doesn’t “leave a bad job” conflict with “don’t be a job hopper”?

A reader writes:

On much of your advice on this blog, you seem to say something akin to “if your workplace/manager/coworkers are so bad, you should evaluate whether you should continue working there,” yet you still admonish those who could potentially be seen as job hoppers. What is the threshold? Why give what seems to be such conflicting advice?

Also, yes, there should be due diligence when selecting a job, but it’s not always an option for those new to the workplace who don’t know better, or those who are trying to get out of a bad situation only to get stuck in another dud. For example, in one position I held early on, I had an absent manager and needed someone more hands-on. When I left that job after two years for what seemed to be a vast improvement, I ended up with a severe micromanager on the other end of the spectrum. There’s only so much you can prepare for…

Well, you’re leaving out key parts of the advice.

The advice isn’t “if your workplace is bad, you should leave.” Most of the time, it’s “if your workplace is bad, you should accept that it’s not going to change and decide if you’re willing to continue working there under those circumstances.” That’s not “just leave” — it’s about accepting the reality and figuring out what you’re willing to tolerate. In some cases, it might make sense to tolerate bad working conditions because (a) you’re willing to accept them in exchange for high pay (or in some cases, any pay), (b) you’re trying to clear up a spotty job history and are willing to stick this out in exchange for helping your career long-term, or (c) there are other factors in play that make it worthwhile to you, like that you just need employment until you go to grad school next year or that it’s giving you experience that you’d have trouble finding somewhere else.

At the same time, it is indeed true that it will reflect badly on you if you leave a bunch of jobs quickly. (And that’s not to admonish anyone for job-hopping; it’s to explain a reality so that people can make decisions that will get them the best outcomes for themselves.) That’s why I make a point of saying that if you’re leaving a bad job quickly, you should be really, really careful about the one you accept next — because you’ll need to stay there for a while. You don’t want to jump from one bad job to another; you want to vet the next place to be sure it’s somewhere you’re willing to stay for a decent number of years.

Obviously, that’s not foolproof; no matter how well you vet a place, things can change — new management can come in, etc. But too often, people don’t even do the basic vetting they should be doing, and then they end up job hopping when they could have avoided it. It’s an unforced error, and I want people to avoid that.

And yes, when you have fewer options — because you’re new to the workplace or already have a spotty work history or are in a tight financial spot — you might not have a lot of choice about what jobs you accept, and as a result you might end up having to deal with a crappy boss or crappy workplace. That goes back to the point in my first paragraph — you need to calculate what makes sense for you, in your particular situation. For people without a lot of options, it might be “yes, this sucks and it’s not going to change, but I’m getting A, B, and C from this job that will help me position myself well for the future, so my plan is to put in two years here and then parlay that into something better.”

Underlying everything I write here is that your goal should be to create the kind of reputation and work history that gives you options in the long-term.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

    1. fposte*

      I think there’s also an element of insides and outsides–the applicants don’t always realize that valid early departures and frivolous early departures may feel very different but look much the same on the outside to prospective employers.

      1. Terra*

        And many outside employers tend to assume that any “early” exits from a company were the employees fault. Which can sometimes lead to bad hiring decisions if you get a hiring manager who refuses to interview what looks like the best candidate on paper because they can’t think of any reason why someone would leave a company before three years.

    2. Vicki*

      I was interviewing someone years ago and asked abut the many different short-term jobs on his resume.

      His answer was: “None of those companies exist anymore. I want to get a job at a company that will be here 5 years from now.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Common sense is not so common and it is very easy to confuse “thinking critically” with “over thinking”. Add to the mix that emotions cloud our better judgement and we tend to do what we see others around us doing. This whole mix means PLENTY of daily questions for Alison.

      The number one thing I see is that if people do not believe there is something better out there, they will remain in place rather than risk making the jump. So that has nothing to do with the toxic environment itself and everything to do with what the person believes is going on in the real world.

    4. annonymouse*

      Also some of these bad jobs people are leaving are actually just standard.

      This is not to diminish people in real and terrible work situations – I’ve been there and I feel your pain! (example my last boss would remotely check my work while on his holidays and if an email was sent to both of us and my name was on it first he would be in a terrible mood for the rest of the day)

      In those cases (really insane managers, dubious business practices) I say get out as soon as you can line a better job up.

      Some people are holding out for a perfect job with perfect everything and leave for anything less not realising EVERYTHING will be less.

      If your job is fine except for X and X isn’t a deal breaker then stay put.

  1. Fifi Ocrburg*

    Do people really care about “job-hopping”? As a career freelancer, I can’t imagine why anyone does.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, they do, because non-freelance jobs are often very different. There are a lot of workplaces where people are hired in the expectation that they’ll stay for a while, and those workplaces are going to prioritize people with a history that suggests they will do just that.

      1. Vicki*

        On the flip side, at one company we learned that HR expected people to leave after 4 or 5 years, max, and thought anyone who stayed longer was… stagnating.


        1. Sketchee*

          Does not seem weird to me at all. Some companies really don’t provide growth opportunities due to the the type of work they do and due to the size of their teams. Wanting to help develop people and send them out into the workforce is admirable. If they help develop great workers and those people move on to higher profile positions, it can also help that companies reputation within their industry

      2. Sketchee*

        To expand on what fposte shared, in a non-freelance situation employees are being trained in the processes of a business. A business involves a lot of processes, structure, culture and internal information. In a freelance situation, that is all developed by the individual. You’re running you’re own business. It really is a very different situation. I do both freelance and work full-time. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Generally for myself, knowing both worlds helps me navigate as freelancers and companies often interact.

    2. Anonnn*

      It tells me a lot about a person’s ability to work in any given situation. If he’s got two or three short stints back to back, my assumption about this person is that I should be cautious about bringing them into my team, because they likely won’t stick around long enough to be of much use.

      In one particular experience, a gentleman I’m thinking of arrived after two jobs of less than a year, and proceeded to be an incredibly toxic employee. He couldn’t work with others, and his job history showed that.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, at least in most fields! 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. If you have a string of short-term stays, most good employers (at professional jobs, and in most fields) aren’t going to want to hire you. They’re going to assume that you get bored easily, can’t keep a job, or don’t know how to identify the right fit for yourself.

      Over time, a long history of job-hopping 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).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Freelancing, of course, is totally different. I’m talking about jobs where the assumption on hiring you is that you’ll stay for at least a few years (so this also excludes internships, short-term contract jobs, etc.).

      2. Sandy*

        Curious- I currently work in an industry where we do a series of two year assignments. Consequently, our jobs are really set up with a two year time frame in mind, it would be quite unusual to even “extend” for an extra year to make it a three year stint in that position.

        Within my own industry, no one would ever blink an eye at that- it’s just how it works and how it’s assumed to work.

        But now that I am looking at changing industries, are people going to balk at a say five two year stints? Should I be putting a line in my cover letter or CV to reflect that I’m not job hopping?

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          It sounds like you were basically a contractor; I think you should indicate somehow that all of your previous jobs lasted until the end of the contract.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I work in education (i.e., schools), and job-hopping matters very much here.

      First of all, in any given institution, there are things you need to get to know. Even if you’re a veteran teacher in general, the first year you teach at a school, you’ll still be learning the ropes there (culturally unique practices at that school) and establishing your reputation (when you’re new to a school, both students and parents will test your boundaries that first year—just how much of a pushover are you… or aren’t you?). So to be at your most effective at that school, you will need to be there at least two years.

      Secondly, the work you do isn’t just results-oriented. It’s also relational. Over time, students get to know you as a mentor (and future rec writer for college applications). Parents also view it as bad if there’s a lot of turnover in the faculty at a school. So you definitely want to stay at least three years.

      It isn’t a moral judgment, though. You could be an amazing person and the most amazing classroom teacher on the planet, but if you have wanderlust and want to leave every school after one year, very few schools will be excited to hire you.

      1. Laura*

        This also applies to higher education! It is widely acknowledged at my place of employment that you need to stick around for a minimum of two years. (I am staff, btw… not a professor.) Given that the retirement fund won’t fully kick in until you’ve reached five years of employment, the vast majority of people try to stick it out that long.

        This means there are a lot of lateral moves, but those are more accepted in higher ed because it means you’re still sticking with the school.

    5. hbc*

      Would you rather have to find and hire a new lawn service every year, or stick with the same one for five years or more? Do you want to find a new vet every time your dog needs his shots?

      It is profoundly more convenient to have someone who will stick around longer. Of course there are no guarantees, but someone with a couple 3 year stints at two companies is going to be a much better bet than someone with six 1 year jobs.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      Yes, people care. It can take a hell of a lot of resources and time to hire and train someone. Investing that on a fickle person is frustrating.

    7. Felicia*

      Yes, because when you’re hiring for a non-freelance job, you don’t want to have to hire again for the same position quickly. You’re not going to want someone who will just leave after a year because you invest so much time and resources in finding someone new to hire, training them, helping them learn the organization, and it’s not something you want to do too often. This doesn’t apply to jobs that are meant to be temporary, but you invest a lot in a new person, and you want them to stay for a while after you’ve done that. Not forever, obviously, but a series of several one year stints if it’s not at jobs meant to be temporary looks like the person can’t commit to something and therefore won’t commit to you.

    8. Elle*

      Absolutely they do! It takes my company a full two years to get some of our positions fully trained. They are very intricate and detail oriented. I would not hire someone who was looking to stay for 2-3 years. It would be a waste of our time.

    9. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

      I think that it depends on the industry. In many software development circles there is the manta of “stay there for six months, then move to a higher paying position at another company.” Though, this isn’t even true in all software development sectors.

      1. Windchime*

        I’m a developer on a BI team. Six months is barely enough for people to figure out our environment and how to be a contributing member. It takes a lot of time and money to bring people up to speed and if we had to rehire every six months, we wouldn’t be getting anything done.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          I once saw a resume for a guy who was 26 years old, and in his five year career he had worked at ten different places.

