I’ve been a job-hopper — how can I start fixing my work history?

A reader writes:

I’m a young professional who, for various reasons, has had a lot of jobs in my adult life. Since I graduated from college in December 2011, I have held 11 positions at eight different companies/organizations in four different cities (all internal changes were promotions). In my opinion, I’ve changed jobs for very good reasons. In one city, I initially was working one full-time job and another in the evenings, and resigned from the day job when offered a promotion at the evening job, and then when that job turned out to be in a toxic work environment, got two part-time positions to pay rent until one of them turned into a full-time position. And so on. Mostly, even though I’ve known since my college graduation that I want to do particular nonprofit work, I’ve deferred seeking out those types of jobs out of respect for how long it takes to become proficient, choosing to wait until I settle and, in the meantime, work short-term on things like admin work, child care, etc.

On my resume, I don’t list all of my jobs, or even my most recent ones. I list “Relevant Experience” and only list a few of the “best” jobs of the mix. As it stands, my resume reads one position from August 2010 – May 2011, one position Summer 2010, 2011, Jan 2012 – May 2013, one position Jan 2014 – July 2014, and one position (a promotion from the last) July 2014 – July 2015. At the last organization I worked for, I was finally able to devote enough time to do the type of work that I want to do, was very good at my job, and enjoyed my day-to-day a lot.

In July 2015, I moved to a new city and got a position identical to my (beloved) job over the 2014-2015 year. However, for various reasons, I’ve found that I’m unhappy here. The workload is unreasonable, the company’s relationship with outside agencies is strained, there is a culture of micromanaging, and so on. After only three months, I’m considering looking for another position, but I’m afraid of having another short-term job on my resume. I’m now in this city long-term, and I want to show that I’m able to stick a job out.

At this point in my career, how important is it that I have work experience that extends for longer periods? Would six months be significantly better than three months? What is the minimum length of time to which I need to commit in order to prevent appearing jumpy and/or unreliable? I’m trying to figure out how long to stick this out – I need to have a mental “light at the end of the tunnel” and am having a hard time gauging how to minimize the negative effect my decision will have on my resume.

Ooooh. Eight companies in four years is … a lot.

The answer to how important it is to have longer-term work experience at this point is: Very.

But six months isn’t really any better than three months. They’re both going to read as worrisomely short and as job-hopping.

Longer-term work experience at this point really means a minimum of two years, but even that is pushing it in the context of the rest of your work history;  three years would be significantly better.

The idea is that most employers are going to assume that you’re not likely to stay with them any longer than you’ve stayed at a job in the past … and if that’s only a year or less, most professional jobs aren’t going to want to hire you. They’re going to assume that you get bored easily, or can’t keep a job, or don’t know how to identify the right fit for yourself.

This problem gets worse and worse the longer you job history stays that way. And it also consigns you to worse and worse employers (the ones who will be willing to hire you are the less desirable employers who can’t keep other people on board either and who are resigned to a lot of turnover) and worse and worse jobs (interesting, desirable jobs have lots of people applying for them, and employers will rarely hire someone with a spotty work history when they have loads of qualified candidates with more stable histories).

If at all possible, I’d commit to sticking it out where you are for two years. Or, you could write this one off and commit to staying at your next job that long — but you’d want to be really, really sure of what you were getting into, because if you end up wanting to leave that one too, you’re going to make the problem that much worse.

But you’ve got to get some long-term stays in there to repair your work history. The price of that might mean putting up with a job you’re unhappy at, to counteract all the ones you left. That sucks, yes, if you can see it as the price of leaving all those others so soon — and of repairing your reputation — it might be easier to swallow.

(To be clear, the three internal moves don’t count as job hopping. It’s the rest of it — the eight companies in four years — that’s the issue.)

{ 316 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    Oh God. This is sort of me. Between a firing and a layoff and a couple of long job bunts, my longest stint has been 23 months. I’m trying to stay at my current job/company as long as possible, but the low pay and night shifts are tough to sustain. Not much advice aside from Alison’s, just commiseration.

    1. Audiophile*

      But you can explain your short stays as a layoff and termination. And 23 months isn’t bad. Based on what OP’s listing she has some pretty large gaps, depending on how she’s listing that summer work. I’ve had a seemingly endless job hunt, but I’ve been lucky to be employed while I do it. The market’s tough but it’s tougher if you job hop.

  2. Folklorist*

    Alison, OP says that a couple of the jobs are promotions from previous jobs at the same company. Do you think it would be advisable to combine those listings on the resume to show a longer tenure and upward mobility? Or is that considered dishonest?

    1. Elysian*

      I agree – it might depend on the positions, but I normally wouldn’t consider an internal promotion to be part of “job hopping.” I have a job on my resume from when I was in school. It started out as a summer position, and they asked me to stay on part-time in a related but different capacity when the school year started. On my resume, I list both positions with the dates of each, but I’ve always thought of it/addressed it as “my year at XYZ firm” – I combine them for all intents and purposes.

    2. Rosey Red*

      Indeed, I was wondering this too. Since college, I’ve been in the same department for 5+ years, but have been promoted internally three times (from Teapot Spout Assistant, to Teapot Spout Manager, to Senior Teapot Spout Supervisor. Is quickly climbing the ranks also a “yellow flag” when I apply to outside positions?

      1. BRR*

        Usually no, sometimes it’s the sign of a dysfunctional organization if they promote somebody quickly too many times. But that’s more when it’s a promotion after two months then again two months later.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          Or just show titles. I have a friend who finished a BA 3 years ago and has been promoted 3 times. Sorry, but you’re not really a “senior” anything 3 years into your career.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Previously Alison has advised combining internal promotions into one resume item, kind of like this:

      March 2010 – June 2012 Teapots, Inc. – Spout Associate (3/10-4/11), Spout Coordinator (4/11-6/12)

        1. KH*

          What about the opposite – being at one company for like forever (15 years for me) – I did have a few internal internal moves, and to avoid the appearance of being “overly comfortable,” I have broken them out into their own separate jobs.

    4. BRR*

      It makes sense to do that. I’ve seen somebody list it as
      AAM INC
      Chocolate Teapot Manager
      (Promoted from chocolate teapot analyst 09/2014)

      Or you could do it all under one employer
      AAM INC 2009-present
      Chocolate Teapot Manager 2012-present
      -blah blah

      Chocolate teapot analyst 2009-2012
      -blah blah

        1. ME TOO*

          I actually don’t really put months in general, I’ve been working 5 years and I’ve noticed people who have been working longer just put years. Months are kind of a hangover from ‘college/internship’ things – where a position wouldn’t last all year.
          I now List it as:
          Chocolate Teapots – XYZ Manager 2014 – Present
          Previously held positions – abc specialist, def analyst, etc.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            So I once had a recruiter tell me that even for long term employment you still need to use months, because it looks like you are trying to hide something, whether it’s trying to make your length of employment look longer or covering up gaps.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I think it depends how long long-term is, how long the most recent job really was, and if you ARE trying to hide something.

              Even if I was trying to hide something by saying my first job was 2000-2005 and my second job was 2005-2015, who would still care about what happened to me in 2005, since I’ve been here 10+ years? If I *was* trying to hide a gap, I’d be more concerned about leaving off months and prompting questions. As it was, no gap existed.

            2. BRR*

              I agree. Even for people who have been working longer, not having months could hide a resume gap.
              If you worked until June 2013 at A and then were laid off and started Sept 2013 at B your resumes would just list
              A: 2009-2013
              B: 2013-present

              1. Just another techie*

                Is a gap of three months really that big a deal though? I know lots of people who work 3-4 years at one place, burn out hard, then take 6-12 months off to recuperate before starting over again. It seems like a really common cycle in the tech/startup world.

                1. Anna*

                  Anything within the same calendar year should be just fine. Why worry about details that won’t add anything?

                2. BRR*

                  First I just chose random months and years. And I don’t care but other people do. Is it really that hard to throw months in just to be safe?

            3. SRB*

              Huh, I don’t include months for my (only) job on my resume, but then again, just having the years doesn’t cover up the gap at all.

              College degree: 2011
              Lannister Incorporated: 2012-Present
              (Servant boy 2012-2013, Servant manager 2013-2015)

              But that also works because it’s pretty obvious there are no gaps between jobs, because there are no multiple jobs.

            4. Natalie*

              This is probably overly cautious, IMO, although I’m sure it doesn’t hurt if you’re the overly cautious type.

            5. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It depends. If everything just covers two years (like 2012-2013), I want months because I want to know if that was Dec 2012-Feb 2013 (three months) or the full two years. But if it’s more like 2010-2014, I don’t really care; there’s no chance that was a three-month job.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, I’m not counting those as job hopping. But she says she’s been at eight companies in four years, and that’s the part that worries me — the eight moves. Those do count as job hopping (whereas internal promotions or transfers do not). I’ve added a note about that at the end to clarify.

      1. 30ish*

        If I understood correctly only three out of the eight are listed on LW’s resume. Doesn’t that make it less concerning?

        1. AllisonAllisonAllisonetc*

          Also, it looks like in at least 2 times in her history she was working 2 jobs at once. That’s still 6 jobs in 4 years if you ignore the double employment but I’d think that would might soften it up (just a little) as well.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          If you look, the OP is also selecting jobs before she graduated college. If she started at January 2012 (post grad), it sounds like there would only be two jobs (companies) on her resume. I would think she needs to put something in the May 2013-Jan 2014 gap, if there is something, and frame the pre-Jan. 2012 stuff as temporary/internship/college job type work.

          I’m not sure this is quite as bad as it looks, but moving forward, I agree she needs to stay put somewhere for a while. I think part of the problem may be that a job either sucks or is fantastic for the first few months (honeymoon period or overwhelmed by steep learning curve), and then it tends to settle into something unremarkable. I had a hard time adjusting to this after college. I was used to something novel every 4 months, and then I had to do the same. fricking. thing for 4 years.

          1. Afiendishingy*

            Your last paragraph really resonates with me. I bounced around a lot for a few years after I graduated too (including a couple big moves) at least in part because I couldn’t handle the “settling into something unremarkable” piece. I hadn’t thought of that contrast between the working world and the novelty of choosing new classes every semester but it makes a lot of sense.
            Note to younger self and OP: sometimes life is going to seem mundane. I don’t think that’s a good or bad thing, necessarily, it’s just the truth.

            Also when I was in my early twenties I was complaining about my customer service job to my dad, saying “People can be total assholes to me for no reason, and I still have to thank them and call them sir!” Dad said “yeah. I think that’s every job I’ve had.” Which I scoffed at in the moment, but a few years later came to accept . Not that you need to be a punching bag, just figure out when it’s important to stand up for yourself (and how to do it without swearing at anyone) and when you’re better off letting it roll off you. Don’t stay at a toxic workplace if at all possible, but figure out what you can live with and what’s a deal breaker.

            Hang in there OP! A lot of people have been in your shoes.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If I’m understanding it correctly, her resume reads like this:

          Current company: July 2015 – present

          Company 2: Jan. 2014 – July 2015
          – Job B: July 2014 – July 2015 (promotion)
          – Job A: Jan. 2014 – July 2014

          Company 3: Summers 2010, 2011, Jan. 2012-2013

          Company 4: August 2010 – May 2011

          That’s certainly much better than listing all eight companies, but it leaves her with some big gaps in between jobs, which interviewers are likely to ask about with this kind of job history (and if then comes out there were a bunch of other jobs, that’s going to look bad) and no real long-term stay. My bigger concern, though, is what she’s actually doing (versus what’s on her resume).

    6. Cutlet*

      Yeah, I wonder about this too. I started at the lowest position possible at one company (video librarian), then moved up to the billing department and then finally made it into closed captioning. They were promotions because each job was harder and had more responsibility than the one before it, but I did move through three different departments in a year.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I graduated from college in 1999, and you’ve had twice as many jobs as I have.  (And I thought I was a job hopper!)

    Are you sure that this field is the right one for you?  I’m married to someone who has been absolutely miserable in every job he’s ever held, yet he refuses to look at a new line of work.  It’s so weird.  Rather than trying to force yourself to like this field, it’s worth talking to a career counselor to see if there’s anything else you’d be good at.  I don’t think you can really know that on your own right now.

    “The workload is unreasonable, the company’s relationship with outside agencies is strained, there is a culture of micromanaging, and so on.”

    Honestly this doesn’t sound so bad, especially in comparison to other AAM letters on here.  I can make this argument for any job and internship I’ve ever had in my whole life.  If you talk to plenty of seasoned workers and AAM commenters, I’m sure you’ll hear similar things.

    “…I was finally able to devote enough time to do the type of work that I want to do…”

    If working on the things you want to do is your barometer of work happiness, you’re bound to be disappointed unless you’re a billionaire.  Most people don’t get to do what they want to do at their jobs or they do but a bunch of other tedious tasks go with it.  That’s why it’s called work and not fun.

    I’m encouraging you to stick this job out and see what happens.  At the extreme least, you’ll need to stay a year.  Three years are ideal.  If you don’t stick to anything long-term, you’re never going to fully establish yourself and learn and grow from different situations and experiences.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Exactly. If OP can stay 2-3 years the prior history of job hopping will affect candidacy less and less.

    2. Christy*

      I would love to hear more about how you remain married to someone who hates his job. I really worry about this–my girlfriend has had strong feelings about her jobs, and when they’re negative they’re really negative. I’d love to get some insight for my future.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I hate my job and have very negative feelings about it, and I never even would have thought that this might affect my husband’s future. He feels bad when I complain about it, and sometimes gets sick of hearing the same old thing, but I think it’s far from being a deal-breaker for him, since he asked me to marry him knowing this.

        1. Ad Astra*

          It’s likely not a deal-breaker, but any situation where one partner is continually unhappy can strain a relationship over time. There are probably people out there who hate their jobs but are good at compartmentalizing who aren’t really affected by work issues once they get home. Most people, though, will carry that unhappiness around, and it will color a lot of your interactions at home.

          1. Bostonian*

            It can also lead to bad relationship dynamics, where the unhappy person complains but makes no effort to find a new job, and the partner tries to nag them into doing so or to manage the situation in other ways. It can be hard to watch a partner being unhappy, and extremely frustrating if you perceive it to be partly their own fault (staying at a toxic job long term when with a little effort it would be possible to find a new one, for example).

            1. CrazyCatLady*

              I can see that. I’m all about not complaining unless you’re making efforts to change it. I guess if it’s constant, and you’re unable to be happy at all during your non-working hours, it would be a pretty big downer on the relationship. For me, it’s probably a 20-30 minute venting session on some days a week. I don’t think or talk about it on the weekend and I’m a very happy person besides that.

      2. mskyle*

        My boyfriend is like this – gets very invested in his job, even though he works at a kind of frustrating organization, and so he’s often annoyed/angry about something at work. He seems to take work stuff a lot more personally than I do. He’s pretty good about not dumping it on me when I ask him not to (and I do try to commiserate when I can – “They’re doing WHAT?”), and I keep my distance from events with his coworkers for the most part. It’s not my favorite thing about our relationship, but for me it falls into the category of “annoyance but not even close to a deal-breaker.” If it were to a greater degree, or if it wasn’t balanced out by a lot of other great qualities/compatibilities, or if he insisted on dumping it all on me on a regular basis I might feel differently.

