just gets bored and moves on, or who isn’t a good worker, or who takes whatever they can get knowing they’ll move on, or who creates toxic environments themselves. That’s a lot of things to risk on someone who might be a victim, or might be a costly, bad match for the company.

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        We told the millennials that if they went to college, they could be anything they wanted and they’d have a career.

        I’m considered a millennial (just barely, though, as I was born in 1980 and graduated in 1998), and I never heard anyone tell me this. Not once. I was told that if I got a college degree I had a better chance of getting a good job– but it was NOT a guarantee. I was also told that if I needed to take student loans out, to make sure I didn’t take too many, because the payments could be devastating– and when I did take some (less than $10,000) out in grad school, I was required to take entrance and exit counseling and was told what my payment would be after I graduated. I chose to major in English, knowing that it wasn’t super marketable, so I made sure to do my emphasis in something that would be marketable– editing. And I’ve used that skill in every single job I’ve ever had.

        Maybe some people out there told millennials to just get a college degree and everything would be fine, but it wasn’t a message I ever heard. And if I had, I wouldn’t have believed it. Nothing in life is guaranteed like that.

        1. Jubilance

          I think you’re the exception Emily. I’m at the late end of the Millenial generation like you – I graduated from HS in 2000 – and one thing that sticks out from my childhood is the idea that everyone HAD to go to college. For context, I grew up in a town dominated by GM plants, where families with only HS diplomas were solidly middle class. But it was already clear in the 90s that the “good times” of manufacturing were over & the mantra was “go to college & you can write your own ticket”. There was never any talk about student loans or how to pay for college, it was just “get to college”.

          1. Lizzie

            Agreed. I also went to a high school with 3400 students and, like, 6 guidance counselors, so the college guidance process was basically, “Go to college. Remember to turn in your applications on time. Next student please!” Could I have done more research about majors, careers, loans, etc. on my own? Yeah, probably – but I really didn’t understand the value of doing so because the entire process was so mysterious and overwhelming to begin with.

        2. Mike C.

          I certainly heard it a lot, from teachers, my parents (who only had a bit of community college experience) and plenty of other adult authority figures.

          Not to mention that many of them then said things like “you don’t want to grow up and be a burger flipper, do you!?” then now say things like, “what, you’re too good to be a burger flipper?!”

          1. BJ

            I think it also depends on where you grew up. I come from a poor community and believe me, recruiters crawled the campus talking to juniors and seniors ALL THE TIME telling the poor kids that the only way to get out of being poor was by going to a four year college or going into the military. A lot of kids in our school signed up for the army just for the chance to have an opportunity. But I guess that’s another conversation entirely.

          2. AnonTwentySomething

            I’m a 1987 kid and I can’t tell you how many times my peers and I were told ‘so, you’re going to flip burgers at McDonalds for the rest of your life like a loser huh?’ and now get questioned why we don’t want to apply for fast food jobs when we fall on hard times. Because our parents made it quite clear when we were growing up they’re be utterly ashamed of us if we were working in McDonalds after high school?

    3. Mike C.

      Why do you feel like this is an age thing? The rest of the comment is a perfectly reasonable position to hold, but I’m not sure why you feel this is a “Boomer” issue.

        1. AVP

          I am definitely a Millennial and scrutinize this when hiring. I think it’s less of an age or generational issue than hiring managers (often further along in their careers) trying to explain to job applicants what we’re seeing and thinking.

          1. AVP

            Reading down further, I also think there’s a mistaken perception about the aims of hiring managers. My job is to get the best person into the right job, for the good of the company and its shareholders/stakeholders/donors/grant-giving institutions, so that we can do the best work and fulfill our mission, whether it be to make money or create things or something altruistic. I try to be fair when I hire, and consider as many people as I can, but my job isn’t to provide a temporary home for an unemployed person who’s going to bail on me immediately, or give someone a chance who hasn’t satisfactorily demonstrated why they deserve it – those people harm the mission, not help it. (Which is terrible for the unemployed people, I know, but we’re just at odds here and all hoping the economy will get better.) I’m not trying to discriminate or force people to stay in jobs that they hate, I’m just saying, this is what we look for and why, and it’s better for everyone to be on the same page about it when looking for a new job so it doesn’t surprise you later or come back to haunt you.

            1. Jax

              I love this explanation.

              It’s also good for applicants to realize that their competition is always changing. One job may have a pool of qualified resumes so the hiring manager can look at details like time at each job and narrow the pool down further. Another company might only get a few resumes and can’t afford to be as picky–or it may not even cross the hiring managers mind to look at that because he’s focused on another quality.

              It’s also interesting to flip this whole debate and remind “job hoppers” that we probably wouldn’t fit well with a company culture that places a big value on SOLID WORK LOYALTY. We don’t agree, or else we wouldn’t be moving on and moving up with other companies.

      1. AnonTwentySomething

        Because in my experience, people my age are much more open to job hopping, rather than finding a company to work at for 40 years and get a handshake and a gold watch when they retire.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Come on. I don’t know anyone of any age who is still in the group you describe (work 40 years at the same company). I think you’re setting up a straw man here.

          1. AnonTwentySomething

            I watched my father get laid off from a company he’d practically be married to for 30 years because they decided to lay off older employees since they were getting paid higher. That’s why I really don’t care for this expectation of job loyalty. Employers don’t show it. Why should they try and demand it?

              1. AnonTwentySomething

                Not really, I just think a lot of people here are just content to take a power imbalance between employers/employees having the ability to change situations lying down and that saddens me. I wish less people took the ‘yeah it sucks but it is the way it is’ approach because maybe then, society would change a bit.