          Wasn’t sure if he was a contractor , where such assignments might have been common — but he should have been smart enough to put that on the resume or cover letter.

    10. Shannon*

      I look at this whole ‘job hopping’ thing differently. I work in nonprofit development where the average stint is 18-24 months in one position. And that might be long. The reason? You have to move out to move up. So you’ll see a lot of 12-18 month folks because they’re advancing their career and when they start to get more senior, they stick around closer to that 24 month mark. The other reason? Often unreasonable goals, metrics, etc. We change jobs in hopes of finding a more reasonable set of expectations. Longest I’ve been anywhere is 19 months, mainly to move out to move up; but in one case I had a truly sociopathic manager and valued my sanity more than the job I loved.

      But I finally hit the point in my career where I’m senior enough to 1. not be bored (a big, big problem for me) 2. and I realize how much I need to learn to be successful down the road. And my ED is the best person to teach me. I’ve got at least a good 3-5 years in this role, if not more. Now, that 3-5 is my plan, but if for some reason my ED becomes crazy unreasonable (or she changes), my timeline could change.

      Because I know what to expect in my industry, I don’t get too worried about folks with a lot of jobs under 2 years, if they’re relatively early in their career and moving up. If I see a lot of short stints, without advancement and without accomplishments, I figure they’re languishing and I avoid. If I see accomplishments and advancement, I’m willing to interview. And conversely, I almost side-eye someone who’s been at the same assistant, associate, or coordinator-level job for 5+ years. I wonder if they’re not motivated or just treading water.

      1. Spooky*

        This is true for PR too. The average stay at my company (though not for my side of it) is about 8 months, which seems to be normal.

        As a side note, I think a big part of that is that nobody can live on the starter salary for very long. My company starts PR assistants at around $25K, and we’re in New York. People have to make a couple of jumps, in both position and salary, before they get to be financially stable.

      2. Ad Astra*

        This matches my experience in journalism, too. Most people start in a small market and move up to larger markets (or, occasionally, similarly sized markets that are more desirable than your previous location). If you start at, say, The Seattle Times, you might decide to stick around in Seattle for 3 or 5 years (or more!) and eventually move up. But if you start at the Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic, you might have little reason to stay more than a year or two.

    11. Macedon*

      Depends on the field. In mine, not really, so long as you keep advancing to better and better and you’re not making purely lateral moves. If you start off a journo at a small-town local, do a year, then another 12mo at a bigger specialty publication, and a third year at a medium-size title — people tend to get it when you’re asap applying to a big name newswire or a national. At least, I can’t think of a single editor who would not look at that succession of jobs and think, “Okay, they were just paying their dues and working their way up.”

      But if you spent three years as a reporter covering the same thing for similar titles, then yeah, I think employers might tilt their heads and squint.

    12. jaxon*

      Do remember that it takes time and resources (money and otherwise) to train a new hire – far far more than you would need to train a temporary or freelance worker who’s just doing one project.

    13. Jen S. 2.0*

      Also, to be frank…someone who can’t stay anywhere for longer than a few months could very well be a toxic personality, poor employee, or difficult creature who simply keeps getting fired. If everyone else keeps firing that person, what makes you think your experience will be different? Why would you hire someone who you strongly suspect you’ll be firing in 5 months?

      The best predictor of future performance is past results.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Years ago during a recession, I went through a rough patch with a series of jobs that lasted only a few months each. On paper I looked bad–but those jobs had significant things in common, mainly years of high turnover and a boss known throughout the company as terrible at managing people and even mean and abusive. Of course, the manager and HR didn’t tell me any of that in the interviews; they were putting on their best face to get a warm body. I recall that succession of ineffectual jerks whenever I hear managers discuss the “obvious” problems with an employee with a number of short-term jobs. There are two sides to the coin.

    14. Koko*

      In fact, because there are up front costs to hiring a new full-time staff person, a lot of companies have crunched the numbers and discovered they don’t “break even” on a new hire until 1-2 years in. You have the cost of advertising, the staff time spent reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates, then the on-boarding process, staff time spent training the new person, perhaps costs associated with formal training, and you’re paying them their full salary from Day 1 but they won’t reach their full productivity that that salary is based on until 6 or 12 months into the job, maybe even longer in some cases.

      So when you look at it that way, when someone leaves in 6 or 9 months, the company loses money on their whole interaction with you. Companies want to hire employees who will make them money, not cost it.

    15. attornaut*

      I don’t feel like I got a handle on procedure and acronyms specific to my job for the first year, and didn’t have solid relationships and templates to be fully effective until maybe year 3. I would imagine that it would be frustrating to have someone leave prior to 3 or 4 years, and I don’t think that I would have learned everything there is to learn from the position prior to that point.

  2. LBK*

    Most of the time, it’s “if your workplace is bad, you should accept that it’s not going to change and decide if you’re willing to continue working there under those circumstances.”

    This is so, so, so important. People don’t realize that a giant part of what makes having a bad boss so exhausting necessarily putting up with them, it’s the amount of energy you spend trying to fix them (or stressing about if/how you can). You can survive a bad job for a lot longer once you excuse yourself from the obligation to try to change someone who’s never going to change. Running into a brick wall over and over again is never going to do more damage to it than to yourself.

    If you reframe the situation as “How can I get my work done understanding that this roadblock will always exist?” instead of “How can I fix my boss to make my job easier?” you can redirect your energy into solving the first problem, which may actually have a solution, unlike the second.

    1. Business Cat*

      A thousand times yes! My job is so much easier when I frame my boss’s frustrating behavior as annoying but unchangeable and resolve to not internalize it. This job allows me to pay bills, buy groceries, and have a pretty good work/life balance, so I make myself as agreeable as possible, resist the urge to “fix,” and invest my emotional energy in more enjoyable outlets.

    2. Newbie*

      Understanding your own tolerances is vital. I work for a large employer that has issues/policies/practices that can be somewhat maddening at times. But I’ve chosen to stay here long-term (several decades) because I’m willing to put up with the “bad” in exchange for what’s good. Others don’t stay long because they’d rather be in a different environment. Neither choice is right or wrong, just personal preference.

      1. LBK*

        I love that point as well. There seems to be this fervor sometimes to find the next thing as soon as you stop being happy with some element of your job, but it’s okay to look at the pros and cons and say “You know what? I’m happy with the trade offs I’m making to stay at this job.” Owning that as a conscious choice can make a big difference to your quality of life compared to just feeling resigned to putting up with the crappy parts of your job in exchange for the good parts.

        I actually just helped one of my best friends make a decision like this since his current boss who he’s been trying to get away from offered him a great new position. He ultimately decided it was worth everything that role will give him – autonomy, visibility, leadership experience, etc. – was worth staying under a manager who can be very frustrating to work for at times.

        1. Koko*

          It’s basically the plot of the Devil Wears Prada. She knows the boss is a horrid bitch, but if she can put in one good year with her she can get any job she wants later. So she grits her teeth and sucks it up and puts in her year.

    3. Clever Name*

      Yes! As my mom wisely told me when I was starting my career, “every job has something bad about it or something that you don’t like. It’s up to you to decide if you can deal with it or not”.

      I really wish more people had this attitude. I get so tired hearing people complaining about stuff. Usually it’s complaining about how things are run or how other people are (or aren’t) doing their jobs. I want to say, “Well, that’s the way things are here. Either accept it and deal, or decide it’s not worth it for you and move on”.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am convinced that things are less difficult if we just avoid the steady stream of complaints. I had one job where you had to chronically complain or you did not fit in. It was rough for me to listen to. Some coworkers had a new complaint every five minutes all day long.
        I tried saying it could be worse and, oh boy, that was not the thing to say. They enjoyed their martyrdom.
        Of course, you know this slowed their productivity waaaay down which made it harder for those of us who were actually trying to do the work, as we had to take up their slack. The irony of it was that one major complaint was people did not pull their weight.

        The job would have been okay if everyone pulled their weight. But four people cannot carry the work load of 14 people. (We had four workers and ten complainers.) I need to work with people who are focused on success, not on defeat.

    4. Koko*

      I had a boyfriend/toxic relationship that I approached that way for a long time. I knew his behavior was irrational and unfair but I also knew exactly what I needed to do to calm him down. Even if it meant letting go of something that was bothering me, saying something I didn’t mean, doing something that felt pointless or worse, I would tell myself that a good girlfriend would always choose the relationship, and I would do whatever stupid thing would make him not be angry anymore.

      It was obviously an abusive relationship and this tactic didn’t magically turn it into a non-abusive one, but after I implemented it the relationship at least got a lot less explosive. I was still miserable for most of it, but I was no longer being dragged into life-interrupting emotionally turbulent situations without warning on a regular basis. My adrenal glands alone thanked me for breaking that pattern even if it took me a lot longer to leave him.

  3. Ruthie*

    If you find yourself leaving jobs you’re miserable in often enough, it might be time to reevaluate your expectations of the workplace and whether you can be happy in your career or your field.

    1. A Non*

      Especially if the bad jobs are following a pattern. I totally did this, and it took me three, maybe four repeats to figure out what was happening.

      My theory is that I was used to a specific type of jerk – both what they’re like when they’re being jerks, and what they’re like when they’re hiding it. So when I interviewed with another jerk, and saw only their nice face, they felt comforting and familiar. Hey, here’s someone with all the pros and none of the cons! Which of course wasn’t the case. And they probably saw the flip side of the same coin – hey, here is someone whose behavior meshes with mine. So they kept offering me jobs, I kept accepting, and I kept getting a year into the job and going OH NO GET OUT.

      My future goal in job hunting is to find a boss who does NOT feel completely familiar at first interaction. If they seem nice but we don’t fit together like puzzle pieces, then they’re probably not that specific type of jerk. That doesn’t make me immune to other types of jerks, but it hopefully will at least help me avoid repeating the pattern. Again.

