are you a job hopper?

For most people, gone are the days when they’d stay at a job for 20 years or more. Today, most people move around to multiple companies over the course of their careers. However, it’s possible to change jobs too frequently and get tagged with the “job hopper” label – which can make you look like a poor prospect to future employers.

Here’s what you need to know about how to avoid being labeled a job hopper.

What does job hopping mean? Hiring managers look at a candidate’s pattern: Is this someone who seems inclined to leave jobs quickly, or do they generally stay for at least a few years? In most fields, multiple stays of two years or less will look like job hopping. Particularly for mid-level to senior jobs, most hiring managers are looking for at least a few stays of four or five years or more.

Why is job hopping a problem? Savvy interviewers believe that the best predictor of how someone will behave in the future is how they’ve behaved in the past — their track record. So if someone has a pattern of leaving jobs relatively quickly, an interviewer will assume there’s a good chance they won’t stay long in a new position either. Since employers are generally hoping that anyone they hire will stay for at least a few years, a resume that shows little history of this is a red flag.

In fact, according to a survey last year from the recruiting software company Bullhorn, 39 percent of recruiters and hiring managers say that a history of job hopping is the single biggest obstacle for job-seekers.

Does this mean you have to stay at a job that you hate, just to avoid being labeled a job hopper? No. Leaving a job only becomes a problem when it’s a pattern. If you have one short-term stay on your resume, hiring managers are unlikely to care. It’s when it looks like your normal behavior that it becomes a problem. That means that you can leave a job quickly if it’s not for you – but that you can only do that once (or maybe twice) in your career without starting to raise concerns for prospective employers.

What about short-term contract jobs? Job hopping means that you’ve had multiple short-term stays that weren’t designed to be short-term stays. So short-term internships, temp work, contract jobs, campaign work, and anything else designed to be short-term from the start doesn’t look like job hopping. Just make sure that your resume makes it clear that these positions were designed to be short-term from the start, by noting “contract job” or something similar next to it.

Additionally, employers generally don’t mind shorter term stays in retail or food service jobs, and they’re used to seeing short-term jobs when you were in college.

Can you get hired if you look like a job hopper? Obviously job hoppers can and do continue to find jobs. But a history of job hopping can make your job search significantly harder and prevent you from getting the jobs you really want.

Isn’t this unfair, since companies are offering their employees less loyalty than before? Yes, companies that don’t offer their employees any loyalty do have a double standard when they expect it in return. But the reality is that they do it anyway, and you’ll be judged for job hopping. Sure, it’s not fair, but you need to be aware that it will be perceived as a negative.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 147 comments… read them below }

  1. Dee*

    I definitely have this problem, but not by choice. I held my first job out of college from 2001-2006. Then job #2 from 2007-2008, and I was laid off. Job #3 was a 6 month contract. Job #4 was from 2010-2011, and I was laid off. Job #5 was another 6 month contract.

    I note that the contract jobs were contracts!!! on my resume. Like this: Marketing Manager – 6 month contract – 2009. My problem seems to be that employers find it bizarre that I have been laid off twice. Both situations of my layoffs were out of my control, my jobs at both companies went to Europe.

    1. Ash*

      Do you tell the employers that you were laid off without explaining why? I would say something like, “The Chocolate Teapot Decorating Company moved [my call center/my department/whatever] overseas in 2008, and I was laid off.” Explain that the company moved your job before saying that you were laid off. Don’t give them the negative thing first, it’s all about psychology sometimes.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — also mentioning that your entire division was laid off is useful — making it clear it wasn’t just you (since if it was just you, employers will sometimes wonder if you were picked for a reason).

        1. gabrielle*

          Where would you include this information: resume or cover letter? How would you indicate a layoff on a resume?

            1. lucy*

              This is confusing advice: don’t look like a job hopper, but don’t explain your looks-like-a-job-hopper resume until the interview stage (assuming one puts down ‘contract’ next to a job, but doesn’t help with the ‘laid off’ problem).

              But it also sounds like a lot of employers are not going to bother interviewing someone who looks like a job hopper, so …..?

              1. Chinook*

                As a job hopper with a really good excuse (DH in military), I can tell you that you can get interviews, but you have to have a killer cover letter. Mine usually points out that I am good to adapting to new situations/industries. And it worked for me despite having a resume that made me, according to one employer, look like I was on the run from the law.

                1. Jamie*

                  This cracked me up. :)

                  I’m picturing you as Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde…if Bonnie was busy sending her resume out between robberies.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Lucy: Yeah, I’m not saying it’s an easy situation. There’s no magic answer to make it all go smoothly. I’m just here to tell you how employers look at this stuff, so that people can make more fully informed choices for themselves, or at least better understand challenges they might face.

    2. class factotum*

      Maybe treat the contract jobs as different consulting assignments?

      Example: Consultant, sales and marketing, 2008 – present
      * Client 1, accomplishments
      * Client 2, accomplishments
      * Client 3, accomplishments

      1. Christina*

        Contracting and consulting are definitely not the same thing. In the U.S., if you list “consultant” on your resume, you risk having to explain that no, you didn’t own your own consulting company, and yes, the contract house paid your taxes, etc. Be careful with this one!

  2. Dee*

    Oh yes I do! Companies actually seem to be okay with the layoffs, it’s the contract jobs that i feel they seem to not like. My most recent interview, I had an interviewer say, “So you’ve had two jobs that lasted only 6 months.” …hello! they were CONTRACT JOBS! And that is clearly stated on my resume. They seem to question why the contract jobs were not turned into full-time hire, and I explain that they were contract jobs because they were for large projects that the company did not have enough existing staff to manage the projects. **sigh**

    1. Sascha*

      That is odd. I see nothing wrong with contract jobs, but my workplace (university) often has a lot of contract jobs, because of grants and things like that. I wonder if the company’s culture influences their opinion of contract jobs. Maybe those companies don’t ever have contract jobs and therefore the hiring managers see contract jobs as less desirable? I’m sorry I don’t have anything helpful to offer other than just keep framing your jobs in a positive way, which is what it sounds like you are doing.

      1. Anonymous*

        Agreed. I would think that a smart interviewer would know that you couldn’t control the hiring or economic vitality of the companies that you were working for. So that could be a red flag on their part anyway (if they were the hiring managers, HR people are different because they generally don’t specialize in certain occupations).
        Maybe you could list it on your resume as “temporary contract” and hope that they’ll understand that temporary is not the same as “contract for hire”.
        Good luck! Keep looking, there is something out there for you!

    2. Allison*

      Dee, I wonder if the contract jobs put off hiring managers because the job seeker looks like they prefer contract jobs, and may not be capable of settling down into a permanent role. Even if they’re expressing interest in a long term/permanent role, they have no history of sticking with a job for a long time, so one has to wonder how long they’ll actually last.

      I’m not saying it’s fair, of course, but if the hiring manager is between an applicant with contract jobs and an applicant who’s demonstrated tenacity in long-term employment, who do you think they’ll go with?

      1. Piper*

        Ugh. This is frustrating. My two most recent jobs are contract jobs. Not by choice. It’s becoming harder and harder in my industry to find anything other than contract jobs. I hate it. Especially since I had to take a contracting job after getting laid off from a non-contracting job after 9 months. Then I was at a contract job for a year (left when I relocated out-of-state) and could only find contract jobs in my new city.