                1. CaliCali

                  As an oldish Millennial, I don’t think anyone is taking anything lying down. I think we’re talking about basic business practice. No one is obligated to hire anyone — there IS a power imbalance, because they are choosing to pay you money for your work! But a power imbalance doesn’t mean you’re totally powerless. I agree that you should get out of jobs that are a bad fit, but after serial job hopping, suddenly your resume is painting the story that you are the bad bet. And I’m speaking as someone whose last job transition was exactly for the reasons you’re talking about (mistreatment, bad work environment) — but my relatively strong and stable record of employment prior to that gave me the power I needed to make that change when it was necessary.

                2. Koko

                  I think you may have “bad job PTSD” that is skewing your perception. You’re assuming that the vast majority of employers are bad actors. I think you’ve overestimating the prevalence. There are certainly a lot of bad employers out there, but there are plenty of good ones, too.

                  My company, for instance, is notorious for pretty much never firing people (even when they should). As a corollary, we’re also notorious for hiring at the speed of a snail and reposting a job ad for months and months because none of the candidates are quite what we want. We don’t want to get stuck with someone who’s a bad fit. And of course, that only makes us more wary of someone who will quit less than a year into the position. It would probably take us another six months to hire a replacement if they quit, after we already spent six months hiring the first person and another six months getting them up to speed.

                  Good companies like mine are selective about who we hire, but we don’t abuse the people we do hire. The two things are not both a given.

                3. Joey

                  It’s simple supply and demand my friend. Become in demand and you can move the balance of power. I know a few friends whose employers have gone to some extremes to keep or hire them.

          2. Hillary

            For what it’s worth, that describes at least 30% of my coworkers. At this point almost everyone over 15 years will be working for the company until they hit their magic number for the pension (which I don’t have, the benefits changed for new hires before I came on board). Our employer is one of the biggest in the area and pays at the upper end for no HS degree. The last set of seniority-based layoffs hit people who’d been with the company since the 80s.

            I’d love to be a fly on the wall during the succession planning meetings.

            1. Hillary

              oops, I meant no college degree. although we employ HS, GED or equivalent experience in a lot of jobs.

            2. Mike C.

              Are we talking about a largish manufacturing firm with, say, a very very large plant north of Seattle?

          3. Julie

            I left my last job because it was like that. Everyone was a lifer or you left before two years. The reason people became lifers is the lovely retirement packages, the flexible work schedules, the chance to advance and grow in your career, and the knowledge your job was protected even if your boss changed.

            By the time I got there it was the kind of place that didn’t have good retirement options but the lifers had the packages. There was no opportunity to advance because everyone was squatting in a job they no longer enjoyed but recognized that every year they stayed on means thousands of more in that retirement account. Flexible schedules were for those people as well because we needed adequate staffing so if you were there for under 5 years you were out of luck. The only thing we had left was job protection which didn’t feel like such a perk when it was used to keep people who slept on the job or insulted the boss to the media.

            The worst part was knowing it wasn’t isolated to this employer because so many people told me they recognized that in their own job. I’m at a point where I’m staying on at jobs for “just enough”. I’ve given so much loyalty to jobs that never pass up the chance to screw me over but I take it because I still believe up until the day I can’t deny it anymore that maybe they’re better than I think. The worst part is that my husband has an awesome employer who treats him well and doesn’t hire spouses in the same area so I’m stuck seeing how great it could be but knowing I came into an industry just different enough that I never expect to see that kind of reward and appreciation.

          4. badger_doc

            Actually, Alison, the company I currently work for has lots of people in the 25+ year group, some in the 30+ year group and even a couple at 40 and 45 years of service! They do exist and they do get the gold watch! However I think they are getting to a turning point where they are realizing that they need to focus on innovation and hire some younger, more diverse employees, which they have done over the past two years. But they do exist!!

          5. Mike C.

            There are tons of these folks where I work, though I recognize my experience is becoming more and more rare.

          6. B

            There are people who have been working at my organisation longer than I’ve been alive. I am 38 :-o

            Our place is VERY unusual though.

    4. BRR

      I think (as a millennial) there’s a logical reason behind frowning at job hoppers. If someone changes jobs every six months I won’t want to hire them because why go through the hiring process and training if they’re just going to leave. Flipping the situation around would you accept a position in which the past 4 people were fired after six months? Turnover is costly so there’s a reasonable explanation why employers don’t want to hire job hoppers.

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think this is missing the point. It’s about making the best decisions you can for yourself, with a full understanding of how they might affect you in the future. Understanding when an action might limit your future options is a really helpful thing. You still might weigh all the factors and decide it’s worth doing anyway – but you need to understand what the possible consequences are so that you can make good decisions for yourself. That protects your quality of life in the long run.

      It’s not about “right” or “wrong.” It’s about making knowledgeable choices.

      As for why employers dislike job hoppers in the first place, it’s exactly what MT said — employers don’t have the same incentive to invest in people who seem likely to leave in a year as they do in people with a track record of stability. You might find that unfair, but it’s a pretty rational assessment.

      1. AnonTwentySomething

        What I struggle to reconcile is that if an employer thinks a new hire isn’t working out, it is much easier and less damaging to their reputation to find a reason to cut them loose. If an employee asks all the right questions but the job is still a bad fit (it happens…when you’re interview by different people than you’ll work for, when you’re told work/life balance is a thing in the interview but it isn’t, when they relocate their office 6 months later and your commute just doubled etc), they basically have to stick it out even if it’s hell in case they get the ‘job hopper’ tag. It feels unbalanced and unfair.

          1. AnonTwentySomething

            And that’s why it needs to change. Why should we allow something so unbalanced and unfair to change? If we keep discriminating against job hopping, more employees will be forced to pop Xanaxs and stick out toxic jobs because of the simplistic ‘job hopping = bad’ mentality.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Hiring managers aren’t going to start ignoring something that they know brings value to the roles they’re hiring for (stability and a willingness to stick around for a few years), nor should they. That’s unrealistic and impractical. Your best bet is to understand what employers value and why and factor that into your decision-making for yourself.

              You’re being really hyperbolic here and ignoring everything people are explaining to you.

