is job-hopping still a bad thing?

A reader writes:

What constitutes job hopping? And is job hopping even a bad thing anymore? My husband and I (both 40 years old with professional careers) seem to be straddling the expectations of Generation X and Millennials. When we left college, the expectation was that while you may not spend your entire career with one company, you certainly should expect to spend a good number of years in one place before jumping ship.

Of course, the dot com bubble and tech explosion a few years later changed so many previously accepted mores. Now it almost feels like people who spend more than just a few years in one place are the ones getting side eyes for being unmotivated to change rather than pats on the back for loyalty. I’ve been in my current position for almost eight years and there isn’t really any room for growth here – something I am alternately frustrated with and ok with, depending on the day. Besides the lack of alternatives in my field, I worry that if/when I do have an opportunity to move on, potential employers will wonder why I settled for so long. On the other hand, my husband switched jobs less than a year ago after spending 17 years with his previous company. He’s already getting a bit antsy and feels like he can (and should) move as frequently as he wants and that the idea of switching jobs every year or two as a detriment to your career is a thing of the past.

So what say you? Is there still an expectation that you should stay in one position for at least a certain amount of time?

This is an answer that requires a huge caveat up-front: It varies by industry. There are indeed some industries where it’s normal to move around every couple of years, and where staying for years is more unusual than moving every 15 months. But they’re not the norm. In most fields, employers are still wary of people with a track record of jumping around from company to company every year or two, especially once you get past the early part of your career.

If you think about it from the employer side of things, it’s pretty easy to understand why: When managers are hiring for professional roles, they’re usually looking for someone who will stay at least a few years. In most professional jobs, new hires don’t really start owning their roles until about six months in, so if you leave another 6 or 12 months after that, that’s a pretty crappy return on the employer’s investment in you. It also means you’re less likely to have time to do anything really interesting with the role; you’ll probably have done the basics, but you’re way less likely to have picked up the depth of experience — and sharper insights and more finely honed instincts — that in many jobs only comes with longer stays. Plus, having to hire and bring a brand-new person up to speed every year or two is a huge time suck. So it makes sense that employers want to hire people who will stick around for, say, three years or more.

And the way that employers guess whether you’re likely to stick around is by looking at your track record. If you have a history of moving on from most jobs pretty quickly, they’re going to assume that that’s your M.O. and that you’re likely to leave this new job relatively quickly too. And they may assume some other things, too — like, you get bored easily or have unrealistic expectations about the jobs you take.

To be clear, a single short-term stay isn’t a big deal. (And neither is a series of short-term jobs that were designed to be short-term, like contract roles or internships or other jobs that are necessarily term-limited.) It’s only when you have a pattern of quickly leaving jobs that weren’t designed to be short-term that job-hopping becomes an issue. That can be a little tricky because often when people leave a job quickly, they don’t intend to keep doing it … but if you end up not loving the next job you go to, you’re going to be more locked in than you were with the first one, because if you leave this one early, too, you are going to look like you have a pattern. So that means that if you do leave a job quickly, you really need to vet the next one well and make sure that you can commit to staying there for a good long while.

Of course, it’s not like job-hopping means that you’ll reach a point where you’ll never be hired again. Instead, you’ll just increasingly limit your options. The best, most interesting jobs at the best employers have a lot of competition, and those employers aren’t usually jumping to hire people with spotty work histories when they have loads of highly qualified candidates with stable work histories. I want to stress this point because sometimes when I talk about job-hopping, someone will point out that they know someone who’s had 12 jobs in 15 years and who doesn’t have any trouble getting hired … to which I say, look at the jobs, look at the managers, and look at how happy that person was in each of those positions. Really good managers are likely to be skeptical of a history of job-hopping, and so the managers willing to hire you will increasingly be managers who you’re not going to love working for.

One of the benefits of becoming more senior in your career should be that you’re more able to pick and choose what roles you take and whom you work for. A pattern of job-hopping makes that harder. (Although again, remember the caveat I started with: This is true for most industries, but there are some exceptions. You need to know your own field.)

Reading all this, you might be thinking that it’s awfully unfair that employees are expected to show this kind of loyalty when it feels like employers are less loyal than ever — when you could be laid off without warning, or find yourself expected to do your own job plus the jobs of two laid-off colleagues without a raise, or have your benefits slashed, or suffer any number of other indignities from your employer. And it is! I’m not going to tell you that it’s fair. But it’s also all the more reason to manage your career in a way that puts you in the strongest position and with the best options for yourself.

This answer was originally published by New York Magazine.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

  1. EA*

    This is a very.stupid.question. that I am sure has been discussed on here before, but how is it looked at to change positions within your company?
    I did 2.5 years at company A
    7 months at company B (insane, toxic and I needed to GTFO)
    Now one year at company C

    I am an EA now, but want to apply for some project/program coordinator jobs that I have seen. It is more in line with my future career goals. Should I wait in my current job for another year, and then apply? Or apply now?

    1. Pwyll*

      In my mind, moving within the same company isn’t as big of a deal. That said, if you’re going from a management job to a subordinate job, or a drastic change in position that could be seen as a demotion, you’ll want to be ready to explain why you’ve made the change and how it aligns with your career goals/focus.

    2. Joseph*

      Changing positions within the company does not carry nearly the same stigma. Partly because it’s usually assumed that your current manager signed off on the move and partly because reorganizations are so common. Also worth noting that internal transfers with the same title may or may not even be worth listing separately on the resume (e.g., do they care that you’re a Senior Teapot Maker with the Vanilla Teapots division instead of Chocolate Teapots?)
      Also, if the position is a step up, moving up within your company, even if they’re relatively short stays, is actually a positive – since your current company knows you better than anybody else. If they keep promoting you, that’s a pretty good sign that they think you’re a stellar employee.

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        Your last point is very important. I was struggling to find a job after 2.5 years with a company, but I had been transferred a lot. My record was 5 different supervisors in 1 year. I had been listing each transfer under the same role to different departments separately, and I believe that made people think I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I got rid of all of the transfers and left it as a single role with the best accomplishments from each department and I landed a job quickly after that.

    3. Pari*

      it depends. What were the expectations up front? And were you at all deceptive or misleading up front about your plans? And how long was the learning curve? I would absolutely say something to the new hiring manager if I felt deceived about your intentions when I interviewed you.

  2. Allison*

    To me, it’s having a recent history or leaving a job after only a year (or less than a year), without specifying that the jobs were contracts. On the one hand I can understand that when you’re new to the workforce, it can take a few tries to find a good “fit,” but if it seems like you just can’t hold down a job longer than a year, either because you keep getting fired or you keep jumping ship for something newer and better, it will make me wonder how long you’ll stay here.

    From an HR perspective, it’s frustrating when we go through the process of filling a job, especially a job requiring a niche skillset, only to have the person leave 4 months later leaving us scrambling to find a replacement. We want to hire people who we’re confident will be here for a while, and whom will only need to backfill when they get promoted, not when they quit or get fired.

    Look at it this way, if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, would you rather date someone with a history of long relationships, or someone who’s had a string of two-month relationships for the past few years? Well, the person with a history of short term relationships might still be worth taking a risk on as long as they don’t say all their exes were jerks, or admit to being on to jump ship after 2 months when things got tough; if it seems like they can honestly identify what went wrong and it seems like they’ve learned something each time, they might be ready to settle into something more long term.

    Similarly, a job hopper can present themselves as a viable candidate for “permanent” employment if they can maturely articulate what went wrong, what they learned, and why they feel the job they’re interviewing for is the right place for them to finally start a long-term tenure.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Also, some people have internalized the “one year” mark as the amount of time they have to stay, but in most fields a bunch of one-year stays is not good! In most fields, you really need to your pattern to be stays of significantly longer than that — often 3+ years. (Although it’s about the pattern, so if you had three 3+ year stays and one two-year stay, that would be fine too.)

      1. Ros*

        Oh, good, that’s what I have! Well, 2 years, then 3 years, 3 years, and… almost 2 years at my current job, but I’m not planning on leaving.

        The other thing that makes this difficult is that it seems like, in my industry/location, it’s impossible to get more than a 2% raise within a company, but switching companies can get you a 20-30% raise. I’ve brought it up to my old boss (before – surprise – finding a job elsewhere) and was told that if I was already working for X amount, they could only get a percentage-based increase, regardless of market value. The people I was working with at my first job who are still there are making within 10% of what they were. My salary has doubled, almost to the dollar, since then. And it’s not because I’m more competent than they were.

        Because of this, I have a really hard time staying in one job for more than 3 years or so… because the salary difference makes an impact.

        1. anon.*

          This is what has been true of basically every company my spouse or I have ever worked at. You HAVE to boomerang in order to advance, and 3 years is basically the clockwork time frame.

          The company I’m at now has a lot of five-year-anniversary incentives (like a VERY generous 401k contribution that only vests after five years), I think to prevent exactly the three-year brain-drain.

          (Also among peers I have generally found that a 2-3 year stay in one role indicates reliability but anything 4+ and you’re getting asked why you haven’t advanced farther, faster or left already when you interview elsewhere.)

          1. Koko*

            My company is not an academic institution but is in a parallel field that attracts a lot of people fed up with academia looking for a change–but not too big a change. We’re allowed to take a 6-month sabbatical every 5 years. It’s unpaid, so you do have to have savings built up to live off of for six months, but they keep your benefits active and your job is waiting for you when you come back, and you can still say on your resume that you were continuously employed the whole time. It’s a really great way to reward loyalty and prevent burn-out. Just when you think you’re getting sick of this place after 5 years you can take a nice long vacation and come back ready to get back to work.

        2. all aboard the anon train*


          I’m lucky if I get a 1% raise each year (one year it was a measly 0.5%). 2% is the most I’ve received and whenever we do get raises, healthcare costs go up so I end up making less than the year before. COL raises in my area aren’t really cost of living (the entire amount I receive wouldn’t even pay 1/4 of my rent!). Promotions to the next role up don’t bring a big increase either.

          When I left my last job, I doubled my salary. I’m hoping the next job I have will double it again – or at least increase it by $20-30K. After three to four years in each role, it’s hard to want to stay when I know I need to go elsewhere for a bigger salary.

        3. cake batter*

          This exactly. I’m in state gov, and my annual raise is 1-3% if I’m lucky. Changing jobs gets me more like 20%. I’ve more than doubled my salary in 6 years through “job hopping” within state gov.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Yup, I came to the US with a CS degree and four years work experience in the field, but because I had “no American experience” I was hired as an entry-level developer with a mind-blowing starting salary of 20 thousand a year. I tripled my pay over the next three years. But, to do that, and to get to the mid-level where I really belonged instead of the entry-level, I had to change jobs three times in those three years. I’ve explained this to interviewers in the past and everyone seemed to be understanding of the issue.