        Prior to the layoff and the contract jobs, I had been at a job for 4 years and prior to that, a job for 2 years (my second and first jobs in my field after college, respectively). I would have loved to have had that third job be at least a 5 year stay, but that just didn’t happened. But the terrible economy did. I think employers need to realize that this is not their parents’ job market and “job hopping” isn’t always someone’s choice.

        And, as someone mentioned further down, what’s the incentive to stay at a job for very long anyway? From what I can see, the only way to get a better position and a higher salary is to find a new job.

    3. Gavin*

      I have come across this so many times. I honestly do think too many hiring managers and most recruiters are actually RETARDED! The whole point of being a contractor is that you not only earn more money but get to move to new exciting projects at different companies on a regular basis which = someone who can adapt to change and learn fast. Most contractors have superior skill-set and would walk the floor with a typical employee. I think some employers see it as a stepping stone to full time employment – However most contractors I know would not want to work at any one company for say two years, they would simply get bored – the best people need to move around and be challenged. I think the mindset of many employers is out of touch with today’s reality.

      I would rather hire someone for 6 months who delivers then take on an employee who needs lots of training and sits at the company for years because they are afraid to move. As for so called job hopping I think It is bold and shows that the individual is not afraid to seek better opportunities. It also shows they can obviously get other jobs. In my experience unless you are working for a dream company that you love you should regularly move to enhance your skill-set and increase your salary. Life is short and you need a good reason to stay at anyone company for a prolonged period of time. If I stay at a company for two years or more I get concerned that I could be stagnating.

      In summary the world has changed and is changing rapidly away from the 20th century model of employment. Companies need to wake up to the fact that if you want to hire the best people, bring fresh thinking into your business and get things done, usually they are not going to be your typical employees with the typical employee mentality who plan to hang around for 4 years or more. No instead they will be skilled consultants/contractors who will deliver and then move on. Only people who are confident with their skills and abilities can work this way.

      1. ProcReg*

        Perhaps this is confirmation bias, but you deserve an award for this answer. Corporate types “think outside the box” by following predictable patterns.

  3. Anonymous*

    How does this work with regards to local government though? I work for the government in my area and have worked here since 2006, but have had four different positions within three different departments. So my resume would look like this:

    Local Government Entity
    2006-2008 – Department 1
    2008-2012 – Department 2 (two positions)
    2012 – present – Department 3

    I clearly demonstrate with titles and bullet points that I’ve worked my way up the ladder via promotions and I’m getting more responsibilities and explaining my achievements. Would that be similar to say, someone who worked at Widgets ‘R Us in one department, and then moved around within the same company?

    I guess what I’m asking is whether employers look at the number of companies you have been at versus the number of jobs you’ve held. I’m going back to school to finish a degree, and once I get it, I’d like to look into getting a job in the private sector. I want to make sure that I look like a good candidate and not a job hopper!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s about the number of companies, not number of roles within a company. So what you’re describing wouldn’t be considered job hopping at all. Job hopping is about changing employers.

      1. Cruciatus*

        But surely there is some importance in how long you performed each role? After 21 months, I started a completely different position at my current company, in a completely different department. I’ve been here a month, but am already planning to start job searching around the summer of 2014 (it’s a medical school and that would be the best time to attempt to leave). I’d actually prefer to start looking sooner (I’m paid little, and the culture here is very strict–but I’m trying to get as much time in as I can so I look good to future employers). So by that point I’ll have been at my current company over 3 years, but in my 2nd position only something like 17 months. That won’t make me look job hoppy? My previous employment was for my county and I was laid off after about 9 months each time due to budget cuts. So there has been no intentional job hopping, but in the realm of the working world, my experiences are still rather limited. (And after saying all this, I know it doesn’t mean I’ll even get another job at that point–just that I’m hoping to try!)

          1. Anon*

            Good to know! I’ve been mentally writing you a letter about this. Four years out of college, all with the same employer– but in three different positions (each 1+ year). I’m ready to switch fields entirely, but worry about looking like a job hopper.

            1. Joey*

              As long as there’s a natural progression its fine. It’s actually a pretty big plus if you can show you’re taking on more important roles in a short amount of time. It’s only a problem when you demote or frequently jump laterally.

              1. Anon*

                One lateral move, one promotion. The lateral move meant significantly more responsibilities (less admin work, more program management) which is reflected in my resume. Still, just saying “three jobs in four years” makes me cringe.

                1. Joey*

                  That’s the wrong way to characterize it. It’s one job in 4 years with increasing responsibilities.

                2. Anon*

                  Hey Joey, replying to myself since I can’t reply directly to you. I’ve had three titles with three departments (one division) in three buildings with three managers. I agree a more palatable way to market myself is as progressing in one field through various roles and responsibilities over four years. But it doesn’t change the fact that if a hiring manager were to call HR, they’d confirm that I’ve had three jobs in four years.

                  Thanks for helping me think through this. I’ve been worried about appearing like a job hopper, but I think you’re right that this can be presented in a more flattering light.

                3. Cathy*

                  Joey is right, in an employment verification HR does not give your whole history of promotions. Just the last title you held and your dates of employment.

                  But make sure you show on your resume that you were with one company. Something like this:

                  Company Name — hire date to present
                  Most recent title — dates
                  Next title — dates
                  original title — dates

                  Don’t make the titles more important than the company name.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  “But it doesn’t change the fact that if a hiring manager were to call HR, they’d confirm that I’ve had three jobs in four years.”

                  In addition to what others have said above, reference-checkers won’t care about this because they were all with the same company and showed internal progression.

  4. Allison*

    Fantastic article! However, it seems mostly geared toward people who’ve been working for a while; what would your advice be for younger workers and recent grads with little experience? Should we stay at our first few jobs for a few years to establish a good reputation and good habits? I’ve sort of figured it’s best practice to stay at each job for at least a year, and I definitely don’t want to brand myself as a job hopper this early.

    1. KayDay*

      In my field, and this is pretty industry-specific, it’s less common (but certainly not unheard of) for people to stay at their first job for any longer than 2 years; one to two years is the norm.

      I did see one resume for a recent grad who appeared to be a job hopper–she had a lot of very different jobs that only lasted 3-9 months each in her first 2 years after college (and did not indicate that these were contract jobs or internships). That looked bad, but (to me) two jobs in two years immediately after college would not raise any flags.

      I would check to see what’s common in your industry, however, as this can be quite different at different places.

      1. Allison*

        Thank you, KayDay. I’m planning on staying at my new job for a while – again, best practice and all – but I’m getting concerned about some friends of mine who keep going from job to job, and basically jumping ship at the first sign of trouble. I don’t like giving unsolicited advice, since I hate getting it and I don’t exactly have my life together either, but I feel like I should tell them their job hopping might be a problem if they keep it up.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        It’s common for people in my field to stay in their first job ~5 years (or more). Obviously the first job doesn’t work out for everyone, but that’s what I have seen.

        This likely has to do with needing 4 yrs professional experience for licensing. People stay one place, get their license and then move for a $ bump.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wait, just to clarify, are you defining “at least a year” as NOT being job hopping? Because a year is actually a short time to stay, and if you have multiple stays of a year each, that’s going to be problematic for a lot of employers. Are you saying your friends are staying LESS than a year at their jobs? Because that’s a huge issue!