              1. AnonTwentySomething

                It’s just frustrating because what you’re saying is basically why employers get away with crapping on their employees. No wonder so many people my age are already disillusioned with the workforce. Maybe employers need to think about making their companies the kind of places people WANT to stick around for a few years, instead of just telling people ‘job hopping bad, suck it up kids’.

                1. Colette

                  I don’t believe most employers are out to abuse or take advantage their employees. Some are, certainly, but I don’t believe it’s a majority.

                  In my experience, employers reward people who work hard, take initiative, and understand that the reason they’re getting paid is because sometimes they have to do stuff they would rather not do.

                  If you find the majority of employers are out to take advantage of their employees, what are you doing to help yourself choose jobs at companies who don’t? What signs did you miss the last time? What questions could you have asked? How did you investigate the company’s reputation?

                  Also, what could you have done differently once you were in the job? Where were the disconnects between what you and your employer? What tasks did you hate doing, and what did you like?

                2. Chriama

                  But the solution to the problem “what to do about crappy work environments” isn’t “hire people even if they seem like job-hoppers”. Alison explained how everyone gets 1 freebie. If you need more than 1, then in a hiring manager’s mind the worst case is you’re flaky or uncommitted, and best case is that you aren’t doing a good job of choosing jobs that are the right fit (assessing the culture, speaking to people who would be your coworkers, asking acquaintances and friends, approaching interviewing as a 2-way street). As a hiring manager, why would you want to hire someone who jumps into any job without considering if it’s actually right for them? Even if you had valid reasons for leaving, after a few short-term stints it doesn’t matter anymore — no hiring manager wants an employee who’s going to leave after only a few months.

                3. Lily in NYC

                  I’ve been been keeping out of this thread, but I’ve had enough. Your lack of experience is really showing in everything you’ve written here. You aren’t even trying to look at it from a point of view other than yours. Most workplaces are not toxic. They might be boring or not perfect, but toxic is not as common as you seem to think it is. I think you should keep job hopping and see how it goes for you. Good luck with that.

                4. R2D2

                  Just my two cents, but I’m in my 30s and their description fits with basically every job I’ve ever had… maybe we can mark it up to class differences or something and leave off the personal criticisms. :-/

                5. Koko

                  +1 Chriama! I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this line of reasoning wasn’t jibing with me, but that’s it exactly: the proffeered solution (hire job hoppers) doesn’t address the stated problem (cruel/abusive employers).

                6. Koko

                  In fact, if anything, a reason why *some* employers get away with crapping on employees could be that employees who jump ship just create a vacancy and high churn in the labor market provides a constant influx of warm bodies to fill it. If folks were choosier about accepting an offer and didn’t move around in jobs so much, it’d be that much harder to find and sign a strong candidate, which would incentivize employers to treat their workers well enough to ensure they don’t leave. OTOH, if the last 5 people in the job just quit after a short while and the company has basically gotten used to thinking of it as a high-churn position, they may care less to prevent those people from leaving. See: most food service and retail jobs (where job hopping rarely hurts you!).

                7. Not So NewReader

                  Employers take a hit – just in ways that are not so obvious.

                  My friend went to unemployment. She worked at X and the company said she was irresponsible. The unemployment official said “Oh they fired you for stealing , right?” Then he went on to explain that the office consensus was it was not possible to hire so many thieves. Something was wrong with the company. Her unemployment got pushed through. It happens.

                  In another case an employer left an employee to work an 8 hour shift with no breaks. Being a rural area, many, many people know what happened and what this employer did. This employer has a hard time finding help and they are constantly advertising.

                  Employers that screw with employees do harvest what they have sown. Just because they don’t see it does not mean it is not there. And just because we don’t see it does not mean it is not there.

            2. Colette

              Why should it change? What’s in it for the employer?

              If you owned the business, how often would you want to have to hire for any one job?

        1. HR Manager

          They don’t have to stick it out, but those who do, may find that they have an easier story to tell to the prospective employers at an interview. As an employer, I am not interested in training someone every 6 months. Period. It’s unproductive and costly. If your history doesn’t give me confidence that you can contribute that way, then why should employers have to live with churn every 6 months? Just because millenials want to? The truth is, I’ve seen job-hopping resumes in my entire career in HR, spanning nearly 20 years. This is not a millenial thing- nor an anti-millenial sentiment. Past behavior is the best predictor of current/future behavior; I don’t think this tenet will go away anytime soon.

          Candidates have to convince the employer that s/he not only has the skills for the job, but that the candidate is worth the investment and will bring his/her loyalty. Yep, we pay for loyalty in addition to the work you produce. Does it always work out? Of course not, but for a candidate to demand that loyalty not be a factor in consideration seems unreasonable.

          Any candidate can say they’ve made a wrong decision 1x may be 2x (there are no hard fast rules here), but if you find yourself doing that 3, 4, or 5+ times…maybe candidates need to rethink how they interview, what they look for, the questions they ask, and how they make their career decisions.

        2. Anx

          I think that an employer really does have the right to make choices in their best interest, but there is no doubt in my mind that whether it’s maliciously intentioned or not, that employees are being discriminated. All of the advice on this blog is really just orientated toward individuals and won’t have an impact on unemployment, hunger, and poverty-related death and illness.

          It may help to think of it as trying to get a position to have a toehold into the work world and work to try to change things or at least alleviate the exploitation.

        3. BRR

          I think the process is inherently unbalance due to an employer paying you thousands of dollars. Yes you provide them a service but unless labor was incredibly short supplied it’s not going to change.

          That’s not to say it’s not fair but most of the time you want the money more than they want you.

    6. Koko

      “Let’s be real here, employers will not hesitate to lay you off if they want to move in a different direction, so why are employees made to feel at their mercy?”