      3. the gold digger*

        In my case, my husband, who had grown to be really bored in his job and wanted to change career directions after 30 years of doing the same thing, and I agreed he would take a year off and spend that time thinking about what else he wanted to do and then looking for that.

        If this happens to you, I would advise that you do everything you can to make sure your spouse’s parents have their act together because otherwise, they will screw everything up.

        I was not thrilled about Primo quitting his job, but we could swing it financially, not because, as my sister in law put it, we are “so lucky not to be financially strapped” but because we do/did both have good jobs and we have been super frugal our entire working lives.

        He quit his job last October and has spent almost the entire time since dealing with his parents’ medical issues. Although the medical issues could not have been anticipated – although if you do not get drunk, you do not fall drunk on someone else and break her knees – everything else related to the issues could have been, as in, the need to downsize, the need to plan for how one will live once one can no longer be independent, the need to make sure one’s financial affairs are in order so that if one’s son has to take over while one is in the hospital, one’s son can find what he needs to, etc.

        There is some anger.

        1. Afiendishthingy*

          Wait… So did your FIL break your MIL’s knees? Or is there a third party involved somewhere here? I’m so intrigued.

        2. Boundaries*

          “He quit his job last October and has spent almost the entire time since dealing with his parents’ medical issues.”
          This is where your husband (and you) need to draw some boundaries. If the parents refused to do anything to plan for their retirement and final years, that does not mean they get to destroy the adult children’s lives.

    3. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I wonder if the OP even knows what a reasonable workload is over time. Maybe this is a busy period for the company and it will slow down at some point or she will figure out processes, over time, that will make it easier. Three months is a very short period of time to learn everything you need to know about a job. It normally takes me a year to feel I know what the job is truly like because there are often seasonal differences. And the micromanaging could come from the OP’s manager somehow sensing that the OP is not really in the job or confident that she has the experience to do things on her own.

      Stay a year, learn how to “manage” your manager to decrease the micromanaging. Figure out how to do your job better so the workload doesn’t seem so bad.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Right. When you’re new to a company a workload may seem unreasonable because you are learning procedures and in time will learn ways to streamline and consolidate processes to achieve the same results in less time. Or they are temporarily short staffed but are planning to hire other staff.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Rarely do I question an OP’s narrative, but I do here. If you don’t have a good chunk of consistent, long-term work experience, how do you measure what’s a toxic work environment or an unrealistic workload or how bad micromanaging is? And how do you even know if those things aren’t a direct response to your work performance?

        I’ve been at this job two years, and I’m still learning about the culture and expectations.

        1. Biff*

          I agree. I’m all for leaving a dysfunctional workplace, especially if it is a first job, because you don’t want to learn bad habits (I’m still dealing with ingrained habits from a first-job that was just… unbelievably bad) and have them follow you around. At the same time, someone with this sort of job history really does need to buckle down and show that they can roll with the punches and learn solid workplace norms (I wouldn’t be surprised if they have never picked up certain important understandings) I feel that, once you’ve had a couple of decent jobs, you can actually learn a lot from a workplace that is slightly off-kilter.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            I think it goes along with the myth of the Dream Job (you know, the one you’re qualified for because of that fancy BA in cultural anthropology!). I wish someone had told me when I graduated with that anthro degree that that Dream Job doesn’t exist. A panel of professionals in various fields talking about the everyday annoyances of jobs that they mostly like vs the things that would make them leave a job would have been great.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          Right. My prior firm (before the merger) was so lax on standards and work ethic and the firm that bought us out is more fast paced. There’s more work to be done and it can feel overwhelming and if you don’t have much experience it may feel unrealistic. But we all manage to finish tasks and help each other but if you don’t have much work experience, especially long-term in 1 place, it’s easy to think this is unrealistic to do this much work.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, totally agree. Also, as you get in a better and better position professionally (good work history, in demand skills, strong reputation), you’re more able to say “no, I’m not sticking around to work in a job with problem X.” But when you’re early in your career, or repairing a bad job history, or don’t have a ton of options, sometimes walking away over a relatively common irritation is really not smart or realistic.

        4. Meg*

          I’m a contractor. I work short-term contracts (6 – 12 months) frequently, and often I’m asked if I want to sign on full-time as an employee instead of a contractor at the end of my contract.

          It is definitely possible to assess a toxic workplace and culture and expectations in 6 months.

          On the flipside, if you’ve stayed in one workplace for years and only have two or three points of comparison, how do you measure what’s a toxic work environment or unrealistic workload? How do you know what ISN’T if you’ve only been exposed to very few companies?

          1. Kara*

            I think one can LEARN to judge a workplace in 6 months, but if someone has never in their life held a job for more than a handful of months at a time, I don’t think they are really capable of judging what’s toxic or unreasonable or micromanaging. If you’ve just left a 5 year job to take something else, but after 4 months realized you were working for a horrible company, that would be reasonable. You’ve got the experience to make that judgement.

            But OP doesn’t have that experience, really. Plus she’s referred to a previous job being “toxic” and now has toxic-like complaints about her current job. That raises red flags for me big time. As the saying goes, if everyone you meet is a problem, then maybe it’s not them it’s you. And not that she’s a toxic person or toxic employee – but more that if she is experiencing a lot of toxic work environments, then maybe her expectations for her jobs are not reasonable.

            1. Terra*

              How fast you can tell if a company is toxic (or not a good fit) depends on how bad the problem is as well. There’s the subtle dysfunction of the top person has no idea what they’re doing/is completely checked out/has a serious problem but can’t/won’t be fired so everyone else is trying to cover for them so you may notice a lot of “accidents” or “mistakes” but don’t realize where it’s coming from or the true fall out for years. And then there’s the obvious dysfunction of it’s your first day on the job and your manager comes over and tries to look down your shirt and calls you a whore when you tell him to cut it out.

              Granted, I don’t know the OPs situation and they may be calling some annoying but overall fairly minor issues “toxic” because they don’t have a lot of experience. I’m just saying that some experiences you definitely can tell are bad pretty quickly and in some fields they aren’t super uncommon because the people at the top have the leverage to negotiate ridiculous contracts that make companies unwilling to get rid of them even knowing that they’re a problem so it’s easier to just sweep it under the rug.

          2. Biff*

            I thought of this too — I’d have not stayed at my first place of employment if I had felt that wasn’t normal (the problems there were epidemic to the area, unfortunately.) When you work a wide berth of jobs, you do sometimes have the opportunity to learn how to assess workplaces and learn to do it quickly.

            On the flip side, I do think it can prevent people from learning certain types of long-term forecasting. I work with a lot of people who don’t have this ability and when I explain to them that “In 2 years I think we’re going to have an issue with the Sport Spout on the KampKettle because we’re going to need to offer it in the Earth Safe Clay Polymer” they tend to blow me off. When exactly that comes to pass, and it turns into a MASSIVE headache for all involved, I get told that “well, no one could have predicted this.” Well, except I did. I once, very stupidly, said that…..anyway, most people seem to treat long-term forecasting as magic, and it’s not. It’s just a matter of experience.

        5. Crazy Dog Lady*

          +1 to this. I hated my job the first year, and looking back, it’s because everything was unfamiliar. I had been at my previous company for four years, so a new environment was scary. I think it takes six months to understand a job, and it often takes a full year to feel truly comfortable in it. Unless the job is truly dysfunctional, I think it’s worth sticking it out – if only because it may end up being great once you get used to it.

        6. CM*

          Not only that, but it’s similar to that situation where, if a guy says that ALL of his ex-girlfriends are “batshit crazy,” the common denominator here is you; not them.

          I think it’s probably safe to say that we’ve all dealt with crappy work situations–whether they were isolated or altogether awful–but, at some point, you need to grow up and learn how to adapt. I can’t believe that EVERY single position the OP has had since 2011 has been categorically, insurmountably terrible in some way where it was impossible to stay for more than a year.

          1. OP*

            I didn’t go into too many details in my original post, but I’ve mostly been moving due to my husband’s schooling and post-grad situation. I’ve also had several stints, usually when I first move to a new city, where I’ve gotten multiple part-time positions while waiting for one of those to become full time. My job-hopping has primarily been due to the logistics of moving and settling into a new city, etc. I also had to quit one when I was going through some health-related problems. I have only left one job in the past due to a toxic work environment. That situation was a very different one, and I wouldn’t label my current position as being “toxic” when I compare it with the former.

            1. Kathlynn*

              If it’s not already on there, maybe add the city to your description of the jobs. Like instead of “Shell Gas Station #155” write “Shell Gas Station #155, Seattle WA”. Or something like that, maybe it’d help. I’d also suggest, if you don’t want to stick around at think job, see if you have any friends/former coworkers who could recommend you to a new job, that would be a good fit. Also, volunteering might be a good idea, if you’ve the time and inclination. That way, if you do need to switch jobs, you still have something to show you can commit to things long term.
              But I could be completely wrong on this advice. I’ve only had 4 jobs, 3 of them seasonal. And only one of them required any job searching at all. (My first was got by saying “I like the people who work here”, the second, and (current) 4th, with same company, I got because my grandma worked there. The third was christmas seasonal, and I broke many “do not” rules in the interview, iirc.)

              1. Jady*

                I’ve done some interviewing myself, and I would agree with listing the locations with the positions.

                I think it gives a better impression that there’s something going on in the person’s life externally that causes the moves instead of just being flaky. Flaky gets thrown in the garbage, but the location changes can have valid reasons that would require further discussion. For someone reading dozens of resumes a day, that little bit of information could prevent immediate dismissal.

                Note that regardless it’s a bad thing, but I think that additional information ups the odds.

            2. NutellaNutterson*

              I wonder if Alison or others might have a very different take on things with this information – it puts things into a very different light. Your experiences are more in the same vein as a military spouse than a “flaky millennial” and finding a way to frame that to future employers is going to be an important part of your career narrative.

              I strongly co-sign the “get a volunteer gig you can stick with” idea above. Perhaps it’ll even be something that lets you do the sort of work you enjoy or want to move into professionally.

              1. OP*

                Maybe, but I think that the ultimate advice (stick it out for 2-3 yrs) will probably remain the same. It’s been really interesting to hear what people assume when they don’t have the full narrative, knowing that those same things are what hiring managers will assume unless I get some longer work history on my resume now.

                I’ll definitely give thought to the volunteering suggestion. I appreciate it!

              2. Kira*

                I think that, while this new information helps with the flaky vs. military spouse dynamic, making a job change already after the latest move veers back towards the flaky stereotype.

              1. OP*

                Zillah, I don’t have any gaps in my employment history, other than my last semester in college where I wasn’t working. I’ll lay it out counting different positions in the same company as different “Jobs”, so my narrative from the original post is consistent (although I hear the feedback about presenting it differently on my resume!).

                In City Z, I worked a Job 0 in college (on my resume) for about 8 months. That summer, I went back to my hometown (City A) to work Job 1, where I had worked past summers. The next semester, I finished up college in City Z without working.

                After that, I moved to a new city (City B) for my then- fiance’s schooling, knowing I’d be there about 5 months. I got a short-term job (Job 2), and was promoted (Job 3) while I was there.

                Then, we moved back home (City A) while my fiance did anther phase of his schooling. I worked at Job 1 again, for about a year, until we had to move for him to go to grad school in City C. During the time in City A, I took another job (Job 4), but had to quit due to some health-related problems. I did a good job while I was there and that boss wrote me a reference later on for Job 5, but at the time, I was too sick to go into work. Throughout, I was able to continue Job 1 remotely.

                In City C, I got two part-time jobs to pay the bills (Job 5 and 6). At that time, I job-searched in my preferred field but couldn’t find anything, and had to take something else in the meantime. When Job 6 offered me a promotion as a full-time job, I took it (Job 7). It soon became clear that this was a toxic work environment (and I stand by this statement). At that point, six months after moving to City C, I found an entry-level part time position in my preferred field (Job 8, on my resume) and took it. However, I still needed to pay the bills, so I took a second part time position (Job 9) from a friend, with the understanding that if Job 8 became full-time, I would put in my notice. Six months later, I was offered a promotion at Job 8, and I took it (Job 10, on my resume). This was my “beloved” job, and I was in that position for a year before we had to move again.

                Now we are in City D, and I’m in Job 11, which I wouldn’t label “toxic” but I would say is making me unhappy, hence the original post.

                1. Kara*

                  OP that makes a lot more sense. Thanks for coming and clarifying. So here are my thoughts on your resume for what it’s worth. First of all, I don’t think you have to list every part time job and I don’t think you really need to list the college jobs. I would start with your City B job.

                  Since you took that job knowing it was a short term job (and I’m assuming your employer did, too), you should say that on your resume. My resume says “3 month contract” or “5 month contract” for the fixed length contract jobs I did. It shows that I didn’t just bail on the job after 5 months.
                  So your resume might look like this a little:
                  Employer 1 – City State (5 month term date to date)
                  Job 2 / Job 3
                  Employer 2 – City State
                  Job 1
                  Employer 3 – City State (part time date to date) [make sure the dates show that this was simultaneous with and overlapping with #2]
                  Job 4
                  Employer 4 – City State
                  Job 6/7 (same job just from part to full time)
                  Employer 5
                  Job 8/10 (same job, just from part to fill time)
                  Employer 6 – City State (current)
                  Job 11

                  It’s still 6 employers but one of them was intentionally short term and the others were different cities.

                  And even so, yes, I’d say if the current situation you’re in is uncomfortable but not toxic, I’d stay as long as you possibly can – at least 2 years before going looking again.

            3. Barbara in Swampeast*

              Oh, that would have been nice to know. Been there, done that, myself, except I worked in high school (almost 2 years at one place) and college (almost 3 years at one place) so I had some long-term jobs on my resume when I left college. I spent the next ten years moving around due to my husband’s education. I always mentioned that I moved due to his education and it didn’t seem to hurt me and probably helped because lots of people go to different schools for their masters and Ph.D.

              1. OP*

                Well, I just assumed that commenters would take my word when I said I was leaving jobs for good reasons I go into more detail in interviews. I go into more detail in interviews My apologies for the lack of information!

            4. Kira*

              I was wondering about the frequent moves. I know a few people who I could see picking up and moving around every year to alleviate boredom/ travel around/ feel cosmopolitan/ avoid issues in their lives. Reading your letter, I pegged you as falling into that category and figured you really do have difficulty settling down and sticking it out, that you are a natural job hopper. Explaining that the moves are based on an outside factor would certainly help mitigate that interpretation and give you a chance to say that you actually want to stay somewhere. But switching jobs now, without another move to explain it, is more evidence that you’ll move on quickly from your next position.

      3. SittingDuck*

        I agree with this. I just hit my first 1 year mark (ever) at a company, and if you had asked me last year at this time I would have told you the workload was nuts. Now its not at all – because I’ve learned how to handle it, created new ways of doing things to make things flow smoother, and just generally settled in more.

        I would encourage OP to give it more time as well – 3 months is not enough time to figure out what your workload or company culture will be like a year from now. You are still in the ‘introduction’ phase.