      1. Geoff*

        As someone who has worked with recent grads and other young alumni, I’m not at all surprised that 1 year is considered a long time with that crowd. It’s not unusual for them to have had a new job every year (or many part-time jobs), or even multiple jobs in one year. In one (admittedly extreme) case, the recent grad was on her third full-time job by the end of the summer _after graduation_!

    3. jesicka309*

      This is why I still keep my 5.5 year stint at McDonald’s on my resume. I worked there from 14 and a half until I was almost 21, moving up from fry girl to crew chief (training the trainers), and I still get comments about how good I was for staying that long at one company while doing school.
      My other two jobs (career relevant) are a 8 month casual gig and a 2.5 year full time gig after uni. I like to think that employers look at my CV and say “She’ll stick around for the right job, as her CV shows she stuck at Maccas and progressed there. She just hasn’t found that fit in her field yet,” as opposed to seeing me as bouncing around the last three years.

  5. ChristineH*

    Hmm….a little iffy for me. I’ve had only one job where I had a good tenure – about 4.5 years. Everything else is a patchwork of internships, shorter jobs (though my first job was 2 years) and volunteer work.

    For those with job histories that might appear to look like job-hopping, would having a strong network be helpful?

      1. lucy*

        Eeeek! Alison! Do you know a secret about time travel that the rest of us don’t? How does one go about getting a “more stable history?” History is history. You can’t change the past!

      2. ChristineH*

        That’s what I was afraid of. Once I get a job, I’m going to try my darndest to make it stick!

  6. JM in England*

    I graduted during the last big recession in 1992 and spent the first seven years of my career in various contract jobs. Although, as advised by Alison, I clearly marked these jobs as contracts, interviewers still asked me why my stay in each one was so short! Also, I got the impression that some interviewers thought that there was something wromg with me because none of these contract jobs were made permanent. Was SO tempted to say “Because I can’t make someone give me a job!” but now wisdom tells me that would not have gone down well……………

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Couldn’t you just not go so far back and eliminate that whole period from your resume? Seems some people say you only need to go back 10 yrs. Maybe you could do this?

      2005-2013 Job X
      2002-2005 Job Y
      2001-2002 Contract Position Z
      1992-2001 Held professional positions in industry Q

      My current resume goes back to my college graduation in 2000, but that time frame still puts me at 2 pages, even with a very brief description of my first job. Seems if you’re going back to 1992, you might be giving too much space to old short-term jobs and not enough to recent relevant accomplishments.

        1. JM in England*

          I’ll certainly bear that in mind, thanks for that to both of you. Over here in England, employers seem to think that if you don’t disclose your full employment history, you’ve something to hide……….however, as AnotherAlison says, most of my recent interviews have concentrated on the last decade or so, during which I’ve notched up two long term tenures.

  7. Kelly O*

    I’m curious how long you need to stay in a job to counter that job-hopper perception.

    I have a period of a few years on my resume that definitely point to a job-hopper. It wasn’t necessarily what I set out to do, but it happened. Six months here and there for a couple of years.

    I’ve been in Specialized Retail Purgatory for over three years now, and am wondering if that’s helping or hurting. It’s not exactly the path I want to take, but I also felt it was important to show I can stay somewhere, and don’t necessarily want to jump around.

    Is three years long enough to show that? I have some 2 year tenures before that (which I realize some will think is not that long either.)

    1. Mike C.*

      It’s up to the whims of the hiring manager. Go too far, and they’ll think “you’re too old and stagnant and that it will be impossible for you to adapt to a new situation”.

      You can’t win this arbitrary game.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think three years is good, but if you’re trying to counter an earlier unstable history, four could be better. Not essential, just better.

      Mike, it’s not an arbitrary game. It’s about risk management. It’s the idea that someone’s past behavior is the best predictor of their future behavior, and if you’re a hiring manager who wants someone who will stay for at least a few years, of course you want to hire someone with a track record of doing that.

      1. Mike C.*

        What I mean by arbitrary is how many years is considered job hopping and how many years is considered stagnation, not the idea that past history (especially recent past history) is a predictor of future performance.

      2. Joey*

        Generally three is what I was going to say also. But it’s all about expectations. For example some companies I know won’t even look at you if you’ve had more than 2 jobs in the last 5 years. Those tend to be the companies that people are dying to get into.

  8. VictoriaHR*

    I’ve definitely struggled with this one. My resume looks like this:

    Most recent job: started in December
    Previous job: May 2011 – November 2012
    Previous job: July 2010 – May 2011
    Previous job: April 2007 – May 2010
    Previous job: October 2002 – April 2007

    So I probably fit the definition of a job hopper. With the exception of the May 2010 job, I’ve left everything voluntarily. Just trying to find my niche. Hope to be in this new job for a good long time though!

    1. BCW*

      I have that type of thing too. Problem is that I do believe that 1-2 years is plenty of time to know if you aren’t happy. Whether its the work itself, management, whatever. In my case, I had about 4 in a row that that happened to about 6 years ago. One job told me they would probably lose funding for my position (non-profit) so instead of waiting around, I left. The next was a position they told me flat out in the beginning most people don’t stay in the role more than 2 years. The next I just wasn’t happy, although I was there a year and a half. The last one was a role that was basically 6 months, but could have been longer had it been a good fit, and it wasn’t either way. You talk to most of my previous managers though and they have great things to say about me.

    2. Josh S*

      You’re really borderline (and on the good side of borderline, IMO). You’ve got ~5 years, 3 years, <1 year, 18 months going in the past. So long as you are able to stay with your current employer for 2+ years (preferably 3+), you shouldn't have any big flags. Perhaps a question as to why you quit/left after 1 year & 18 months in the past, but so long as you have good reasons (eg "I got a really great offer at a company I really wanted to work for at the time", "the job proved focused on A & B, while my strengths are Y & Z"), it shouldn't be a significant barrier to most managers.

      If you leave your current job in less than 2 years, you'll have some 'splainin to do.

  9. Mike C.*

    Outside of the folks who change jobs every few months (where are they finding these jobs to enter, anyway?), I feel like the job hopper issue would cease to be an issue if more employers would give employees a reason to stick around.

    Things like the chance for advancement, opportunities for training, employee involvement in processes (or process improvement) or just being treated like a reasonable adult are all things that are lacking from many businesses. The expectation in many areas is that you have to leave your current job just to advance is simply crazy and incredibly inefficient. Sure, it might shore up profits in the near term, but what about months or years down the line?

    I know people who have been working for my current employer for 10, 20, even 30 years. They started from the bottom and were given the chance to move around and grow as employees. They received training in many areas, something which is becoming free with the rise of open college courses. When they found ways to improve things they were told by management to fix them and were given the tools to do so.

    Things aren’t perfect by a long shot, but there are solutions out there and we can’t talk about job hoping without pointing out that hoping jobs is “the new normal*” if you want to grow.

    *Don’t get me started on how much I hate this phrase. It’s just an excuse for people who are too cowardly to oppose whatever terrible trend being discussed.

    1. Anon*

      I agree with you. I’ve seen problematic job hoppers before (beware the senior person that can’t stay at a job more than two years), but most of the time leaving is the only way to get a raise or promotion.