            1. Candi*

              Don’t get me started on ‘no American experience’. >.< If you can code like a boss, where you learned and earned your experience shouldn't be a factor. (Same for any other applicable field.)

              Politics is the only field offhand where I can think local experience is important, because both custom and law can vary so widely.

              Understanding culture and social mores is a whole 'nother ballpark, though.

        4. harryv*

          Spot on. It also seems you can get WAY ahead by switching jobs especially in IT. It makes it much less incentive to stay at the same company especially if more and more companies are going away of pension and retention bonuses.

        5. Patrick*

          I am curious because I hear this from people in other fields a lot and it’s generally untrue of my field. When you talk about changing jobs are you talking about lateral moves or promotions? It just boggles my mind when people tell me they can constantly get a 20%-50% salary bump by moving, and that it’s a repeatable thing. Don’t people hit a wall at some point? In my field there are only so many promotions you can get before you’re at c-suite level, and a drastic increase in salary for the same position usually means you’re going somewhere with a higher COL or you’re going to a company with some kind of issue (financial, management, etc) that needs to pay people more to attract talent.

        6. Koko*

          I will never understand these policies! In my mind there are three types of pay increase:

          1) COL increase. This is 1-3% and is just meant to keep pace with inflation so that you aren’t losing earning power over time.
          2) Merit increase. This could be maybe 5-20% and is based on rewarding you for performing your job at a higher than average level and bringing more value to the company.
          3) Promotion increase. This could be 10-50% or maybe even more, and is based on the fact that you are now in a different job that has a different salary range. It shouldn’t be calculated with reference to your current salary, because your current salary is for a different job.

          It seems like there are all these companies who give 0% to employees who should get COL increases and COL increases to people who should be getting merit or promotion increases. What a short-sighted and misguided policy.

      2. Pari*

        Depends on the level of the job. Personally for higher level positions I look for someone who at least once has stayed at one place more than 5-7 yrs. in higher level jobs accomplishments take sometimes years to see them through from initiation to completion.

    2. wizzle*

      Hm, a history of long relationships makes me think that when the time comes to really commit (whether that be marriage or moving in together or whatever), that person can’t handle it and bails….

      1. CoffeeLover*

        Not to derail the convo, but I agree this is one time where the relationship-work analogy isn’t great. I’m someone who only had short-term relationships and then married my only long-term relationship. When I see someone with a lot of long-term relationships, it makes me think the person is indecisive (as in, you can usually tell pretty quickly whether someone is right for you, so why would you stay in the relationship for another 3 years). Of course, that’s not true for all long-term relationships, but you get what I’m saying.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Well, sure, the same data can mean more than one thing, but it is still true that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. There can be perfectly good reasons someone has never had a relationship longer than six months. However, it would not be a sound bet to say “but surely I will be the exception and we will have a lifetime partnership!”

          1. Sas*

            ” but it is still true that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” Might be, but the problem is what behavior you are measuring and who is measuring. That’s where it’s human to get that all wrong and why ultimately statements like that don’t hold much weight in anything.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I thought the same thing, both based on my own dating pattern before I met my now-ex husband, and on the dating patterns of some of the people that I respect. To me it would say that a person is self-aware enough to recognize early on that things are not working and to let the other person go; instead of, say, stringing them along for a few years and then dumping them anyway; or staying with them for the next ten or twenty years, feeling miserable, and making the other person feel miserable for every day of those 10-20 years.

          It’s a different realm really; with different goals. Our employer doesn’t care all that deeply about whether we’re going to make their company feel happy and fulfilled until the day we retire. What they want is, like Allison said, a return on their investment. Hell, they might be secretly wishing that they’d be able to let us go when we’re in our 60s and 70s and not as spry as when they’d first hired us at 30 or 40. Which isn’t like a healthy romantic relationship/marriage at all.

        3. Candi*

          I think one place it lines up is you can stay in a toxic relationship (or with toxic parents) for far longer then makes sense to those who haven’t been through that, and the same goes for toxic job environments. You stay in a relationship, or a job, far past the failure point because of the effects on your mind and emotions, your health, and your finances.

          …Hmm, I wonder if abuse growing up make someone more vulnerable to abusive work environments as well as personal relationships.

      2. Justin*

        Back to back long relationships makes it seem like they just need to be with someone, ANYONE, they can’t be alone, they’re desperate to commit. Or that they commit and then it always goes downhill, like someone with multiple ex-spouses.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Where were you and your sage advice when I met my evil ex, Justin? That was exactly what he had. And silly inexperienced (one long marriage to a college sweetheart) me was actually looking at that and thinking “he never stays single long in between marriages, that must mean he’s a hot commodity!”

        2. Bigglesworth*

          This is so true! One of my exes broke up with his high school sweetheart (they had been together for 4 years) and waited 3 months before asking me out. When we broke up after 8 months, he waiting 3 months before asking out the girl who is now his fiancee. He’s a nice guy and super smart, but couldn’t handle being single for longer than, you guessed it, 3 months.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          And unfortunately, if you’re looking for a stable marriage, the job analogy would imply that the best bet is someone already in a stable marriage…

          With dating, I think a lot of it of it is *how* they got in and out of those relationships, their attitudes towards former relationships and partners, and paying attention to how they act with you. Someone who has been casually dating, but hasn’t met someone who is right for a long term relationship could be a much better bet than someone with a track record of falling for people hard and breaking up messily a few months later, or someone who falls into longer term relationships without thinking too much about it, and breaks up a few years later when the novelty wears off.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, I think this is a timeline issue – you can’t equate the first few months of dating with the first few months of having a new job, because one requires more of a commitment than the other. If you’ve taken a job, you’ve already reached the decision point (the job offer) and accepted. For a relationship, that decision point doesn’t typically come until you’ve already been dating for a few months.

            Someone who’s casually dated for a few months but has never had a long relationship is akin to someone who’s turned down multiple job offers that weren’t right for them – which could still mean they’re too picky, have too high standards, etc. but also says they’re more discerning than someone who takes every job offer they get (ie gets into long-term relationships with everyone they date).

        4. LBK*

          Agreed, I have a few friends/acquaintances who are serial daters who seem to jump from one “love of their life” to the next (often with only a few weeks in between!). If you’re getting into that many serious relationships that don’t work out, I have to wonder if you need a better early screening process or maybe just need to get more comfortable breaking things off with someone after a few dates if you’re not that into them.

          Before my current relationship I’d never “officially” dated anyone for more than a month. I’ll have been with my boyfriend for 4 years now in December.

      3. K.*

        My friend is a serial monogamist and it’s because she picks the wrong men and stays with them too long. (Her words.) They’re always good guys, just not good for her. And there’s definitely a corollary to that with jobs – you can stay in a job too long too!

      4. harryv*

        But on the flip side, some companies like seeing that you are capable of succeeding in different environments. So there is that.

    3. Joe Blow*

      Companies (specifically HR, because they have nothing better to do) will sell you every different way about why it’s so great to work there, then you get into the position and find out it’s truly awful…but you have to spend a few months there first.

      Run into a few of those in a row, and your resume is screwed…because clueless HR types won’t even schedule you for a 1st interview. That is, if their resume scanning software tells them to schedule someone, which interrupts scheduling their kids’ soccer games and all..

  3. Jilly*

    In my industry, less than 2 years is considered extremely brief. It’s a relatively small industry and each organization does it a slightly different way and if you’ve been there less than 2 years have you actually learned how they do it at that particular company. Though at the same time, if you don’t move on around year 7, you may appear calcified – ie will you be able to adapt to a new way of doing things? The one exception are for certain field slots. Because those are on projects with very specific start and end dates, it is expected that you go wherever the job is regardless of the employer – ie you do whatever it takes to stay in Location X or in Technical Area Y.

    I’m also obsessively concerned about being old and poor so I keep my eye on my vesting. At Old Job, my dissatisfaction was really high towards the end of year 3. But I wanted to stay until the end of year 4 to be 100% vested in the very generous 401(k) employer contribution. Ended up staying for 8 years total (3 in a field slot and basically left when that position was done). Current job has a safe harbor plan, so it is 100% vested from the get go. But since I’m in the process of getting security clearance, I’m not going anywhere until that comes through. Luckily I don’t mind being here.

    1. H.C.*

      Yeah, vesting (100% at 5 years for me) is why I have no intention to job hop. Thankfully there are plenty of opportunities to transfer or move within my employer so I don’t think I’ll feel stuck or frustrated within my current role.

  4. AnotherAlison*

    My industry is dominated by a few large players and continues to consolidate. For that reason, I stay put but focus on growing in my company. I think it would be a negative to have 10 years in one position (unless it’s a top-level type role), but not a big deal at all to have 10-20 years in one company.

    However, I will say I get some pretty major anxiety about how all this will play out in the very long term for me. I’ve been in my field for 16 years, but I figure I have another 25 years minimum to work. The question is whether my industry will expand or contract, and if there will be continued opportunities for 25 years. Blech.

  5. ArtK*

    Great response. In my case, as a hiring manager, I must have a longer-term commitment. The learning curve for my product is at a minimum six months and more likely a year. That’s just to get someone to the point where they can work independently and aren’t taking more of my (and my team’s) time. If someone shows a pattern of leaving after two years, I’m not going to bother with them.

    For my own career, I have periods of from 8 to twelve years at each place. Some departures were due to the business changing while others were new opportunities. If someone presented a resume like that, I wouldn’t have any qualms about dedication.

  6. FD*

    I think it also depends a lot on where you are in your career. In a lot of fields, 2 years is a reasonable stay for your first 2-3 jobs right after college. The reason for that is that in that stage of your career, it doesn’t take as long to learn most jobs, and you’ll ‘top out’ what you can learn fairly quickly.

    However, as you get jobs with greater responsibility, you’re likely to also need longer to really learn them. In some jobs, you’re just starting to master them after two years, and you won’t have major accomplishments until you’ve been there a longer period of time.

  7. recyclebicycle*

    My husband has moved on from his last several jobs within three years at each place. He does project management and tends to be hired for big projects and then once those are completed, they struggle to find things for him to do. They’re not contract jobs, but they bring him in specifically to handle this one big major thing they need done, with the idea that they’ll have “something” for him to work on afterwards. That has not been the case, and as such, he’s needed to look for work elsewhere.