      I don’t believe this to be true universally or even near-universally. Hiring and onboarding is a resource- and labor-intensive process for an employer. Some may be quicker to fire than others, but I think most *do* hesitate. If you can get an existing employee to improve, that’s much easier on the company than paying to post job ads, screening resumes, interviewing candidates, negotiating an offer, and onboarding and training a new employee. Not to mention there’s often a short-staffing situation after the worker is fired and before their replacement comes on.

      And those things that make companies reluctant to fire are also the reason they’re hesitant to hire a possible flight risk. It’s time-consuming and expensive to hire a new employee. Many companies don’t “break even” on the investments they make in a new hire until 1-2 years after they’ve started, depending on the role. They don’t want to hire someone who is going to cost them time and money and leave them right back where they started before the position has even become profitable for them.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yep. And frankly, far more employers don’t fire when they should (or are way slower than they should be), rather than firing/laying off too quickly.

  29. pomme de terre

    Ugh. I’m 11 months into a job that feels like a bad fit and I’ve been looking. I was at the last job for seven years, but I had two less-than-one-year jobs early in my career. My resume looks like this:

    May 2002 to May 2003 — Employer 1
    May 2003 to February 2005 — Employer 2
    February 2005 to December 2005 — Employer 3
    December 2005 to December 2013 — Employer 4
    December 2013 to present — Employer 5.

    I guess I have a bad history of having rebound jobs instead of rebound boyfriends. :/ I hope the most recent seven-year stint counts for something.

    1. CTO

      Employer 1 was over 10 years ago. Could you take that one off of your resume to draw more attention to your longer gigs?

      1. pomme de terre

        I guess so, but then I’d have to explain the gap between the year I graduated from college (2002) and the year I started working.

        1. CTO

          When that was over twelve years ago, no one cares about that gap! At some point people stop putting every single job on their resumes, so gaps between their graduation year and work trajectory naturally come up. I really don’t think anyone’s even going to notice, much less care.

          Unless Employer 1 was really awesome, prominent, or you were tremendously accomplished there (and considering it was a one-year job right after college you probably weren’t), leaving it on there isn’t doing you any favors. It’s cluttering your resume and distracting from your more recent accomplishments and longer-term jobs.

        2. Janelle

          Also, remove the year of your graduation from the resume! You graduated sufficiently long enough that it’s not needed.

          (This is late, but in case anyone comes across it in the future.)

    2. Malissa

      I’m right there with you. Short job, Long Job, Short Job, Long Job, and now I’m looking after 17 months. (I started looking last year).

      It seems like I hit a good fit on every other job.

    3. Jax

      “After 7 years, I wanted to see what else was out there. Unfortunately, my current job doesn’t allow me to do _____ (insert work-specific task) like I thought it would. I’m looking for a job that will allow me to do that, and I’m really looking for a place that I can call ‘home’, you know?”

      It’s a bit corny, but every time I’ve told an interviewer that I’m looking for a home, they smile and get really bright eyed and interested.

    4. plain jane

      As a person looking at a resume, it isn’t too much of a red flag. In addition to thinking about dropping Employer 1 (I’ve dropped off my first two employers from my resume because of space and basic irrelevance), you could also do:
      2002 to 2003 — Employer 1
      2003 to 2005 — Employer 2
      2005 to 2013 — Employer 4
      2013 to present — Employer 5

      (Keep everything on LinkedIn because they show the months)

      1. Tasha

        This, exactly. Omit the short term job in 2005. Something I picked up from this site: your resume is a marketing document for you. You are not lying to show this:
        2003 to 2005 — Employer 2
        2005 to 2013 — Employer 4
        on your resume. I have a job for which I do exactly that, although it went from October of year x to March of x+1. I just show one job ending in x, and the next next job that started in year x + 1. And you do not have to display months in LinkedIn.

        1. pomme de terre

          The 2005 job was for a company that has some cache in my area and has been critical to my professional network, so I wouldn’t want to nix that one. I learned a lot there; it just had an insane off-hours schedule that wasn’t for me. I left on good terms and did some contract work for the company after I left as a full-time employee.

          I was just worried about Allison’s assertion that you can only do this ONCE and now I’ve done it twice and am thinking about doing it three times. I’ve worked primarily in media and tech, two professions that do have greater forgiveness when it comes to turnover than some others, but I’m probably going to have to answer the question at some point.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      eh, Employer 4 is what would stand out to me.

      Is 3 necessary? I wouldn’t think anything about the gap between 2 and 4, since 4 was then 7 years long.

      I agree with Alison that mostly “you get one” but when you are young-ish and you have one job that was 7 years, that looks stable to me. The Employer 5 move is the one that will need some finessing.

      *Personally*, if you removed 3 and were at 5 for 1.5 years or as close to 2 as possible my first glance impression would be of a stable person who is will work a long term at an employer she likes. Your mileage with others may vary.

      1. pomme de terre

        Employer #3 was a company that has some cache in my area and has been critical to my professional network, so I wouldn’t want to nix that one. I learned a lot there; the actual position just had an off-hours schedule that wasn’t for me. I left on good terms and have done contract work for the company after I left as a full-time employee.

        I’m closing in on a year at #5, so hopefully it won’t look too weird! Also, there’s a fair amount of buzz that Employer #5 may be an acquisition target, so that gives me a bit of a fig leaf as to why even a non-job-hopper would at least test the job market (ie, layoffs may be coming).

    6. J-nonymous

      My suggestion is to drop the first role. Depending on what you do, it’s less likely that the experience you got 12 years ago is directly relevant to the position you’d be applying for today. That makes your resume seem more balanced with one ‘short term’ position.

      You also don’t need to put the year you got your college degree on your resume. It will likely become necessary if you’re going through any background checks (if they validate degrees, etc). But otherwise, it’s not required. After I passed 40, I stopped putting any jobs I had that ended over 10 years ago, and I took the year of my BA off my resume.