      1. Snork Maiden*

        This can also apply to friendships, I find. I have way stronger friendships with people who seemed generally decent at first but who I couldn’t quite “get” completely. People who I became immediate close confidantes with almost invariably turned into a suffocating vicious cycle where we only amplified the worst in each other.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      You may also have to re-evaluate your approach to jobs in general.

      I know some amazingly capable people who do not have what I consider essential job survival skills—knowing when to schmooze, when to defer to authority (even if you don’t agree to it), when to let B.S. slide instead of getting angry about it, when to actually get outraged about something you need to be outraged about. No matter what job they’re in, they’re miserable, because they don’t respect their boss, or because they have to deal with bureaucracy, or because everyone else is so much less efficient than they are.

      Now, these people are not horrible people. These are people whose company I enjoy as friends and who are kind and genuine. They just don’t understand that there’s so much more to work than the work itself and doing the work well. Office politics can be annoying, but you still have to learn to navigate it.

      1. Clever Name*

        This is so on-point. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but this explains almost exactly my miserable coworker. I don’t know if this is describing emotional intelligence or office-politics savviness or what, but some jobs definitely take a bit of finesse to navigate.

        1. AMT*

          The best I can come up with is “battle-pickingness.” The ability to say, “Yes, it’s crappy that the coffee machine doesn’t work and I have to do an hour a week of documentation that doesn’t matter, but it’s not worth driving myself crazy with dissatisfaction, and if those end up being my biggest problems, I’ve got it pretty good.”

      2. Amber*

        I think I am one of these people. I excelled in school, but I’m struggling in the workplace. I find working in an office and dealing with office politics to be absolutely exhausting. Is there any hope for people like me?

        1. Hillary*

          There’s absolutely hope. Politics and other soft skills can be learned. I learned it from mostly watching great bosses work and occasionally what not to do from less great ones.

          The level of politics is also going to vary wildly. I was miserable in an incredibly formal environment, but I’m happy at a less formal small company.

          1. Koko*

            This is actually something I did ages ago, when I was working for my first large employer (I’d only been in small shops up til that point). I had SO many more coworkers than I was used to having, and I was having a lot more contact with people significantly senior to me inside and outside of my field, and realized there were things I could learn from them. So for about the first two weeks on the job, whenever I was in a meeting taking notes I would make a note every time a coworker did something that I thought was particularly skilled or impressive to remind myself to pay more attention to that person and learn how to do that same thing. Like tactfully pushing back on a suggestion without offending the suggester, or winning people over to an idea that was initially unpopular.

        2. Koko*

          Absolutely! Just approach your soft skills and attitudes exactly the same way you approached your hard skills. Pay attention to your own performance, learn how to improve, implement strategies to do so, practice as much as you can.

          Your attitude when you interact with a coworker is something you choose. You want to choose the attitude that is most likely to get you the results you want, even if that attitude doesn’t align with how you feel deep down inside. Usually, the attitude that gets results at work is polite (says please and thank you), helpful (proactively finds solutions, willing to pitch in for teammates occasionally without a clear direct incentive), and assertive (can politely ask for help and politely say no, and does each at the right time).

          So when a coworker is annoying the crap out of you, instead of letting that influence your attitude, remind yourself what attitude leads to success, and execute it just like you would any other solution to a work problem. Be polite, helpful, and assertive no matter how rude, obnoxious, or unhelpful they’re being to you. You’re the one who will rise and they are the one who will stagnate (in most good workplaces).

          1. Koko*

            Also – I have always found it helpful when I’m having conflict with a coworker to remind myself what the larger goals are for our department and organization. I may be on my last nerve about the incessant questions this person is asking me and wishing they already knew this stuff, but my company would want me to help her as long as it isn’t significantly getting in the way of what I need to do. And ultimately, I’m there to serve the company, not to structure my work in the way I enjoy most.

      3. Manders*

        If this site had a way to like comments I’d be clicking it right now. I’ve seen so many people quit, get fired, or spend significant amounts of time unemployed when they *could* do the tasks that needed to be done, but they didn’t have the survival skills they needed to shine, or at least endure, in an office setting. I think when hiring managers look at a resume full of short stays at jobs that should have been longer-term they’re worrying about whether they’re hiring this kind of person.

      4. Whippers*

        “knowing when to schmooze, when to defer to authority (even if you don’t agree to it), when to let B.S. slide instead of getting angry about it”

        I don’t know; this sounds an awful lot like being a Yes-man and just agreeing to things for an easy life.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No! This doesn’t mean hiding what you think all the time. It’s about knowing when it makes sense to speak your mind (when it will have an impact/when you have standing to speak up/when it’s worth expending political capital on something) and when it doesn’t. Unless you have a job where you work 100% solo (no coworkers, no boss, no staff under you, no clients), this will always be part of the deal if you want to do well in the long-term.

          1. Whippers*

            I can understand knowing when to speak up about things and knowing when not, but “knowing when to schmooze”? Maybe I have a different interpretation of schmooze but I always thought it was synonomous with ass-licking.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think of it more as networking — engaging in conversation at least in part because it may benefit you in some vague way, as opposed to 100% because you enjoy the person’s company/conversation. I don’t think it’s ass-kissing, just somewhat self-interested.

              1. Whippers*

                Well, I can’t deny I do that! Although I never thought of it as schmoozing; more just being nice I suppose.

              2. Koko*

                Yes, it’s like if your company is holding a party during work hours, it’s probably a smart move to show up for at least a little while, even if it’s optional, and even if you have other work to do. It will benefit you to put in some informal face time with the senior leaders who hold sway over your career path at the company, with your peers who you may one day wish to call on for a favor, etc. You don’t actually want to go to the break room and drink soda and eat potato chips with the weirdos you work with, but you go because it’s good for your career. That’s schmoozing to me.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  This. There’s a guy in my division who’s been there pretty much since it began, and he was a supervisor in the company that eventually spun-off into this current division. Well, he applied to be a supervisor again in this new division, but was passed over for someone with less experience and less time in this division. Why? Because he hardly speaks to anyone. He’s a nice guy once you get to know him, but the problem is, people rarely get that opportunity because he doesn’t go to group lunches, he rarely volunteers to help out others who need it (and we all pitch in and help each other out), and he doesn’t make an effort to reach out to new people. It’s a shame because he has a lot of knowledge he could impart, but he won’t reach out to people.

        2. Manders*

          I disagree. It’s not about saying yes unconditionally to everything, it’s about understanding how to pick your battles in a team setting and being polite and warm around people you wouldn’t necessarily choose to socialize with outside of work. Sometimes at work you do have to put the needs of your team or client or boss in front of your personal preferences.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            It’s definitely more about picking your battles. I’ve had numerous times my boss has wanted to do something I disagree with or implement things badly. But I also know she is my boss, so I will always suggest alternatives and then pick only one or two things to really push back on. I’ve had bosses, also, younger than I am or with less experience/knowledge than I had, but I still respected their position, and that’s important to do. It doesn’t mean you become a “yes (wo)man.”

          2. No Longer a Reader*

            That’s toxic to a person’s emotional well being. You’re basically saying that a person shouldn’t put their needs or personal preferences in front, but rather put the personal preferences of people they wouldn’t even socialize with in the real world (because you cannot take a job or career with you to your grave) to be accepted? If someone is that immature and insecure to have you pander to their personal preference, they’re not someone you should work with or be managed by. The majority of what I have read on this post has been about maintaining the status quo. It’s really disturbing, but not unexpected. I do hope anyone scrolling through who thought this was a group-think experience can sigh now knowing it isn’t.

    3. OriginalYup*

      Or what kind of work place you need/want.

      Two different people might equally love and be awesome at IT support. One is happiest in a full-time permanent position + mid-size company + part of a team of peers. The other is at their best in a freelance situation working for lots of different companies as a lone wolf team of one. This is a hard thing to learn because you have to experience different options first to compare & contrast. I’ve seen plenty of people come to the conclusion that they don’t like a particular kind of work or job when in fact it was the environment in which they were doing the work that made all the difference.

  4. Mando Diao*

    I think a key point is that two years (the recommended minimum for NOT looking like a job hopper) really isn’t a super-long time to stick it out in a lousy workplace. If you feel fairly secure that you won’t be fired or laid off for other reasons, why not stay the two years? Hit that mark and then apply for new positions while you’re still there. Employers will either call you or they won’t.

    Obviously you don’t want your resume to be a string of two-year gigs, but it’s a helpful guideline.

    Keep in mind that this blog largely targets office workers at a level where things like paid vacations, PTO, and salary negotiations are the norm. OP, I agree with your implication that sometimes this blog is out of step with the majority (yes, majority) of what working adults over 18 encounter at work and can reasonably expect from employers. You have to be at a certain status for things like “long-term careers” to be more than a pipe dream. Most of my jobs have been at small businesses that folded within a year or two. In my small business/entrepreneur-heavy region, this is the norm. Just a “filter” to keep in mind when reading this site.

    1. Collie*

      Strangely relevant to my comment. Thanks for bringing up some stuff that hadn’t occurred to me!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I think a key point is that two years (the recommended minimum for NOT looking like a job hopper) really isn’t a super-long time to stick it out in a lousy workplace.

      I generally agree with you with the caveat that it really depends just how lousy the workplace actually is. I usually stay 3-5 years at a place, but one job was so “lousy” (i.e., extremely toxic), I left in less than a year.

      1. Koko*

        I wanted to say the same thing! Now that I’m in my ripe 30s, I feel like I could do anything for 2 years. The years at my current job have just flown by. When I was 24, fresh out of school? Staying somewhere for two years felt like an eternity.

    3. LBK*

      Most of my jobs have been at small businesses that folded within a year or two. In my small business/entrepreneur-heavy region, this is the norm.

      I dunno, I kind of think your experience is the one that’s out of sync with the norms of the majority of the working world. This blog definitively skews white collar, but I wouldn’t say it targets a particular senior level of people within that demographic. I’ve only been working in an office job for 4 years and I can’t think of a time I’ve felt alienated by the advice here (and that was equally true when I started reading 2 years ago).