      4. Bostonian*

        This is a really good point. At most jobs I have a phase a couple of months in where I feel like I’m supposed to know what I’m doing but I still don’t feel like I’m on top of things. And then eventually everything settles in to place, I develop the systems that work for me to manage everything, and I can start being more proactive, making suggestions, improving processes, etc.

        Also, at 3 months in what seems like micromanaging to one person probably seems like appropriate training to another. If you still feel micromanaged at 6 months to a year, then it’s probably a permanent thing.

      5. KT*

        This…the best advice I got was you need one year to learn what your job is…the second year is about learning to do it really well, the third year is about improving things (and preparing for the next role).

        I can’t imagine understanding a company in 3 months

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Good way to sum it up.

          The other thing I can’t imagine is the logistics of job hopping. I understand it can be a necessity with spouse-driven moves or layoffs, but just the aggravation of dealing with new insurance, 401k rollovers, updating kid’s info at the schools, never mind new coworkers, bosses, processes and procedures is enough to make me want to stay put.

          1. Honeybee*

            Word. I’m 2 months into my current role and the start-up is exhausting. I can’t imagine thinking about doing that again anytime soon.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          That is an excellent summary. It really is true. After one year you learn when the company’s busy times are and the 2nd you are more comfortable with tasks and understanding them.

        3. Ad Astra*

          It’s possible that the OP has identified some red flags early on and accurately predicted that she’ll be micromanaged and overworked a year or two from now. But there’s just no way to verify your suspicions in only three months at a job, for all the reasons everyone’s mentioned. It’s a good idea to keep working hard and see if things get better.

      6. OP*

        That’s a good point. At this particular workplace, though, I’m seeing a few red flags that make me feel fairly confident in saying that the workload is too much for many people. Without getting too much in detail, they have a significant turnover rate and many of my coworkers are barely hanging in there, even those who have been around for a while. I also only have a partial workload right now, which makes me concerned about what a full load will look like. I definitely hope I find processes that make it easier, but I suspect (based on other conversations with tenured coworkers) that means cutting corners in ways that are upsetting to me.

        As far as the micromanaging goes: from what I can tell, it’s actually trickling down. My direct supervisor makes comments about how often she receives emails about asking her team to do certain things, and how she only sends us one email for every three her boss sends her, etc, and often apologizes: i.e. “Susan has asked me four times if you’ve done this. I know you are out on site today and only got the email yesterday, but I’ve got to respond to her.” It’s something I’ve also heard others comment on in passing.

        That being said, that doesn’t mean that your advice isn’t applicable. Thank you!

      7. Victoria*

        I understand that it may take time to gain a full understanding of the job, but I also feel that it depends on the person and the position. I was hired as an assistant to the Administrative Assistant. She trained me to do what she does so that she would be able to work on other projects. She sat with me for 4 days, going through the details of what I needed to do. I was working on my own by the first week, but she frequently came into my office to see how things were going. If I had problems I would either go find her ask her when she came to check up on me. She told the boss that I was picking up on things rather quickly and so I was given more responsibilities. I basically did some copy and pasting from one Excel spreadsheet to another; entered data into spreadsheets and reconciled spreadsheet totals. I was asked to prepare reports; make copies; file invoices; and respond to emails. This was not rocket science. It was basic office skills. I even received a raise after 3 weeks. But for some reason the Administrative Assistant still felt the need to constantly come into my office and tell me with step by step instructions on how to move a column in Excel ( Her and I were in the same Excel class in college, we used to study together). She would ask me why my Excel cells were not fully opened or why they were so wide…etc…You should open them all the way or click here and drag here. It was not really a matter of her concern that I was not able to do the job because the reason I received a raise was because I was able to catch on and help out within a short period of time. As I mentioned earlier, it was not rocket science. I was doing basic office work. She was just the micromanaging type.n It was hard for me to work like that. Autonomy is important in order for some people to feel engaged at work. In my opinion.

      1. Dana*

        I wouldn’t doubt they’re real, but I’m conjuring up images of someone who worked in one of those “college career centers” and struck out on their own…doesn’t sound like someone worth investing in based on all the negativity I’ve heard here.

      2. Prismatic Professional*

        Universities usually have career counselors for alumni, you might look into that. There is also http://www.mynextmove.org/ where there are assessments about your interests and it comes up with a general profile about what sorts of jobs might be a good fit. Take it with a huge pinch of salt, but it might be somewhere to start.


        1. Kate*

          Interesting, thanks! I mean, I’m getting there. I’m in my first full time job after college (2 years and counting!) and I think I’ve got the FIELD right but now I’m narrowing down what kinds of roles I’d want (turns out: not customer service). Thanks for the site, I’ll look at it!

          1. Prismatic Professional*

            If at all possible, I’d also suggest reaching out to your career center. At least one counselor usually has at least an LPC (licensed professional counselor) and maybe more. They would be the ones (usually) to help you explore what roles would be best for you. :-)

            Or you could talk to a friend/relative that you trust to be a sounding board. :-)

    4. SRB*

      “If you don’t stick to anything long-term, you’re never going to fully establish yourself and learn and grow from different situations and experiences.”

      A coworker of mine left the company for a few years, but then came back. When asked about it, he said: every company has it’s own brand of crazy. You just have to learn what brand of crazy you want to live with.

      It sounds like OP is holding out for the perfect job, but that doesn’t exist. I *LOVE* my job to pieces, but I could also rant for hours about it’s particular brand of crazy and all the things I would change if I had a magic wand.

      Unless this job is seriously affecting OP’s mental, physical or financial health, I’d agree they should stick it out, if only to get a real handle on what kind of crazy they’re willing to live with. OP may become really good at handling micromanaging bosses and discover that it’s a kind of crazy they’re willing to deal with. OP may learn over the 3 years that companies with strained outside relationships are not the kind of crazy they want to deal with and decide to move on. But you don’t learn those things overnight, and those things are important to know about yourself when you’re trying to assess your fit at a potential new place.

    5. Koko*

      Agreed about the job not sounding all that bad on the whole. Workload and micromanaging are things that you can often fix by having the right conversations with your boss (Alison has covered those situations quite a bit) before you resort to quitting.

      Workload unreasonable: Boss, I’m unable to fit projects A, B, and C into my schedule without compromising timeliness or quality, or working 55-hour weeks. How should I prioritize these projects so that I can work a schedule closer to 40 or 45 hours per week? Of course I understand there will be times when more hours are needed, but I’d like to maintain a realistic workload most of the time.

      Micromanaging: Boss, I notice you often weigh in and make decisions about things that I thought were my responsibility. Do you have any concerns about my work or the decisions I’ve made in the past that are prompting this? I’d like to be able to take on these responsibilities to build my skillset. Can we map out a plan to get me up to speed enough to take over these decisions, of course consulting you and keeping you informed?

      But on the second one…you might wait a little bit. At 3 months in you may not be fully trained yet. It was about 6 months at my job as a mid-level manager before I started taking gradually taking the decision-making reins from senior management. It was about a year before I’d fully brought all decision-making under my own control. I can’t tell if you’re in a service or professional job now, but in a professional job, 3 months is often a very short time to expect a ton of autonomy.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        I completely agree. In my experience you don’t even have a good understanding of the job until you hit the 6 month mark and don’t fully understand until 1 year in.

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        Yeah, tbh I wouldn’t have minded a little more micromanaging in my first three months at my current job!

  4. Carmen*

    The opposite question: how long is too long to stay? I am 32 and have been in my current position for 4 years. Will it look bad that I am not moving up or getting promotions? FWIW I’m a mid-level worker on a 5-year contract position for an international development project.

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      I’ve also wondered this… I am a general admin in a place with pretty much no room for promotion and a basic salary. But it’s a cushy job with a lovely team and easy but not mind numbing work… If it stayed like this forever I’d basically not bother ever move. But I’m worried that if I ever wanted pr needed to move on… What if I stayed here for like ten years in the same role. Or more. Would that make me look unambitious and not a good employee?? It’s been two years so far..

      1. Biff*

        I think if you are happy you should do your very best to avoid leaving. You can’t put a price tag on happy. Staying at a job for 15 years because you are happy and they treat you will is, IMO, never going to look bad.

        1. Natalie*

          Agreed. Your worklife is more than lines on a resume, and the former shouldn’t be steered by the latter.

      2. Hattie McDoogal*

        Ooh, this is (mostly) me too. Another thing I worry about — job postings that ask for 3-5 professional references. If I’m here too long I’ll have only this boss, as all my previous managers will be too far in the past to be relevant (not that they were too relevant anyway since this is my first and only office job).

      3. Afiendishthingy*

        Staying 10 years at a place will not make you look like a bad employee. Moreover you’ve only been there for 2 so I wouldn’t get too stressed. You’re happy there, and I’m guessing you do a good job. Don’t go looking for something else just because you think you’re “supposed” to. Don’t borrow trouble :)

    2. JobHopping*

      I don’t know if there is a widely accepted stay that is “too long”, but I don’t think 4 years is this. I’ve stayed at a company for 1 year (too short) and for 10 years (too long), and have had 3 jobs with tenures of 2-5 years in between.

      From a manager’s perspective, when I see a resume with someone who has been in the same company for a long time, I look for movement and growth within that org. If you’ve been doing the exact same thing at the same company for, let’s say, 8+ years, I do file your resume lower than someone who has shown a little bit more growth and advancement.

      1. Brett*

        So, that is something that should be addressed directly in a cover letter?

        e.g. I have been in the same role for 8 years that I was hired into directly out of school, senior teapot specialist. The only two positions above me are director of breakfast preparation (who uses teapots, so they are my boss, but is not a teapot roll) and regional teapot coordinator (who was in the role before I was hired and will retire sometime around 2025).
        It seems complicated and tedious to get into the internal structure of our organization in a cover letter, but how would I express that there are no promotions or horizontal movement where I am now?

        Unfortunately, the type of work I do is almost always a support role in the private sector, so I probably applying to organizations where having the same title for 20+ years is not the norm.

        1. plain_jane*

          I don’t think explaining the org structure is helpful, but explaining how you’ve been a senior teapot specialist and over the years you’ve done ceramic and porcelain and metal? Or if you’ve taken on more responsibility for the P&L for the teapots over time, or with working with clients directly, or the marketing dept, or R&D. Those are types of growth I look for in someone who hasn’t had a title change over several years.

        2. Sketchee*

          Growth could be continued achievement, new accomplishments each year, taking on new parts of the job, ways you’ve made it more efficient. Is every detail of the job exactly the same as it was in every way that it was 8 years ago?

        3. Brett*

          It’s government. The scope of my projects changes up and down all the time, but my responsibilities are very strictly regimented and cannot change, even though they were extremely broad to start with (much much broader than the equivalent private sector positions).

          1. Kira*

            Could you point to soft successes like, “Developed reputation for thoughtful, prompt responses,” or “Built strong relationships with vendors, enabling us to ABC”?

      2. OhNo*

        Out of curiosity, when you say you look for “movement and growth”, do you consider changes to the type of work the person was assigned, or just job titles? I’m curious whether increased responsibility over time makes a difference to potential employers, or just title changes.

        1. JobHopping*

          Hopefully I didn’t just step in something here! This is why I lurk, usually. To answer your question, I look for both, really. It’s easier to say what I don’t like to see:
          2005-20015: Sr. Teapot Specialist
          – Designed spouts
          – Put on handles
          That looks like you’ve been doing the same thing for 10 years. And maybe that’s fine in some industries. But I’m in a STEM field, so I see that as stagnation. YMMV.

          Let me clarify, I’ve hired people who have been in the same role for a long time to great success. I also had some clunkers. So I don’t eliminate, but I would see someone who was able to qualify in their resume an increased level of responsibility (either duties or title) as someone I’d like to speak to first.

          1. OhNo*

            That makes perfect sense, actually. I can see how looking like you’ve been doing the exact same thing for multiple years, with no changes whatsoever, would throw up some cautionary flags. I’m in an education-related field, so there’s probably not quite the same focus on constant improvement as many STEM fields have, but there is definitely a culture of making each iteration better and following new trends.

            Awesome! I’m going to incorporate this into my next resume edit, to see if I can’t highlight some of the increased responsibility I’ve gotten in my current position. Thanks!

          2. Koko*

            This is one reason I’m a big fan of having a 1-2 sentence summary of each job on my resume, in between the title/dates/company name and the bullet points. That’s where I describe from 10,000 feet the net impact I had during my time there. What systems and metrics improved under my direction, what new efforts I initiated, etc.

          3. Kira*

            I’m hoping to show growth when I prepare my next resume. Since my title and the key projects I manage won’t have changed, I’ll be detailing expanded responsibilities and continuous improvement.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      What seems to be the norm in your field? There are some fields where promotions happen routinely as long as you’re doing solid work, while others (biggest example – teaching) where your job title might not change for decades even though you are becoming a more valuable employee. Are others at your company moving up or getting promoted? Or do you have lots of coworkers that have been in their current position for years?

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        That said, if I were looking at the resume of a teacher who’d been in their last school for 15 years, I’d expect to see signs of leadership within the job title of “Third Grade Teacher” – for example, “Chaired the committee to select a new math curriculum” or “Mentored beginning teachers by doing XYZ” or “Presented social studies curriculum at these three conferences”. It wouldn’t be that impressive if the candidate had just been doing the exact same thing for 15 years.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Out of curiosity: Is there a way to demonstrate that you’re a really, really good third grade teacher without taking on a bunch of leadership roles? I would think some teachers aren’t great at leading committees and organizations, but they might be freaking brilliant at getting third graders to learn. What’s your take?

          1. OhNo*

            Improve the curriculum, improve test scores, improve understanding, improve diversity, improve inclusion… there are actually a lot of ways that teachers/instructors can show that they have continually gotten better at their job without taking on leadership roles. Plus even just sitting on committees can show leadership to some extent.

            I admit I’m in higher ed, and my position isn’t solely focused on instruction, so there are undoubtedly limits on what elementary teachers can do that I don’t know about. But I’m sure there are lots of ways that teachers can demonstrate this kind of thing!

          2. Blue Anne*

            I’m trying to think of a good way to reflect that and the only thing I’m coming up with is glowing references.

          3. Turanga Leela*

            Absolutely—you talk about how you design your units and overall curriculum, what you have your students create, and the content that your students have mastered (you can use standardized test data or other metrics). Teachers who want to be able to demonstrate this sort of thing often build portfolios with videos of themselves teaching, copies of student work (both average and excellent), individual lesson plans, and long-term plans. You could do this for a variety of classes or subject areas and show how you would adjust for students with special needs.

            I’ve known schools that required prospective teachers to teach a sample lesson as part of the application process, which is a pretty reasonable way to assess someone’s skill in front of the class.

        2. MK*

          If you were hiring for a third grade teacher, why on earth would leadership ability matter? Lots of people have no interest in moving to management roles, especially in fields like teaching, when it can mean you pretty much stop doing what you were trained to do and become an administrator. I can see that you would want to see signs that the candidate didn’t stagnate in their 15-year stretch, but more in the context of how well they do their actual job.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I spent 17 years at $PreviousJob, but with increasing titles/responsibilities that I could clearly show over that time. I had no difficulty in getting a new position when I chose to leave. Anecdata. It probably helped that I was openly enthusiastic about learning new things, that I also openly acknowledged that I’d have a lot to learn, and that I asked what the typical learning curve for new hires in the industry was as one of my standard questions. (I didn’t ask that for the impression it would make – I genuinely wanted to know – but I think it also did convey that I really ‘got’ that I would be adapting to a new environment and job.)