    1. KellyK*

      Since that’s a pattern for him, it might be worth asking in interviews what they see him working on after “big major thing” is finished. They might not know that two or three years out, but it could at least reveal whether they’ve thought about it.

    2. ArtK*

      Something that I’ve seen in a job posting for work like that is “PH” or “Project Hire.” It may be worth his time to indicate that on his resume. Even though these aren’t contracting positions, the job stability is the same. Even if the intent wasn’t there in the original job offer, I don’t think that he would be wrong to show that was the reality.

    3. sunny-dee*

      This was a thing for me, too. I was a freelance technical writer, and I had a couple of clients who brought me on for 6 months work, loved me, and wanted to offer me a job … and I had to gently point out that there wasn’t any work left for me to do because the project they wanted to do was done. I’m still in touch with a couple, and I do, like, 20 hours work per year for updates and stuff, but nowhere near even a part-time permanent job.

  8. Macedon*

    It’s a really ‘know your industry’ kind of thing. Mine apparently falls in the group of exceptions (though I have to say that I’m curious if these fields still represent a minority). If anything, I think I’d be more concerned about hiring someone who’s stayed some five years with the same agency without a very significant promotion, over someone with a string of shorter-term roles who can show flexibility or progression.

    1. Mrs. Nesbitt*

      Can you explain this a little more? What’s wrong with someone who just wants to do the job they were hired to do forever? If they’re good at it, isn’t that asset to a company? If they’re a good teapot coordinator and they’re happy doing it, why is it seen as a bad thing that they don’t want to ultimately become a teapot executive?

      1. FD*

        I don’t think it’s so much bad if they want to stay a teapot coordinator–but they should be able to show a pattern of growth and improvement in some way. So for example, something like “Broke company record for teapot projects coordinated, including $1m+ contract that was finished on time and 7% under budget” would show that you’re refining your abilities.

      2. Macedon*

        Well, that’s the thing — if you’re in the same role with the same responsibilities for a long stretch of a time, I have to wonder whether you’re there of your own choice, or whether you’re stuck in a rut (whether because you don’t produce the kind of results that you should, or because you’re deemed as lacking the social / leadership skills needed to progress further, or even the overall drive to advance in your career ).

        These are issues I would, of course, have the chance to bring up in an interview with you — but as a first impression, in my industry, I’d have to wonder.

        1. Mrs. Nesbitt*

          Yeah, the advancing the career thing is what bothers me, I guess. I grew up in a blue collar family where my parents worked the same job they were hired for for 30 years. They weren’t interested in “advancing their careers”, they were interested in doing the job that they liked doing. As I get older, I fault them less and less for that idea.

          1. Macedon*

            That’s fair. In my industry, as I mentioned, that unfortunately wouldn’t go down very well — which is also fair, since I imagine every field comes with its must-haves and do-not-wants.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            My parents are similar. My mom has been an accounting clerk for almost 30 years at one company. My dad is a truck driver. He moved around more when he was younger and did some other trades, but he’s been at his current place for over 20 years.

            My mother had advancement opportunities, but she liked her 10 minute commute, pay, and vacation time. Now, though, she would have done things differently. She said she probably would have gotten the accounting degree and had more opportunities to change companies and make more money, but back in the 1980s/90s, with kids at home, it was harder to do that (not so many nontrad classes).

            The way I see it, it’s all good to stay in one role if you being employed isn’t really that important (you have minimal expenses or a co-earner in the house), but it’s risky if that job becomes an “all your eggs in one basket situation.” No one thinks anything of a more entry level clerical position that has been held by a 30-year old for 5 years, but it can essentially be “one year of experience five times” and creates problems when after 10-15 years, that person is looking for a new job but needs the salary of someone who has 10+ yrs experience instead of the entry level salary that matches the experience.

          3. Mike C.*

            Yeah, I have a difficult time picturing someone who’s a doctor or plumber who isn’t good simply because they’ve held that title for over five years.

          4. Anonymous Educator*

            Teacher fits in this category as well. Many amazing teachers have been “English teacher” or “math teacher” for 15-20 years or even 30-40 years. They aren’t worse teachers for not wanting to be academic dean or vice principal.

            1. BouncingBall*

              Totally true for me! While I would love to pursue a Ph.D for reasons of personal fulfillment, it’s just not practical career-wise. Unless you want to move into tertiary education or school/district leadership, a Ph.D can be a career-limiting move. So I’ll just stick it out as a regular ol’ teacher (a role I love, BTW) with my M.Ed and no Ph.D.

          5. Honeybee*

            Yeah, that’s my mom. She’s a nurse, she’s always wanted to be a nurse and that’s that. She has no desire to become an administrator or even a charge nurse. She just wants to take care of people.

            My father was a bus driver for 17 years because it was steady, stable work and there really was nowhere to go up. He did have a hard time getting a promotion once he wanted one, though, probably in part because of his long stint doing the same thing with little mobility.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              There’s also the issue of jobs where promotion and career advancement means no longer doing the job you trained for. Nursing or teaching for example – often promotions mean more pay, but at the price of moving into administration and giving up the practical work you love.

              Academia, interestingly, has this problem. You’re hired for a faculty job based almost entirely on your research track record, and given tenure based on your research, but as you hit senior faculty, suddenly you’re supervising other people doing research, and writing grant proposals, but are no longer doing hands on research yourself. Some people like that role, but I know an awful lot who really don’t like the administration/management end of things, and are terrible at it.

          6. Mela*

            But this issue with all these examples is that they’re “real” jobs (can’t think of a better word, sorry!) Plumber, doctor, nurse, teacher, bus driver: there will always (at least in our lifetime) be a real need for those jobs, a need not driven by market trends or a company’s bottom line. Plus, all those jobs provide different scenarios daily in which you can increase your skills. The lack of drive or getting bored concern just isn’t going to happen with those jobs. Someone sitting at a desk, working in the Teapot Division in the Ceramics department might, and thus a hiring manager could potentially be concerned.

      3. Anon 12*

        One potential problem is that the job might not be there forever and if you haven’t managed your career along the way you can be up a river without a paddle. That doesn’t mean that you have to aspire to be an executive it’s a good idea to develop a breadth of experience and marketable skills. Seems like I know a lot of people who get laid off late in their career……

    2. Mike C.*

      Lets make sure not to generalize this idea that staying somewhere for five+ years without a significant promotion is problematic. There are plenty of professional jobs that simply don’t have progression after a certain point but still have the expectations that they stay current with education and industry knowledge.

      1. Macedon*

        Not generalizing that at all. I said and meant it in the context of my industry — other fields have their own tenets.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Agree. In my field, I admit I see a lot of my peers who do well at their initial job, get promoted to management. But the way I see it, that’s not even a promotion – that’s a career change! A manager is a completely different job than a software development professional. I hope there isn’t an assumption out there that one day, I need to stop doing what I’m doing and what I’m good at, and move on to managing people, which is something I never wanted, and if that doesn’t happen, then there must be something wrong with me professionally.

      3. FD*

        Yeah, I agree. I feel like it’s not a lack of promotion per se–but you should be able to show some sort of improvement or development in your skill.

    3. harryv*

      I found out recently that at Amazon, you automatically get put on a PIP if you are in the same role for 3 years….

      1. Patrick*

        I’m late on this but they also have insanely high turnover in general (2nd quickest in the Fortune 500, although that could be skewed by fulfillment center jobs.) They very much run on a “churn & burn” strategy (probably because everyone I know who’s worked at Amazon corporate burned out very quickly) and they always have hundreds if not thousands of open positions. None of it really makes sense to me, but it’s realistic that the amount of people who have been in the same position for 3 years is a pretty small number.

  9. Product person*

    I’ve been in my current position for almost eight years and there isn’t really any room for growth here — something I am alternately frustrated with and okay with, depending on the day. Besides the lack of alternatives in my field, I worry that if/when I do have an opportunity, potential employers will wonder why I settled for so long.

    In my experience as a consultant who talks to a lot of hiring managers, this should be an area of concern for long-term employees (again, this will vary by industry):

    Good: Person stays for 8 or more years with the same company, but showing a track record of more responsibilities, larger accomplishments etc.. It’s not necessary to show you’re being promoted to management, but for example, from developer level I to developer level V, with V meaning you get to mentor entry-level developers, do architecture work, etc.

    Bad: Person stays for 8 or more years with the same company, doing exactly the same job. This raises concerns for many hiring managers who want reassurance that the person they’re hiring can continue to learn and grow as their business change. has some podcasts about reviewing resumes that encourage managers to look for some type of progression in jobs the candidate stayed on for many years.

    1. Mrs. Nesbitt*

      I come from a blue collar background where my parents worked the same jobs the entire time, so sometimes I have a hard time with this. If I’m hired to insert Tab A into Slot B, I can see how it would be important to show that you’ve had accomplishments doing that and you’ve learned new things. “I increased productivity of inserting Tab A into Slot B by 30%.” But if management then comes around and says, ” You’re so good at inserting Tab A into Slot B that we now want you to teach someone new how to do it and you’ll be inserting Tab C into Slot D,” I don’t see why it’s bad for me to not want to do that and to stay where I am. If I’m good at it, and the company is profitable because of what I’m doing, why do I have to do something else? I understand the idea of the company wanting to apply my skills to another area, but there’s no guarantee that whoever I train will be as good at inserting Tab A into Slot B and there’s no guarantee that I’ll be good at inserting Tab C into Slot D.

      1. Product person*

        Mrs. Nesbitt,

        It’s understandable to want to stay where you are, especially if you’re good at the job and likes it.

        However, it’s important for any knowledge worker to understand the reality of the job market, and make their choices accordingly. If the company where you (general you) stayed for, say, 20 years doing the same job, suddenly goes out of business, you’d be now competing with people who may have a more varied experience that is likely to be more appealing to employers.

        Between the extremes of “job hopper” and “super steady worker who stayed 20 years doing the exact same thing”, there are lots of people who can demonstrate in their resume that they are flexible enough to pick up new skills and grow. And that’s the “sweet spot” that most hiring managers are looking for when hiring someone to do knowledge-intensive work.

      2. mskyle*

        I think if you want to make more money, though (and I’m always interested in making more money!), you generally have to do more or do something different. Like, if at year 4 you are inserting Tab A into Slot B as well as anyone possibly could, why would anyone give you more than a cost-of-living raise in years 5, 6, 7, 20? You’re providing the same service to the company.