      1. SL #2*

        I agree that this blog skews towards white collar, but also towards a specific type of white collar job (non-profit/government). I’ve never felt alienated by the advice here but I also knew my former industry and I knew what advice would apply well and what wouldn’t. This current thread probably wouldn’t be as applicable.

        1. Pickles*

          No…not so much government. Government has weirder rules and regs than are typically covered here.

        2. LBK*

          In their details maybe some questions skew towards non-profits (ie questions related to donors or the mission of the organization) but at a high level I think most questions here are about navigating interpersonal issues, and those certainly exist in every industry. Tons of questions also have answers that basically boil down to “it depends on your office/company/industry”.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I actually don’t even think the questions skew toward nonprofits — it’s that people tend to self-identify as “I work for a nonprofit” whereas people tend not to announce “I work for a for-profit business” because that’s considered the default (and not a normal catch-all in the way it is for nonprofits).

            1. LBK*

              Oh, yeah, the site as a whole definitely doesn’t skew towards non-profits. I just meant that some letters contain info about elements that don’t exist outside of the non-profit world (fundraising, donor relationships, the organization’s mission, etc.) but those elements rarely make the advice in the responses solely applicable to the non-profit world.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          We’re in the profit business at Wakeen’s and I don’t remember feeling N/A about much of anything here.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            lol at “we’re in the profit business” :D. I think all letter writers and commenters should mention this if applicable. Or call themselves profiteers. Ok that’s piracy but still.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

              Oooooh. My dark, alter ego is a profiteer who wears only black, has a fiendish laugh and stacks of gold!

    4. Rabbit*

      I’m probably considered a job-hopper by this blog (but not likely by most people in my industry–a year is standard/”Wow, you stayed a year, congrats!”), so take this with a grain of salt, but: yes, two years can be absolutely miserable. I’ve had a few toxic jobs that had me being yelled at for other people’s mistakes (often the yeller’s mistake–and yes, I mean yelled at, not “talked strongly to.” Yelled at, in full view of everyone, with spit hitting my face–multiple times), stayed past midnight with no paid overtime, etc etc blah blah blah. Point being, jobs THAT crappy take a certain kind of person to stay in for two years, and I am just not that person. I can’t work on eggshells all day from 9 am to midnight, cry on the way home, and be happy.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Well, no one said that staying in a toxic position for 2 years would be wonderful. We realize that those 2 years absolutely friggin’ suck, otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing it. We’re just saying that, in exchange for a decent job history, sucking it up for 2 years is sometimes worth it. If not, okay…but if you can find something, anything, to help carry you through, a lot of times you probably should.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        If your job is that awful you should leave ASAP – in my experience you’re likely to get fired (which is very easy at a lot of awful jobs) or just break down/screw up big-time well before the 2-year mark. 2 years in a “meh” job is verrrry different from 2 years in a job where you go home crying every day. The former is totally doable; the latter is agony and likely not to happen anyway, and not worth the danger to your own health unless you really, truly have no choice.

        1. Rabbit*

          Agree 100% with you! There’s a BIG difference between a few years at a “meh” job vs a horrible job. Thankfully(?) my first industry job was that awful one, so I didn’t realize how bad I had it until a few years later, ha.

  5. Collie*

    I realize it probably varies some by industry, but I’ve been under the impression that Millennials are sort of changing the expectations about how long is appropriate to stay in a job (regardless of how “good” or “bad” it is). My dad, for example, was in one position for over eighteen years. Today, that sounds more than excessive, and I’m hearing things like two to five years is closer to the norm. Is that accurate? Would someone who moved along every two or so years today be considered a job hopper?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I think it depends on the field and career stage. Someone who moved every two years in my field is probably a job shopper (as in, they do contract work through an agency). People with full-time regular jobs tend to stay 5+ years in one place. This is not to say they stay in the same position. People will have normal progression from a level 1 to 2 to 3, or will move from Teapot Design to Teapot Estimating for a rotation. If I saw someone with 15-20 years experience moving every two years, I would be concerned about hiring them.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Also wanted to add, not for millennials specifically*, but for recent grads, I do think 2 year stints are okay to a point. It can take a while to find the right niche or industry. But if you go from teapots, to kegs, to water coolers, to coffee pots with each of your stints, I’m going to worry. You get a couple opportunities to get it right.

        *I think the millennials=new grads thing needs to change, though. . .by some measures, I am a millennial (X/millenial borderline) with 16 years post-grad work experience, and my son is now in the part-time workforce.)

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I agree, by definition I’m a millennial and I’m not a new grad by any means.

          I agree, for recent grads I don’t mind seeing shorter stints. I higher writers and designers so it’s pretty common for them to figure out exactly what aspects of their field they do or don’t like.

          1. Sara*

            I think it usually gets defined as anyone born 1981-2000, and then 2000 and on is Generation Z.

          2. NK*

            Nope, it’s more like the people who were coming of age in the 2000s. I was 18 in 2000, and I’m at the upper limit of most definitions of millennial. In fact, I think kids born post-2000-ish might be in another generation, but they haven’t hit the full-time workforce yet.

            1. Megs*

              Hi-five to the border millennials! I was bummed when they got rid of Y, because it might have been a dumb name, but at least it referred to a group I could mostly relate to. And yes, the definition I hear most often is born 1980 (because people like base 10?) or 1982 (typically graduated HS in 2000) or 1983 (typically graduated HS in 2001) as the X/millennial cut off. I’m ’83 myself.

              1. OP*

                There’s now the unofficial “Oregon Trail Generation” that has taken the place of Y. I was born in ’85 but I have always identified more with X that Millennial. But Totes Magotes with the Oregon Trail Generation. THAT WAS ME.

        2. Tau*

          The way it’s going, I’m wondering if the “millennials entering the workforce!!” thing will have stopped by the time we hit retirement age.

        3. Serpico*

          Boy, my resume is a hot mess. It started with one field, which is what I studied, and it turned out I was bad at it. Then it was five years of retail. Then I moved with my husband to a new state, where I started doing post-production work because I needed a job and someone got me in. Then I moved to closed captioning, but it’s a dying field and I got laid off from two different companies. Now I’m doing something completely different. It’s really not my fault that it’s so all over the place. I would have loved to stayed in closed captioning, but the jobs are disappearing.

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        It definitely depends upon field. My dad is not quite a Baby Boomer (he’s a few months too old), and he definitely was a job hopper. BUT he worked in a skilled trade and got his benefits from the union. People knew he was good at what he did but that he wouldn’t stick around if something better came along. (This was in an area and time with a LOT of opportunities in his trade.)

        (Where I live now, this is very common among restaurant workers.)

      3. Koko*

        Although there have been notable exceptions, I would say as a rule that the more senior ranking people were more likely to have a longer tenure. Plenty of assistants and coordinators come and go in 2-3 years and that’s totally normal. But directors and managers stick around 5-10 years. A director who left after 2 years wouldn’t torch her reputation forever or anything, but people would talk about her being particularly self-interested in a mildly negative way.

        This very well could be particular to the nonprofit world where there’s a whole weird emotional layer wrapped around your relationship to your employer. If you really believe in their mission, you feel more obligated to do right by them even if they suck, because you don’t want to hurt the mission. So sometimes seeing a coworker make a reasonable but selfish choice to say, quit without notice because their boss is an insane person, or quit after 2 years to take on a higher-paying more prestigious role, makes you lose respect for them in a way it might not if they were quitting their job at Hewlett-Packard. You feel like they hurt the mission, not just the employer.

        1. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

          It’s definitely field-specific. In my current and last (where I’m doing the same thing), it’s common for directors with several decades of experience to change jobs at the 18-month mark. In many cases, the constant hopping is seen not as a detriment, but as indicative of high competence and desirability. I’m told there is a shortage both in my current field and in the specific role I work. In my case I would add that it’s location-specific as well — this shortage certainly isn’t uniformly the case across the U.S.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      My dad, for example, was in one position for over eighteen years. Today, that sounds more than excessive, and I’m hearing things like two to five years is closer to the norm. Is that accurate? Would someone who moved along every two or so years today be considered a job hopper?

      I’d actually say eighteen years is not only excessive but dangerous. For a lot of baby boomers, there was an expectation that if you were loyal to the company/organization, it would be loyal back. You would put in your decades of work at a place, retire there, and then get a pension. Or, for professors, that you’d get tenure somewhere, stay there forever, and then be emeritus. Now layoffs are quite frequent, and a lot of professors are getting relegated to the adjunct path. I’ve known a couple of Gen X’ers who worked at a place 15+ years straight out of college, get laid off, and then had a really tough time finding a job. I don’t know if prospective employers are thinking you may not have enough varied experience or are too set in your ways if you’re in one place for too long.

      That said, leaving every two years does seem a little job-hoppy to me, but that could be because I’m coming at this with an education lens. From my limited experience (i.e., education/schools), this looks job-hoppy:

      2 years at school W
      2 years at school X
      2 years at school Y
      2 years at school Z

      But this looks actually less job-hoppy to me:

      5 years at school W
      1 year at school X
      3 years at school Y
      3 years at school Z

      1. AnotherAlison*

        When you’re looking at the danger of staying in one company, I think you have to focus on the position, too. There’s always a risk of being untouchable because you’re just “too Teapots Inc” after 20 years to join Teapots Unlimited, but I think that’s small compared to simply not growing at your long-tenured company. Working in an F500 company, if you don’t get pigeonholed, you can grow for a long time. Probably not true if you’re working in a 5-person accounting office for 20 years.

      2. Collie*

        Yeah; Dad’s a baby boomer and after eighteen years of service to this one company, was laid off. It took him over two years to find a new position and he’s been in that one for over ten years now. It doesn’t help that he wasn’t/isn’t really happy at either. He likes work for the sake of work, but has had a lot of trouble with bad bosses and coworkers (though I can’t say how much of it is his perception/him).