    2. BCW*

      Totally correct. Most of the jobs I have left were because there was no advancement there for me on the horizon, yet I get an offer for more money and more responsibility. I would have loved to stay at the other places had those same options been in place.

    3. EM*

      Thank you! Alison did address the unfairness of the perception of being a job-hopper, but it still makes me angry. If employers actually treated employees like human beings, maybe more of us would stick around longer than a year or two. I have about 5 years of job experience, and I’m in my fourth job. One job was 6 months because it was an adjunct instructor position, and I moved out of state at the end of the term, the other jobs have been a little less than 2 years, 2.5 years, and I have just under 2 years at my current company. Maybe that’s job hopping. I don’t know.

      I do know that my current company is amazing and treats us like adults (I don’t have my boss calling me asking me where I am when I go offsite for a meeting that is taking “too long” in his estimation), and I have no plans of leaving this company. I hope to work here until retirement, it’s that amazing.

      I guess I’m angry because it seems like the majority of companies treat workers like crap, so people leave to escape abuse or just to move up, and then employers turn around and pin the blame on workers for leaving terrible environments created by the companies in the first place.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, employers have an obligation to hire the person best likely to work out in their position. Their goal isn’t to be fair to everyone or to give people a chance; it’s to minimize risk and pick the person who seems likeliest to give them the best outcome.

        As I wrote above, the concern about job hopping is based on the principle that someone’s past behavior is the best predictor of their future behavior, and if you’re a hiring manager who wants someone who will stay for at least a few years, it makes sense that you want to hire someone with a track record of doing that.

        I know that it’s frustrating for job seekers, but maybe it’s helpful to understand that this isn’t about punishing people; it’s about risk management.

        1. EM*

          Yeah, I get that, Alison. People stay in abusive situations because they fear being branded a “job-hopper”, and that’s just not right. It is something that angers me, and I think that it is something that should change.

          1. Jamie*

            What could change though? To have employers not be wary of someone with a history of short stints at jobs?

            It’s common sense to be wary of that. Just like if you’re dating someone and they’ve never made it past the 6 week mark in any of their multiple relationships…you’ll start to get pretty nervous at about a month and half in.

            1. EM*

              Well for starters, we could have some actual worker-protection laws that would generally improve working conditions. Raise minimum wage. Modify at-will employment. That way, the term “job-hopping” might actually be a negative reflection on a candidate, rather than a symptom of a broken system. But then again, on those internet political spectrum tests, I test out as more liberal than Gandhi. ;)

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, it’s not always nice. But it’s not likely to change, as Jamie points out above.

            The best thing you can do is build yourself an awesome reputation and be someone who generally kicks ass at work, since that will always give you more options. Otherwise, yes, you can absolutely find yourself at the mercy of bad situations — having to stay in a bad one or having to deal with the job hopper stigma.

            But it’s not employers’ jobs to mitigate this stuff. It’s their job to make the best hiring decision for themselves.

            1. EM*

              And to be clear, I’ve never felt that the appearance of job-hopping has ever hindered me. I have an advanced degree in an in-demand field, I’m well-paid, and I work for a kick-ass company. When I wanted to go back to work after staying at home with my baby for 2 years, I found a job within 6 months in 2008. I’m angry for other people.

  10. Jenny*

    Any advice for someone who is about to become a mostly unwitting job hopper? I stayed at my first job out of school for 10 months and it was a very toxic environment (primarily due to the fact that the way the job was described in the interview process was NOT what the job ended up being). I began a job search while still employed and got a new job lined up before leaving on good terms with my managers. Now, I’ve been at the new place for about four months and I’m doing well.

    However, I very recently and VERY unexpectedly found out that I’m going to have to move to a different state in at least 2-3 months (the situation is equivalent to a sick family member, but a tad more complex/personal). So I’ll only be at my new job for about 7 months…when I was truly expecting to stay there for a few years, at least.

    Is there a way to salvage both my relationship with my current employer and my professional reputation? How can I reasonably explain this to future employers? Is there anything I can do proactively?

    I knew that leaving my job after 10 months was risky, but figured it was my first job and I could follow it up with a long tenure at the new, better place. Well… life’s what happens when you make other plans, I guess.

    1. EM*

      I think moving out of state for personal reasons is one “get out of jail free card” for job-hopping. You didn’t quit a job because you are a flake who flees at the first whiff of trouble; you left a job because you moved out of the area for personal reasons.

      1. Joey*

        Sorry, but moving is not necessarily a free pass. But it is better than say a hopper who left for worse reasons.

        1. EM*

          Okay. So a spouse of someone in the military should be held responsible each time new orders come in?

          1. Joey*

            Of course not. But the reality is that if you continually leave jobs after a short amount of time regardless of the reason I’m going to choose someone who I think will stick around. And by past experience that might not be you. It’s nothing personal your situation just doesn’t fit my needs.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not about being responsible for it. It’s about the fact that an employer looking for some to stay a solid chunk of time is going to choose someone who has a track record of sticking around.

            You’re talking about it as if it’s punitive; it’s not. It’s just practical.

            1. Josh S*

              To be clear — there aren’t many hiring managers (probably none) who sit around going, “A military spouse who moves a lot? I’m going to spike her career! Bwahahaha!”

              Really, the internal monologue is, “Well, I know it takes 6 months to get up to speed in this job, and really 18 months til a person has ‘expertise.’ This person hasn’t been in the same position for 24 consecutive months…I can’t count on this person to be worth the effort of training/getting up to speed, even if she’s awesome.”

              The ability to stay in a position for X length of time is one of those unwritten qualifications that some jobs or employers desire. And that is (unfortunately) a real challenge for military spouses. :/ Sorry.

              1. The IT Manager*

                It behooves all to remember that the goal of the hiring process is not to hire to most worthy or even most qualified person for a job. It’s to find the person that most meets the need of the business. With two equally qualified individuals, it makes sense that a business may prefer to person who will most likely stay longer. Sadly that makes it hard for military spouses, but other places may actually favor military spouses because of good publicity.

                My brother had trouble finding a minimum wage service job the summer between high school and the time he left for college because he admitted he was leaving for college. But because he knew people he found out that the at least a few local boys hired instead of him didn’t last more than a few weeks because they didn’t have his work ethic and drive. In this case the businesses made a bad choice.

      2. Jenny*

        I would agree (to an extent – I think Joey is right that it still doesn’t look fabulous) if I hadn’t left my previous job after a relatively short period of time as well. I’m at the point where I wish I had stayed at my crappy first job the whole time because at least I would have a fairly solid tenure. But hindsight in 20/20, and I suppose the boon to my mental health was worth it.

        Hopefully this just means it will be a longer process for my next position, but not something that’s completely un-salvageable. And it probably either hurts or helps that I’m only 24 depending on the perspective!

        1. Jenny*

          And I guess I’m also nervous that explaining everything (“First job wasn’t a fit but I learned a lot but then blah blah personal stuff so I had to move but really, I’m not a flake!!”) will sound like ‘making excuses,’ but that’s probably a left over neurosis from my Catholic high school days, ha.

          Assuming I can even get an interview, of course.

          1. Joey*

            Own it and demonstrate through your actions, not words how you’ve learned from it. That’s not giving excuses.