        Maybe you’ll luck out and be the only person left alive who can insert Tab A into Slot B that quickly. Or maybe someone will invent a Tab A into Slot B machine and you’ll be out of a job with no experience learning new things. So having practice learning new tasks is itself a valuable job skill.

        1. Mrs. Nesbitt*

          Yeah, my parents only ever cost cost of living raises. They were hired at a particular salary and then didn’t make more than that beyond a 3% raise (or whatever COL raises were over the 30-year history). They honestly didn’t care about making more because A., they were making enough to live on and put me through college and occasionally go out to eat or go on a trip or whatever and B., they’re now getting pensions, which was probably the draw in the first place.

      3. NW Mossy*

        It’s not that you have to do something else, but more that you can’t keep doing the same thing and also see your compensation/benefits keep climbing indefinitely. Most people do want to earn more money, but companies know that there’s only so much they can pay someone to do a particular job because each job likely has a ceiling to how much value it can reasonably add to the business. To help prevent people from being frustrated by lack of salary growth, companies will often offer “hey, try learning this new thing” as a way for people to build the skills they need to be qualified for jobs with higher compensation ceilings later.

        I’ve had staff tell me that they want to keep doing the same work, and I get that, but they also need to be aware that keeping clear of stuff they don’t want to do is going to mean that I can’t keep pushing their salary higher. Diminishing marginal returns to their role start to kick in, and I really can’t justify spending $120,000 on a role that only generates $70,000 of value if performed to near perfection. If you’re OK with little to no salary growth, then you can certainly maintain the status quo on your assignments, but if you want to earn more, you have to be willing to learn more.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          It’s also good to layoff-proof yourself. We recently had one department cut by more than half due to a new technology solution reducing the need for people in that role. Most of the folks in the group were the type of people who enjoyed their job, but saw it as a j-o-b, and just wanted to come to work and do their thing each day. Are you going to keep the people who tell you at each review that they don’t want to learn anything new and are very happy in their role, or are you going to keep the ones who look for new duties and have expressed interest in training in other areas?

          1. Anna*

            There is no such thing as layoff-proof, though. We’ve seen plenty of people write in saying they were laid off because of X, Y, and Z that had nothing to do with how much they increased their skills or whether or not they were happy in their role or wanted more growth. And the only job that’s really recession-proof is Mortician.

            1. Honeybee*

              Sure, but I think the point is that certain people are less likely to get laid off than others. If you have to downsize your department, you want to keep the people who are flexible and willing and able to learn new skills or do multiple things – because now you are going to need fewer people to do the same amount of work.

              1. mskyle*

                Also, if you have a broader skill set you’ll likely have better luck finding a new job if you do get laid off.

      4. Anon1*

        Well, 1) As one ages it becomes increasingly awkward to give excuses like “I come from X background” as a reason for not understanding, because you have your own life and your own experiences to draw from, so falling back on what one’s parents did starts to come off more like a cop out than a reason for not learning new things; and 2) when you show/tell management that you aren’t willing to adapt to their needs, then no matter whether you stay inserting Tab A into Slot B or are forced to move to inserting Tab C into Slot D, you will lose some of their respect and be passed over for things like raises or recognition. You’ll have shown your company that you are less than interested in being valuable to them, and they will react accordingly. At that point, you’ll have to either deal with less respect at your company (and make less money, be less valuable) than you would otherwise, or you will have to change jobs to insert Tab A into Slot B for Different Company.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          I do not read the “X background” as an excuse, but as context. I think the fact people think you need an “excuse” is the problem here. It also doesn’t follow that not wanting to change your job (or not actively seeking to change your job) = aren’t willing to adapt to your employer’s needs.

          I think this mindset is bizarre: which is not to say you shouldn’t be aware of it and work with it, but it’s weird to me. If a company or industry needs people to do job x and pay a living wage for it, why should it be to their benefit to have continuous turnover as people leave the job? As above, this is highly industry-specific, but as a general attitude it irritates me. Not everyone wants to do more and get paid more indefinitely, and I wish we would appreciate the differences in people instead of viewing it with suspicion. Not everyone can be on top, so being indifferent to upwards mobility seems like a good thing in many positions.

          Disclaimer: I am absolutely the kind of person who wants to do new things over the course of their career, but I’m not terribly concerned by things like status or money (beyond being able to afford a decent standard of living, which can be hard enough). My partner has progressed to the highest position he can hold at his company: but he preferred the management position that was more people-focussed than paperwork-focussed, and it’s a bit sad there’s such a pay jump mostly based on status. So that’s my context.

    2. OP*

      Right. That’s my big concern. Although, the issue is that the nature of my work doesn’t really lend itself to increasingly demanding responsibilities. I’m an attorney in a pretty niche field. The cases may change, some with higher values than others. But at the end of the day, the bulk of our work is made up of medium to small cases. The company needs someone to handle even the small cases. And the fact that there are so many is what keeps me employed. But it is still frustrating that I can’t really point to much change in my caseload over the last 8 years. The only thing that comforts me is that because my field is not too big, most of the attorneys know each other. When I compare notes with others in my situation, we’re all stuck in the same boat. Really, the few options seem to be hold out for some of the very few senior positions to open up, or completely switch fields.

      1. Product person*

        Yes, OP, it looks like you’re in a niche where “being stuck with the same type of work for 8 years” is the norm, so your situation is way less concerning than in other types of jobs in which the length of your tenure with the same company without signs of progression would raise a red flag to an employer.

      2. MillersSpring*

        OP, could you ask for more responsibility at your firm or company? Maybe they need someone to mentor new hires, to manage the paralegals, to develop a program for the summer interns, to create a recognition system for all employees, to serve as a liaison to the building owner, to review all marketing materials, to serve on various committees, develop lunch-and-learn seminars, manage corporate compliance training, etc. In my industry, these are often called stretch opportunities. People get to demonstrate skills in leadership and managing complex projects.

    3. Jennifer*

      Well, I was doing the exact same job for 10 years, but it wasn’t so much I couldn’t learn so much as I couldn’t get another job.

      Of course, things have changed since then….

  10. AdAgencyChick*

    “One of the benefits of becoming more senior in your career should be that you’re more able to pick and choose what roles you take and whom you work for.”

    I think this varies by industry, too! In mine, good junior people are hard to find, but agencies are also reluctant to take a chance on someone with *no* industry experience at all. So what happens is that it’s quite difficult to get your very first job, but after that, for about the next five years of your career, you can snap your fingers and have a new job and a big salary bump almost on demand, if you’re the least bit good at your job.

    Then what happens is there’s a big bottleneck of people at a certain job title, because there’s only so many openings available at that level. It then becomes quite difficult to move once you are that senior.

    I do try not to jump out of frying pans into fires, but the last time I was looking, I definitely would have settled for a less-good situation than I’m in right now, because I needed to get out and my search was taking many months. I feel fortunate that the stars finally aligned when they did!

  11. BronzeFire*

    This is one of the most frustrating things about being a military spouse. My resume is loaded with work in my area, but the stays in any one location are 9 months to 3 years. Nothing longer than three years, though, and I’m worried it’s starting to look bad outside of military communities (where they don’t mind job hopping so much.) We’ve just landed in a civilian area for a few years, and I’m not even getting interviews for positions that my experience tells me I should be perfect for.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Is that something you’re clear about in cover letters? I can imagine being worried that the candidate would up and leave if the military spouse got transferred, without having any real idea how likely that would be to happen and in what timeframe.

    2. Marmalade*

      Oh, that is a tough one. Is it possible to switch things up and focus on your career for a few years, while your spouse does other work?

    3. JLK in the ATX*

      I was a spouse for 7-yrs prior to his retirement. I didn’t have much issue while we were on duty, seemed like the military communities understood and dealt with MilSpouse turnover. Now that he’s retired and we’re in the civilian world now, I’ve had the same ‘why did you move so much’ question from a few interviewers (a bit miffed that they’re so good they can’t connect the dots by noticing different cities of the businesses I’ve worked with)

      I’ve used something like this on my cover letter, so as not to use precious space apologizing for my frequent changes. “Despite the significant employment barriers military spouses face in our career journey, I’ve excelled and progressed in my industry by….” Then I describe a specific scenario, based on the skill set(s) they’ve listed in their job posting using the military set-up (I’m a Veteran too) ‘What I did, how I did it, the results’ To add a punch, say that you were able to fix the problem, increase sales, etc in a very short amount of time. Talk about how to got into the role quickly and were productive without a lot of learning curve.

      I really hate to use military spouse on my cover letter, if not apologize or explain ourselves, because that can quiet the whole thing before it starts. But sadly we do. But it needs to be acknowledged in a positive manner. Perhaps a quote from your previous employer on why hiring a milspouse was great for them.

      Have you done anything with unit support or family readiness? When we lived in Germany, I was involved in this work, had some great outcomes so it has an active spot on my resume while my other volunteer work is on a 2nd page.

      Good luck

  12. Joseph*

    “Now it almost feels like people who spend more than just a few years in one place are the ones getting side eyes for being unmotivated to change rather than pats on the back for loyalty. I’ve been in my current position for almost eight years and there isn’t really any room for growth here – something I am alternately frustrated with and ok with, depending on the day. Besides the lack of alternatives in my field, I worry that if/when I do have an opportunity to move on, potential employers will wonder why I settled for so long.”
    So this part wasn’t addressed by AAM, but I’m wondering about people’s thoughts on this part of the OP. Is there a time-frame where you *should* move before future employers start wondering why you’ve been in the same role so long? Do hiring managers actually give the side-eye when they see “Andy was in the same role at the same company for eight years?”

    1. FD*

      I think that AAM has said before that it’s more than 10, less than 20, but I may not be remembering right.

      1. Foxtrot*

        Doesn’t level play a little into this as well? I can see how 20 years as Junior Teapot Analyst will look bad, but what about people like Bill Gates? Surely no one is wondering why he stayed so long at Microsoft. I realize this is more the exception than the norm, though.

        1. Mike C.*

          “Oh gosh, he’s been there for decades, there’s no way he could possibly adapt to the way any other company does things!”

          Yeah, it does seem a bit silly.

    2. Mike C.*

      I work in an industry where a product cycle is measured in decades and I sit next to people wearing their 30 year pin. There are some who adapt to change well and others who don’t. Some topics really take years or even decades to really understand and gain experience in.

      So this idea that “if you’ve been at a job longer than X means you’ve fossilized” is absolutely nuts in my mind. Look to the individual, not the raw number of years. I also can’t help but wonder how much of it happens to be ageist.

      1. Product person*

        I also can’t help but wonder how much of it happens to be ageist.