        1. Dan*

          I’m not trying to nitpick here, but if you had increasing titles and responsibilities, then you weren’t at the same “job”. You had the same employer, but different “jobs.” The 8-20 rule has more to do with stagnation in a particular skill or pigeonholing yourself into a single way of doing things, not just having the same name on your paycheck.

          I work in software development, and my old boss used to say that there’s a difference between 15 years of experience, and 1 year of experience 15 times. The first guy doesn’t have a problem, but the second wants to get paid like the former. He’ll have trouble because he doesn’t have the skills to contribute.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I work in software development, too. :) Depends, is Junior Programmer vs. Programmer vs. Software Engineer vs. Senior Software Engineer a different “job”, especially when on the same product? :)

            1. Kara*

              In my industry yes, they are different. A Sr. Engineer is going to have more responsibility for overseeing what Jr Programmers and Programmers are doing while still maintaining their work on the project. As a Jr. Programmer, maybe you’re allowed to work on part of the code or contribute to a section of the project. As a Senior Software Engineer on that project you’re responsible for the whole thing, including all the pieces and parts that the Jr, the Programmer, and the Engineers put together.

              It’s a progression of responsibility and skills.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Fair enough. It is a progression and I agree with that, but I think of it as fundamentally the same job, just expanding the pieces. I suppose I’m blinded by having been in the middle of it that long. :)

          2. Honeybee*

            Well, Alison’s question and answer were both focused on company, not job.


            I’ve been at the same company for nearly 12 years, and during that time…I…have been told that while longevity was once a good thing to have, these days potential employers could look at my length of time at the same company as a strike against me. They’re saying that someone could look at me and think that I’m either locked into my present company’s way of thinking and that could be hard to break, or that I’ve simply become stale, stuck in a rut, and will always be there.

            And Alison’s response:

            It’s true that there’s a point where staying too long at one place can raise questions about how you’ll adapt to new environments…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.

            Her 8-20 rule was in response to that.

            1. Kira*

              That’s the way I see it, too. We just interviewed someone who’d been at the same company in upward roles for the last 12 or so years. A big question in each interview was: “Why are you moving on?”

    4. Ad Astra*

      Are you taking on increased responsibility in some way, even if it’s not in the form of a promotion? Have you seen people in your position get promoted quickly while you stay put? Is there a logical position in your company that you might one day be promoted into? And do you want a promotion?

      Four years at a mid-level position doesn’t strike me as unusual or negative.

    5. Gene*

      A lot depends on the field.

      In my field, municipal/sewer district environmental regulation, people either stay at a job for 2-4 years, or forever. My first two lasted 4 and 3 years respectively and I’ve been here now for 24 years. I’ve had the same job title for all my time here. In between Job2 and this one, I moved to a related, but distinctly different field for about 15 mo. Yet if I wanted to move, this wouldn’t be a huge flag for people in my field.

    6. AnotherHRPro*

      This totally depends on what your aspirations are and if this position is preparing you for them. If you like the level you are at and are continuing to learn and grow, then no. If you are looking to take on more responsibility then the answer is still no, but you might be starting to approach that point in the next few years.

    7. M. S.*

      The better question, Are you happy at your current job ?

      I mean, people look at me like I have 3 heads when I say I’ve been at my company for almost 18 years (Feb 2016).

      If you’re happy and you’re paying your bills – Then who cares.

      If you’re not happy, THEN you need to figure out why you’re not happy (or not promoting) and work from there.

      1. A is for A*

        This x100. Honestly I love my job. Been here four years, and can picture myself being here for the rest of my career. I had my fair share of other 2-4 year job experiences at other companies, and feel relieved that I’ve found a job that I actually enjoy going to daily. I started here as a director, and moving up would be moving to being a vice president of the company (something that as a therapist, I don’t want to do). As long as things keep moving on the path they’re moving on, I can’t forsee myself leaving. And I definitely wouldn’t leave a job I’m happy with just to avoid staying here too long. However, working in healthcare, and for a company that is very focused on innovative care and best practices (and a field that requires a lot of CEUs), there is the constant need to re-educate oneself and change practices for the better. It’s definitely not a stagnant position.

    8. mander*

      I would imagine that if you were hired for a specific project with a fixed end date, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to get promoted out of the role you were hired to do.

  5. Anx*

    This is extremely relevent to my interests (and I’ll probably comment at length later).

    I’d be worried about staying 3 years in a job I knew wasn’t a great fit and ending up without a lot of accomplishments, being able to speak enthusiastically and confidently about my contributions there, and not having a good recommendation.

    I think the need for stability can overcome these worries.

    But, for other commenters, do you think it would look worse to have a pretty men or even negative takeaway at the end of the 3 years or keep up with the unstable history. Would it look suspicious to use mostly older references at that point?

    Actually, this is confirming to me that the work history is more important than not getting a good reference. You need a decent resume and application before you even get to that stage.

  6. Lanya (aka Camp Director Kim)*

    I wonder if the OP could try to showcase any kind of long-term volunteer or self-employment experience that has been more consistent, to show some stability in terms of years spent doing one thing?

    OP, try to make the next job count and stick it out for a while. It’s easy to want to jump around at the first sign of trouble, but a few months is not usually long enough to grasp the bigger picture of an organization while you’re still just learning the ropes.

    1. Terra*

      Self-employment would be better than nothing but it’s probably not going to look great since you can generally only offer clients as references and clients will have a very different relationship and interpretation than a manager would. Long term volunteer experience is probably better since it’s not going to be counted exactly as a job but you still have managers and co-workers who can speak to your experience and such.

  7. CaliCali*

    This jumped out at me:

    Mostly, even though I’ve known since my college graduation that I want to do particular nonprofit work, I’ve deferred seeking out those types of jobs out of respect for how long it takes to become proficient, choosing to wait until I settle and, in the meantime, work short-term on things like admin work, child care, etc.

    I think this line of thinking is part of the problem. You’re framing it as respect for proficiency, but you can’t get proficient at those jobs until you…build relevant experience. And when you hop from place to place so quickly, you can’t actually get the experience required. It’s taken me at least 6 months at every job for me to feel like I’m (mostly) out of learning mode and into true experience-building and proficiency mode.

    To hunker down means that you’ll not have an excuse for delaying your entry into your career. And it’s FINE to not want to jump into a career, but to me, the job-hopping reads as somewhat of a stalling tactic before getting serious about a real path (or perhaps being afraid of what it means to truly commit to that path). I don’t think you’ll stop job-hopping until you come to a sense of peace about actually getting started in your career goals.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      When I read the paragraph you quoted, I wasn’t 100% sure whether the OP was stalling entry into the field because he feels unworthy, or if he is waiting because of the time commitment to becoming proficient. Either way, there’s no way to build proficiency without actually doing the work; OP needs to find an entry-level position into the field and then stick around for awhile.

    2. BRR*

      Yeah, I’m not quite understanding why the LW doesn’t go for a job in their preferred profession. In addition to your comment about fear of committeemen, I wonder if it’s difficult to get into. I wonder if by not being in their choice career which is something I hope they enjoy, they don’t want to stay at these short-term gigs because they’re not happy.

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, that line was confusing to me as well. You build proficiency for a role by doing similar roles for a long time and moving up within that industry. You don’t do it by staying completely out of the industry doing random short-term work. Hopefully the OP can clarify the thought process there, because it makes no sense to me the way it’s stated.

      1. Chameleon*

        My read was that she knew she was going to be moving to different geographical areas, and didn’t want to enter her field of interest knowing that she would not be staying in the job long enough to gain the needed proficiency.

      2. OP*

        Hey folks! The Other Dawn has it correctly here: in the first three cities I lived in, I knew I was going to be moving again fairly quickly, due to my husband’s schooling and post-grad job. Instead of applying for job where it takes 6 months- year to become proficient, and interviewing without being upfront about moving in a few months, I chose to apply for jobs where I could pick things up pretty quickly and not be too much of a drain on a company. I was always honest in my interviews if I knew I was going to leave. When I moved to City C, I knew I was going to be there for two years, and was able to spend 1.5 of those years at the same place, in my preferred field. I only left because my husband got his Masters and a post-grad job in a new city. Now, we’re in City D, where we *should* be indefinitely, and I have a job in a similar company, again in my preferred field.

  8. Going anonymous*

    I’ve been wondering about this! My situation is less drastic: I’ve got graduate school, then one-year fellowship, then two years and counting at first long-term job in this field. I like my job and have a record of accomplishments, but I’m increasingly interested in moving into another aspect of the field. Would leaving soon would make me look like a job-hopper going forward?

    1. Ad Astra*

      More time would be better, but I say no, not too job-hoppy. What matters more, imo, is what you’ve achieved in this job and how good your references will be. Depending on the job and the employee, that third year could be really valuable in building some marketable skills and achieving measurable results.

    2. Karowen*

      I feel like fellowships are counted in the same bracket as internships, e.g. not expected to be particularly long (though please correct me if I’m wrong!). With that frame, I don’t think 2+ years is worrisome by any means.

      1. CMT*

        This is what I would think, too. They usually have time limits. But I’m not a hiring manager, so I don’t know how this would look to them.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I do think there’s a correlation between level of job and minimum time to stay. IMHO, 2 years at the first job isn’t as bad as a series of 2-year jobs for a mid- to senior-level person, especially in your case where you can show that you stayed enough time to figure out what the field was about, figured out that long-term you wanted to be in a different part of the field. 2 years is potentially long enough to figure that out. Now, if you’re mid-level and expect you to take on responsibility, 2 years may not leave much time for meaningful contribution once you learn what you need to do the job well.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I agree with this. I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing for you to move on after 2 years – but it should ideally be a good, strong strategic move to somewhere where you could then have a longer stint (along the lines of 5+ years) at one company (either in 1 position or in positions of increasing responsibility).

        So basically, it’s ok to go after only 2 years, but only if it’s either a really good move, or you are escaping a really really horrible situation – don’t make a lateral move to something else you think you could only stay at for 2 years or less.

    4. Green*

      One more vote for “not too job hoppy” if you’re at 2 years (especially since by the time you find a good fit and leave you could be at 2 1/2 or 3 years). A fellowship is a limited term engagement and everyone knows it, so I don’t think it’s enough to establish a trend of short-term jobs. It’d be more concerning if you were field-hopping at this point.

    5. Terra*

      You’re probably fine but part of what differentiates job hopping from a strategic move is 1) how you explain it to the next person who interview you and 2) how long you stay at subsequent jobs. Assuming you have a good reason for leaving such as wanting to move into a different area and you stay at your next few jobs for several years no one will think twice.

  9. Ad Astra*

    In some fields (journalism comes to mind), you can sometimes get away with a 1-year stint, and 2 years would be standard. But that’s mostly because the industry is full of layoffs and buyouts, and it’s often easier/better to move to a new market than to rise up the ranks within the same organization (for instance, you might start your career at 22 as a reporter in Peoria and retire at 65 as, like, a senior reporter in Houston).

    I can’t tell from the letter whether OP’s industry is more tolerant than others when it comes to shorter tenures, but three months isn’t going to cut it anywhere with this OP’s history. Especially if OP isn’t looking to relocate.

    Alison’s point about the quality of companies that will hire job hoppers is spot on. Right now, it’s unlikely that changing jobs will improve your situation, OP. You gotta stick it out for a while.

    1. Jennifer*

      I’d agree with this, longer stints in more creative fields can seem indicative of stagnation, as most people in the industry move vertically/laterally or are laid off quite often.

    2. Green*

      Journalism you can definitely get away with a 1-year or 2-year stint, particularly if Job #1 is in “not-so-desirable location” (as often happens). It’s definitely common to move frequently earlier in your career and then settle into a job once you’ve landed where you want to live.

  10. ALH*

    How many jobs is considered too many? Similar situation: four companies in four years, due to layoffs and moves.

    1. LBK*

      Layoffs don’t count. Moves, it depends what the move was for – if you just decided you wanted to pick up and go across the country, that probably won’t look great.

      1. Jennifer*

        How would a recruiter/hiring manager be able to discern a layoff from a move on a resume that speaks to shorter times in each position?

        1. Dasha*

          This… how do hiring managers know if you left because of layoffs or not just looking from your resume?

          1. Gene*

            I would put it in the resume; but I could be wrong.

            Job1 – May, 1997 to April, 2000

            Blah, blah

            Job 2 – April 2000 to January 2001 (layoff)

            Blah, blah

            Job 3 – May 2000 to present

            Blah, blah

            1. LBK*

              Yes, this is what I would do, or if there were a more specific reason like a location closing or a company going bankrupt I’d note that.

        2. Ad Astra*

          The recruiter can’t tell a difference without asking, but since layoffs are out of the candidate’s control, the behavior itself isn’t really job hopping. It may still look that way to a recruiter, which sucks, but you can’t do much about that. Fortunately, four jobs in four years isn’t that bad. Many recruiters will ask about short stints, which gives you a chance to explain the layoffs and relocation, and a lot of application tracking systems will even ask why you left each job.

          1. Jennifer*

            Agreed that four in four isn’t *that* bad, especially in today’s job climate. However, those who have moved and/or been laid off do tend to get the short end of the stick due to recruiters immediately assuming the worst of the person based on a resume when looking to fill informational interview slots that could allow for the needed conversation.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Huh, interesting. I would have thought startups would be far more open to hiring job hoppers, but maybe I’m misinterpreting startup culture. I did have to stop reading once he said “You’re probably disloyal” because gross. It’s business.

      1. LBK*

        I think most startups do, that’s why his article is directed at startup owners telling them to stop hiring job hoppers (and then being confused why they can’t keep anyone employed).

        1. TootsNYC*

          And also, he wants startups to stop doing it, because they moreso than an established company don’t have the resources to deal with the chaos that frequent vacancies can cause.

      2. Three Thousand*

        Not to mention “you’re in it for the money.” And? People work for money. They don’t work for your “vision” or your fantasy of being the next Larry Page. You’re the one who’s going to benefit from that, not them. If you’re demanding loyalty as your entitlement and offering nothing in return, and actually being surprised and butthurt when good employees leave you for *more money* of all things, you deserve to lose them.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Ah, but…I work for the emotional satisfaction of a job well done. I’ve turned down an opportunity for more money because I liked where I was and what I was accomplishing. I was well paid, so it wasn’t a hardship.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Some days I do work for the emotional satisfaction. Other days, the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that I have bills to pay and a kid to support. Pretty sure it’s normal, as long as there’s a healthy balance of the two…

          2. Honeybee*

            The emotional satisfaction of my job is great – I love my job – but that’s not why I work there. I work there because they need me to help them make money and I need to pay rent and eat. If they stopped paying me, I wouldn’t work here anymore no matter how much I love the work, because I need to continue to pay rent and eat.

        2. MashaKasha*

          Is he criticizing people for being in it for the money? wtf? What is he in it for, gold stars? I wanted to read his article, but after seeing the last few comments, really don’t know if it’s worth my time.