      3. Kyrielle*

        I think it also depends on how you frame 15+ years in one place and how you approach the search, and what that 15+ years looked like. All one job title? Oh not good. Increasing responsibility? Probably much better. (I did okay leaving over 15 years at one organization recently…but I don’t think I had the same job title for more than 4-5 years at any point, and the changes were all to the good.)

        (The second example is significantly less job-hoppy – it’s 12 years instead of 8, so average tenure of 3 years instead of average tenure of 2. I’d bet 5-1-1-1 would be a little concerning tho. But agreed – some 2-year stints are good and normal, but for a role in an industry where job training and/or longevity apply, 3+ years is probably better. And not having a perfect pattern of ‘oh, after X years exactly he always leaves’ is also probably good.)

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I think it also depends on how you frame 15+ years in one place and how you approach the search, and what that 15+ years looked like. All one job title? Oh not good.

          I really think that depends on your industry and your position. For example, English teacher for 15 years? That’s absolutely fine. You could be the most amazing English teacher and never want to be a department head or move into administration. In fact, most teachers don’t. Your typical English teacher (who doesn’t quit teaching in the first five years) teaches English and then teaches English and then teaches English again. No outwardly observable “upward” movement.

          Similarly, if you are the admission director at a school for fifteen years, there’s absolutely no professional expectation that you’ll want to move into something else (although sometimes admission directors move into development or division headship—it’s far more common for them to just stay admission directors, though).

          I would say (again with my narrow school lens) the only time upward movement matters is if you’re looking specifically at leadership roles. No school is going to say “We want to hire a principal or head of school… let’s find a teacher who’s only taught and hasn’t been a dean, department head, or assistant principal or assistant head.”

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m hearing from some of my friends in tech that 2-3 years is becoming the new norm for things like software developers. Supposedly it’s somewhat normal to work on a specific project or two for the experience and then move on to something that pays more or more interesting. But that’s still a couple to a few years, not every six months or year.

      1. Collie*

        That’s primarily the industry I’m hearing this from (and mostly Millennials who aren’t recent grads), so that could be part of it, too.

      2. SL #2*

        The idea behind that is that if you’re not moving on to something new after a few years, you’re falling behind both your peers and new grads because the industry changes so fast. An easy example: 3 years ago, we didn’t have live-streaming apps yet. Today, Twitter has entire departments dedicated to refining Periscope. If you’re a developer in that environment, it makes more sense to jump to a new project and company when you get the chance rather than sticking it out for more than 3-5 years, because who knows when your product is going to become obsolete?

      3. LBK*

        I could see that also being common in tech since that industry is more heavily loaded with startups than a lot of other industries, and those tend to cycle out jobs every 2-3 years when the company either collapses or gets sold.

        1. Tara*

          This is quite true. My boyfriend is a software developer and has technically worked for 3 different companies in the last 4 years. But this is because after the first year, Company A got semi-acquired by Company B, and late last year Company B got bought out by Company C.

    4. A Non*

      It depends on the field. I’m in IT, and I have a rule of thumb that any IT person who stays in the same job (with no promotions) for more than five years is very likely incompetent and has found a position where they won’t get fired. I’ve met exactly one person who is an exception to this, and they had good reasons for staying in one spot for seven years. But IT is a field that changes very rapidly – if you’re not changing you’re falling behind. Five jobs in ten years isn’t unusual here, especially if you can show a progression of responsibilities between the jobs, but most fields aren’t quite that mobile.

      1. Koko*

        All my friends who work in IT are routinely poached by competitors and leave after a year or even less. It’s definitely a thing in the IT industry, the managers won’t penalize you for “job hopping” because they’re all trying to poach people from places they just started working!

      2. Windchime*

        I’m in IT, too, but my company is a healthcare company and we have a big IT department (around 100 people). People tend to stay long-term here because our main purpose is to keep the infrastructure for the facility up and current. My team does ETL and analysis (data warehouse stuff). Most of us have been on this team for over 3 years and many of us have been with the organization for 10-20 years. Are we up to date with the latest and greatest? Nope! But we are senior developers with tons of in-house experience and the organization would be in trouble if we all left at once. Fortunately, we are paid market wages, have decent benefits and are treated well so why would we leave?

        All IT is not the same. I think that for young people who are trying to climb the ladder quickly and are worried about staying up with the latest technologies, it can make sense to move around. For those of us who are involved more in infrastructure and supporting an organization, longevity and stability can be a good thing. (Now watch me get laid off tomorrow after saying all that).

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        OR – you find you’re in a VERY comfortable position. If your employer provides you with a top salary, great benefits, a good balance (most of the time) between work and life, job security – and you have no incentive to leave – that is, you’re not going to find anything else better out there… you might opt to stay.

        Where I work, it’s tough to get in the door. One reason = for IS/IT, no one ever leaves. That’s the mark of a great place to work.

        Because isn’t that what most people are seeking in life? Isn’t that what they want in a career?
        Someone who is 30 and has had five jobs, might NOT be the best candidate for a place like this.

        So setting a rule of thumb? I wouldn’t. Some places are hell-holes and people leave quickly. Some places are idyllic. You’re not going to leave just because someone says you should leave.

    5. Over Development*

      I often wonder this myself. The say that the average stay of a Development Director is 18months and it constantly feels like everyone in my industry is shifting around.

    6. Felicia*

      In my field, a two year stint at the beginning of your career is fairly normal, and many (though probably not most) do 2 two year stints in a row. But when you get more mid-level, 5-8 years is pretty average, and more than 8 or less than 2 are unusual, unless sometimes for the very highest levels, 10+ years is normal. But it varies. I’ve been at my current job a year and a half and although i’m not eager to leave, since it’s my first post university permanent job, many people do at this point at my level. At the same time, I feel there’s a limit to what I can do/accomplish in this job, and already envision myself leaving at the 4-5 year mark if nothing drastically changes.

    7. LBK*

      I don’t think this has anything to do with Millennials themselves but rather the job market as they’re entering the workforce. Maybe once you’ve been in the workforce for a decade or two you’ll have the experience to nail down a job that will support you for the rest of your life, but straight out of college? Most 20-somethings are taking any job that will allow them to pay the bills. Those aren’t usually jobs you make careers out of.

      There’s also something to be said for how much more work intrudes into your life these days. So many jobs expect people to be available outside of their 9-5 schedule that it matters a lot more what job you have because that job’s going to take up more of your time. It may have been easier to just suck it up and do a job you didn’t like that much when you only had to do it 40 hours per week, period.

    8. Owl*

      I don’t know that it’s Millennials that are changing the expectations, I think they are coming of age in a time when it doesn’t pay off to stay with one company the way it used to. Pensions are largely a thing of the past, and companies are more reluctant to give raises/promotions like they used to do, so people change jobs in order to get more pay and more responsibilities.

      1. LBK*

        and companies are more reluctant to give raises/promotions like they used to do, so people change jobs in order to get more pay and more responsibilities.

        Absolutely agree with this – if you want more money these days, you almost always have to change companies, or at the very least change departments. Anecdotally from reading the comments here, it seems pretty rare that you’d get a raise of 10% or more within your own role.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. Companies wanted people to stay and worked at the relationship with their employees more , I think. I remember in 1971 my grandmother needed a nursing home. My aunts looked into grandpa’s insurance and found out the nursing home would be paid in full. Grandpa had passed away 6 years earlier, so his company was taking care of his widow. Companies do not care so much now, it’s not surprising that people feel less loyalty.
        I remember in the 80s we had a friend that changed jobs every 4 to 5 years. Everyone felt embarrassed for him. Why couldn’t he stay in one place, what was wrong here? Well if you have no pension or a tiny pension, it’s easier to think about moving. My father stayed with one company for decades. I just stumbled across some of his old papers. He was getting a pension of $1500 PER YEAR in the 1990s. No way, would I stick around for that. Many other people must have seen this also. (This company is a household name.)

      3. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

        That seems right to me. Many people in or nearing their 60s are moving around frequently these days too. Even professions that normally would be considered stable — if not the very definition of ‘pension and a gold watch’-type places — are, post-recession, wildly in flux, and job-jumping, layoffs, and strategic lateral moves are quite common.

    9. anonanonanon*

      As a Millennial, I know that myself and a lot of my friends, coworkers, or former coworkers go by the 2 – 5 rule, and we all work in vastly different industry. Part of it is because there’s a lot of full-time contract work out there instead of permanent positions and part of it is because the only way to make more money is to switch jobs. I worked at my first company for 2 years without a raise, my second company for 3 years with only one 0.5% raise, and now my current company for almost 2 years with a 1% raise (the lack of raises or low raise amount was company wide because of “budget”) and I plan to start looking once I hit the 2 year mark.

      So, yeah, I’m going to switch jobs every few years if only so I’m actually making a salary equal to cost of living increases.

    10. Terra*

      It depends on the industry but also how much opportunity for promotion there is in your company. Staying at one company longer term, even possibly 18 years thought that would be rare, is more acceptable if you get promoted every 3 years or so. If you don’t or can’t get promoted you’ll probably need to move to a new job sooner because otherwise hiring managers suspect that something was “wrong” with you for not being promoted. It’s not fair or true but that’s how it looks.

    11. Ad Astra*

      I would say yes, 2-5 years is the norm among all the early-career professionals I know. That make be skewed because I’ve worked mostly in industries where you typically have to move on in order to move up (including journalism, where you usually have to completely relocate in order to move up). I’m 5 years out of college and I can’t think of any classmates who’ve been with the same company for all 5 years of their careers.

      I don’t typically raise an eyebrow for any stint that’s longer than a year and a half, but I’m also not in charge of hiring anyone.