        I don’t think so — I’m over 50 and have no trouble finding work anywhere despite my 30+ years of experience. But then again, business leaders always praise my diversity of experience, which for my industry is really valued.

        My husband is in the same industry, and recently his boss was telling me how he (also over 50) is his most valuable employee. My husband has been in this job for 6 years, but worked in multiple companies before. His colleagues are in their 30s but only worked there. The boss was pointing out that these colleagues, with 6- 8 years of experience all in the same company, have trouble coming up with creative solutions to their problems because they were never exposed to different environments. My husband also got two significant raises this year without asking, in a year when all employees were told that the budget for raises would be drastically reduced.

  13. Doug Judy*

    This is timely advice. I have been at CurrentJob 15 months. It’s been a wrong fit pretty much from Week 2. I’ve tried to stick it out and even look for internal openings but I think it’s the corporate culture in general that’s the issue. I was at OldJob 8 years, and OldOldJob 2.5 years and I was getting worried that having less than two years at CurrentJob would look bad.

    1. Emma*

      I tend to think that having one short-term job isn’t really a problem, though. Pretty much everyone has experience (direct or indirect) with bad workplaces or bad fits, or understands that circumstances can change. It’s if all your jobs are really short that it’d be a problem, in my mind. If I were looking at your resume, I’d think that something happened to require you to move on, but your previous long stays would make me think that generally you stick around.

    2. Job Hopper Extraordinaire*

      I think this is one where definitely YMMV. I’m in IT in the UK, and my job history is the following: 1st job, 1 yr, 2nd job 2 yrs, 3rd job 8 yrs, 4th job 2.5 yrs, 5th job 3 yrs, 6th (current) job 1 yr, 7th (next) job – start in 2 weeks. These are all permanent jobs, not contract, and the only time I had difficulty finding a new job was when I started looking at 3rd job (which was when the economy tanked). 5th and 7th jobs found me, so anecdotally I conclude that in IT in the UK, job-hopping is not seen as a bad thing. Indeed, a colleague at 4th job also interviewed at 5th job at the same time as me, and was asked if they were institutionalized after 8yrs at that job (even though they had held multiple positions and roles at that company).

      As for this job, I was worried I wouldn’t make the 1 year mark (I knew pretty much from the start that this wasn’t going to work out – I’ve only managed to make a year because I’m on a 3-month notice period).

      1. Job Hopper Extraordinaire*

        Oh, and to add context, only one of my jobs have been in software. All of the others, I have been in-house IT for various different industries (so the norms are skewed more towards the industry than IT, I believe).

  14. BBBizAnalyst*

    Depends on company and role. If you’re making lateral moves in similar roles with no increase in duties, I look at that as 1 year of experience 10 times. It’s all about progression. 10 years of experience spread out across 3 companies but say you’ve gone from analyst to VP looks way more impressive to me.

  15. CoffeeLover*

    I’m in an industry where people tend to jump around a lot. Usually, they stay for about 2 years at one firm and then jump to a competitor or a client… and then jump back a few years later. People seem to just rotate between the companies. Like others have said, it’s more common at the junior level, but in the case of my industry, it’s also very prevalent in the senior roles. So yes, it does depend on your industry to some extent.

  16. Jady*

    I don’t think it’s currently A Thing. But I do think it’s becoming more and more expected. The millennial generation (self included) has a rap (true or not) of being demanding and having high expectations (especially in certain fields). And like it or not, they’re all employers are going to have. Some companies/industries adjust faster than others.

    My husband has jumped jobs a lot, much more than I have, staying around a year at each. Every step he’s gotten a better company with better pay and better work. Over the span of 5 years, he went from making around 45k-ish, and now his currently salary is 110k. (Similar story for myself.) Way over double the salary, and we’re both doing the exact same job (albeit with more experience), in the same general area.

    Has anyone ever heard of a company doubling someone’s salary for the same job? I sure haven’t.

    The funny thing is – no one has an issue with staying at a single job long term. The problem is that companies are not keeping up with the expectations of the employee. When you can get a 20% increase in salary by leaving one job for another, of course you’re going to take it. It’s completely unheard of (in my field at minimum) to get steady large raises at a single company.

    It’s going to be more and more common as more of the workforce becomes millennials, in my opinion.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Along those lines, one thing that’s true at my company is that you can move from teapot coordinator to teapot sales manager, but your salary bump will typically only be your annual increase. If you want to make what the other sales managers make, you have to leave. And you’ll likely be replaced with an outsider who will come in at that “sales manager” salary that you wanted. It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but it is the way it is, and as long as you know that, you can use the job to get the experience you need to get that job somewhere else.

      1. Mike C.*

        This is such an incredibly stupid policy. I just can’t understand why companies do it – it will cost them more in the long run.

      2. Ros*

        Yep, I just posted that above. Which is why… I mean, I’ve stayed 3.5 years at one job, but more than that means I’m actively turning down opportunities to make significantly more money elsewhere, for a company that’s unwilling to match it. That’s … unreasonable.

        And I don’t know how much of it is necessarily ‘millenial’-based – I mean, I guess based on my age? But really, if my mother was to tell me “I’m staying here because of loyalty even if I could make 30K more per year elsewhere and also my employer can fire me whenever”, I’d be questionning her common sense. I think what’s happening is that we have a generation with a fairly good grasp on exactly how much loyalty most employers have to their employees (none), and who aren’t willing to sacrifice personal advantages for non-reciprocated loyalty. All people should be so sensible.

        1. Honeybee*

          I think that’s what it is. People are blaming millennials, but really we millennials are simply reacting to the changes that employers have put in place in the workplace.

        2. Mela*

          It’s definitely not a millennial thing. My mom always said that if you want more money you have to switch companies because that’t the only time you’ll get a big bump. She ducked out of the workforce 35 years ago, so this isn’t a new concept. Perhaps it was still field-limited, since EA work back then was so interpersonal–you worked one-on-one for a single executive. When your exec left, you easily could as well.

      3. Cranston*

        That’s how it is in my industry as well. The responsibilities increase, and eventually the only way to be paid what you’re worth is to go elsewhere.

    2. Candi*

      I think what’s also to blame is just how ridiculously high tuition has become, outstripping inflation, wage increases, and all of the things that would help pay for it.

      Higher education can have a ridiculous price tag, and, for a long list of reasons, the young folks wind up holding the bag. Especially if they want to go into a field like accounting or law and need a Big Name and a built-in network to get the good jobs. (As discussed in many a comment thread on this site.)

      So you have a combination of having to pay back loans/paying for education and having to pay bills and live, and companies that give low raises but large pay to external hires.

      Under those circumstances, no one should be shocked that people switch jobs all over the place. They need to look out for their own financial welfare? Companies don’t like it? Unless you need a heck of a specialist skillset and/or experience CV for the job, give your current skilled worker the money you’re going to give to external hires anyway. (That need to be brought up to speed.)

  17. Butterbumps*

    Hi! Long-time lurker, first time commenter.
    The note on how it depends on the industry is so important. In my industry people jump around a lot, and layoffs are rampant as well. My most junior role in this city (my previous city/job was 3 years) was 1 year before I got poached to a different, waaaaay better role where I was happy (if not a little bored) in. I would have stayed gladly for years if they didn’t lay me and my entire department off after 1 year and 8 months. I then got a job at the major competitor, but only stayed for 3 months because it was a hellhole and my old company invited me back for a different position (subsequently, a HUGE staff turnover at short-term job happened within weeks of my leaving, including the Director being let go and the project changing drastically). So now I’m back in a new job, at the old company, and have been for 6 months. I am worried every day about layoffs since the hammer falls hard in this industry every year. I’d like to get 2-3 years here but I don’t know if that’s a reality anymore in this professional climate.
    I think as long as you craft your “story” at each job and work hard to make meaningful contributions and get results, that will shine overall IF you’re in an unstable/job-hoppy industry. I even leave the 3 month stint on my resume because while it was so short, I made major contributions in terms of workflow structure. Unfortunately the real change there had to come from way above my head.

  18. OP*

    I wanted to also add here that in the time since I originally emailed my question, my husband has realized one of the biggest drawbacks of switching jobs. He went back to square one with vacation time. He tried to negotiate additional leave when he started with his new company and was completely shot down. After having worked for the same company for 17 years, you can imagine that he’d begun to get quite used to a fair amount of leave time and being knocked back down to 3 weeks a year has been pretty tough for him. He’s also had to prove himself to his new employers because he didn’t have a real track record. So it was a good six months before he was allowed to work from home or take advantage of other flexibility that comes with your supervisors knowing that you are a good employee who can be trusted.

    1. Not Karen*

      Yes, good points. When I switched jobs, I sort of subconsciously forgot that my new job wouldn’t automatically know how good a worker I am.

    2. J.B.*

      Not a lawyer, but I am in a strange niche. I will likely go back to school to change fields eventually, but am currently making use of that leave accrual. I think the more niche you are the more you need to develop transferable skills or new skills, and jump during a strong market if it ever happens.

  19. Eleanor Rigby*

    I’ve been at my new job since January. In the interim, I have moved and have a much longer commute. It’s something I want to change after I get through that psychological hurdle of the 1 year work anniversary. It’s very draining in my personal and family life. I want to look for something closer to my new home in a related field. I had been at my previous job for 10 years and the job before that nearly 5 years. I’m not a job hopper. I know I’ve read in the past on here that you get a one time pass to make a move quickly. It was more than time to leave the 10 year position and I’ve picked up a lot of new skills at my new place over the last 9 months. Moving homes again is not an option and I love my new home. Do you think this is okay? I know I’ll have to commit to the new job for at least 2-3 years or so to make it not look job-hoppy.

    1. Puffle*

      Since you’ve got two long stints on your resume, I think you’d be okay. Also, you’ve been at the new job for 9-10 months- not the longest time, but also not a blip

  20. Former Retail Manager*

    For the people that think that staying in the same position for long length of time, with no progression in title or responsibilities, is a bad thing, I don’t necessarily agree. It would depend on the salary to me. Are you in the same position making $30k a year for 8 years or in the same position making $75k a year? I would be less inclined to question staying in the same position at $75k a year. That’s a good living for most people in most geographic areas of the U.S. and, quite frankly, not everyone wants more responsibility or even kudos. Some people just want to come in, do their job well, be paid a fair wage with good benefits, and enjoy their time with family and friends or do whatever is really important to them.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed. If you’re at an award winning company with excellent benefits, why would you leave?