          1. LBK*

            I think it comes off that way, but I think the more charitable reading of what he’s trying to say is that he wants people who won’t jump ship purely for any bigger paycheck someone waves at them.

            Now, obviously some of that is on him to provide competitive pay in the first place, plus good benefits, a healthy environment, strong management, etc. But there are people who are job hoppers because all they care about is who’s the highest bidder, so that’s another compelling reason not to hire job hoppers in general. I think that’s also how people end up hating jobs they were excited to take – because they see big numbers and they don’t bother to do their research beyond that or realistically weigh how much money means to them vs work/life balance, the responsibilities of the role, the company’s culture, and so on.

            1. MashaKasha*

              Well, not for the paycheck alone, but if the sum total of everything being offered is very very good, not gonna lie, I’ll jump. A wise man told me early in my career “do not be loyal to your company, because the company is not going to be loyal to you”. How am I going to feel if a perfect job comes along, I turn it down out of loyalty to my current job, and my current job lays me off a few months later?

              I’m also guessing that a lot of people job-hop, or hate jobs they were excited to take, for kind of the opposite reason – they put up with their so-so job until it becomes intolerable and they had to get out asap, so they took the first offer that came along without really looking into details of what they were accepting, new job turned out to be not much better than the old, rinse, repeat.

              But, yeah, switching jobs just for the pay is silly. There are a lot of other factors.

        3. Honeybee*

          That irritated me too, but it’s probably why I deliberately avoided startups when I was doing my job search (difficult in a tech search). Particularly because the kind of “commitment” he’s talking about is sticking it out when your company is running out of money and Google is offering what you do for free. Obviously you don’t want people to leave at the first sign of some trouble, but there’s not enough loyalty in the world to make me stick around after the paychecks stop coming. I need to eat.

    2. LBK*

      Interesting article. I agree with most points but disagree with others – the loyalty point in particular feels off to me, especially since he follows it up with talking about how many people in his generation got laid off. It’s kind of a hypocritical imbalance of expectations, and maybe it isn’t fair for employees the company took a chance on to jump ship the second things look even slightly shaky, but given how frequently startups flop or how often they get acquired and then lay off the entire staff it’s not reasonable to expect unwavering loyalty when you can’t return that with stability.

      I also don’t like his point about not saying bad things about your former boss – not in the way he phrased it, sure, but you should be able to be relatively honest and factual about why you want to leave a company without having to pretend your manager was a saint under all circumstances.

    3. Honeybee*

      I think this article was particularly outrageous for the time it was written – 2010, the height of the recession – but is still sad. Immediately I thought of military spouses: the author says he doesn’t care about reasons and says “f they’ve had 5 jobs of 2 years or less each – buh bye.” But I can easily see a military spouse having a work history like that or similar (particularly if they are in a field in which it takes a long time to find a position). I get that employers are trying to fill a role and not run a charity and they’re looking for the best people, but I also think a blanket statement that they’re all terrible employees isn’t useful either.

  11. Dan*

    “In July 2015, I moved to a new city and got a position identical to my (beloved) job over the 2014-2015 year. However, for various reasons, I’ve found that I’m unhappy here. The workload is unreasonable, the company’s relationship with outside agencies is strained, there is a culture of micromanaging, and so on. After only three months, I’m considering looking for another position, but I’m afraid of having another short-term job on my resume.”

    This paragraph really sticks out to me. AAM suggests that a job hopping is an indication that that the person is a poor judge of fit. One can paraphrase the quoted paragraph as “I had a job I really liked, and found a position that I thought was identical to it. Except that after 3 months, I realized it wasn’t, so I want to bail.” The minute I read that, I wanted to know *why* the OP thought new job was so great — to leave a job in three months is pretty drastic, and indicates the OP misread what was going on, sort of making AAM’s point.

    1. fposte*

      I’m also not clear which was the beloved job and why the OP left that one. I also think that if you haven’t stayed two years at any job, it probably wasn’t love but work limerence.

      1. OP*

        I didn’t go into too many details in my original post, but I’ve mostly been moving due to my husband’s schooling and post-grad situation. I’ve also had several stints, usually when I first move to a new city, where I’ve gotten multiple part-time positions while waiting for one of those to become full time. Most recently, I was living in City C, where I worked at an organization for 1.5 of the 2 yrs I was there. That’s the “beloved job” =) I had to leave when we moved due to my husband’s work, unfortunately. I thought my current job, in City D, was going to be a good fit because it is literally the same position, with the same stated workload, by an organization that does the same thing as my job in City C.

  12. Bostonian*

    Does the fact that there are a lot of part-time jobs mixed in matter at all? OP seems to list four main jobs on her resume, at three companies. The stints at those companies seem to be almost a year, two summers and then a year and half at the same place, and then another year and a half with a promotion in the middle. Positioned like that, it doesn’t seem awful to me. Not great, for sure, but not awful, and if some of it started part time while OP held a second job and then became full time, that second job doesn’t seem like it should be a black mark.

    I’m not sure that changes the advice, though: with a spotty history, sticking around for a while somewhere is important.

    1. AllisonAllisonAllisonetc*

      Yeah I noticed some of that too. The OP still definitely needs to stick around at this and/or her next job for at least 2 years, but I think they can revamp their current resume (ignore the 2nd jobs, combine your last 2 before the recent move into one 1.5 yr stint with a promotion instead of as 2 separate listings which it sounds like you’re doing, etc) and make it look less worrisome to a prospective employer.

    2. Dan*

      The problem with the “not great but not awful” framing is that still won’t get the OP anywhere. In this day and age, it’s reasonable to assume that you are competing with “great” candidates for a job, not just awful ones. “I’m not awful” just isn’t a selling point in this job market.

      1. Natalie*

        I mean, maybe, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t revise their resume to present what they have in the best light.

  13. John*

    We all make mistakes and, in my view, get a free pass to make one brief stay in a job (toxic work environment, abusive boss, etc). But you have to realize that the price for doing so is knowing that you will be stuck in your next job if it doesn’t turn out great.

    OP, I think you need to figure out how to make it work in your present job. You need a couple years in that job, but it all sounds like you need to learn to adapt.

  14. The IT Manager*

    I think you need to stick it out now. Even with only relevant jobs shown (and you should show time spent at a single company as one job/multiple positions), you don’t have one to point to and say, I stayed put for 2+ years. I especially suggest that because your reasons for wanting to leave don’t seem particularly terrible. You could have downplayed it, but it sounds like that in the 3 months you’ve been there you haven’t been as happy as you were at your beloved job but beloved jobs are rare and you usually have to put up with at least some non-perfect conditions at work.

  15. Rachel*

    Even as a former job-hopper, in an industry with a lot of turnover, I don’t hire job-hoppers for the reasons Alison outlined. As the years went on, I found job-hopper to be self-perpetuating; “good” bosses and “good” companies asked me tough questions about why I had moved around so much. Disinterested bosses, or those with other challenges, were willing to look past my job history, but I ended working with increasingly dysfunctional teams.

    It wasn’t until my late 20s, when my friends who had suck it out for longer, starting to get meaningful promotions, that I realized that I had to find a way to make it work. There’s good and bad in every office and sometimes you just need to look back office politics and less than optimal management to get paid and build a network.

    My advice would be to do the best you can where you are, assuming the situation is still workable. Take walks, eat right, and find meaningful things to do outside of the office. Do the best that you can to advance yourself at work, taking advantage of free or low-cost MOOCs or professional development courses offered through your job. I taught myself digital marketing skills and eventually landed at a “good” company where I’ve been working for 4 years, with advancement.

  16. Bend & Snap*

    OP, you can fix this! I had 5 jobs in 3 years after college, and then have only had 2 jobs since 2004–the last gig was 8 years and I was promoted several times, and I’ve been at my current company 3 1/2 years and promoted once. At this point nobody is calling me a job hopper, but that wasn’t the case in 2004!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      When I started at my current company (second job after 5 unhappy years at first company) I stayed in one position a year, the second 2 months, the third 1.5 years. Even though I was at the same company, I felt like a job hopper. . .they weren’t promotions, just jumping around. Then I overcompensated and spent 6 years in my next role.

      Sometimes it takes a while to settle in and figure out what you want. There’s that person, and then there’s the perma-job hopper who continues this until they’re 60. My MIL is like that. She was a legal secretary & always took the next better paying position, but it caught up with her and she’s been unemployed for many years now.

      1. MashaKasha*

        “Sometimes it takes a while to settle in and figure out what you want.”

        Totally agree. I came to the US at age 29, with a 5-year degree and 3.5 years work experience (at one job, FWIW)… and no American experience. This was before H1, so to employers, overseas work experience, even if it was in the same field, did not count. So I had to start at a dead-end job at a tiny company (which BTW no longer exists), at an entry level position, for a pay I’m embarrassed to list here. I was the first in my family to find work, so for the first six months, my ridiculously low pay was our family income. So yes, I changed jobs three times in three years before I got to the position, job responsibilities, and pay that were in line with my education, skills, and experience. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get where you belong. Luckily none of my first four employers found my job-hopping suspicious. The next one kinda wondered about that part of my resume, but my tenure at my next job was six years, which seemed to satisfy them; and I explained the first three years to them in exactly the same words that I did here. That satisfied them as well.

        Another explanation that I found works well is “my boss changed jobs and took me with him” (assuming this is indeed the case.)

  17. YouHaveBeenWarned*

    When I started my current job in January 2010, I hated it and doubted I could stick it out. I would say to my friends “oh i’m just going to do this for a year.” The workload was absolutely insane – months away from home for travel, for example.

    Then 2011 rolled around and I said “I’ll definitely quit this year.” The workload got even worse (once a week from May to September I had a 40+ hour work “day”), and I started working with someone I couldn’t stand.

    Then, because I was too busy working to look for a new job, it was suddenly 2012. I got promoted, and things started to change. The work got more interesting. I took advantage of an awesome benefit we have, and it made me really grateful to my employer. I started to feel like I actually knew what I was doing, and gained confidence and a deeper, more strategic knowledge of what we were doing. I grew into my profession.

    Sometime in 2013, I realized I kind of…liked my job? It was bizarre, and sort of an identity clash for me. I had been the person who hated this job, and now I wasn’t. There were still things I hated doing, and people I’d rather not work with, and days where I came home wishing I could do anything other than go in the next day, but overall my attitude had shifted to viewing those things as part of the balance of some of the good things about my work.

    I’m still there and we’re coming up on 2016.

    OP, maybe this won’t happen to you, but there’s a chance that it will. Quitting too soon is irreversible, but staying too long is not. I would encourage you to give it a shot, and see what you can make it of it.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Quitting too soon is irreversible, but staying too long is not.

      In the context of the OP’s situation (8 workplace changes in 4 years), I fully support this statement. Out of context, though, I will say there are people who definitely have too high a tolerance for toxicity and end up wasting years of their lives at one place, when they would be much happier somewhere else.

      Glad you were able to find joy where you are, though. That’s awesome.

      1. YouHaveBeenWarned*

        You are absolutely right and I certainly would not want to tell OP or anyone else to stay at a toxic workplace. And the only person who can know for sure that a situation is toxic is the person in it.

        As you say, though, OP’s very new to this job. Things like micromanaging and a terrible workload are sometimes part of being the lowest person in the hierarchy, in which case they won’t last forever. So I hope that OP takes into account that there may be something to be gained from trying to see this through for a while, but I also hope s/he takes your statement to heart too and doesn’t waste years being ground down by a toxic place.

        1. LBK*

          Yes, and there’s a difference between someone being a mediocre boss that you can tolerate and it truly being a toxic environment. There’s very few perfect managers out there, so if you’re planning to spend your career changing jobs until you find a manager who doesn’t have a single trait you don’t like, you’ll never keep a job. Sometimes you have to settle for a little while and gain the experience you need in order to afford being picky about where you work and who you work for.

          I don’t want to sound rude to the OP, but if you find yourself consistently unhappy in every job after 3-6 months, at some point you have to look at yourself and see if in some way you’re the problem. One of my friends does this – he raves about every new job before he starts and then 3 months in he’s complaining about how he hates every day of being there and he has to get out ASAP. I can’t help but think that maybe he’s just not a good employee, or that he needs to lower his standards for what’s a “bad workplace,” or at the very least that he needs to develop a more rigorous screening process. There aren’t so many terrible employers out there that you’re going to get hired by 5 of them in a row unless you’re wildly unlucky.

          1. fposte*

            We may be in “how hiring is like dating” territory again. If you regularly like people enough to embark on a relationship with them but break up with them in a few months, that’s a sign that there may be something askew about your picker, your expectations, your comfort with intimacy, or all of those.

          2. Ad Astra*

            I very often worry that I’m the problem when it comes to being unhappy at every job. Usually I make it at least a year, but I started feeling grumpy about my current job just three months in. Get it together, Ad Astra!

        2. MashaKasha*

          I’d like to add one more variable, in addition to toxic jobs. I like to approach my jobs from a position of “how is being here helping me stay marketable in the future?” I’m the kind of person that can get used to a mediocre job and find fun in it. But what if the mediocre job lays me off tomorrow and I’m back on the market? Will a new place be willing to hire me, or will they be like “what do you mean you’ve been making chastity belts for the last ten years? we don’t need anyone with that skill and neither does any other company, that skill stopped being marketable way back in 1500!”

          Of course, if a person finds themselves in this position, the million-dollar question is how they ended up working for a chastity belt manufacturer in the first place, and how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

    2. Mkb*

      This is very similar to my current job. I started in August 2010, hated it, almost left a few times but I am glad I stuck it out. Everything changed and it’s a much better fit than I would have thought. I never would have known that if I jumped ship a few months in when I initially wanted to.

  18. Argh!*

    I recently had an interviewer begin the interview with “Boy you’ve been at a lot of places” – six places in thirty years! I did include some relevant part time jobs during grad school, but I had no idea my resume looked bad. :-(

    1. IT Kat*

      6 places in 30 years? Um… that’s not bad for most fields, that’s REALLY good for most of them. I think your interviewer was off on that one!

      That said… does your resume have 30 years of job history on it? Again, not sure what field you’re in, but that seems like a lot – I usually aim for 15 years at the most, and that’s only if the older jobs are directly relevant, otherwise I keep it to my last 3-4 positions (8-10 years)

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, that’s just weird. That averages to about five years per place, which is a decent stint. The only way that comment could be warranted is if you were at one place for 25 years and then 5 different places in the past five years.

    3. College Career Counselor*

      Either that interviewer is an idiot OR in your field, it’s unusual for people to move for decades at a time. Personally, I think the interviewer wasn’t paying attention to the dates/grad school timing of your jobs.

      Anyway, if you’ve got good, relevant experience after grad school, it’s probably not necessary to include the grad school jobs, even if they are relevant (unless it’s at the org/company in question).

      And if you ever get a similar reaction (“boy, you’ve been at a lot of places”), turn it around on them and talk about how it’s given you a really good personal knowledge of best practices, different standards across organizations, broad subject/institutional knowledge, etc. I’ve got a similar average length of time per organization as you, and I’ve found it really valuable to be able to draw on “how other places do things” from a been there, done that perspective.