  30. KC

    I left my last job after 1 year 8 months to pursue what (at the time) seemed like a really exciting opportunity. 1 month in, I was sure it wasn’t the job for me. 6 months in, I decided that I just couldn’t “stick it out” for another year and a half for the sake of my resume story. It means that I need to stay in the job I’m about to start longer, but I’ve accepted that. At the end of the day, your resume story is important but so is your heath and happiness.

  31. Bobotron

    This has always been really hard for me because I AM a job hopper. I started working at 16 years old, and 16 years later, I’m now on my 23rd job. Now, a lot of these were part-time jobs (and there were times when I worked 3 part-time jobs at once) and they aren’t all listed on my resume. But I probably had 10 jobs listed on my resume when I got my current job and had only been at my last job 1 1/2 years and the previous job was 8 months etc. I think it’s clear from my resume though that I’ve been continually moving up and even though my jobs may have only lasted a short time, I have gained a ton of amazing experience from all those jobs. It’s crazy, and I’m definitely worried about it hurting me at some point, but so far I’ve been able to get a new job when I want one. I really struggle with getting bored at jobs after a while. I like to come in and “fix” things and make things run smoother and then peace out to the next place that I can help.

    Also, most of the places I’ve worked didn’t pay well, offered very small raises, and I had no way to move up in the organization.

  32. Noelle

    Since it’s election day, I thought I’d mention what it’s like in politics, which has some of the most perverse views of job hopping and loyalty. In a best case scenario, you could do everything right and be out of a job anyway – your boss loses an election or switches committees , someone else messed up and they need a fall guy, the office needs to hire someone else and needs your salary to do it, etc. We work for insanely low pay with next to no recognition (or benefits, unfortunately), but loyalty is paramount in this industry. I certainly understand that, because if you’re a public official, having a staff you can trust is an essential part of the job.

    A lot of good offices try really hard to reward their staffers, and I’ve seen people stay with members of Congress for decades. But what ends up happening most of the time is that offices churn through employees (both from firing them and from just burning them out with work until they quit) and have trails of former staffers who leave after a year or even less. There’s a few offices that are notorious for staffers who are lucky to make it a couple of months. I once worked at a disaster job and quit after only 3 weeks.

    The most ridiculous thing though, is that even though it’s a well known fact that some offices do this, job hopping is always something you have to justify. A reasonable employer will understand it, but other offices refuse to hire you if you have shorter job stints, even if everyone who’s ever worked there has quit in less than a year, or even if you’re just really unlucky (I had a friend who had three jobs on the Hill, and all three of their bosses unexpectedly announced their retirements only a few months after my friend started).

    All that is to say, loyalty is important and job hopping can be problematic, but there are some industries where there are external factors that have nothing to do with employees being flighty, and there can be a bias there.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      Thanks for sharing– I always hear about the resignations and political turnover, but I guess I assumed that some of the staff just…came with the office? Or were on retainer for the politician? Obviously this isn’t something I’ve thought about much, but it’s crazy to think that so many jobs depend on one person!

      1. Noelle

        If a politician loses an election, ALL of the staff are out of jobs. The person who won may keep some people on board, but it’s uncommon to keep more than a few. Same with committee staff – they’ll usually keep some of the old staff, but you basically lose your job and have to re-interview with the new people.

  33. Pinky the NPO director

    Another thing to consider if you have a terrible work environment is that other groups probably already know it’s a terrible place to work. So say you are working with the homeless, the other agencies doing the same work all know each other have opinions so they know it’s a difficult place to work. Not saying that it is a reason to job hop, but when I see resumes from certain organizations I know why they are looking for a new job.

  34. meesh101089

    media is another field where jumping the shark is ok… I’m a 2011 grad and I’m on my 3rd job currently. I spent 1.5 years at job 1 and 1 year 3 months (worst job ever) at job 2! Only 1x during active interviewing has someone actually said something about my track record in an actual interview.

    However, that being said– I plan on staying here for a while because I like it a lot and I feel like I do actually ened some stability in my work history LOL

    1. Spooky

      That’s what I’m thinking too! It depends on which part of the media, but I’ve had about 7 jobs in the past 2 1/2 years. But several of those were production, which fall into the contract/limited term category.

  35. Virgo

    Just wondering what people’s opinions on resumes featuring related or relevant work experience are? When I was graduating, school advisors recommended using a related work experience format instead of a chronological format. Obviously, for recent grads, you’re not going to have a work history other than retail or food services, so using that relevant work experience format shows what you’ve done (internships, volunteering, etc.) that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

    But is this just a recent grad allowance? In the working world, will this relevant experience format not be accepted because there are obviously gaps in your history and people will wonder what else you did? Also, if you’re working in retail or food services just to have some income while you jobhunt and that takes months, should you put that on your resume or leave that out (and have a gap in your timeline)?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ignore the school advisors who told you that. Hiring managers want chronological resumes; functionally-organized ones look like you’re hiding something and make it hard to really understand your experience.

  36. Relosa

    This is hard because I left my last job after a year – started as an internship and then I just couldn’t leave because surprise surprise, crappy job market. Additionally things were inexcusably dysfunctional and ended with not only me being openly harassed and threatened but literally being told by the HR director they wouldn’t do anything about it.

    At current job, the open harassment and threats are pretty much the only things NOT happening, and I’m moving. I’ve been here for just over a year, but ugh I know it’s going to suck because I look like a job-hopper and I can’t, of course, tell people “yeah my boss makes creepy sexual advances at every brunette woman who works for him and then has no idea how to actually lead a team so I get punished for doing things exactly as he told me to do,” or “I was pinned in a chair, stalked during the day at work, had threats made against me and then my HR told me to my face they weren’t going to do anything about it or gave me any option to transfer, plus I was required to be available for overtime they wouldn’t give me and I wasn’t making enough money to live on. Not to mention I was required to do things that were illegal and put my reputation at risk since I was the person responsible for fulfilling the fraudulent tasks”

    Sigh.