    2. Mrs. Nesbitt*

      ^THIS a million times. But as someone pointed out to me above, the landscape of work these days does skew more towards layoffs being common, and if you then have to compete against people who’ve had more responsibility, you’re going to suffer. Not that long ago, companies did treat employees better and wouldn’t lay them off at the drop of a hat. I’ve been laid off of three jobs and I’ve only been out of college for 10 years. I’d like the opportunity to stay in one job for a long time and get those benefits and time off with family, but today you never know how long you’re going to get to stick around.

      1. Emma*

        “Not that long ago” apparently being before my memories kick in, because not only do I not recall working anyplace that protected workers from layoffs, I don’t remember my father or his friends doing so, either. (Mom’s a different story, as she’s a career teacher.) I’m in my 30s.

        1. Dante (from the call center)*

          Same. Also in my 30’s.

          The notion of workers being treated well, or even fairly, has always had this aftertaste of faux nostalgia for me–but I’m a cynic. :)

    3. BBBizAnalyst*

      I think the comments are skewed to addressing people who want career progression. There’s nothing wrong with staying at one company forever. On the flip side, if you do leave, the hiring landscape is going to be more competitive. We had to fill a role for another member for an adjacent team and it came down to hiring the person who had progressively more responsibilities in her previous role. Our team doesn’t want to hire people who are going to be rigid about a,b,c. Technology changes. Client needs change. We need people who are comfortable adapting to that. Having the same role for 10 years, unfortunately, looks bad even if it’s not the best view on an applicant.

    4. NW Mossy*

      It’s not so much that it’s a bad thing but more that it’s just misaligned to how the world of work functions these days. Most industries experience a much faster cycle of change than they did in the past, and the people working in them have to keep pace. While not every industry turns over as quickly as tech or fashion where trends come and go in an eye-blink, even seemingly staid industries have to cope with changes in technology, customer demands, regulations, and more. As a result, there are fewer and fewer of those jobs that keep rolling on in the same basic shape at the same basic pay for long periods of time. The fact that those jobs don’t exist in the same numbers as before means that to maintain gainful employment, employees have to be prepared to shift gears when the prevailing weather in their industry changes, and staying adaptable within a role/company is a big part of you obtain and maintain that skill.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      This may be a niche perspective, but I used to work in recruiting for independent schools, and a candidate staying at one place for a long time (unless she was head of school or in some really high-up administrative position) sometimes brought up concerns with hiring schools about whether the candidate was really going to take a job offer or was just “seeing what’s out there.” In other words, if this teacher or admission person has been at such-and-such school for 20 years, will she really suddenly take another job offer at another school?

      That doesn’t mean those people never get hired, but it’s a legitimate concern, and I’ve certainly known a lot of candidates like that, who get itchy and annoyed by something their current school does, see what’s out there to satisfy their curiosity, and then just end up staying where they are.

      1. New Bee*

        Agreed. I work in urban ed where turnover is very common (and there’s lots of attempted poaching if you have in-demand subject expertise), and my old school hired someone who’d been at one school for many years and had just won a major award. She only stayed for a year and spent most of the time out of the classroom doing photo ops. It was particularly frustrating because she was teaching my former students, and my former coworkers think she came to the school because it’s more prestigious (has received recent high-profile grants, was a very successful turnaround site under the founding principal) than her old site.

      2. Charlotte, not NC*

        I’ve seen friends and relatives in education get stuck after a certain level: districts are cash-strapped and can’t afford someone at Step XX with a Masters + 15. They want the fresh college grad coming in at step 1. Even people willing to take a step freeze just to get out of a bad job were told it “wasn’t done”.

  21. AndersonDarling*

    We’ve had incompetent executives come and go through our organization and I wonder how they keep getting hired when they only stay at a job for a year. Either they are asked to leave or they figure out they need to leave.
    I’d be wary as heck if I had a resume for a VP of Whatever who stayed at their last 5 companies for less than a year each. But they keep getting hired…and fired.

    1. Justin*

      Upper management I think is an example of an “industry” where shorter stints are a little more common.

  22. Jules*

    I think it also depends on your career. If you are in a hot job, why wouldn’t you job hop every 3-5 years or so. At the current merit increase of 3% y-o-y, you aren’t going far if you stayed somewhere too long. Caveat though for people who can grow with the organization. That would be a great opportunity to stay in one organization for a long time. But if you are just a cog in the grand scheme of things, your pay would be stagnated.

    When I joined a meeting for women in leadership, we hear from people whose been in the job for 10 years getting frustrated because they are not developing and going nowhere. We have to manage our careers. If a manager doesn’t want to hire someone who has short term employment, that is their prerogative. You just need to go into this with your eyes open. Are you career movement adding value to your long term goals? If you are merely hopping to the same lateral job without potential exposure to different scopes of the job, that wouldn’t help get you hired.

    2 cents.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I think there are fields where the approach of leaving every 3-5 years would be detrimental. The bad part is that when you’re younger and new to the field, you might not realize it. Some places still have succession plans and leadership development programs. You’re supposed to do A for a few years, then B, then C, etc. and at the end of it all, you’re going to be higher up than someone who hopped around in that industry–not all industries/companies have a point-of-entry at Level C.

      1. Jules*

        I think by year 3 you’d realize if you are on succession plan or not. Once you realize that you are not getting the stretch assignments, training and projects, you are not on the succession plan, sorry. You could get lucky and get new manager/boss and they might consider putting you on them, but that seems less likely.

  23. Lucy Honeychurch*

    Do you think it’s worth including otherwise-irrelevant experience on a resume to show a history of longevity at jobs? I’m not looking to move at the moment, but I’m probably not going to stay a full 3 years at my current job (I want to get better health insurance before I turn 26 and get booted off my parents’) so I’m a bit worried that I’ll look job-hoppy since my previous position was a one-year internship and I decided not to stay on after the year. But I have two four-year positions from before that which I normally wouldn’t include since they’re so far in the past and don’t have anything to do with what I do now–but do they illustrate that I can stay for longer than 2 years? Should I just list the job titles and dates?

    1. SJ*

      I think it’s generally more understood that younger people might have a slightly spottier resume due to high school and college odds-and-ends jobs, switching jobs when trying to find the right career path, that sort of thing. If you’re not even 26 yet, I’m assuming you’re at an entry level sort of job, and it wouldn’t be weird to leave that for something better before 3 years. I was at my entry-level job for 3 years, and even my boss told me I should have left after 2. (I mean, I TRIED and applied everywhere, I just couldn’t land anything for over a year!)

      I have several positions from college and grad school that are only sort of tangentially related to what I do now, though not directly, and I just put those on one line with the job titles and dates. But if you’re referring to jobs like fast food customer service and you’re an accountant, I don’t think it’s worth it to list them.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        But if you’re referring to jobs like fast food customer service and you’re an accountant, I don’t think it’s worth it to list them.

        Plus, while it does show persistence to stick out pre-career part-time jobs, but it’s not quite the same. Working at, say, the after school program 10 hrs a week for 4 years would be great, but it doesn’t compare to the grind of 40+ hrs/week at a full-time job with increasing responsibility over 4 years. (Now, if you moved up the ladder in a job like that and it WAS tangentially related to your career. . . like if you were an elementary teacher in this example. . .I would leave it on.)

      2. KEM11088*

        Not necessarily. I graduated undergrad in 2010 and there were NO jobs. I took several marketing internships to gain knowledge and broaden my horizons. I have been in the workforce officially 4 years now and doing the job hunt again. People STILL question those post college internships, and often judge.

    2. Anxa*

      I struggle a lot with this. Often, my longest stretches of employment, albeit part time, are from college. As are the most relevant jobs for some jobs I seek and the ones that the most accomplishments.

      Yet I’m loathe to include too much from college as I graduated 8 years ago.

  24. Jamey*

    I’ve read a lot of advice about not job-hopping here and it took me a while for the caveat that it “varies by industry” to sink in because it just seemed bizarre to me that people would be expected to commit many years to the same company. But then I work in the tech startup industry and the idea that my company will even exist for longer than a year or two is completely in question. I try to look at things like, if it works out, the startup is successful and I stay for a good long time- great! But when you make the decision to go into startup work, you have to stop worrying about how the short stays will look on your resume.

    1. Justin*

      Plus your skills are in demand and transferable, so it’s a little easier to jump to another job and hit the ground running. You’re not really a “trainee” at any point.

    2. NonProfit Nancy*

      I’d say tech and consulting are among the top two fields where this advice doesn’t apply.

  25. CandyCrazy*

    Long-time lurker, first-time commenter here! How would you say this applies to jobs in different locations? I’ve lived in 4 different cities in the US and abroad since graduating from college 4 years ago and have had jobs in all 4 places. The reason I left each job was because I was moving (family-related, not military). I expect to be more settled now, but how do shorter stays in different cities/states/even countries reflect on job-seekers?

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      FWIW I don’t think it matters why you left a job, just that you did so more than once, which leads a prospective employer to think you’ll likely do it again to them. How do they know you won’t be moving again in another year? If you can say in the interview what has changed, this might reassure them.

    2. H.C.*

      I think this is best explained in the cover letter when you apply, something to the effect of still exploring your options and settings but finally deciding that Open Position X with company Y in city Z is where you’d like to settle. Of course, any reasonable explanation you’re comfortable with disclosing about your moves and/or supporting evidence that you are establishing permanence in city Z (e.g. buying a house there, no longer having issues that required you to move) would help too.

  26. Justin*

    I think part of it is that people who want to avoid looking like a job-hopper get very literal about one or two jobs that they’re only at for a short time rather than looking at the overall pattern. Most people I know have one or two longer stints plus a couple of shorter stints that they had to leave for various reasons. As long as you’re not filling your resume with short stints you should be OK.

    I also think that job hopping has become a little more common as tech jobs have proliferated. These jobs tend to involve skills that are highly specialized, in demand, and easily transferable, so it’s easier to hop around. Plus they can be less secure, so people not only hop around but also get laid off somewhat frequently as tech companies fold or reorganize or large development projects come to an end.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      I agree. I think it’s okay to have one or even two shorter stays on a resume, if they’re each sandwiched between jobs that lasted 4-5 years or more. This shows that you *can* demonstrate commitment and have staying power. Two one year stints in a row might look bad though, which is why Alison’s advice is correct – if you’re moving on quickly, do everything you can to make sure this is a choice you can live with.

      I’d say tech (along with consulting) are the industries where these rules don’t apply.