  11. Z*

    The article refers to “mid-level or senior jobs.” I know I don’t have a senior job, but how do I know if what I have is considered mid-level? I don’t supervise anyone; is supervising others a requirement for a job to be considered mid-level?
    Also, discussions of job hopping often seem to center on people who actually move from company to company. Does it look as bad if you’re changing jobs but are still with the same company (or university, in my case)?

    1. fposte*

      While in general it doesn’t look bad within the same company, I’d say that you can still look like a job hopper if the jobs were under a year, you left of your own free will, and they weren’t a career trajectory. If you’d moved from a department admin to entry HR to a basic support position in development all within two years, that’s hopping; if you kept getting promoted to different titles in development, that’s more of a trajectory (and of course there’s stuff in between those two).

      The more it looks like “I grew into this new position” rather than “I keep not finding places that I want to stay with” the better you are.

        1. fposte*

          To clarify a little–this will matter more within the university, but I’ve seen people I might call “anchored job-hoppers”–they’d be job-hoppers if they were in a city, but they’re in a small town with a spouse or something at the university, and they can only hop around within the university itself. So at the top level it looks like they have great consistency, but they really don’t.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Further to what fposte said, I did exactly what you talk about – the bad job hopping in one company. I bookend it with long stays, and I now have a way to explain it so it doesn’t look bad.

        I was at one place 5 yrs, moved to a completely new role somewhere else, panicked and transferred after a year and a half, didn’t really feel comfortable with the new manager so transferred again after a couple months, stayed there a year and a half, and finally landed in my current job of ~5 yrs.

        1.) I knew this was completely ridiculous and forced myself to stick it out in this last position.
        2.) The “couple months” position has now completely disappeared from my job history.
        3.) There is a good story that explains all this. I left long job #1 to try something new somewhere new (job 2). It wasn’t a fit. Job 3 & 4 were similar to my job 1 at other company, so I say after job 2 not working out, I went back to what I knew how to do, but still knew that it probably wasn’t where I wanted to be long-term. When the newly created position for job #5 came up, I knew that was the job for me (and proved it by staying there long-term).

        Anyway, once you get past the job-hopping time, there’s usually a way to make sense of it all to an outsider, but it takes some years of stability to prove yourself.

    2. Jamie*

      I’ve known mid-level employees who have never supervised anyone directly.

      It comes down to your scope of responsibility. If someone in the C-level has a budget of 100 K+ per year and they are giving direction to managers in their areas of responsibility whether or not they have anyone directly coming to them if they need a vacation day doesn’t matter.

      In fact the COO will often have far fewer direct reports than a line manager – who can have 50.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        “I’ve known mid-level employees who have never supervised anyone directly.”

        These are called the best jobs ever : )

  12. Anon*

    Because I get bored easily and am a commitment phobe, I’ve gone into a field where short term stays are the norm (film/tv production). Yes, it means having to look for work every few months but on the other hand every job has an end date built in (and even though some people stay on the same tv show for years, a new offer has to be extended before a new season starts and it’s normal for people to leave if they get another gig – even during the season).

    I had two jobs in my first two years after college, both lasting a year. I realized that long-term stays were probably not going to work out for me. While there are a number of other reasons I’ve chosen this field, the fact that your employer and colleagues change every few months was a big factor.

  13. Victoria Nonprofit*

    My (post graduate school) job history is:

    Most recent job: Started in September
    Previous: June ’10 – July ’12 (moved cross country for husband’s job)
    Previous: July 2009 – February 2010 (6 month contract)
    Previous: September 2004 – September 2008 (moved cross country for family reasons, took 10 months off)

    A little borderline, I think.

  14. Yo*

    I am most definitely a job hopper, but as others have stated, it has been the ONLY way I was able to increase my salary in my field. I have been with my current employer for 3 years now without a raise or bonus, despite my work load nearly doubling overnight when they fired my counterpart while I was out on maternity leave. I am in mid-level management and my current salary doesn’t match what other people in my position are making. I was denied a raise. I could be fired at any moment. I just find it hard to believe hiring managers don’t realize this is very typical now.

  15. Jax*

    I’m a job hopper because I was a stay-at-home mom. Even though I always had a part-time job (either retail or office) I leave them off my resume because they were all 3-9 month gigs.

    I found that interviewers accepted my 1 long term office job (only 2 days per week for 2 years) and an outright gap of “I stayed home!” than a complicated list of retail and temp work over 7 years. As soon as I paired it down, I got more interviews and finally a job offer.

    I’m staying at this job for a few years because 1.) it’s a good environment and I’m learning a lot, and 2.) I can’t afford any more short-term blips. Fingers crossed that my in-laws continue to stay healthy and watch the kids…

  16. CD*

    AAM, thank you for this timely topic. I am dealing with this very issue myself:

    Worked for 15 years in business analysis/IT project management at companies in 3 industries (2 4-yr jobs were my longest job terms which were at large corporations). Then, I stayed home for 5 years with my 2 young kids.

    Returned to FT work in 2010:
    #firm 1 – Feb 2010 – Oct 2011 (a co-worker and I were both laid off)
    #firm 2 – Feb 2012 – Apr 2012 (I was “let go” – told “things are not working out” without the F word being used)
    #firm 3 – Aug 2012 – Jan 2013 (I was “let go” again – “we’re deciding to go a different direction” without the F word being used)

    In all 3 of these jobs, I was file for unemployment benefits with no problems. All 3 of these recent jobs were at small firms (<50 people). I plan on continuing to use my old boss as a reference from firm #1 (he left the company by the time I was laid off) so that I can show that I am a "manageable" and reasonable worker. I'm continuing to do a lot of soul searching as well. Any other pointers you can offer about successful job interviewing to diminish an initial "job hopper" impression are appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Jamie*

      You say that the F word wasn’t used – by which I assume you mean fired. Did you resign those last two positions? I’m assuming not as you got UI – but maybe in your state that’s doable.

      I would find out how those positions are describing the terms of your leaving if called for references. Are they calling it a lay off – or are they saying you were fired? Because you really want to know how they are categorizing it so you don’t look like you’re misrepresenting it.

      1. fposte*

        And many jobs will specifically ask if you’ve ever been fired. From your description it sounds like a yes to me (they’re talking about a termination at the company’s instigation that wasn’t an overall in reduction in force, not what they organization called it), but if the companies are categorizing it as something else, that’s helpful to know and may give you more options.

        If they weren’t firings, I’d be inclined to leave them off entirely, but you don’t want to get into a position where you’re looking like you’re covering up problems.

        1. CD*

          Thanks for the feedback, fposte. At the job where I was <90 days I was able to leave that off of the resume and it was not required during an extensive background check (jobs <90 days were considered temporary). Since my most recent stint was almost 6 months in duration and I gained valuable work experience and a Fed clearance from it, I want to use it, be open about it and deal with it head on in the resume/interviews.