    This is why I’m moving to LA. I already know I look like a job hopper and I can’t actually say “No seriously, my last employers were INSANE and that’s why I want to work for you because I actually like it here and I want to get myself settled in for a longer assignment.”

    I just want a relatively sane functional workplace in my field that pays me actually enough to live on and doesn’t make me feel like every move I make will get me fired.

    Blahhhhhhhhh

    1. Spooky

      It’s amazing and sad that a job that fits such basic qualifications is so hard to find. Best of luck to you!

  37. Ali

    I do understand the stigma in a way. I graduated in 2008 (ugh!) and worked odd jobs for two years before finding my niche in my field of communications, and I’ve now been at the company for four years with one promotion. Even though I have that, I wonder how it looks when I leave off my jobs from 2008-2010. One I was laid off from because of the economy (and it was made clear to me that it was not based on performance…I guess I just got chosen at random), the other I got let go b/c of a bad fit and then the other two were retail/food service to fill in the gaps. None of these positions are relevant to the work I’m looking for now. Should I still include them as “other experience” with no job descriptions so employers don’t think I did nothing for two years? Or will my work from 2010-today suffice?

    1. A.

      I think you’re fine. Anyone with a pea-sized brain knows what happened to the job market in 2008. If I were an interviewer, I would just assume you struggled to find employment after graduation or that you worked retail, which a lot of new graduates do. I think your 2010-today work is good enough.

  38. Spooky

    This is something I’ve been curious about lately. I’d always heard the “one year” rule, but at my current company, turnover is so high that they begin collecting resumes to replace people after about four months, and my boss made it from the bottom to a directorial role in just a year and a half. Average turnover here is between six and eight months (I was stunned, to say the least.) In fact, the more I look on LinkedIn, the more I’m seeing people staying at jobs for between four and eight months.

    Is it my industry (media and pr?) Is it the city (NYC?) Has anyone else experienced this?

    1. AVP

      That seems like an extreme example but media/pr in NYC does seem to have one of the fastest burn-through rates of anything I’ve seen. (The others are tech and certain parts of fashion.)

  39. hnl123

    jump ship now!
    I left my previous job after 6 months for something better because the company was such a…. dysfunctional place.
    SO much happier I left.
    I am a millennial, and have never made it to the 2 year mark on anything…..
    In between moving, grad school, moving again, layoffs…. I think 2-3 years is about average in my group of friends. Many have shorter stints as well. The MOST I know of in my age group friends is 4 years.
    As long as you have sell-able skills and can kill it on the interview, I’ve not had a problem.

  40. Iro

    Can you leave this role and not put it on your resume? Is there anything else you have been doing that could “fill the gap” like freelance, part-time, or volunteering work?

  41. Dasha

    My first job 1.5 years (grant based and grant did not get renewed)
    Second job was 1 year (I had to work part time somewhere else on weekends because it paid so low and did not offer health insurance)
    Third job 2 years (company was restructured and my position was eliminated but did have insurance and a decent salary)
    Fourth job (now) I’ve been here close to a year but they company was just sold and they are already laying off people

    Is it better to look like a job hopper or not have a job? :(

    1. KJR

      I would not consider you a job hopper, 3 out of those 4 weren’t even your decision, and I don’t know anyone who would fault you for the one that was.

  42. Dasha

    *the company was just sold

    And I also moved for this job and hate the area to make matters worse! *sigh*

  43. AvonLady Barksdale

    I left my first job out of grad school after 7 months– it was a junior position for which I was seriously overqualified and I had an abusive boss. I moved to a different division of the company at the next level up. At the time, I was TERRIFIED I’d be seen as a job-hopper, but I stayed there for over 8 years and I learned many years later that no one cared that I went from Division A to Division B. The same company signed my checks for over 8 years.

    I’ve been in my current position for 15 months and I just got a job offer this morning. I was kind of worried that the short length of time would be a hindrance, and I banked on the whole, 8+ years at one place makes up for 1 year at another. As it turned out, the company that made me the offer got it immediately– I had expectations and goal for my new role after leaving my old company, and those expectations were not met. I had my final interview yesterday and the interviewer basically said, “OK, forget about your current job– let’s go back to when you worked at Huge Media Company.” It was a relief.

    I do think it’s important to give most jobs a chance. In my current role, I was bored silly for 3 months and considered looking, but I stuck it out. It got marginally better, so I hung on some more, expecting it to get even better. It didn’t, so I sought out other opportunities, but I can walk away knowing that I gave it my best. My “little” cousin– she’s nearly 30– once called me and said she was having huge problems with her boss, and she asked my advice. She had been at the job for 6 months. I gave her some tips and advised her to step back and take a few breaths, and she ended up staying there for 5 years. This doesn’t count for abusive situations, of course.

  44. Trixie

    Imagine all the retirement funds folks are missing out on because they’re changing jobs before becoming more fully vested.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      That’s becoming less and less of an issue, though, as companies change their plans. I had a pension plan at my old company but they put an end to it. And there are other ways to build retirement funds, like IRAs, that more people should be encouraged to open (in my opinion, anyway).

    2. Margaret

      Maybe, or maybe not. It depends on the employer – I was fully vested from day one at all but one of my employers.

    3. CTO

      All of my employers have vested me from day one except one. There I wasn’t vested until 12 months (and with low pay and low employer contribution, no less) and they laid me off after 13.5 months. But hey, the job I’ve moved on to from that has an AMAZING retirement plan, I was vested from day one, and I’m rapidly catching up on that year of lost contributions.

  45. Jubilance

    With most things, this conversation is all about nuance. People have already mentioned that there are certain industries where moving often is the norm. It can also be the norm when you have a set of skills that are in demand. It may also be your corporate culture. My current company advertises to prospective external hires how it’s very common that people change roles every 18 – 24 months, and it’s a plus for folks who want the opportunity to move around and do different things without changing companies & risking the “job hopper” label.