      1. Emma*

        Plus, honestly, at some point a pattern of short stints should make you wonder – at least wonder how to avoid landing in a job you have to leave so soon. (Obviously, if it’s stuff like “I’m a military spouse” you already know that – I’m talking more about cases of job-hopping due to bad workplaces or being stifled or whatnot.)

  27. Not Karen*

    Dare I suggest that it depends on how fast you learn things too? I keep being told this rule of thumb where it takes a new hire at least a year to learn the basics of a job, and I keep accomplishing this in 6 months…

    1. ArtK*

      You still need to be careful because someone reviewing a resume for the first time is going to be applying the “rule of thumb.” You need to get past that in order to explain how great you were at picking up the job.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, it’s never taken me 6 months to be good at my job or to start improving things. If my new workplace is open to changes, I usually start improving and streamlining things 2-3 months in… and I could easily do it even a few weeks in, but I’d still be surveying and trying to understand things before making drastic changes. Major overhauls of processes I don’t try to introduce until at least a year in… again, that isn’t because of how fast or slow I learn things—it’s more about user buy-in… people tend to be resistant to change, especially from uppity outsiders or newcomers.

  28. Anonymous Educator*

    I work in independent school education, and you definitely want to stay (especially if you’re a teacher) at least two years at a school, if not three to five years (or a decade). I think for schools it’s less about “We’ve invested so much in training you” (new-to-the-school teachers rarely get much school-specific training) and more about “It’s disruptive to the kids if teachers leave after a year (or *gasp* mid-year).” That said, it goes both ways—if your school has several teachers (or even admin folks) leaving mid-year, that looks really bad to prospective hires, too. No one wants to work at that school.

  29. Faith*

    My industry has a tiered job structure, and sometimes the only way to move on to the next level is to switch companies because there is room only for one supervisor in your company and that job is already taken. So, it’s not uncommon to see people stay somewhere for 2-3 years and then move on to another place for a higher title.

  30. Jaguar*

    I’m glad the last paragraph was included in Alison’s letter, because I really hate this advice and it feels like victim blaming to me. The trust between employers and employees has been massively damaged by the corporate downsizing and outsourcing of the 90s to the point that the idea of working at one place your whole life seems ludicrous. That genie is not getting back in the bottle easily, and it’s not the fault of employees. The result is that the employee-employer relationship has dramatically changed, where employees are now almost entirely responsible for their own professional development. No C-level executive works their way up from the mail room any more, and the mail room clerks need a bachelors to get consideration.

    People should be aware that a spotty work history will be a detriment to them, but I feel like the importance of it is overstated on this blog. If you have a lot of short term jobs and you’ve decided you need a long stay at one to show your reliability and then an amazing opportunity for advancement comes along in another offer, take the offer.

    There is also the other side of this to consider. Often it’s stated on here, in answers and in comments, that if something doesn’t work out for some awful reason (you were fired for being sexually harassed, you were rejected for a job because of your ethnicity, etc), “did you really want to work there?” Well, do you want to work at a place where everyone has been there forever? To me, that’s a significant red flag that the company suffers from calcification and going there, I’m only going to learn old skills and business practices. I would love to have the comfortable relationship with employers that my parents enjoyed, but that’s not the world I live in, and I need to be pushing forward because standing still is falling behind.

    1. J.B.*

      I think part of the field dependence is how commonly employers let people go. Some (pharma, some tech, engineering) churn through people and constantly merge and reorganize. Those industries tend to have shorter tenure even in good times. 2008 accelerated turnover there and created it other places.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      People should be aware that a spotty work history will be a detriment to them, but I feel like the importance of it is overstated on this blog.

      Really? I think Alison’s actually quite even-handed about this. From the actual post linked to:

      Of course, it’s not like job-hopping means that you’ll reach a point where you’ll never be hired again. Instead, you’ll just increasingly limit your options. The best, most interesting jobs at the best employers have a lot of competition, and those employers aren’t usually jumping to hire people with spotty work histories when they have loads of highly qualified candidates with stable work histories.

      I think a lot of times applicants think they’re being dinged or have some scarlet letter on their résumé, but most hiring managers aren’t throwing your résumé on the floor and screaming “Ick! Job-hopper!” It’s more that applicants with similar qualifications who appear not to be job-hoppers look more appealing, and why wouldn’t they?

      1. Jaguar*

        I think it would have to do with biases. If I see someone that achieved a senior position after 15 years with a single organisation out of college and someone else that did it in 8 years with three different companies, I’m going to make a lot of assumptions (I should ideally make zero, but here we are) and a lot of them are prejudiced against the 15 year person.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, but I think it’s best to recognize biases (as you’re doing) than pretend they don’t exist (which some hiring managers do). In the hypothetical you presented, I’d probably interview both candidates.

        2. ArtK*

          You’d be biased against someone simply because they weren’t on the same career schedule as someone else? Or worse, not on the same schedule that you think is right? The one on the 8-year track could have been promoted to better titles for undeserved reasons; the 15-year person could have spent that time learning the breadth of the business. I’ve known companies that handed out “senior” titles like they were candy. My own employer, for a while, had more vice presidents than a major bank. Few of whom were doing anything close to warranting the title. I’d be looking first at their actual accomplishments over those two periods. It’s easy to print “senior” on a business card — it’s harder to back it up with real achievements.

          You also don’t know (and really shouldn’t ask about) whether the 15-year person had to prioritize some other commitment over promotion, but they’re now ready to move forward.

          1. J.B.*

            Good point (*cough cough* disparate impact *cough cough*). There are times in your life when staying at one place for a while is valuable. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad employee, merely that you weren’t the unattached person putting in the hours.

          2. Jaguar*

            I was using senior as shorthand and hoping people would just read that as the two hypothetical people as arriving at the same place through different paths. But yes, the thought would enter my head. I like to think I wouldn’t disqualify people on the basis of those reservations, but I’m also aware that’s not how implicit biases work and am not so arrogant to think that recognizing it is the same as removing it.

            But this is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s totally unfair to disqualify people on the basis of your own biases and assumptions. I don’t see “I want someone who is hungry for growth so I’m disqualifying this person who has a long-term employment history” as different than “I want someone who is going to be here long-term so I’m disqualifying this person who has short-term employment history.” Why aren’t both unacceptable ways of thinking? Or, alternatively, why don’t we caution job seekers as not having a job hopping history and also not having a job stagnation history?

            The advice that people should try to stick around at a certain place for a long time (which implicitly means against their best interests) to satisfy some potential other person’s biases is questionable advice, I think. Certainly, people should be aware that the biases exist and moving jobs frequently will count against them with those employers. I don’t think it should be primary consideration for people, and the way and frequency “job hopping” comes up on this blog, to me, reads as implicitly saying, “not job hopping is one of the more fundamental things you should be concerned about.”

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not about satisfying biases. It’s about all the reasons I explained in the article — employers know little about you so need to assume that past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior and don’t want to hire and invest in people who are likely to leave quickly … you’re often not developing the same depth of experience/instincts/expertise and accomplishments if you don’t stick around very long … etc.

              1. Jaguar*

                Well, I mean, call it what you will – biases, assumptions, pre-conceptions, etc. A person looking at your history and drawing unsupported conclusions does go in both directions on this and making decisions against your best interests on the basis of those conclusions is not something I agree with. Certainly, if someone is leaving a job before they’ve had a chance to grow professionally or get everything they can out of that job in terms of growth and accomplishments, I agree they should give serious thought to the ramifications of what they’re doing. But the isolated advice that “some people will see short stays as evidence that you are a flight risk and therefore you should stay longer in a position than you otherwise would” is tailoring your behaviour to fit the opinions of someone else. I don’t see it as that much different as telling people what to wear or how to speak so they don’t appear like a criminal/poor/etc. – be aware of the impression you’re giving off and how other people are going to see you, obviously, but don’t internalize that one way is wrong and the other is right.

                1. Emma*

                  But, wait a minute, how exactly are hiring managers supposed to make decisions, then? Just wing it? Part of applying to a job is presenting hiring managers with information to draw conclusions about whether you’d fit in with what they are looking for. I think that’s one reason a cover letter is so damn important, because it can be used to contextualize the bare facts of your resume.

                  Nobody’s saying never have short-term stints – and even the longer-term stints being discussed are mostly 3-5 years or at least over 1 year, all of which my grandparents would’ve called job-hopping. But if I’m looking for someone reliable, and you give me a resume of nothing but a few months at each job, what am I supposed to think is more likely – that this will be the time you choose to stay for years, or that you’re likely to move on again in short order?

                  And for the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with moving on quickly, if that’s what you want or think is best. But there are tradeoffs, like with anything in life, and the tradeoff here is that people are going to assume you’ll do it again.

                  It’s not victim-blaming to extrapolate from someone’s past actions. If my brother never pays me back money he owes me, and he asks me for $10, I know it’s not likely I’ll get that back, either. If you never stay at a job for more than a year, I know you aren’t likely to do so this time, either.

                2. Anonymous Educator*

                  A person looking at your history and drawing unsupported conclusions does go in both directions on this and making decisions against your best interests on the basis of those conclusions is not something I agree with.

                  It’s hardly an unsupported conclusion to see this…

                  1 year
                  1 year
                  2 years
                  1 year
                  6 months

                  … and then conclude it’s highly unlikely the candidate will stay at your company for 2-3 years. It doesn’t have to be the candidate’s “fault” even. The only indicator you have of this candidate’s future behavior is her past behavior.

                  Nobody, including Alison, is saying that you can’t have one or two short stints in the midst of much longer stints. This, for example, I wouldn’t consider job-hopping:

                  2 years
                  5 years
                  1 year
                  3 years
                  3 years

                  See that 1 year in there? No biggie. Clearly an anomaly.

                3. Anonymous Educator*

                  and even the longer-term stints being discussed are mostly 3-5 years or at least over 1 year, all of which my grandparents would’ve called job-hopping

                  Grandparents? Even my parents. One of my parents is retired but stayed at one job for 30 years. The other is still working and has been at the same job for almost 35 years.

                  The absolute longest stint I’ve had has been 5 years in one place.

                4. Jaguar*

                  To Emma: I call it victim blaming because I’m operating from the assumption that most people, like me, would much rather have a steady job than to have to constantly job search to find better opportunities, but the reality of the North American job market are that for a lot of industries, staying in place is stagnation and you are rarely rewarded for loyalty to a company and have your employment cut short early anyway. Faced with that reality, to turn around and accuse people of “job hopping” misplaces the blame completely.