      2. CD*

        Jamie, thanks for your reply. The first position was due to contract non-renewal – pure layoff. On the last 2 – I did not resign the last 2 positions. I did not sign anything stating that I was fired in both cases and the person doing the “letting go” – HR Director (case 1) and my boss (case 2) did not explicitly say that I was fired. I was told in each case that “things aren’t working out – we’re going to have to let you go”. I knew what it really meant and I also reside/work in an at-will employment state. I mentioned to the UI officers in each of last 2 cases that I was not terminated for cause but for performance (ie my state considers gross negligence as as a reason/cause for UI disqualification). The most recent job is confusing – during my dismissal speech, my boss volunteered that I could use him as a reference for my next job (I’m not taking him up on that – don’t know if that was his guilt talking). Are both employers only allowed legally to acknowledge dates of employment (yes or no), nothing more and nothing less?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “things aren’t working out – we’re going to have to let you go” = fired. (They don’t need to use the word “fired” to make it a firing.) Laid off is when your job is eliminated and they’re not replacing you. Fired is when they’re letting you go because of some unhappiness with your work.

          In referenece checks, etc., employers are not restricted in what they say about you, as long as they don’t lie.

          1. CD*

            Thanks, AAM, for the feedback.

            This is part of my soul searching process (how to explain the 1 layoff and 2 firings since I’ve returned to work full time since the common thread in the 3 events is me and how to find a job that is a good fit for both sides). My last boss told me I needed to work on my “poker face” – remaining expressionless and calm during tough situations with the customer and growing a “thick skin”. I had tough customers to manage (sponsor’s boss did not like my boss due to a prior personal relationship which made for a hostile office environment) but the project team and I soldiered on (I had a good rapport with my developer teammates and with most of the customer’s staff), and I accept responsibility for the missed project deliverable deadline (due to mismanaged customer and boss expectations) which ultimately resulted in my dismissal.

            I am volunteering with an education foundation as a program committee member and am also mentoring a young working mom who is an undergrad college student. I am working to improve my listening, communication, and leadership skills, and reading books on these topics as well.

            Thank you for the insight on reference checks as well.

          2. anon for this comment*

            Laid off is when your job is eliminated and they’re not replacing you.

            Not in my case. For one job, my p/t position was “eliminated” and changed to a f/t position, so they essentially replaced me. They did offer to let me apply for the f/t position, but I chose not to because I knew my chances were incredibly slim. Thus, I was told I was “laid off” and was able to file for UI easily.

        2. FormerManager*

          For the second one, “we’re deciding to go a different direction” could be borderline. Do you know if that role was eliminated or not? And could you either reach out to him and ask what he would say or have a friend or acquaintance call for a “reference?”

          1. CD*

            Thanks, FormerManager for the feedback. My company was going for a large multi-year contract re-compete with the customer and my presence represented a risk. It is a firing. My former co-worker confirmed that a new PM showed up 2 weeks after I was released. Thanks for the suggestion to get a friend to do a test “reference call” – good food for thought….I am hopeful to learn and grow from all of this and for a better job opportunity which is a good fit for both parties.

  17. IStep*

    Would a temp assignment for 5 months be considered job hopping?

    Basically, I’m a couple of years out of college, and since then, I’ve had:

    – 4 month internship
    – 5 month temporary assignment
    – just over a year at my current job

    As long as I make sure to point out on my resume that my first 2 places of employment were an internship and a temporary assignment, would that be good enough for employees?

    1. Jamie*

      Temp assignments are of limited duration by their nature – that’s not the same as job hopping. Assuming you completed your contracted time with them I wouldn’t give it a thought.

      1. IStep*

        The temp agency advertised it as “temp to hire”, and it was originally a 3 month stint, but it ended up being 5 months. However, they were pretty clear(I asked about 3 months into it) that they did not see this turning into a full position because they were going through a merger and this was a temporary support position.

        I think I’ll be okay as long as I get a chance to explain this to any hiring managers, I was just a bit worried about making this look good on my resume.

        Thanks for the reply.

        1. Jane Doe*

          I think it’s not likely to make anyone think twice as long as it’s clearly marked as a temp job. Even if it was originally temp-to-hire, it’s unlikely that a prospective employer is going to call up a temp agency to verify employment (if they even want to) and get some long story about how it was originally a temp-to-hire position, and then it turned out not to be, etc.

          In fact, I think having temp work on your resume probably looks better to many employers than if you were simply unemployed for five months.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree – and temp work can supply you with a lot of references. They may not have worked with you long term necessarily (although I had one temp job for 9 months and another for 13) but the ones that think highly enough of you to request you back are usually happy to oblige.

            Every time we talk about job hopping I really wish the temp market would pick up again. I used to call it job shopping and I wouldn’t trade my 2 years temping when I was new to the work force for anything. Long term assignments, short term…you learn so much about how a vast array of offices work and different ways of doing thing. For an introvert like me it forced me to fake acting comfortable when I’m nervous and that’s been invaluable.

            Not to mention the wide range of software and systems to which you’re exposed. I’m sad that it’s not as much of an option now – because I just listed the agency as my employer and the individual assignments underneath and that took care of any issues with hopping.

            Seriously though, if you’re temping ask for references. The people who would love to hire you if they had a position, but just don’t, generally are happy to help you find something ‘permanent.’

  18. Kou*

    Is there an eloquent way to label positions on your resume that were short-term because there was only grant funding for 1-2 years? I’m in nonprofit health and a good portion of positions (including the one I have now) are grant funded for one or two years. Sometimes there’s hope of continuing funding, but never any guarantees in advance. There are more positions like mine, however, that are permanent, so it’s not like everyone reading my resume would automatically know my stays are shorter because that’s the nature of the industry or anything.

    I want to make some kind of note about it, but I’m not sure what to say. It’s not contact work, it’s not temping, it’s not always a short term project.

    1. Anonymous*

      I wonder if this would fall under the idea of grouping the jobs under one title for the entire time: “Grant Funded Fixed Term Placements” or something? And then listing specifics in the bullet points below.

  19. Anonymous*

    Okay, here’s a complicated situation an unemployed friend of mine is dealing with. For the last couple of years, she’s worked a contract government job for the same employer. Because of the nature of her work, she is usually hired as a contractor for several months. Since there is not enough workload to last the entire year, they cannot afford to hire her full-time at the moment, but will always call her back within a couple of months when there’s work available again. Sometimes, she has been able to get temp contract jobs at other places in between contracts and sometimes not. However, the main issue is how to frame all this on a resume, because her work history would look something like this:

    Summer 2008-Spring 2009: Government contract
    Summer 2009-Spring 2010: Government contract
    Spring 2010-Summer 2010: Temporary Job
    Summer 2010-Winter 2010: Government contract
    Winter 2010-Spring 2011: Temporary Job
    Spring 2011- Winter 2011: Government contract
    Spring 2012-Fall 2012: Government contract

    That’s a total of FIVE term contracts with the same employer at different times. Needless to say, a resume like this looks like a huge mess and could easily make some look like a massive “job hopper”. But in each case, she never actually quit any jobs, she just worked there until the contracts expired. She would LIKE to say she’s worked for the same employer these entire past 4 1/2 years, but that’s just not the way government contracts work and we’re worried that many hiring managers (especially those who’ve never worked for the public service) would not understand that and dismiss this resume immediately. What would be the best way to list off all these short-term contracts on a resume without looking like a job hopper?

    1. Josh S*

      When you say “Contract jobs” I assume you mean she is a 1099 employee (pays her own payroll taxes, etc)?