    4. nm*

      Are you sure it wasn’t a joke? Or perhaps it’s a sign to drop off some of the early jobs in your career. :-)

    5. Kara*

      I would definitely drop down to the last 10-15 years of work history on your resume, unless it’s expected for your resume to list everything you’ve ever done (I know some academia type jobs require you to go back to the beginning of time!).

      I’m putting my resume out there right now and I have 1999 to present on there, even though I’ve been working solidly since well before that. And the only reason I have 1999 on there is that I have a 6 year stint from ’99 to 2005 that is kind of crucial to the type of work I want to continue doing and has some key achievements. But at least in my industry, which is somewhat technical, anything prior to 1999 is going to be meaningless anyway because the technology has changed so freaking much since then that any of the things I *could* do would be laughable today.

  19. Anon for this comment*

    I graduated from high school in 1978 at the height of a pretty serious recession when jobs were scarce for everyone. I pieced together three part-time jobs during college and finally found one full-time job by the time I was a junior in college. Due to moving to a different city for my husband to take a job (1983), moving to another city for the same reason (1984), getting a full-time job where the c0mpany closed just as we were starting our family (1988), staying out of the full-time workforce for 13 years (a couple of part-time jobs only) raising children, then being forced back into the workforce when first husband left (2000), getting fired from a temp job, getting another full-time job, then laid off, rehired, then laid off again (now 2006), and finally in mid-2007 getting my start at the company where I currently work, I did not have more than 3-1/2 years with any one company up until my current employer. It is not an insurmountable barrier to finding quality employment, especially in this economy, though it does depend on the field you are working in and the reasons why you left each company. My experience ranges from inventory taker and clerical work in college to part-time retail and data entry to more clerical work and now HR manager. I list “Relevant Work Experience” on my resume, too. Nobody outside of retail cares that I worked for a fabric store three different times in my career!

    I agree with some of the other commenters in that you might want to look at exactly what type of work you want to do within your field or even examine whether you are in the right field for you. It sounds like the work in your current position is what you enjoy, but the problems you talk about: unreasonable workload, micromanagement, etc., are found across the board in every field and many companies. Before you go totally sour on your currently employer, would you be able to reframe your view of your current position? Perhaps by looking at it as a sort of extended internship designed to give you experience and a longer period to put on your resume, you can see it as a means to an end. Perhaps you can even tell yourself to stick it out until a certain deadline. At only three months in, it seems to me that you are just ending the “honeymoon” period with your new job and finding out it isn’t all you thought it would be. Giving it some more time may give you a bit more perspective, too.

  20. Anonymous Educator*

    However, for various reasons, I’ve found that I’m unhappy here. The workload is unreasonable, the company’s relationship with outside agencies is strained, there is a culture of micromanaging, and so on. After only three months, I’m considering looking for another position, but I’m afraid of having another short-term job on my resume. I’m now in this city long-term, and I want to show that I’m able to stick a job out.

    Stick it out. Many of us readers here have been in more toxic work environments than what you’re describing here, and we’ve managed to stay longer than three months. I’m not saying that to say your desire to leave it unreasonable. I’m trying to give you practical advice here. Given your job history, you may want to take that one big sacrifice at this bad-fit place (doesn’t even sound necessarily toxic, but maybe borderline) so you have a chance later on to get a really good fit.

    Stay at this place for 2.5 or 3 years. You will look like a much better candidate and have much better job prospects going forward.

  21. JP*

    Idk, I’ve technically worked for that many companies in that length of time. But that stems from multiple part time jobs, one was an internship, etc. I was in my last professional position for about 2.5 years. If the resume is done right, it may not be an issue.

  22. JM in England*

    What about those of us who are not job hoppers through choice?

    When I graduated from uni in 1992, it was the last big recession and it took 7.5 years of temp gigs before landing my first permanent job This was the first of my two back-to-back long term jobs (5.5 & 6.5 years respectively). Then I had to leave the latter job to deal with a family crisis; this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I have found out via former coworkers that the company has now closed down. Since then, it’s been more temping up to the present. It really irritates me when recruiters ask “Why do you CHOOSE to take temp jobs?”, to which my reply is “It’s the choice between working and not working .There’s nothing better I’d like than to put some roots down somewhere again”………………….

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      You have two long-term jobs (5.5 and 6.5 years), so I wouldn’t necessarily see you as a job hopper. The OP is in quite a different situation. 8 employers in 4 years… not a single job for longer than a year or two years.

    2. Merry and Bright*

      +1 I’ve had exactly the same questions about my past temping and remember thst recession well. Like you, I would much rather work than not, temp or not.

    3. John*

      I wouldn’t view temp experience as evidence of a job-hopper. Job hopping is when you leave long-term jobs in short order.

    4. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I was just about to post the same thing; I, too, have been temping for years, and it’s infuriating to be asked why you’ve had so many jobs. My resume looks horrible, but I’m never offered perm jobs and rarely interviewed for them, so I have to take what I can get.

      1. Adminny*

        +100 Same boat, different paddle. Been a contractor/ temp for 10 years and my resume looks like I’m the worst kind of job hopper. But, what I say in interviews is that it has taught me to be flexible.

  23. gingersnap*

    I always get knots in my stomach when I read these sorts of things….does going to grad school doom you to being a hopeless employee for life? Pretty much *all* of my jobs the past four years have been 1-2 semester long stints, due to working on grant-funded studies or teaching/TA positions. Spouse insists that writing a dissertation is proof that you are able to commit to something, and employers look at potential employees through that lens. I….just say he’d better never leave me or I’ll wind up unemployed and living under a bridge.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think if you’re in grad school and doing academic-related jobs, that doesn’t really count as job hopping.

    2. KT*

      Grad school is a whole different animal. People expect internships, short term jobs, etc when you’re a student. As long as your resume shows when you’re in school during that time, you should have no issues

    3. Brett*

      When I was leaving grad school, I listed similar to how you list multiple positions at the same company. This strategy seemed to work very well and made sense to employers.
      For example, if you were a grad student in the Department of Spouts, even though Dr. Hershey was a researcher in the Department of Chocolate Chemistry and you TA’d classes in the Department of Handles:

      Chocolate Teapot State University, Dept of Spouts: June 2011 – August 2014
      – Teapot State Fellow: Cocoa Enrichment Institute. December 2012 – August 2014
      – Teaching Assistant: HAN-303 Handle Carving. August 2011 – December 2012
      – Research Assistant: Lab of Dr. Hershey. June 2011 – August 2011
      Number of publications, major achievements, and number of students taught and other achievements went down here after the list of positions.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I agree–this seems like a good approach that will demonstrate that your situation isn’t job hopping at all.

    4. fposte*

      Those are basically contract positions. If the nature of the position is finite, nobody holds it against you.

      A hiring manager’s concern is an applicant who has willingly chosen to walk away from a job after 24 months or fewer more than once.

    5. Rana*

      I agree with what other people have said… but also offer my own experiences as a caveat. While people will tolerate short stints from grad students and recent graduates, they won’t tolerate them from someone several years out of school.

      What I’d hoped would be rungs on a ladder leading to a permanent academic position ended up being instead a series of dead ends that made it increasingly unlikely that I’d be able to qualify for a full-time, long-term position.

      And a long string of short-term academic jobs is practically impossible to explain to someone outside of academia, if you choose to try to change careers.

      This is why I work for myself now – I love my work and I’m good at it, but it comes from a place of employment instability, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

      So keep an eye on your career progression after graduation – don’t keep chasing fruitless dreams if they’re not actually leading somewhere useful.

  24. Panda Bandit*

    LW, I think you’re going to have to stick with this one for a while. Alison has detailed in other responses how to properly deal with places that have unreasonable workloads and micromanaging bosses and those answers are worth looking up. You are still new to the company so it may be a matter of just not being able to do things as fast as your coworkers. Dream jobs are rare and even the jobs you want are going to have drawbacks that you never realized.

    1. BRandy in Tn*

      I hated my job that IM currently at for the first 3 months. I didn’t have much to do and the girl I sat nest to didn’t like me. Eventually I got my own work to do and she grew to become a workplace friend. And the supv quit, replaced by a new supv. It can get better.
      But I did quit a job in a Drs office, it was toooo dysfunctional. I thought it would be the dream, Im cute in scrubs, cafeteria downstairs, subway subs in the bldg. 5 minutes from my house. The girls (bitches I say) hated me from minute 1. For no reason. Theres lots of reasons to hate me, but get to know me and the reasons before judging. Rant over.

      1. Umhmm*

        Im cute in scrubs, cafeteria downstairs, subway subs in the bldg. 5 minutes from my house.

        So, would you say now that these are not good reasons to select a particular job? : )

  25. AnonyMiss*

    This is short of what worries me so much. I worked for a year as an unpaid intern while I got my Associate’s degree in an office I really, really loved. The economy, however, pushed me to take a different job after graduation, which entailed an hour commute and a terrible cultural fit (not at all how it came across in the interview, sadly). When I was offered a position where I interned, I jumped at the opportunity, because I loved what I did, the people I worked with, and the fact that my commute is 5 minutes. I spent just under a year at the “in-between” job. Now it looks very much like my husband is going to be accepted to the transfer university he really wants to go to – about 9 hours away from here. Keeping up two households is not a financial option for us (even if one is a dorm room), meaning that I will need to move with him come next summer, before my one year here.

    Complicating this, I’ll probably also be re-enrolling in school, and working part time as I finish my degree, and… switch careers. I have no idea how to address this in a cover letter or an interview, knowing that I’m looking for a job for the next ~2 years, before moving on to the credential program.

    Any ideas from the Esteemed Commentariat would be appreciated.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I can’t blame you for being concerned in this situation, but I think you’re worrying prematurely here. The best thing you can be doing right now is killing it at your current job so that you can ensure a great reference and maybe rack up some solid, measurable contributions for your resume. In a few months, it might make sense to start trying to build a professional network in your new city.

      1. AnonyMiss*

        Thank you! That’s what the husband keeps saying, too, but I’m the worrier in the family.

        Building a professional network up there will be tricky… I’m a paralegal, and I’m moving to an area with a very, very small law market: it’s barely over 130,000 people scattered over about 4,000 square miles! With generally more conservative attorneys who may be a little more hesitant about bringing a non-attorney on board, and currently being in prosecution, this will be a little more challenging – especially since their local prosecutor’s office is really, really tiny due to the small need. My boss did offer to possibly put me in touch with people up there, though…

    2. Anx*

      I can relate a bit to this.

      I’m torn between applying to the jobs I’ve wanted for a long time and capitalizing on the little momentum I have right now and staying in part-time or temp jobs until my partner graduates (he’ll likely be moving).

      Not sure if I’m going to follow or not.

  26. Jerzy*

    OP, like most professionals, I’ve had some jobs that were terrible. Bosses that were cruel and unreasonable. Stresses that actually made me physically ill. Work that I found boring.

    In my professional life over the past 12 years, I’ve stayed at only one job under 3 years, and that was an overseas gig that I never expected to be long term, and even that was for one year.

    I don’t want to criticize or pile-on here, OP, but I think there is something to be said for paying one’s dues. That means putting up with a lousy situation in the present to get to where you want to be in the future. If you’re in the city you want to stay in, this is where you need to make your future. Make a decision to stay where you are for at least one more year from now before you even start LOOKING for another job. That alone will take some time, and by the time you find a new gig, you may have been there for two years.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I think it’s less about “paying your dues,” per se, and more about putting yourself in a position to succeed. It’s definitely not a requirement that all employees suffer through a few years of crappy situations early in their careers. But you have to gain a certain amount of experience to move up in your career, and too many lateral moves can really derail that progress. In this case, OP can’t get the experience she needs without putting up with a lousy situation — but that’s not the case for everyone.

      1. LBK*

        I agree – I don’t think it’s about paying your dues, which frankly I hate as a concept, but more about proving that you can stick with a job (and a job can stick with you!) for an extended period of time. For the employer, it’s more or less a straightforward return-on-investment calculation: based on what I know about this person’s history with other companies, is it likely that it will be worth the time to hire, train and develop them in comparison to the amount of work I’m going to get out of them?

        I’d say it takes an average of six month to be fully competent and autonomous in most jobs; if the employer has strong evidence that you’re going to leave after a year and they’ll have to start all over again with someone new after you’ve just barely started being a productive employee, why would they hire you?

      2. Jerzy*

        I guess my point was about being willing to pay your dues, which it sounds like OP might not be willing to do. She seems to want a perfect fitting job in the perfect fitting city, and all I was trying to say was that doesn’t really happen for most people.

        This job may not be one worth sticking it out for years and years, but at some point, you’ve got to be willing to take on a less than perfect job to get the overall future you want.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      You shouldn’t put up with a cruel boss or a job that makes you physically ill. “Paying your dues” carries absolutely no guarantee that it will lead to anything better in the long term, and the idea that young workers should have to put up with abuse is a very destructive one, because it encourages their superiors to treat them like crap and expect they’ll stay just because they’re “supposed” to be in a job at least three years no matter how awful it is.

      1. Beti*

        No, but I think a lot of younger workers could stand to learn that they have to work their way up. You don’t get the perfect job just because you are a special snowflake. You have to earn your way into better jobs. We get a fair number of wet-behind-the-ears EMTs where I work and some have some serious entitlement issues. You’re new so you need to plan on working the late shift, the holidays, the weekends. When you have earned some seniority, then you’ll start getting the perks.

        1. Krystal*

          In all fairness to them, most of them more than likely grew up with Boomers for parents. Boomers who were able to get a well-paying factory job right out of high school, who owned a home by age 19 or 20, etc. etc. It’s not unreasonable to want those things, even if it’s not practical in their current job situation.

        2. E*

          I am a millennial and I think most of us do understand we need to work our way up. I think this “Gen Yers want everything NOW” perception is a bit of a myth.

          However, I find people my age are very u willing to put up with being bullied. While our parents might have “sucked it up”, we will move on if being treated with disrespect.

  27. KT*

    Alternatively OP, you may want to consider temp or contract work through an agency. That way you can work for different employers for short stints, figure out what you like, don’t like, etc, and your work history will be pretty typical

    1. Spooky*

      Agreed! Long-term work isn’t for everyone, and there are plenty of options if you want to decide it’s not for you. A friend of mine does graphic design and works freelance gigs through Creative Circle, which she says is an excellent agency (I don’t know if you do anything creative, but if you do, it’s worth a look.) She loves the freedom it gives her and the agency has a lot of perks, like condensing all your tax info for you so you only have to fill out one W2 for the year. I don’t have experience with agencies like that personally, but it might be worth it to take a look.

  28. Dasha*

    Hm.. I’ve posted this on here before but I wonder.. this is what my job history looks like:

    2 years at big university the position was granted funded and grant did not get refunded (this was crazy at the time because the position had been refunded for like 10 years or something)
    1 year at place because I had to scramble to find another job no benefits (no paid time off, no health insurance, really low salary)
    2 years at somewhat corporate place
    1 year at small o&g company left because they were starting to layoff due (they’ve cut like 80% of the workers there)
    1 under my belt currently at another small company (still here)

    Do I look like a job hopper? I feel pretty unstable for being 30 years old… :-/

    1. Kat M*

      I’m 32 and here’s mine …

      2 years current location
      1 year part-time contract overlapping that position
      1 year unrelated job, left when my spouse’s job moved
      3 years part-time contract work, overlapping with jobs before and after
      2 years same company as latest job, different location, left when spouse’s job moved
      9 months, left because of racist management
      1 year, left to move back to the US
      1 year, left to live in a different country
      1 year, first proper (non-AmeriCorps) full-time job

      This covers 2006 through the present.