    12. Jaguar*

      My understanding of it, and somewhat my experience of it (I was born in 82), is that Millennials switch jobs more frequently because the salaries being offered to them are drastically less than they were for generations past. The few jobs that pay well and aren’t specialized (programming, nursing, engineering, etc.) are extremely hard to get and the ones left over pay little and offer little in the form of advancement. You’ll notice that solid careers, like nursing, don’t have a lot of movement. I’ve had a few jobs where advancement was non-existent. Guess what one of their selling points was in every case.

      It’s a race to the bottom. Millennials have less negotiating power than every generation before them and employers are taking full advantage of that fact. They then turn around and blame Millennials for being disengaged, job hopping, etc. So, while it’s technically true that “Millennials are…changing the expectations” of how long one should stay in a job, that sounds a lot like misplacing the blame. It’s changing for their generation, but it’s not their fault.

      1. Collie*

        That’s fair. I’m a Millennial myself; I guess I’ve internalized a lot of this stuff because it’s all I ever hear. It’s probably (partly) why I have a hard time selling myself, too (“All Millennials think they’re special; well they’re not!” Blah blah blah.), but that’s another story.

        1. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

          The people nearing retirement age who make such generalizations have made them about every person under the age of 50 or at least their early 50s at some point over the past few decades, so much so that some of these pundits have written nearly identical books and articles about the ‘pitfalls’ of managing X, Y, Z or [whatever] generation it is.

          That’s helpful to keep in mind as you plan your next move or assess your long-term goals. Much of the negative hype is just that: hype. And often, it’s either influenced or created by major media outlets too — specifically those that depend on, or believe they need to depend on, spreading an anti-worker message (to some degree or another) in order to generate revenue.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        There aren’t enough pluses in the world for this comment.

        Yes, it’s misplacing the blame. In fact, it’s blaming the victim. In fact, I tend to think all the crap about selfish, job-hopping, speeecial, etc. Millennials is a *deliberate* attempt to decrease younger workers’ bargaining power.

        1. Collie*

          I think that depends on how you look at it, though. I don’t necessarily believe shorter-term job stints are inherently bad. A lot of the Baby Boomers may feel this way and think that by setting up this victim blaming that they’re somehow better off. But that will only last as long as Baby Boomers are in dominate positions in the workforce. In another ten, fifteen years, I can see the attitude changing significantly. But such is the way of the world.

        2. Jaguar*

          Yeah. I originally had my post with “victim blaming” in tone, but I scaled it back. Still, it makes me kind of furious when I hear the “job hopping will doom you” advice because it’s out-dated for many, many people and probably the people most in need of good advice. For them, staying in one place for too long will doom them.

          If you think about it, it makes absolutely no sense that people want to be job hoppers. If you could build experience and quality of life better by staying with an employer, who would want to constantly be hustling on employment market and risking a safe thing?

          1. Jaguar*

            This is to say nothing for the fact that if you know you need to change jobs to get ahead (and the people for which this is true absolutely know that) and if you’re being told that having a job history of many jobs that you weren’t at for more than two years on average, that leaves only one option: lying.

    13. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Nah, look to Gen X for that shift. My brother (born in 1974, definitely a GenXer) is just starting his 5th job in his ~20 years in the professional world. Millennials, still in the early stages of their careers for the most part, are just continuing a trend.

    14. Serpico*

      My father was in the construction business for 30 years. His title never changed. He was a Laborer and had no interest in doing anything else. He got periodic raises and retired early and now has a pension.

      My mom worked for 22 years at one factory, no promotions, but got raises. Then her company shut down. She found another factory and has been there about 8 years. At this one, they gave her a promotion though. She’s the first woman supervisor in her department.

      I sort of wish I could have found one company and one role in stay in for 30 years. It makes me much more comfortable than having to constantly advance and look for different opportunities. I just want to be good at a thing and do it.

  6. Ad issue*

    My security software is blocking some ad on the website for containing “Angler Exploit Kit Website 6”. I think it’s from nedap[dot]carbonclub[dot]org[dot]uk but not 100% sure.

  7. Adam*

    Indeed this is more about negotiating with the realities of life and the working world. I’m generally of the mind that life is too short to fester in a job you can’t stand, but every action has a consequence.

    You may have perfectly valid reasons for wanting to leave a job, ones a hiring manager looking at you as a candidate might completely agree with, but throughout the process they are really only getting a snapshot of you rather than a complete picture. You may be effectively able to explain why you weren’t in each job for very long, but the hirer has so little information about you upfront you may not get the chance to.

  8. Alis*

    As a resume reviewer, I can’t help but be concerned when candidates leave so many “bad jobs”. As much as people wish to argue otherwise, it IS true that many job hoppers are people who struggle with commitment and conflict resolution. 1, 2, even 3 bad jobs? Fair enough. But I posted a job ad today, and have already received resumes with 10+ short (non-contract) jobs. It’s not worth bothering with a callback when there are 100 to choose from. Just food for thought.

    1. Rebecca*

      In my early 20s, I worked a spate of 6 month or less jobs for places that just…dried up. My area was at the beginning of what became a severe economic depression, and there was less demand for things like (really!) coffee shops, insignificant retail positions for people without seniority, and house cleaners. I literally worked 10-12 different places in five years, and all of them closed permanently. *I* was not a bad risk, the job market was, and yet, my resume sucked. I’m lucky enough to have managed to move on and up, but so very many people never get that chance. I know you have to make decisions, but writing off such candidates weeds out a lot of dedicated people who haven’t had much of a break.

    2. Pointy Haired Boss*

      With candidates like that, I find it’s important to know the reputations of their companies. There are certain companies in my field that are notorious for treating supposedly full-time employees like contractors, and because none of those companies are really concerned with job-hopping symptoms on a resume, you occasionally get some unfortunate candidate who has been passed around through all of them, with awful consequences to the employee’s future prospects, unfortunately.

    3. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

      I’d say this is valid. In my case, I absolutely do fail at conflict resolution in that I’ve historically exhibited behaviors that attract bullying and also failed to nip the bullying in the bud. It’s worth pointing out, ironically, that many of those very same bully bait behaviors are those you’ll see listed as traits of the ‘ideal employee’ and indeed, workplace bullying is its own special animal in that its victims typically are highly productive and well-liked workers. In my case and the case of others close to me who fit such a description, we do exhibit people-pleasing and conflict-avoidant behaviors as well because the flipside of compulsively needing to do an excellent job is poor self-esteem driven by an internal monologue that constantly hisses “Not good enough!”

      1. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

        I’d also add that I used to be appalled at just how few executive managers and the like recognized that targets of bullying were often the most productive and effective members of staff, at least when it came to getting the work done. Nowadays, little shocks me; executive leadership’s indifference is something I’ve come to expect as a matter of course. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that if company leadership valued the traits of productivity and efficiency in the oft-targeted members of staff, they might a) be more willing to coach those employees in effectively navigating self-advocacy and verbal self-defense and/or b) tolerate bullies less often, particularly when so many are saboteurs who directly affect the bottom line in an obvious negative fashion.

  9. OP*

    I hate that I’ve “job hopped” so much, but it feels like a lot of it was out of my hands. I graduated at just the *perfect* time to coincide with the latest recession (2007) so my first job out of college only lasted 10 months before I was laid off. The next real job I had was a temp-to-hire situation that lasted about 2.5 years where I quickly outgrew the position. I was the most educated person in my department and made the most per hour, but there was literally no advancement opportunities. Combined with the facts that I had a nonexistent supervisor and I REALLY didn’t agree with the company’s mission (they did payday loans), I needed to get out of there.

    The following I lasted 1 year 9 months before I ended up having a panic attack at work because of the micro-managey boss. To get out of that situation (and the finance field), I went back to get my Master’s degree in nonprofit administration. Through my program I temped at another finance place that ended up not hiring me after 18 months there.

    Now I’m in another dead-end temp position because I needed an income after my graduation. It’ll be at 1-year here next month. It’s a never-ending cycle!!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That actually doesn’t sound too job-hoppy to me. Am I reading this right?

      10 months
      2.5 years
      1 year, 9 months
      Master’s degree
      1 year, 6 months

      It’s not great. I wouldn’t jump on interviewing you right away, but the 2.5-year stint is a legitimate period of time, and the 1 year and 9 months is almost two years. I’ve certainly seen worse.

      1. OP*

        It sure feels like I’ve hopped around a bit, especially since I still have yet to use either of my degrees!

        1. my two cents*

          10 months (laid off)
          2.5 years (temp to hire – you took what you could get in the downturn, and stuck it out a while)
          1 year, 9 months (job before getting a different degree – obviously you’re going to change career directions a little)
          Master’s degree
          1 year, 6 month (temp to hire for 18 mo…was there another reason they couldn’t hire you full time?)
          1 year (temp placement)

          i think if you can explain the reasons these didn’t pan out, it really isn’t THAT ridiculous. a lay-off isn’t your fault, so long as you have a decent reference from there. 2.5 years somewhere, especially in payday loans, is a pretty good run.

          i graduated in ’07 as well with a BSEE, and i spent 8 years with my previous employer. the general manager thought i was a weirdo for staying in that role as long as i did. i was the only customer-facing product support engineer for a remote office (acquisition by a giant corp. in ’08) of <20 folks total.

          similarly sized offices – old job thought it was weird, whereas new job (with similar job duties/description) thought it was awesome i was there for 8 years.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Oh that’s a great excuse to use for explaining it right there: looking for an opportunity to (finally) use my education/degree in ____.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        That’s not job hoppy to me.

        We do well with people who are still finding the right place to land/what career they want to be in. At the same time, it takes a year before someone we hire is truly useful, so we need people who are going to stay for a couple of years and we hope to get people who want to stay a lot longer than that. (We have a good track record with long term employees.)

        Anyway, I’d read your resume as a good choice for us to interview. Job hoppy to us is a year here, gap, 3 months there, gap, 6 months there, gap.

    2. Not Karen*

      There’s leeway with lay-offs and temp positions as you don’t have complete control over those positions ending.