      If so, she can call herself a Freelance Worker and do something like this:

      Freelance Accountant (or whatever her role is) 2008 – Present
      Government Department June 2008 – Sept 2012
      Contract work lasting 5 – 9 months in duration per contract

      Client 2 May 2010 – July 2010
      Temporary position doing ______

      Client 3 Dec 2010 – April 2011
      Temporary position doing ______

      It’s not quite chronological, but chronological order doesn’t really make sense in the context of freelance work since you go back and forth between clients. So list it by employer, focus on accomplishments (one of which should certainly be that she was rehired for multiple contracts with the government department!), and go from there.

      I’m a freelancer myself, adn this is how the freelance part of my resume reads.

      1. Anonymous*

        Great, thanks, guys, good to know that strategy’s okay. We weren’t sure if employers would be finicky about listing everything in chronological order by specific date. I’m sure some still are, but hopefully that’s the exception.

  20. Anonymous*

    How does part-time work factor into this? I’m a recent grad with an advanced professional degree, and I’m in a field where many entry level openings are part-time. I recently managed to secure one of these PT positions, but I’m wondering how long I’m obliged to stay there. Is there a different etiquette for PT work? Is finding FT work a good enough reason to leave? I want to emphasize that, in my case at least, this field is close-knit and collaborative (meaning it’s highly likely that hiring managers have been to conferences or worked on committees together).

    1. jesicka309*

      I’ve used this for the P/T job I had in my final year of uni.

      “Why did you leave company X?”

      “Well, it was great working there, but I was graduating and really needed something full time.”

      It should be enough. No hiring manager is going to turn around and say “Well, you should have somehow been able to afford to live off a part time wage without student discounts any more to make your job history better!”

      You could even say something like you really craved the stability of a full time role. Also dispells the job hopping as really, YOU were the one who wanted a stable role, not trying to bounce round.

      Hope that helps.

  21. XT*

    My internship during the end of college (graduated ’10) was 1 year and 8 months, followed by another job that lasted 1 year and 10 months. I took a position last July that I had already had a pre-planned agreed month long trip, so this position in total went from end of July-beginning of December was only about 90 days. I did just get hired for a new position as well that I start Monday (Yay!)

    Should I leave off that super short term job that I had off my resume for future reference? I kept it on and still was able to get many interviews/hired, but will this just make me look bad for the future?

  22. Bri*

    I’m struggling with this right now. I worked in retail for 15 months then the store went out of business. Then I took a job at a bank for 6 months then they went out of business. I’ve been in my current position 10 months and my boss makes me miserable. He asks me to do things that are against policy, then he gets really busy and snaps at me when I need his approval for something and tells me to just do it without him. (Major policy violation.) He also told me coworker to do something kinda illegal. I really want to try to stick it out and get transferred, but because our office has such high turn over he wont approve my transfer until October.I really love the company and want to stay but he’s made me cry more then once. Then made fun of me for crying.

    1. Anonymous*

      The miserable part is one thing, but I want to comment on the ‘against policy’ bit – is it actually against a law or regulation, or simply against corporate policy? One is much more serious than the other, and you don’t want to end up taking the fall for illegal acts.

      1. Bri*

        I work for a bank and we have to report to the fed when people bring in over 10000.00 in cash. My boss told my coworker that the client didnt have time for the psper work and she should just give the client anything over the reporting limit back. So its a violation of federal regulations but I am not sure thats the same as illegial.

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          Yes, illegal. It’s called structuring a transaction. Everyone involved with that from boss to coworker can go to jail for that*. From what I was told by the regional Secret Service guy when I was a teller manager, they are much MUCH more interested in people trying to get around the $10,000 reporting than the people who just deposit, do the paperwork, and go on.

          But, for what it’s worth, I’ve found that the higher-ups in the banking world frequently don’t know the requirements of the teller jobs, even the stuff that’s the law. Is there a teller manager that can go explain the laws and the consequences to the boss?

          *Back in the day, there was a form we could file when someone refused to continue with the transaction after being told of the reporting requirements. I cannot remember the form name/number at the moment but your coworker might consider going back and filling that out so that they are protected, at least.

  23. Anonymous*

    I was laid off from my last job after only three months, pretty much because I was the newest person there, and they needed to lay someone off…I have been at my current job for about 6 months, but am hating it…are you saying that I really have to stay here for multiple YEARS, or risk being labelled as a job hopper!? I think I’d rather die…

    1. Anonymous*

      You can always try to get another job–and it appears, judging from some of the comments here, that there are people who job hop successfully. No one is saying you can’t try–just that you might be passed over due to what appears to be job hopping. I don’t think she would say you must suffer forever! If you get an interview you can explain that you were laid off and that your current job isn’t a good fit–but hopefully you do have a good track recording of staying put otherwise. Or if you’re less experienced in the working world, hopefully you can explain well what has happened with your current and former job and that you’re hoping to stay put from now on. Trying to get a job is always available to you! But it’s important to know why you might not be getting those jobs you apply for so you can change tactics as need be.

  24. Lena*

    How do expat jobs figure into this? I’m on my second one – the first was 2 years (fixed contracts), and I’ve been at my current job 1.5 years. Between the 2, I have graduate school and a 3-year professional position in the US after school. I’m not planning on returning to the US, but you never know where you’ll end up so I try to be strategic about how this will look. I’ve been on the hiring side a couple of times, and I’ve viewed short jobs outside of the applicant’s home country kind of like contract positions – an interesting thing that someone chooses to do for a year or 2, but there’s not the same expectation for a long-term stay. I’ve also heard that beyond 3-5 years in an expat job, potential employers “back home” start to wonder whether the applicant is out of the loop. How do you think most employers view this?

  25. Anonymous*

    So companies don’t want to hire job-hoppers.
    And they don’t want to hire people who aren’t currently employed.

    Nice Catch-22, Alison.

  26. Christina*

    Just curious- is there ever a time when staying in a position too LONG acts as a negative on your resume? My thought is probably not as long as you’re producing results, but I am interested to hear what others think?

  27. ABC*

    Meh, the goldilocks effect. Not unemployed, not a job-hopper, not long-standing employee but just right.
    Lucky are the ones who are “just right”. I certainly am not….and its hard.

    1. Annoyed Anon*

      ABC and others while people will not stop reading this blog, and yes some advice is fantastic, you need to ignore a lot of what Ask a Manager’s blog owner is saying in the replies and go out and be proud of you are, you can contribute to society and earn money, the employer needs you not the other way around. She is eroding your self-esteem because you take her comments as truth. She assume everyone who visits this blog is wanting an office job. She hates those with humanities degrees ignorant of the fact that many have reached riches by having a basic Arts degree. She tells it ‘the way it is’ which judging from many comments on this blog is not the way you want the world to be. If we take all of what is said to heart we will never become tax payers or have superannuation. All I am saying is this: not every single employer is going to have a red flag to a job hopper. There is to me nothing wrong with job hopping if the environment is toxic you work in or you are being bullied or sexually harassed, how dare it is implied it’s your fault which managers do, yet if they were demeaned in such a way they would complain for years. I could comment on tons of others things written in this blog, but you can be a perfect robot, look like a supermodel, have years of experience, kiss the manager’s butt, produce millions of dollars and reach so many KPI’s and have PhD’s and MBA’s (which seem now to be looked down upon now as failures, to be educated seems to equal failure now as you just bummed around in university which is such a lie) and still someone out there won’t hire you or like you. This blog gives advice to minimise this, but take much of her comments with a grain of salt as not every employer as she just has this attitude that life is hard, you work till you drop, you are just a robot etc, which is a sickness of capitalist societies. The employer needs return and value, but if they continue to be super picky when we know they just want cheap labour so they can enjoy their Rolex’s and South of France houses at your expense, well gated communities have never kept out starving mobs – just ask Marie Antoinette. The world wants fair but when you make the world unfair and then employers end up being lynched or murdered, well, sometimes the world should be fair.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re missing the point. I don’t make the rules, and I don’t necessarily endorse the rules. What I’m doing here is explaining to people what the consequences may be of making certain choices — how many employers are likely to see them. I’m sorry if you don’t like what you hear — but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s true, and I’d rather have people understand that so that they can make the best choices for them, rather than make choices without understanding the possible consequences and later regretting them or being surprised. You can be as pollyannaish as you like, but that doesn’t help people in their careers.