      I’d LOVE to leave my job right now, but there’s a good chance my husband’s job is moving AGAIN in another year. So even though my entire family keeps pushing me to find something better, I feel like I have to stick it out for the sake of my resume. Latest adventure: calling my boss out about blatant violations of state labor laws. :P

      1. UsedToDoSupport*

        It sounds like as a couple you’ve decided your husband is the primary earner, which puts you in a tough spot as far as building a career since his is more mobile than most. I think in your case, you’ll just have to say that’s the way it is for now and hope eventually he lands somewhere more permanently. Good luck!

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        Ooh! This is a fun game. I don’t think either of you look too bad although I agree Dasha may want to stay at current job a bit longer for best results.
        Mine looks worse if I start with 2006 after college graduation but my resume only goes back to 2009 when I started in this field, so something like-
        August 2014-present, current job (plan to stay at least 2 more years)
        2012-2014, left because there wasn’t room to advance
        2010-2012, kind of dysfunctional + terrible salary
        2009 -2010 – internships, to be dropped from resume next job hunt

        Still not the awesomest, but I had 5 different jobs between 2006 and 2009, in 3 cities, one of which was in another country. Now I am 31 and getting pretty established in my field – so I think OP can definitely repair their resume.

        1. Dasha*

          Yours doesn’t look too bad at all and thanks for posting! It’s good to hear from others around my age :)

      3. Julie*

        Can I join in as well? Here’s what my CV looks like now. Tell me if this looks job-hopper-ish. I’ve done a fair amount of contract work:

        – Aug.-Oct. 2015: executive assistant at small non-profit (3-month contract)
        – March-Sept. 2014: curriculum administrator at major university (6-month contract)
        – Jan. 2011-July 2013: executive assistant at small non-profit
        (started as part-time temp until Oct. 2011, then admin assistant to Sept. 2012, then executive assistant to July 2013)
        – May 2008-Dec. 2009: English editor at large media company
        (part-time to Sept. 2008, then full-time to Dec. 2009)
        – Mar. 2007-May 2008: writing tutor at junior college (three semesters of part-time contracts)
        – Nov. 2006-Nov. 2007: English second-language instructor (multiple short-term contracts based out of three different companies)
        – Summers 2003-2006: secretary and receptionist at plastics manufacturing company

        So… how wonky does this look? :)

    2. fposte*

      When you’ve currently got a job, it doesn’t matter how somebody might perceive your resume. And if you get a freaking brilliant offer that doesn’t think your history’s a problem, then it’s not a problem.

      But I agree with John that I wouldn’t leave your current job for a few years if it could be avoided; it’ll minimize the amount of explaining you have to do and help you get through skimmed resume reads.

      1. Dasha*

        Thanks, fposte :) and yes, you and John are right. I’m planning on sticking it out here for as long as I can.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I would say it depends on who is judging that. Meaning, I’m 40 and came from a family where my much older siblings and my parents all stayed at their jobs for 5+ years, most much longer than that. Same with my much older extended family. All my friends have been at their jobs for 7+ years. And I’ve been in my jobs for typically 6+ years, with the exception of my first job ever, which was seasonal. However, my nieces and nephews, which range in age from 17 to 34, have changed jobs every 2 to 3 years for the most part. Sometimes more often. And they’re never had a problem being hired.

      I would say in my case, yes, I would see that as job hopping; however, it’s not on the same level as OP’s history; I would likely hire you.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I think you have to exercise some caution when looking at someone 17-34 who has not had trouble getting hired although they switched jobs every 2-3 years. I used this example somewhere else here, but my MIL did this forever as a legal secretary, and she didn’t have any problems with it until she was over ~50. She moved all the time (like 1-2x per year) because she rented out her FL condo to snowbirds. Anyway, my point is simply that industries evolve over time and what employers look for in a 34 year old can be different than a 50 year old. Although something worked for a long time, that doesn’t mean it will work for 30-40 years. Like any other facet of your career strategy, it should be evaluated and adjusted over time. Don’t get caught with your pants down. : )

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      If you stay at your current job for two more years, you won’t look like a job hopper.

      This looks like job hopping to me: 2, 1, 2, 1, 1
      This doesn’t so much: 2, 1, 2, 1, 3

      My spouse recently has been job hopping, and each job search has been very difficult. Generally, she was 2-4 years at each place. The last two jobs were one-year stints, so at her current job, she’s really looking to stay at least 3 years.

  29. Spooky*

    I’m always surprised that people who have such a clear history of job-hopping continue to get jobs. I have an acquaintance who (if memory serves, though I may be a little off) has had something like 11 positions in 4 years, none of which were designed to be short-term. And yet, she’s never had a problem getting hired, even with big-name companies. It flies in the face of everything I’ve ever heard about hiring. But, as Alison says, maybe those big-name companies have poor hiring practices or aren’t great places to work.

    I’m curious though – we seem to be getting a lot of comments from the employee side, but is there anyone here who’s hired a job-hopper? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. UsedToDoSupport*

      I did and he left after six months. I wasn’t in favor of the hire, but got overruled by my manager “because he’s extremely qualified”. He got bored and left, after I’d spent sooo much time training him. yay

    2. Brett*

      I think sometimes employers do not worry about job hopping until they get burned. We used to have no issues hiring job hoppers until we got burned by someone who, coming in, had 5 jobs in 8 years (and one of those was a 5 year stint, which mislead us some).
      He took relocation (very rare for us) and a maximum discretionary offer. Once he got here, he out his annual training in the first 7 months, and immediately left. Last I checked, he had four more jobs in the three years since he left us.

      We got burned, and had to restart our entire process. The rest of our top five from when we hired him were already hired elsewhere anyway. Ever since then, everyone who was on that hiring team has been pretty wary of job hoppers.

      1. Regina 2*

        Yikes, this is me! 5 companies in 9 years, one of which was a 5 year stint. Everything else was a year.

        I was wondering how companies might view me, because I had my 5 year job at the start of my career, but everything else has not gelled in the way it did with my first employer. For one of the jobs, there was major dysfunction at the top and after multiple rounds of layoffs within my first 6 months, I knew I had to get out. For a couple of the others, the work was just not challenging at all and there was no possibility for me to go anywhere else.

        I haven’t had problems getting interviews and no one has questioned me about it yet, but I wonder if the clock is running out for me on that. Hmm.

    3. SRB*

      I myself did not, but my company has. He was fired before the 1 year mark, when everyone suddenly realized all of the reasons *why* he had such short stays on his resume.

      Of course, this was also the same time that they hired someone for an accounting position who stole a bunch of money from the company – who *had a history of doing that which would have come up on a background check*. After those couple of cases, I think we’ve wised up on actually doing background and reference checks.

      I’m no hiring manager, but I wouldn’t want to hire someone with multiple short jobs without talking to them AND their past managers to find out why the stays were so short. Things like taking care of chronically ill family, moving for a spouse (e.g.: military family), temp, contract, or grant funded (finite) positions are all fine, especially if the prospect can give reasons as to why that issue doesn’t exist anymore. Things like “got bored”, “all of my past managers were jerks/micromanagers”, “all of my past jobs had workloads that were unreasonable”, etc. are not fine. I’ll believe that of one workplace – maybe two. But four or more?

    4. Jillociraptor*

      I did. He turned out to be great. He was upfront with me that he didn’t intend to stay in the position long-term, which was fine in the context of the role. I told him I expected at least a year, which he agreed he could commit to. We worked well together, and he’s actually still there (though hoping to make an exit in the coming year to go back to school).

      I think there can be kind of a spectrum on job hopping where one side is more needing lots of variety and stimulation to be happy, and the other side is more an inability to persist through challenges and boredom. My employee was much more of the former, and luckily his position enabled him to do a pretty wide array of things, so it was harder for him to get bored. Those who fall closer to the other side would be much harder for me to invest in as a manager.

    5. NicoleK*

      I brought on two employees that didn’t have lengthy stints with previous employers. The longest stint was a year and a half. Both were in their mid twenties. One left at 5 months and the other at a month. It was for an entry level position but I needed a specific language skill set so my candidate pool was smaller to begin with. Candidates with solid work histories always rise to the top of my list, however sometimes it’s slim pickings. It seems that the majority of resumes that I come across these days have spotty work histories.

  30. UsedToDoSupport*

    As a HM, this is a flag to me. OP has had more jobs than I’ve had in 40 years. In a cold reading, it says “I don’t stick with things for very long.” Although I am not a fan of narrating your job history in a resume, this might be an exception. Certainly a good explanation in the cover letter or (and I can’t believe I’m suggesting this because I hate them) in the Goals paragraph. Again, this might be the exception, and it might work better to include it rather than just let your resume speak for itself. Good luck!

  31. T3k*

    And I thought I was looking like a job hopper… (my longest job was the job I held during school, from 8th to 12th grade). I’ve had 2 summer internships during college then out of college I’ve had one job that lasted 7 months (was laid off) and current one is at 6 months and counting while I job hunt. It’s too bad I can’t be honest and say 75% of the reason I’m looking so soon for a new job is because it can’t pay the bills, sigh. You’d think that’d be an understandable thing, but it feels like companies want you to see them more as a place you’d love to work at, not a paycheck.

    1. fposte*

      I think it’s fine to say “They cut salaries by 50%.” What raises questions is if you’re leaving after being paid at the rate you signed on for–that you said “Yes, this is an acceptable rate” and it turned out not to be.

      I know that things don’t end up being that black and white–that maybe there are jobs that would have other compensations in a way this one doesn’t, so it’s not just the pay. But ultimately you want to avoid saying “I said yes to something I shouldn’t have.”

      And in job-hopper terms, your current attempt is your only hop. It doesn’t count if you got pushed :-).

      1. T3k*

        Well, it was more like “took job because it paid some of the bills” type, because I was laid off so suddenly from the first and I panicked to find another job.

        My only concern with the laid off job is that I’ve seen mixed messages about whether to put “laid off” on one’s resume beside the job. But since I’m not hearing back from companies anyways, I suppose it can’t hurt to add it.

    2. SRB*

      FWIW, internships don’t “count” as job hopping. Those are expected to be summers or 1 year, and you’re kind of expected to do them at different places. I’ve seen people applying entry level with similar histories who I’ve interviewed (which means HR thought they were fine; I don’t select candidates for interviewing or make final decisions, just do the interviews).

      It can help if you’re somewhat switching fields and can say this new job is more in line with your education and desired long-term career.

      I feel you about paying the bills though. I took my first job (only tangentially in my field) because it was better than nothing, but still not enough to pay rent. I switched after 3 months pretty much just on pay alone. It’s one thing to hop jobs for a switch from 90k to 130k. It’s another to go from 20k to 40k. The first says you’ll jump at luxury and prestige. The second one says that you’d like something to eat that isn’t lentils and peas and still make rent.

      Also, it might be easier said than done, but try not to take your next move lightly. Don’t hop at anything slightly higher than what you have now. Really try to evaluate fit. Make sure that the salary you sign up for is one you can actually live on for a while and that the culture is one you can stick with for awhile, since you’ll probably want to be there for a few years at least.

      Oh and also good luck! :)

      1. T3k*

        Yeah, I’ve been really scouring over job postings in my field, checking salaries, location, the company’s glassdoor page, etc. to make sure I’d be willing to stay for at least a few years, which is why I’ve had to pass over some jobs that would otherwise pay well. There’s only one exception, which is the ideal field I want to get into is known for having short stints among the lower positions, though I’ve been told once you get into the field, it’s quick to find new work in the same field.

        And thanks ^.^

  32. jobhopsky*

    It sure is good that employers have a way to intimidate people into putting up with shitty working conditions!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Huh? That’s not what this is about. It’s about understanding what makes a candidate more and less desirable to employers and what those reasons are rooted in, so that you can make the best decisions for yourself.

      If you were looking for a long-term nanny for your kid, would you hire one who had changed jobs every six months, if you had lots of good candidates with long-term stays?

      1. Pointy Haired Boss*

        I would, as I am quite aware that 6 months is a significant period of time in the life of a child.

        The issue, I think, is that as people age, their sense of time also ages. Talking to grandma about something they did “just the other day” and finding out that it was actually 5 years ago isn’t exactly an uncommon experience. :-)

        While older generations are aware that “lifetime employment” is a relic of the past, they seem to struggle to understand that even multi-year employment is becoming rare, and is basically non-existent for those in entry-level positions, just like having an office. (Even cube farms are going away in favor of the open plan — what’s the point in having walls if you don’t plan on the employee being there long enough to decorate them?) Look at how Silicon Valley operates, and you will see the future of all industries left standing — project-based, temporary, “just in time”, and non-unionized.

    2. Spooky*

      Well, I think part of the point most people are making is that most jobs aren’t either “amazing” or “$***y.” The vast majority fall somewhere in the middle. Most people don’t love their jobs for a number of reasons. If the working conditions are terribly, then yes, you get to leave. But it seems unlikely that every one of these jobs were really terrible. Lots of things seem unreasonable at first, but are actually totally normal – like the initial workload, for example. You have to have experience to know what’s actually unreasonable, and that same experience will make things seem less overwhelming because you’ll be better equipped to handle them.

      Put another way, you wouldn’t want your job to suddenly fire you because you just weren’t that great and they think they can find someone better, especially if you’ve rearranged your life around it. It’s not unreasonable for them to expect the same from you.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        But it seems unlikely that every one of these jobs were really terrible.
        You put it far more succinctly than I did.

        1. Pointy Haired Boss*

          Well, keep in mind it’s not purely random — the sort of filter mechanisms jobs use to filter out “bad candidates” often mean that taking one bad job leads only to other bad jobs.

          I’ve known folks who took jobs with companies where both a) the owner provided poison pill references for any employee that left the company and b) the turnover rate was still so high (median 1 month, and this wasn’t temp work) that it was very difficult to get to know your co-workers. Simply working for this company at all would mean you would automatically fail the “must provide reference from current employer” hoop.

          “Temporary permanent” positions (hire perm, treat like a temp — usually involves turnover rates that are hard to believe) like that also tend to only lead to other “temporary permanent” positions, as after the first one people start to see you as a job-hopper.

          HR folks prefer that your resume shows what you did above and beyond the normal job qualifications; companies like these are often so dysfunctional that simply fulfilling the normal job qualifications require a Herculean effort, but this is often tricky to explain without it appearing that you are bad-mouthing your past companies.

          In some industries the hip new thing is certification, yet these certifications inevitably require a sign-off from an employer verifying experience. This would never happen at a temporary permanent job, as even the suggestion of certification would make them think you were planning on leaving them.

          The net effect is that unless there is some active intervention by a “healthy” company to help these folks rehabilitate their resumes by offering them a job despite failing the standard filtering mechanisms, I’m afraid many of these applicants will get stuck. :-(

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m not sure where you’re getting this conclusion from. Are you saying the OP happened to find eight jobs in a row that had “shitty working conditions”?