    Incidently, yesterday I updated my LinkedIn profile with my new position, and I looked at my length of tenure at each job, which is:
    Company 1 – 3 years, 6 months
    Company 2 – 2 years 8 months
    Company 3 – 2 years 2 months

    My new role is still with Company 3. Hmm…maybe I’m a job hopper too!

    1. Whippers

      I don’t see how your job history would make you a job hopper in anyway. Especially by Alison’s definition of the term.

    2. Vicki

      I worked for a company where the HR people were “surpised” by anyone who stayed more than 5 years. They didn’t expect it. They thought it was unusual and odd, and”just not the done thing”.

  46. B

    When I had been working for about three years, I did a training course. The woman leading it said that if you stayed in a job for more than two years, THAT was a Huge Red Flag.

    At that point I had stayed in my first job 2 years, then moved cities to go to that job which I stayed in 3 years. I then moved cities again to take a fixed term contract for 9 months which I stayed in for 8 mo (frustratingly it was made permanent the week I left – I would have stayed if they could promise me that but their HR dragged their heels too long). Next job 2 years, then next job 3 y, then next/current job seven years. Same grade, same job although duties have shifted somewhat. I am taking voluntary redundancy in March to shift to a very different job role (hopefully).

    I thought until I started reading this website she was right. :-/

    Question 1 – is this always true of secretarial/admin jobs? Most people I know shift jobs a lot in that area.
    Question 2 – will my three and seven year stays counteract any concerns about the always-short stays before that?

  47. Anon for this.

    This is something I am a bit worried about. After finishing my MA, I had two six months internships (both full time, one paid, one unpaid). After that, I couldn’t find paid work in my field, and took a job as a supply teacher (six months) while saving up money to go abroad (Conflict/development field). I did a short (unpaid) stint in Developing Country A, but then I was offered a job in Developing Country B. I have been here for almost five months now, and I’m already looking to leave. I have several reasons: My partner is leaving the country (and I am hoping to follow him). The organization is dysfunctional. My manager is awful. The job is not what I want to do (I knew this going in, but I’m learning useful skills).

    I’m wondering whether the fact that it’s in development might help me. A lot of people that I know do this sort of ‘job-hopping’ in their early careers, and some do for many, many years!

    Any thoughts?

  48. Elizabeth Williams

    I always try to tell people that while job-hopping is a real concern to recruiters, leaving once isn’t job-hopping. It’s a pattern of job-hopping that’s concerning.

    I also think it’s way more important to find a job you can love, rather than worrying about job-hopping.

    1. Bailando!

      Just a thought…finding that job you love may become more difficult as a history of job-hopping builds.

  49. Marina

    May I make a request for an article on avoiding ‘rebound jobs’? I love this phrase that one of the posters above has used. It sums up some of the jobseeking decisions I’ve made and those of several people I can think of, but I’d never thought of it in those terms before.

    I know it’s something I need to work on and would really appreciate Alison’s expert advice.

  50. Jake

    The job hopping articles floating around the internet always worried me until I started looking at my specific industry. I’m in an industry that is 100% project based (construction) where it is common to work on a project-to-project basis or to work for the same company and hop from project to project. I used to read all these job hopping things about how 4 jobs in 6 years will kill you and what-not (which is not my current scenario, but easily could have been)… The key is understanding your industry and having a fitting explanation in case it is needed. AAM’s advice is great because she always qualifies it by saying that the industry norms may vary.

  51. Vicki

    “You can only do it once with impunity.”

    I’m thinking there should be a time limit here, for example, you can only do it once every 10 years or something like that.

    Say you get a job and stay for 4 years, then a job that doesn’t work and it’s < 1 year, then the next one is good and you stay for 6, then another 4, I'd think it would be OK to have another mistake after that.

    Oddly enough, from looking at myself and friends of mine, it seems more likely to get caught in a "uh oh not what I expected" after you've come off of a long run.

    1. Whippers

      Yeah, I mean at the end of the day very few people have a “perfect” job history. I think a few anomalies over the course of an otherwise solid job history shouldn’t cause too many problems with reasonable employers.

  52. Former Professional Computer Geek

    Young(er) guys in the computer fields get away with job hopping all the time. When I was in my 30s I was constantly competing for jobs with men in their 20s. Being female is hard enough in the technical world; female and disabled is a double whammy. I used to live in a relatively small city where social gatherings meant everyone in the field either knew each other or knew them through a friend.

    Three times in a row a job opening was down to me and one specific guy, the same one each time, who was 10 years younger and able, but a job hopper. He rarely lasted more than a year (I think his longest was 2 whole years). Every time he interviewed he swore up and down that this was THE job for him, the one that would make him settle down and stop job hopping. The employers always bought it – even when he was returning to a company in a different division! – and every time he would tell a mutual friend how he was picked over me not just because of gender but because the employer didn’t want to deal with potential “accommodations.” (Illegal, yes, but unprovable.) About a year later we’d find ourselves both top candidates for another job, while he’d cry on my shoulder about how I’d “dodged a bullet” and how awful was the last job I’d lost out to him.

  53. Brigitte

    I just wanted to add that it’s not only retail jobs where job hopping is seen as normal. In PR it’s typical for people to hop every 1-2 years when they’re starting out. It’s well known that job hopping is the only way that you’re going to command a great salary (not to mention a livable wage), and a lot of agencies are set up to churn-and-burn their lower level people.

  54. JMC

    I work in a field where it’s very common to work as a contractor with positions lasting sometimes as short as 90 days. I’m a tech and marketing writer and I’ve held a part time position in an unrelated field (as a driver at a boarding school) for for years to supplement my income and I’m really not sure how to work it into my resume, plus my area is still recovering from the recession so I’ve been freelancing for the past six years, and it seems to have really hurt getting called for permenant, full time positions.

  55. De Minimis

    In general, how long would you have to remain at a job to overcome a bad job history [series of short stays, short-term jobs, long term gaps between jobs, etc..] I’ve been at my current job just over 2 years but still feel like I’m not going to be as good as other candidates due to my spotty work history.