      1. Rabbit*

        How would one show on a resume that a job ended because of something you had no control over (in my last few years, the department I was in shut down; the next job after that, the company folded completely)? My resume looks job-hoppy, but those two jobs (which I loved :/) barely made it to one year each! Talk about bad luck. Regardless, I wish I could convey that those two positions weren’t me jumping ship.

        1. Felicia*

          I think you can’t really explain that on a resume, but a cover letter is the perfect place to explain that, and you should definitely explain it there.

        2. Liza*

          I’d be interested to get others’ take on this, but here’s how I might do it:

          Teapot Coordinator, 3/11-4/13
          Chocolate Teapots Ltd
          Was brought in to accomplish Item X, left the company when my department was shut down. [Or a similar one-line description of something good you did there, plus a nonjudgemental statement about why you left.]
          * Accomplishment 1
          * Accomplishment 2

          What do others think?

    3. Hmmm*

      To me, this is a situation where the whole story actually sounds worse. You might need to put a positive spin on your work history in your mind. It all sounds very “and then this bad thing which I had no control over happened” when I read it. I would be surprised if your negative self-talk doesn’t come through in interviews. You need to own your history and the decisions you made and be confident that you will end up where you need to be.

  10. nm*

    How about your references? I was recently asked if I would provide one, but I am hesitant to keep recommending. Does it reflect badly? I still feel they would be a great addition, but clearly they are not doing as well vettting their employment choices. Since we work in a small industry, it seems like it could affect my reputation – is that a thing?

  11. Anon31*

    I’m curious for commenters’ opinions on whether my resume looks like a job hopper. My field is marketing/advertising

    Graduated summer 2010
    Fall 2010 – Fall 2011, first real job, was unfortunately let go because it was a bad fit
    Fall 2011- quickly accepted a new job which ended up being horribly toxic and started searching immediately
    Winter 2012- left toxic job after 4 months and stayed in this job for 2.5 years until I was laid off (position eliminated)
    Summer 2014 – worked at a temporary contract marketing position from June – September
    Sept 2014 – started new full time marketing job which I’ve now been at for a year and a half and plan to stay for the forseeable future

    I never want to be viewed as a job hopper and probably would have stayed at my 2012 job much longer than 2.5 years if the layoffs hadn’t happened…interested in hearing your thoughts.

    1. OP*

      I would probably start my resume at your Winter 2012 job and leave off the first couple (unless there was valuable experience and accomplishments during those roles).

        1. OP*

          I usually leave off my graduation date on my resume, so it’s not as big an issue. I have a 2-year gap between my graduation and resume start. I have everything on LinkedIn, so if they’re really curious, the whole “story” is available there.

        2. Ruffingit*

          No, I don’t think so because it’s normal to have a gap between school and finding a real job. I’ve left jobs off my resume that didn’t last long for whatever reason. Start with Winter 2012. The jobs you’ve had from that point on have been long-term enough that no one is going to think you’re a job hopper. If you stay in current job for at least another year or two, you’ll be good to go on that one as well. I just am not seeing job hopping with you so I wouldn’t worry about it.

          1. my two cents*

            only caveat is to make sure you’re listing any job you may offer up a reference from.

        3. fposte*

          In addition to what people have said, these things matter less and less the more record you have. You could probably drop off your summer 2014 contract job in a year or two, too.

          Most people expect your resume to contain the work experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for, not every workplace you’ve ever set foot in.

    2. Anon31*

      I guess my real question is will I look like a job hopper because all of these explanations of why I left (lay offs, etc.) wouldn’t be clear from my resume obviously…so I’m worried I might just look like I leave everywhere

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I always wonder about that as well. Do recruiters believe the resume when it says laid off after 5 months of work? Or if there are multiple layoffs? There isn’t anything to be done about it, but I am paranoid that recruiters immediately think the worst.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Sept 2014 – started new full time marketing job which I’ve now been at for a year and a half and plan to stay for the forseeable future

      I would absolutely stay at your current job for 3-5 years, preferably more on the 4-5 year range. If you do that, you absolutely will not look like a job-hopper:

      1 year
      1 year
      4 months
      2.5 years
      3 months
      5 years

    4. Anon31*

      Thanks all! I thought it was to my advantage to show that I had one job after another with no gap from my college internships all the way to now, but the past 2 positions are much more relevant than the ones before them. I don’t plan to job search any time soon this is great knowledge to have.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Your current job is the key.

      As long as you have a rock solid stay at the current job, the rest was you just getting your feet steady. If you get 4 to 5 years at the current job, that’s really your first real job, right? You’ll be fine.

      (And if you move on, stay 2+ years at the next one.)

  12. Ruffingit*

    On the topic of job hopping, I find it interesting that some employers expect you to stay even when the environment is horrible enough to rival lunch box pooping boss. I’m not saying this is true across the board, but I have found a lot of places are genuinely shocked when you leave after a short stay, but meanwhile the salary is not what was advertised, the benefits aren’t either, and their is micromanagement, etc. going on. I kind of wonder about the owners of these companies – have they become so out of touch with employment norms that they truly believe $32,000 is an appropriate salary for people with advanced degrees who must have a license to practice their trade? Do they truly think it’s OK to offer no benefits and then wonder why no one stays? I just wonder.

    1. OriginalYup*

      That actually makes perfect sense to me, because those are the same companies that want to use Loyalty as a legit reason for employees to stay on through the worst dysfunctional nonsense they can dish up. Haven’t gotten a raise in 10 years? “But we’re faaaaaaamily here!” Upset that your promised promotion hasn’t yet come to fruition? “You just have to trust us!” aka Loyalty as a one-way street.

      It’s one of those super helpful red flags for seeing inside the culture, like if a boss claims to be a good communicator and then doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise during an interview.

      1. Terra*

        x10000 on the “but we’re family here!” comment. It’s become such a common statement that the minute an interviewer mentions “family” I feel the need to run for the hills.

    2. OP*

      OMG that is is what I’m facing now in my over-a-year-long job search. So many jobs in the nonprofit field (not even including the entry level positions) are $28-32k with minimal benefits, if anything. I’ve never had benefits at ANY of my jobs I’ve had even in the for-profit world, and now I’m 31 without a 401k. Woohoo!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Ouch, that’s a bad place to be in.

        On the other hand, I’ve been with my company almost six years (a for-profit, no less!) and I only just managed to crack $30k with my most recent raise. And people wonder why Millennials are bitter and broke.

      2. Anxa*

        At least they aren’t ‘internships.’ :-/

        I don’t have a 401K either. One year, I came into some money (2k dollars). I wanted so badly to put it in a retirement fund and start an IRA. I know the interest wouldn’t matter on such a small amount, but it would have felt really good (and gotten me into the habit of thinking about savings…although I don’t plan to choose to retire). Of course, it wasn’t earned income, so I couldn’t. What a crappy policy…not letting poor people save for retirement.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      If they don’t understand why you left a horrible dysfunctional place that lied and didn’t pay you market wage, you probably dont want to work there either!

      1. Rabbit*

        Right! But unfortunately, saying that to your interviewers (“Why’d you leave?” It was “a horrible dysfunctional place that lied and didn’t pay you market wage.”) is considered “trash-talking” your old company. And couching it in interview-speak and euphemisms makes it seem like YOU’RE the problem, you know? Tough spot either way!

        The only time my old dysfunctional-beyond-belief workplace worked out for me was in an interview–they asked “And why did you leave Company X? Oh! … haha. It’s Company X, silly question. Oh, you lasted 2 years, wow!” c:

        1. TootsNYC*

          “And couching it in interview-speak and euphemisms makes it seem like YOU’RE the problem, you know? Tough spot either way!”

          Well, actually, couching it in interview-speak and euphemisms makes you seem like NOT the problem.

          It’s just that you truly have to choose your interview-speak carefully.

          “To be frank, I’m looking for an increase in pay.”
          “I found the compensation too low for me, eventually.”
          “I’m looking for somewhere that I can be part of the decision-making process.”

        2. Doriana Gray*

          The only time my old dysfunctional-beyond-belief workplace worked out for me was in an interview–they asked “And why did you leave Company X? Oh! … haha. It’s Company X, silly question. Oh, you lasted 2 years, wow!” c:

          I worked at a law firm with a reputation like this. Interviewers see it on my résumé and are impressed I lasted nearly three years – they don’t question why I left; it’s self explanatory.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This happens even more frequently in less populated areas as rumors fly constantly. Perspective employers already know why you left. We have two supermarket chains here. If you worked at X, then Y will hire you at $1 per hour more just because you worked at X.
            X is known for underpaying their people and for having toxic spots here and there. Y on the other hand is over-priced and haphazard in it’s daily activities. Pick your poison. Both places employ thousands of people.

            The good news side of things is that if you lose your job at X. then Y will hire you just to “get even” with X. And Y knows that X does not hire people who go to work at Y. It’s a hot mess.

          2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            I was in an IS/IT situation – I was at a place for around 15 months. I learned, after I left – that for anyone in the group that came in from the outside – that was the longevity record.

            This was back in the wild-west 1980s, but still…. and, I was driven out the door there. Sort of.

            I had been given a very poor annual review, was on probation, and decided the best way to escape the situation was to leave. They counter-offered. Weird. Ran like hell. Out the door.

            1. Ruffingit*

              You were on probation and they counter-offered? What jerks. That is just ridiculous. What did they say when you were like “Um…no, kbye.”

          3. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

            One area where I’ve been fortunate in respect to stints of 2-3 years per company is in situations of this sort. Many of my former employers have reputations that are well known around town. It often isn’t necessary to explain the circumstances of my leaving to them — and in one case, headhunters and similar types knew damning details about an illegal takeover cooked up by certain executives before I did.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I would guess that many of these employers believe (rightly or wrongly) that they’re offering the best compensation they can afford. Some of them are short-sighted fools who aren’t smart enough to invest in their people; others might recognize the value but truly can’t afford to spend what they ought to on labor. And, unfortunately, many businesses get away with crappy pay and benefits for highly qualified people because the market is flooded. Ah, capitalism.