        This blog isn’t about how things should be; it’s about how things are. And that’s because my whole point is to help people navigate their careers in the ways that will get them the outcomes they’ll be happiest with.

        As for humanities degrees, I was an English major and remain a huge fan of the humanities. That doesn’t change the fact that humanities degrees are often far less helpful in helping people get jobs than students believe they will be when they initially get them — as thousands of people will tell you has been their experience.

  28. DL22*

    Is job hopping bad if you have moved up in salary and title each time? This is how mine would read:

    2010-2012 Director of Library Services
    2007-2010- Librarian for large County District
    2006-2007 Librarian for small non-profit
    2004-2006 Library assistant (while pursuing degree)

    I’m not currently working due to staying home w/ my young daughter. I worry that employers view me as a job hopper or see that I do not have to work and wonder about that. Advice?

      1. DL22*

        Should I directly address the every 2 year thing or wait for them to ask about it in an interview? Also, another question while I have you! I’m moving out of the country for my husband’s job. His school has a library opening but in a lower role. If I take that would it look like a demotion or can I explain it’s due to the move?

        1. none*

          I’d hire you. Looks like you have progressed steadily over the years and now that you have reached the top there will be nowhere else for you to go so I would assume that you would stay. Good job!

          1. Annie*

            Hi DL22. I think that your resume/cv would look really good to a recruiter. It shows that you have worked your way up the ladder to your chosen position. The connections are clear and well-linked. Obviously you will choose to move with your husband and at least you will still be working in your chosen field. You may even get the change for promotion after your move. Best of luck. I wish my resume looked so good.

  29. DL22*

    To clarify, I left the Director position to stay home with my daughter because my husband is pursuing a doctorate and works a lot.

  30. PC*

    As a non-traditional student, I worked quite a few jobs between graduating high school, attending community college part-time, working full-time, starting 4-year college full-time at 23 yrs old, working part-time, graduating with bachelors at 26, getting a job in my desired field, only to get laid off after 14 months at 28.

    Now that I’ve seen what my career outlook is, I’ve started to have some doubts about whether I even want to stay in this field, or any “professional” field for that matter.

    I’ve considered rebooting my career in the construction trades, where job-hopping is the norm, education is desired (but not required) and workers are more transient. I figure that after a few years of experience and journeyman’s license, I’ll go back for graduate work, and combine years of job-hopping real-world work experience into project management.

    At the rate I’m going, I’ll continue struggling to find related experience, struggle to pay rent and school loans, when I do find a good job, I’ll be laid off first, and the viscous circle of job-hopping will continue.

    Most of my buddies are years ahead of me with houses and cars, but started their career the normal right way. 4 years college, job offers before graduating, willingness to stay in the same boring town.

    Is there such a thing as starting your career on the wrong path?

    If so, how do you reboot it without being miserable for years?

  31. Ned*

    Job hopping is survival people. Create the stigma of a job hopper and you create a real problem. Same as discriminating against the unemployed. One minute it’s trendy to kick the unemployed and now it’s the supposed job hopper.

  32. ProcReg*

    Hiring managers are definitely clueless on how bad the economy is right now. After graduate school, I started taking contract jobs just to put food on the table. Then the interviewer asks me why I’m job hopping.

    I seriously feel like i’m surrounded by idiots. True story.

    As my sister said, “What, did she think you got to pick the contract period?”

  33. Gavin*

    The baby boomers are usually more concerned with job hopping – In their world they were used to their parents working at a company for 20 years or more plus they themselves may have stayed at stable organisations for a prolonged period of time. This will change dramatically over the coming 5-10 years as such baby boomers retire and gen y start taking on senior positions within companies. They understand the modern environment and will have a different view on job hopping. One to two years at any one company is actually a long time nowadays! Yes it is! After all this is a increasingly fast past and ever changing world and people naturally will move more frequently and this will become even more frequent in 20 years time. This dynamic might be great news to recruiters but ultimately is goes without saying that you wise up quickly when you change environments and don’t allow yourself to stagnate and integrate too much into a culture of any given company. Graduates who move around develop skills and become used to moving outside their comfort zone more often then perhaps their parents or grandparents did. This also nurtures creative and lateral thinkers which is critical for creating new industries and jobs that will lift our economies. Corporate types have a place but much of the troubles of the world is in no doubt down to this existing and stagnating inside a corporate, working within a narrow job title and not seeing outside the cubicle let alone the corporate box.

      1. Gavin*

        As someone who runs three medium size businesses along with one startup and as a hiring manager myself, I respectively disagree with you.

        Although my businesses are sales and consultancy based organisations hence it is quite typical to move around more often than say a HR manager or a civil servant.

        Just to put things in perspective, you would not survive more than three months in such an organisation unless you performed so yes 1-2 years is a long time, and top performers contribute significantly to a business and usually the bottom line in that period. Top performers with multi sector experience are becoming increasingly valuable. Rarely would we recruit individuals who have spent say five years at a company unless they could demonstrate rapid progression within the business and worked across different departments within such an organisation. We need drivers not people who sit inside their comfort zone stagnating and that is a big problem when people stay at any given organisation for too long. Hence the best talent usually comes from other growing businesses opposes to big firms.

        In today’s world people can and need to achieve in 6 month what might have taken 18-24 months 10-20 years ago. Even academia has this issue. For example many 3-4 year degree programmes should never take this long. It suffers from outdated thinking much like the non-dynamic corporate world since it can often be done in a fraction of the time and at significantly less cost to the candidate.

        We are still in very early transition so the thinking above is perhaps a little uncomfortable for some. However it be interesting to comeback and review this is 5-10 years time and see who is right. :)

        Good Luck

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You can always find people who disagree with any viewpoint, but the vast majority of hiring managers aren’t going to agree that 1-2 years is a long time. Far from it.

          1. Jill*

            I have to agree with Gavin on this one. Sorry

            The vast majority of hiring managers are most probably wrong. I would imagine Gavin might be in the 20% that are seeing things for what they really are and perhaps ahead of the curve slightly. Pareto’s law comes to mind.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Whether the majority are wrong or not isn’t really the point. If they perceive it as a problem, it will be held against candidates, and that’s something candidates need to be aware of/understand and they make career decisions.

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