    I’ve seen a surprising amount of job hopping among federal employees, we had a guy start here and leave a month later for another agency.

  56. T M White

    I have a question. I’m a contract worker. I’m currently on an assignment at a company and My contract gets renewed every few months. I’ve been at this company for over a year and I’m ready to move on to something else. Can the employment agency find me something else, while I’m still under contract at my current assignment?

  57. Justin

    It really, really depends on the industry and the role. In a well defined profession at a relatively well organized, stable organization, where extensive training is par for the course, then sure, leaving after a short stint looks bad because the organization invested in you amd expected you to stick around for a bit.

    For instance, my friend’s brother is an underwriter at an insurance company. Underwriting is a fairly static job, he works at a stable company with well defined processes and systems, and he went through several months of training before he could do much of anything. If he left soon after training that would be a major mistake and he might want to consider a different profession.

    Healthcare, manufacturing, government, larger non profits, etc….these usually have defined processes that don’t change much and that you have to get down pat before you can really work. Companies also tend to be more stable so they don’t expect much change in the next few years and want you to be a part of the organization for awhile. Operational and support/administration functions like HR, accounting, IT also have more defined processes, actual training, and with that the expectation that you’ll stick around for a bit.

    With more creative, less stable jobs, like software development, marketing, training (ironically), advertising, etc. there often isn’t much training (you’re expected to use what you already know to produce results) and roles aren’t always well defined. Plus there is a lot of job insecurity and instability, with smaller firms, contracts, freelance, and other factors that lead to shorter tenures. I work in a field like that and although there are some people with long term, stable jobs, it’s just not as common.

  58. rajendar

    in my point of view it is not a sin to leave a job within one year , there is No loyalty matters here. let’s say one having 5 years exp leaving company leaves the job Actually he is the one not loyal to the company.

  59. Sam

    Very serious, relevant issue here. The biggest burning and zillion dollar question is what to do when you unfortunately run into multiple scenarios with such bad luck of encountering employers who act immaturely and worst with unethical behavior of drama, undermining, bullying, favoritism and no appreciation with worst of any laws or rules broken in any way? The worst is what to do when you do all you can, but sadly cannot change the perpetrators in power or have no control over them and you the good one taking action shall not suffer at all?

    How to tackle this without any stigma of being a job hopper and be hireable when you encountered worst, unfortunate scenarios of having to last in a job 3 or 4 months 3 different times in a year due to employer not taking action in stopping bad, unethical behavior from anybody or person in power won’t change at worst despite all you can do?

  60. Cody

    I’m in my early 30’s and have been in my role for just over 5 months now. I am taking a new offer. One of the biggest reasons I have is that my current role does require me to travel 22-26 weeks a year, as stated in the job description. With that said, my wife and I are expecting our first child, and I have missed some of our doctor appointments due to the fact that I was out of town. I also told my new employer that I don’t like complacency, which he understood. He was also very clear that given the role, there’s not much room for growth (it’s only 2 levels under COO) unless I am willing to work at our corporate office instead of being a field employee. I do jump from one position to another every 1-2 years but within the same organization; this is due to the fact that they would promote me. I also usually stay within the same organization for 3-4 years until I am recruited and offered a better opportunity. With millennials, it’s about trying to stay competitive. In general, we learn things quickly, and more so than other generations. We are quickly able to adapt. I’ve taken and mastered roles that were of baby boomers and was more efficient and effective. With that, as long as you have a very valid reason of leaving your job, do so. Just don’t burn any bridges as you might have to cross that someday.

  61. Sam

    I wonder of how to determine best path of peace and more stability whether it be always serving as a freelancer/consultant/contractor or running own business with you as boss as autonomy versus having to encounter the worst, unfortunate and unacceptable scenarios of superiors in jobs that bully or harass you with not respecting boundaries no matter how good you are and such won’t stop?

  62. Grace

    If I’ve worked as contractor for 2 years and then turned permanent, and then I leave 6 months after turning perm (for reasons of location), is that bad?

  63. Dee

    I took voluntary severance from a job I had for 30 years in a variety of positions, working my way up and gaining qualifications. I have never not worked and always been full time, with no breaks in my employment history. I have been in my new post almost 3 months and want to leave. I don’t like culture, there are jobs being cut, my manager is inexperienced. Its not what I expected. Would it be bad to hand in notice and leave and look elsewhere? I don’t think I can stay. Thanks

  64. Madison

    Hi Alison, what is your take on work place “bullying”? I put quotations because I don’t really know if it’s bullying. My bosses give me feedback on my work which isn’t the problem, but I can often hear them talking about me as a person and it’s not in good context. To make it worse, they say this in front of clients. I have been here 8 months and it’s been going on for the past 5 months. I don’t know if this is reason enough to start looking for other jobs or if future employers will think I was just being a baby about it. This is my first job out of college and I’m not sure how to go about this situation that will have a positive outcome. Thank you!

  65. jon

    sir
    I am doing job in saudi the company is sign 2 year job contract, and i want to leave the job in 8 month, with sum family problem, how to break the the contract , if i break the contract any panalties will pay form my side,and i am not happy with company,rouls and emplyees etc,so that please give good reply as per saudi labour law .

  66. jon

    sir
    I am doing job in saudi the company is sign 2 year job contract, and i want to leave the job in 8 month, with sum family problem, how to break the the contract , if i break the contract any panalties will pay form my side,and i am not happy with company rouls and emplyees and boss etc,so that please give good reply as per saudi labour law .

  67. Crayola

    Hi Allison,
    I’m currently about 4 months into my new job that was significantly misrepresented to me during the interview (and since hired, as well); what would be the best way to describe that situation during an interview when I asked why I’m looking to leave my current position so that it isn’t perceived that I’m speaking negatively of my current employer?

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