      1. Anxa*

        I waiver between feeling outraged that the public school system won’t offer me a living salary for the work I do (everyone’s part-time), and understanding how horrible the education funding climate in this state has become in the past 5 years.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Yeah well please explain to me how they stay in business or why we aren’t winning the game and clearing the table!

      We work HARD to try to pay people fairly, provide decent benefits and a nice place to work. Its’ not easy because our segment of the industry works on a tight net margin . We don’t do it because we’re amazingly kind and wonderful (even though we are! :) ) we do it because it makes business sense.

      IDK how people who operate as you say stay in the game!

      1. Ruffingit*

        In my previous company, they stay in business because they have a steady stream of people who need to get their hours for their full professional license, so they are easily able to fill the ranks of people. Those people are also being supplemented by parents quite often because they are still young or they have spouses with a good income. That said, the place I was working has 100% turnover or close to it. In six months, no one who worked there in the previous six months will be there. There will have been total turnover by that point. The thing is, as stated, there are plenty of people to fill the seats so they just don’t give a damn because they know they can get more and more people to replace those who get wise and get out.

  13. Need cheering up*

    this bring me to the question: how do you vet a company or department within a company? I am aware of glassdoor etc., but comments depend on location, department, level etc. so very much I find it difficult form an opinion.

    1. Ruffingit*

      It is difficult to vet a company 100%. Reading all the reviews you can, asking good interview questions, and mining your network for info is all I can think to do. Would love to hear other suggestions.

    2. LBK*

      Generally, I’d say think about the reasons you’re looking to leave your current company and try to ask objective/quantitative questions about those in your interview. For example, if you want somewhere with good growth potential, ask how many people in the department have been promoted in the last year. If you want to ensure it’s somewhere with low turnover, ask about the average number of years everyone’s been in the department. If you want to avoid micromanagers, ask about how frequently your interviewer works directly with their employees on day-to-day tasks.

  14. WorstAnon*

    This comment thread is making me feel worse than almost anything has in the last year, and I’ve been suicidal for a week now.

    My history of “job-hopping” has kept me in low-level positions in toxic environment where I’m miserable. Toxic employers are be drawn to me, and trying to keep bread on the table, I’ll take whatever I’m offered. So it’s really great to know that everyone on AAM, the site owner included, thinks it’s personally my fault that my career is going nowhere fast, I’ve suffered bully after abuser after bully in my workplaces, and now I want to die, because I “don’t know how to schmooze” and “when to get angry and when to accept it”.

    Thanks a lot for making people who’ve been severely mistreated in their workplaces, who have PTSD and mental health issues because of it, feel exponentially worse because we’re “unreliable” and “lazy” and “just not trying hard enough”, everyone. Thanks so freaking much.

    I think I will kill myself after all. Since I’m not fit to live, much less hire.

    1. Erin*

      Whoa, I think you need to take it down a notch. Please don’t feel personally attacked, I’m sure no one in this community would make light of any suffering or mental health issues you might be dealing with.

      It’s hard to give advice without knowing specifics, but I’d consider taking up volunteering when you’re not working. I used to sort of roll my eyes when people said that, but I’m such a huge advocate for volunteering now. You will have something else to put on your resume, you will make contacts and expand your network for job searching, you’ll feel good about yourself for giving back to the community, and, if you pick something fun, you’ll have something to look forward to while you’re at your hellish job.

      And please speak to someone you trust or a therapist about your feelings. They’re real, they’re not your fault, and you can get help for them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Seconding this. It’s absolutely coloring your reading of the comments here, because no one is saying what you’re hearing! Please call this number.

    2. Dawnfirelight*

      If you’re feeling suicidal, please, please, please speak to a professional. There’s no shame in reaching out for help and support when you need it. Please don’t feel like you have to deal with all this alone.

      People on here are not blaming anyone, least of all you. We’re trying to explain how a spotty job history, looks like on the outside to a hiring manager who has imperfect knowledge of the job candidate, so that someone who wants to leave their job can factor that into their decision-making process. And there are comments here (as well as elsewhere on this website) explaining how someone with a less-than-ideal job history can repair that and move on.

      Alison is not a psychiatrist so she’s not giving out prescriptions on how to deal with these career problems concurrently with mental health issues. She’s just giving advice that is general to most people in most situations. Obviously, individual circumstances will vary. Mental health issues certainly can interfere with our ability to cope with workplace problems and deal with other career challenges. If you’re facing that, you should seek professional medical help and take care of your health first.

    3. hamster*

      please call the hotline. And take all this with grain of salt. I used too feel i have an attraction for bad workplaces. but in the end i managed to accept it. I am looking into going in consulting/contracting because i really like the learning curve and I am bored easily by repetition. There are good places for dynamic people like us. If you can go in IT. The I came i fixed bye mentality is ok. You can easily freelance-contract . In any case, i am 28 this year started working ( part time but in my field ) at 20 and had 6 jobs until now. And the progression is there. at some point i got at my current place which is trully great. My job history is 2 y-my department doesn’t exist now 9 month- they were not ok with me taking time off ( needed to finish my degree) , i left . ( 6 month break to finish my degree) 1 month – not a good fit,barely in my field took it for the money until i found something else. 1 y – well payed lovely colleagues, but work incredibly boring ( i was grossly overqualified my manager supported me in finding something else. i learned lots about big companies and how to be organized) 2 years – not at all boring , smart workplace , learned a lot but the workload was truly crushing and i am not saying this lightly . ( i hit my countrys upper limit for overtime 32h/month on the reg) . Now 1.5 y in my current job. pretty happy. I have a decent work-life balance . I work some weekends but not all. Am satisfied with the pay. I dream of becoming a consultant/entrepreneur . I have lots of colleagues like me .

  15. Erin*

    Hey OP – Fellow almost-31-year-old, graduated in 2007 with two degrees I’m just barely starting to now use, here. :P

    To comment on your broader question to Alison – I don’t think it’s contradictory. Don’t job hop, and if you’re in a bad spot, evaluate if you want to continue working there – there’s a lot behind that word “evaluate.” Really, truly, take everything into consideration if you’re thinking of leaving a job. She’s not saying to leave any bad job you find yourself in – just take that crappy stuff into consideration when looking at the overall picture and then decide if it’s worth it to you to leave.

    But to your more specific situation – I wouldn’t think that having moved from one job to a next quickly would be red flaggy enough for an employer to not even interview you. It’s something they’ll ask you about on the interview, for sure, and you should have a statement ready to go. But yeah, I say this because I was laid off twice at jobs I otherwise would have stayed in longer – my resume probably used to look a little job hoppy – but I’ve never not gotten an interview because of that (to my knowledge, anyway) – they’ve just asked me about it when I’m there.

    Much like, if you had a gap in your resume because you were a stay at home mom/taking care of a relative/in prison/living as a nun/whatever they’d ask you about that gap. But they don’t know until they bring you in. So have an explanation ready, maybe with an emphasis on how you didn’t know what you wanted to do when you graduated school, but now you’ve really narrowed down your focus.

  16. Joan*

    I find the whole job-hopping discussion fascinating because I work in an area (marketing) where I constantly see job listings for short and long-term contract roles (some as short as 6-12 weeks; some as long as 12-18 months). And this is not just a thing on the agency side. A few years back, I worked as a contractor for a large financial services company that had contractors who had been there as long as 4 or 5 years (and it wasn’t just for marketing roles; many of the contractors were in IT and other areas as well). And based on what I’m hearing from people I know, the contract model is also taking root in other industries and sectors. I have a friend who’s in the legal profession, and she’s reported seeing job listings for contract roles paying $20 an hour – and these all required a JD!

    I just wonder  – given Alison’s stance on job hopping – what she has to say about navigating a labor market in which employers are increasingly using contract or contingent labor. I mean, one upside of using such employment arrangements is that employers can ditch contractors whenever they see fit. How are you not supposed to look like a job hopper, when the majority of roles available are contract roles that may or may not last long term? 

    1. Dawnfirelight*

      I’m not Alison, but I think if this is common to the industry, it wouldn’t be an issue since everyone would expect it anyway. For someone wanting to move out of the industry to one that has a more conventional structure, a bit of care should be taken with how that job history is presented in the CV. Specifically, I would just lump the contractor jobs as a single job heading in my CV. E.g.:

      Chocolate Teapot Maker (date – present)
      – experienced in making dark chocolate teapots, conducting QC for chocolate teapots, and coordinating chocolate teapot carving training for other makers
      – projects include The Really Giant Teapot Show (increased ticket sales by 150%), Awesome Chocolate Initiative (won industry gold medal for best quality teapots), Essential Chocolate Teapot Carving Course (reduced workplace chocolate-related accidents by 80%)
      – worked with major companies including Catsbury, KickCat, Hashies and Venus.

      This would work for freelancers too.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Job hopping refers only to jobs that were intended to be longer term. It doesn’t include temp jobs, short-term contract jobs, freelance work, or internships.

  17. Dawnfirelight*

    It’s not just the length of stay in any particular job that makes it ‘hopping’ – it’s the *pattern*.

    Someone who stayed in Job#1 for a year, then in Job#2 for 3 years and Job#3 for 5 years, is not a job hopper. In fact it’s a common pattern because lots of people HATE their first jobs. But this would still be true even if you changed the sequence around. The point is, the short stay was an anomaly in an otherwise reasonable job history.

    Someone who stayed in Job #1 for 2 years, then in Job#2 for 6 months and Job#3 for 1 year, is suspect. Even if they say they had bad luck and kept getting hired by jerks or bad companies – nobody is unlucky at every single job, every single time. If you are having a problem with *every* employer, maybe the problem is *you*. That’s what I would think about a job candidate with this sort of history – so this pattern looks like job hopping.

    1. hamster*

      I also find that when you are young and mind me i live in europe so the economy might be different but i was able to grow a lot my salary by hopping a bit.

Comments are closed.