      Conventional wisdom on this site is that you get one pass for job hopping. Chances are you aren’t going to encounter that many places with “shitty working conditions.” I’ve found two of those out of the last seven jobs I’ve had. The other jobs five I stayed 2-5 years at each.

  33. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, so I apologize if this has already been said:

    In addition to Alison’s advice, I’d encourage you to do some more work to get clear about what you do want in your future jobs. What are your core values and how do those play out in your work (or how would you like them to play out)? What are your dealbreakers? What are some things that are crappy but you can live with (e.g. what kind of sh*t sandwich are you willing to eat)?

    Because there’s a reason you’ve changed jobs so often. Sure, some of it was circumstantial stuff that was truly out of your control. But I recognize myself in some of what you’re saying – the part of me that believes that all I have to do to have the life I want is just find that perfect job (or man, or house, or hobby, or whatever). I’m coming to believe that happiness isn’t *found*, it’s *created*.

    So for example: My last job was great on paper. It paid well, I worked from home and had a lot of flexibility, I loved my coworkers, I believed in the mission and was doing the kind of work I like to do. But for some reason it wasn’t working for me. For a long time I focused on figuring out what was wrong with it – either so I could change that or look for a job that didn’t have that attribute. Then I changed jobs, and my new job is objectively worse in some obvious ways (it doesn’t pay nearly as well, I don’t work from home, etc.)… but I’m happier and I love my job. Some of that is because the job is a better fit for me,even with what I gave up for it, but some of it comes from some intentionality on my part. Instead of looking for a job that’s perfect for me, I’m trying to live out the job and life I have right now.

    Good luck!

    1. Jean*

      >Instead of looking for a job that’s perfect for me, I’m trying to live out the job and life I have right now.
      Spot on, perfectly worded, and enormously encouraging because right now I’m trying to make the best of less-than-ideal circumstances in the workplace and at home! Thank you for saying this.

  34. Introvert at work*

    Dear OP, just as an alternative, you may also come to realize that you might be better suited to contract or consulting work.

    In 20 years I’ve managed one 3-year stint in nearly 20 years of employment. I realized long ago I was best suited for contract work/consulting, which is what I do (most of the time). I get bored easy and I like the flexibility (even if I’ve been a bit worried in the past where my next gig will be), and at this point in my life, I don’t consider it a crime! If I’m stuck at a less-than-desirable gig, I know it will be over and being in a contract/consulting role shields you from less-than-desirable politics. (But, yeah, with contracting sometimes your’re stuck in not-so-great gig.)

    This is not for you if you want to be truly engaged in a company or want to go up the corporate ladder. Contracting/consulting is great if you really kick a$$ at what you do, especially if you have advanced or uncommon skills, and are willing (or want) to be flexible.

    I’ve heard that things are swinging this way–more freelance/contract/consulting gigs for project-based work, but who knows?

    1. FD*


      You have to really, really know yourself–but a lot of people I know who turned out to be awesome contractors feel the same way.

      For example, do you find that you’re really good at focusing on a task at hand, but hate dealing with the corporate politics? Are you self-disciplined, but struggle to do things the way other people want you to do them? If that’s the case, than contracting might be a possibility. You have to be very disciplined, because no one will stand over you and force you to do anything–but you also can refuse gigs you don’t want and accomplish the task the way you want to go about it, provided you get the results the company needs.

      However, you should really, really look at yourself. Do you struggle to stay focused? Do you find it’s difficult to stay motivated without external deadlines? Those are the kiss of death for most contractors.

  35. Former Computer Professional*

    I used to live in a smaller city where the computer professionals crowd was rather insular. It wasn’t uncommon to be competing for jobs with people you knew.

    There was a period of about two years where I would apply for a job and then wind up a finalist, and always up against the same guy! He was in his mid-20s and a job hopper – never stayed more than six months. Every single time he’d tell them, “This time I’m looking for something I will stay with for years!” and they believed him and hired him. Every time. 3-6 months down the road we’d be competing for another job, and he’d be telling me all about how I “should be glad you dodged a bullet and didn’t get [the last job].”

    I finally found another job by looking in other cities. After about a year I decided to try to move back home, and found the perfect job posting, only to wind up being a finalist AGAIN against the same guy. And again, they hired him, the younger job hopper, over the older female with the more stable work history, after he gave them the same song & dance.

    I saw him about a year after that. He’d hopped on to two more jobs since then, and went on and on about how I should be glad they didn’t hire me because it was soooo awful there…

  36. L*

    One of the things OP says is that at points they took what they could get and worked parked time jobs to pay rent. What about that aspect of it? Maybe it’s different for OP specifically, since they don’t seem to have an established career field. But, in general, if you have take a “crappy” job that’s clearly a step down from your credentials and career path because you need to support yourself while job hunting….is it a red flag to leave soon after taking that kind of job because something better comes along?

  37. Emmie*

    I recommend staying at your next two jobs for two years each, and making significant accomplishments. In a short period of time, you’ll have consistent work history and all of this stuff we’ve talked about will fall off of your resume. Perhaps read info about asking questions to figure out what the office environment and management style is before your next interviews. The other commenters are right – it takes 6 months to usually a year to get comfortable in a job. In that time your workload decreases because you no longer have to spend time learning how to do the job. You perform and pull from precident. I have personally stayed in a few crappy environments. The work experience paid off – not only from promotions, but the opportunity to make improvements at companies really needing it. I also think we place too much emphasis on being happy at work and doing our life’s passion as a job. Find ways to be content and challenged at work, and deal with stress. Fill your life with other things that bring you joy. Really good luck to you. No job is perfect time – especially the ones you get with challenging work history, but this improves in time.

    1. Emmie*

      Edit: no job is perfect, esp. the ones you get with challenging work history, but this improves in time.

  38. Brightwanderer*

    Looking at the comments, LW, I feel like you’re getting a lot of advice that doesn’t quite fit your situation, because people are assuming that you quit your previous jobs for the same reason you want to quit this one. Your clarification in comments that you’ve been moving with your husband makes a difference, to me at least. Thoughts in no particular order:

    – can I just say that I am amazed and impressed by people who hold multiple jobs at once? I can’t even imagine trying to juggle that and I think it actually demonstrates a great work ethic/life ethic
    – I think fundamentally, Alison’s advice stands: regardless of reasons, the way to fix this going forward is to stick it out here or absolutely 100% commit to sticking it out somewhere else
    – but in terms of getting past the job history as written to get a decent job now, I think the suggestion to include cities if possible is a good one
    – if you do decide to take a chance on looking for another job now and then sticking with that one, might it be possible to address your current job history in the cover letter? I’m not sure what the best way would be to bring it up, and in that case you might need to leave this job off so you could say something along the lines of “I’ve been moving a lot due to family obligations but I am now settled in this city and excited to develop in this position”
    – if you decide to stick it out at the current job, I highly recommend what I think of as Little Kid Tactics: make a sticker chart! You get a sticker every day you go to work, and at the end of (a period of time), you get (reward)! Make a monthly calendar for one or two years, print each month off, and cross the days off one by one. Allow a part of yourself to be that grumpy, sulky, child and roll over on the floor screaming “I DON’T WANNA!” on bad days, give it a pat on the head and a hug and tell it you know just how it feels, and keep on going with the knowledge that you’re allowed to feel fed up/stuck/frustrated. Remind yourself that your goal for this job is to do it to the best of your abilities for X amount of time, rather than to feel fulfilled or completely content in it. Look for positives (even if that’s just “the pay is adequate and it’s not the sort of place that will fire me without warning”, for example) and write them down.

    Good luck either way!

    1. OP*

      Thank you! I was nodding my head at every point. I do think that, yes, I’m going to have to stick it out for a while. And I love the idea of a sticker chart.

  39. Mh*

    After reading your additional information in comments, this seems more like a resume problem than a job-hopping problem. I would rewrite your resume to include only jobs in your preferred field and any that are tangentially related. I.e. don’t include child care if you don’t want to work in child care. Then explain in your cover letter the reasons for your moves and employment gaps, and the fact that your current city is now permanent. Your resume will be shorter but more focused.

    1. Liza*

      Yes! OP, I strongly agree with Mh here that this is something to explain in a cover letter. Since you’ve been moving to different cities for your husband’s education, if you know you’ll be able to stay in place for a few years you can explain that that’s why your jobs were all short stays, and make sure to say you’re looking forward to staying in one place (and at one job) for a few years.

      If you rewrite your resume as Mh suggests, you can also call the employment section “Relevant experience” (that way it’s not quite so odd to have the gaps from the jobs you left off).

      Good luck!

  40. A*

    Two years is SUCH a long time to be somewhere you hate though…..it sounds like a recipe for depression.

  41. PolarBear*

    I’ve had a 2.5 year stint then an 12 month job (I was a flight attendant, urgh) and then a 2 year job and since then I’ve been doing temping/contracting- 3 – 12 months at each. I make it clear on my CV that those are temp jobs. I’ve been a student too. Hopefully I don’t look job hoppy?

  42. HRG*

    Not to take away from the OPs question, but I’m concerned this may apply to me too, although not to this extreme. I’d love other opinions. I stayed at my first professional job for 3 years in 2 different positions and I’ve now been in my current job for 2 years in 3 different positions (same department in this case.) I’d like to start job hunting within the next year or so but I’m worried that it may come across as job hopping.

  43. Dasha*

    OP, I posted yesterday my own sort of sub question to this post but I wanted to come back and write a comment that hopefully you’ll see. I think you’ve been in some different jobs now and it’s time to settle down in one for a few years. It’s totally fine at the beginning of your career to move around a little but as you develop in your current position I would advise to maybe leave some of the other jobs off of your resume. As someone who has been close to being laid off twice (Thank God, I always found another job just in the nick of time) my new attitude has been to stick it out as long as I can if the company is stable. I worry that this is still the reality of the job market and I hope that you will take this into consideration. Just remember even if you’re unhappy in your job now sometimes jobs are stepping stones to get you better and better jobs in the future! Remember that although a couple of years can sound like forever, in the grand scheme of things it’s really not. Also, the first six months is usually the hardest in any new job maybe you need to give it some more time?

    Someone also mentioned you might be better suited to contract work- maybe that is also something to look at.

    Wishing you the best of luck, OP! Hopefully you check back in with us and let us know what you decide.

    1. OP*

      That’s very kind of you, Dasha. Right now, I’m certainly leaning toward staying (I really just needed some sort of length of time to aim for, mentally, and Alison’s answer of 2-3 yrs minimum was very helpful). I’ll continue to maintain a healthy fear of the job market!

  44. Lee*

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to list the just the *years* you’ve held those jobs, instead of also including the month?
    If you just listed the years, it might look more consistent and I’m not sure what’s gained by listing the months worked unless your doing consultant gigs (and want to show you picked up a lot of jobs).
    I’d also include any jobs where you got a promotion as well, and weed out any low profile jobs.

    Also, more and more employers expect most millennials to job hop, (whether true or not) so it’s not completely unexpected. It helps you’ve moved around a lot…

    Also did anyone notice a lot of the comments just rehashed Alison’s advice or simply said they related to the OP’s situation as well? Not very helpful, people.

    1. Lee*

      PS-Wish my user name was “Dawn” so I could make rude comments and all I’d get is a simple warning from Alison, as opposed to the constant moderation of my comments (apparently forever, I guess?) because I made one comment perceived as rude, but contained somewhat sound advice to a very naive question.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t have a system for taking people off moderation. I’d be glad to remove you, but please be kind to people here going forward. (I don’t know what the “Dawn” comment refers to. None of Dawn’s comments here have been rude.)

        1. Lee*

          Yes, I can be kind to all moving forward.

          The Dawn comment refers to another day of the 5 daily questions/answers OP#2 from Oct 26, where one of the commentors “Dawn” called another commentor “Dawn King” lazy because of perceived landfill waste and then accused them of being too selfish to care about the environment because they use disposable plates to feed a family of 10 or something.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I agree that was rude. I’m not sure why you’re assuming that person isn’t moderated now too, though. In any case, thank you — I appreciate it!

  45. Anx*

    I’m very antsy to get a full-time, permanent job. I am considering having kids one day, but I didn’t want to consider it until I already had the opportunity to work for a few years, at least, in a full-time capacity, and so I do want to have one before I’m in my mid-30s. Also, I always sort of assumed that as an adult, I’d work most of the time.

    My issue is that I am nervous about applying to jobs now, because I’m not sure how much longer I will be in this region. I’m in a long-term relationship that has been the most consistent and happiest part of my life for the better part of the last decade. He is graduating next year with a PhD in a geographically dependent field, so we’ll probably be moving. There are options to stay local in theory, but the state we live in has become very anti-science and education in the past few years. My options right now seem to be:

    -Find full-time work in my current region. Get a new roommate when my partner moves out to pursue a postdoc. Buy a car or hopeI don’t have to work at night much (our public transportation ends at 7pm). Either break up or consider long distance (we were long distance for 3 years without much issue, but at this point I am not sure this is what we want). I don’t have much of a social network here and I don’t feel any connection here. But I could maintain in-state residency and there’s a low cost of living.

    -Similar to the above, but moving to a city about 2 hours away (the closest major city) with a bigger industry in a field I’ve prepared for and am interested in. More expensive, but probably more opportunity (but also a lot of competition!)

    -Try to keep stringing part-time and volunteer experience and hope it will better prepare me for a job search in a new location. Hope my partner gets a job in an area with a decent job market (though it’s not likely because of the nature of his work). Perhaps move even further from family and have to start a new network outside of my partner.

    -Same as above, but sticking with my current part time job, trying to stretch it closer to 2 years (although that means staying through the summer when we have much fewer hours). So I’d basically be working more for the steady work history than money.

    I feel like I really need to get a full-time job ASAP, but I don’t think I would be happy to stay behind to work it. I really don’t want to do long-distance nor do I want to break up. But it makes no sense for him to stay local. I want at least one of us to have a chance at a middle-class income. I think my day-to-day will be a lot happy if I follow him, but I that means either not trying for a full-time job or abandoning it (the move could be this summer or it could be next year, if it happens). It also means knowing I’m making a bad career move and doing it anyway, after trying for so long to break into the so-called professional world.

    I really, really don’t want to leave a full-time job before the 2 year mark, but I’m afraid I look like a job hopper anyway with all of my lay offs, short-term work, part-time work, extending unemployment, etc., that I don’t even know if it matters.

    I am finding it very difficult to think clearly about all of this. Does anyone here have any experiences with launching a career after 30? Or letting go of what you’ve wanted for what you end up wanting later? Of how you’ve maintained a career when your family moves a lot for work?

  46. boop*

    Would it hurt to apply in the meantime? If the resume situation is so dire, by the time interviews start rolling in, OP may have clocked in enough time to solve the issue anyway. I would feel bad if I’d passed up a bunch of opportunities just to suffer through another lousy job.

  47. jobhopper?*

    Wonder if my situation counts as job hopping. Left an apprenticeship, intended as a one year fixed term contract, after four months due to mental health issues. Started volunteering in two roles at the same organisation last May, left one role to become full time in the other that offered more growth opportunities.

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