                  To AE: That’s not a supported conclusion, it’s an assumption. I agree it will absolutely happen, but let’s not give it credit it isn’t due. However, in my original example, 8 years over 3 jobs is just shy of 3 years each, which are timeframes I picked because they are consistent with what’s called job hopping on here. I think most people on AAM who fall on the “no job hopping” side of things would look at both of those resumes and conclude they’re both job hoppers and the first one is just a more serious case of it. So, what’s the solution? Add two more years to each stay, which takes you potentially a decade into the future to achieve the same results?

                  I really don’t think job hopping is a primary concern. Obviously, if you’re maxing out at one year and you’re not a contractor, that’s going to look really bad. If you’re at two years on average and each job has shown significant career progression, do you think you’ll be more or less desirable than someone who has two jobs of five years each equivalent to, say, the first three jobs worth of professional development? To me, it’s pretty obvious to talk to the person who is further along in development. Assuming you would agree, why would you also recommend someone potentially stunt their development to have a steadier career history?

                5. Anonymous Educator*

                  8 years over 3 jobs is just shy of 3 years each, which are timeframes I picked because they are consistent with what’s called job hopping on here.

                  I don’t call it job hopping, but maybe that’s just in my industry. I see a teacher working 2 years here, 3 years there, and 3 years somewhere else, I see a solid teacher. I don’t see a job hopper.

                6. Emma*

                  Jaguar: I kind of think, though, that casting the employer-employee relationship as one of an abuser and victim is really extreme. Are there some toxic workplaces where that’s true? Sure. But while things aren’t perfect by any stretch, it’s not that much of an apocalyptic hellhole, and most businesses are just trying to find employees who will be able to do the work well and stick around for a reasonable amount of time. Most businesses want people to stick around.

                  I also do know quite a number of people who just don’t give a shit about their reputation or who don’t care about sticking with a job for a while – one of them is my best friend, and another is my sister. That’s fine if you’re okay with the consequences, but arguing that there should be no consequences for constantly deciding other pastures are greener is a bit absurd.

                  FWIW, I don’t consider staying with a place 2-3 years to be job-hopping. It’s not exactly long-term, but I’d call that “average.” I know relatively few people who stick with any given job more than 5 years, and most of those are people with government jobs or teachers. When I’m talking about when I talk short-term stints are a year or less. If you keep moving on every 6 months, with rare exception, there is an actual problem there you need to address, or you need to accept that you’ve chosen to do that.

                  Let’s put it this way: if you run into toxic workplace after toxic workplace, never able to stick around for long because they’re that bad, maybe you need to get better at looking for red flags – or if you’re constantly finding you’re not the right fit for a job, maybe you need to go into a different line of work. It’s not all on the employer.

    3. James*

      Part of the problem is fiscal. There’s a cost to hiring and training a new employee–and to absorbing the number of mistakes they’ll make until they’re up to snuff. This is no insult, just a logical conclusion based on the simple fact that each company does its own things. If you have to return a report because it’s not drafted in the proper format, that costs time and therefore money, that sort of thing.

      To make hiring a new person make sense financially you have to more than break even. The employee has to earn you more than they cost you. And that takes time. And as a manager, you have to consider that when hiring someone.

      I have seen situations where someone came into a company–and we’re not talking a burger joint here, but a fairly substantial company, working on projects with fairly major consequences–openly stating that they were going to be there for X years. Their spouse was finishing school, and would make so much more money than they did that they were going to relocate to wherever their spouse went. And they got hired. X was greater than the time it took to recoup the losses associated with hiring them.

  31. AnotherAlison*

    “If you have a lot of short term jobs and you’ve decided you need a long stay at one to show your reliability and then an amazing opportunity for advancement comes along in another offer, take the offer.”

    I don’t feel like that’s a scenario that plays out much here or in actual life. More often, people hate their boss/hate their commute/don’t like the culture/find the job is a bad fit and want to know if they’ve got enough time to move on. If someone already has an offer for an amazing opportunity, their short stint at their current job is a moot point, as long as they stay at “dream job” a reasonable amount of time.

    1. Jaguar*

      But that’s the same issue, I think. If you’re in a toxic job, don’t worry about some nebulous idea about how you’ll appear to others. Save your mental health – get out.

      If it’s commute or whatever else that is manageable or deal-with-it-able, then absolutely, take as many factors into consideration as you can and sometimes you’ll come out thinking it’s better to improve your resume than improve your travel time. But the “job hopper” thing gets brought up so often on this blog that I think it’s disproportionate to its relative importance (to the extent that people in the comments sometimes do worry about not leaving a job they’ve only been at a short time when the choice to leave a job or take a new one is otherwise overwhelmingly obvious). The subtext of Alison’s advice on this, to me, always reads as “it’s a really bad thing to have short stays at jobs and you should try extremely hard to avoid it.” I think it’s much less dire than that.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I don’t want to over-generalize, but I think a lot of these cases are *not* critical to one’s mental health.

        When you’re young, I think a lot of the problem is the culture shock of work in general, unless you’re working somewhere particularly fantastic.

        When you’re older, unless you’ve had extraordinary bad luck, if every company is toxic or a “bad fit”, then you may be the problem.

        Honestly, I’ve seen a bad outcome from a lifetime of job-hopping with my MIL. She constantly left jobs because of perceived slights, and at 63, she’s broke and hasn’t been employed in about 8 years. Of course the same could be said if she had been at one place for 30 years. I think you just need to balance it. Don’t leave a good job because you have an artificial worry about getting stale, and don’t stay somewhere forever out of comfort.

        1. MashaKasha*

          This is a good point about the 30 years. OldJob had a round of layoffs a few years ago where, at least in my former department, they just up and let go of everybody who’d been there 30+ years. None of these people found work again, as far as I know. Had they been staying at OldJob out of comfort? – yes, and pension benefits as well, and honestly I can’t blame them. Now that I think of it as I’m typing this, after a certain age (all of these people were in their late 50s, early 60s) it doesn’t matter if you stayed in your last job for 30 years or five years or eight months. If they decide to lay you off at that point, you’ll have a difficult time finding work. There’s no magic number of years of service that will make it easier for you; at least in my opinion.

        2. Emma*

          I also think there’s an increasing tendency to insist that things not being perfect = negative mental health impact = must leave now. I want to be clear: I am not remotely downplaying mental health issues, or how things like stress exacerbate them (or other medical issues – enough stress and I literally cannot sleep).

          But, well. There are rarely perfect jobs, and you can rarely change a workplace, especially a new one, to fit your needs and wants exactly. There’s also the fact that it takes a good few months for most people to adjust to new places/routines/norms, and those months are of course stressful.

          That’s one reason I think people do, barring extraordinary reasons, need to stick with a job/other commitment for at least a year. By that point, you should have an actual sense of what normal is like, and whether you can handle it – before that, you really don’t, especially if there’s any seasonality to the job at all.

          Extraordinary reasons: it’s an actually toxic workplace, you got accepted to grad school, a literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity opens up, etc. Things that are not ordinary. But if you always have an extraordinary reason for leaving a job, yeah, you need to look hard at your reasons and if there’s anything you need to start doing to fix the issues. Like, I had one friend who would decide 2-3 weeks into a new job that she hated it and it sucked (translation: it was boring and she hated customer service), and so she’d apply for uni, quit when she got accepted under the excuse that she was going to school, then never go to school because somehow it didn’t seem the right fit anymore. Then she wondered why the fuck she couldn’t get out of retail hell.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I had a job I hated, and started looking for a new one after 6 months. It took a while to find a new job (because everyone was like, “Why are you looking after only 6 months??”), but I did get one. It turned out to be terrible also, but I was going to gut it out so I didn’t look like a job hopper, but then I got recruited into a much better job! So I stayed there three years, and the two one-year jobs do come up in interviews, but not like they are a big deal.

  32. LuvThePets*

    Often this whole thing can also vary by hiring manager/interviewer. When interviewing for my last job, a couple of people were concerned because my average stay was three years. That’s concerned me somewhat, because at my age, that’s getting to be a lot of jobs. But, the early moves were for grad school and major life changes (marriage, moving, baby, school), and recent moves were for increasing levels of responsibility and pay increases… and some of the longer stays were also more recent. Two people in the long line of interviews asked be about “job hopping” and/or my intent to stay in one place. These folks were also about 15 years older than me (and I am early/mid 40’s).

    Fast forward to my current job… I ended up leaving the last job because the company closed… after 2 years on the job. So, yet another somewhat short stay. I had two interviews total with people aged 35-45. There was not a hint of concern about my job stays. When I looked at Linked In, their profiles looked just like mine… moves from job or position every 1-5 years…

  33. MechE31*

    I’ve bounced around a bit more than I have desired. I stayed at my first job out of college for 6 years, followed by a 2 year stint, followed by a 2 year stint. I’ve been at my current company about 6 months with no intention of leaving.

    When interviewing for my current job, the hiring manager didn’t even ask about why I was looking for my 3rd job in 4 years. If he had, I have reasons for leaving the last 2 (70+hour weeks at job 1, good chance of job 2 going bankrupt at the time I was looking). I’m not in a field where constant transition is the norm, but transition is typically the only way to get a decent raise.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That doesn’t look very job-hoppery to me:
      6 years
      2 years
      2 years

      That looks fairly normal to me.

      If it had been something like this, though:
      2 years
      1 year
      1 year

      that would look very job-hoppery.

      1. MechE31*

        I feel like I’m locked at the current company for longer because 3x 2 year stints would start to be hopping too much. With that said, I am very happy with pretty much every aspect of my current role and have no intention of looking or leaving anytime soon.

        With the last 2 jobs, I knew I had made a mistake by this point.

    2. NonProfit Nancy*

      Yeah in my opinion you’ve got no problem as long as you stay at your current job for something around 5 years. You’re golden. If you leave after one or two it might be time to worry about this issue.

  34. FroggyHR*

    I would much rather hire someone who had had 4-5 jobs in the last 8-10 years, all with progressing responsibilities/advanced titles than someone who had been a “Teapot Associate 1” at the same company for 8 years.

    People don’t get promoted internally much anymore. Older folks who should he retiring are still working, creating a gridlock. The ONLY real way to advance or gain more industry experience in these cases, is to go somewhere else.

    Is someone who’s never held a job for longer than 6 months a huge red flag? Of course. But so is some low-motivation, doing just enough to stay employed- person who hasn’t made any moves to advance, even if it means moving out the door.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      People don’t get promoted internally much anymore.

      While this is true, I think you should be careful with how you interpret titles. I’ve worked in places where the only way to get a “raise” was to change your job title… even if you were doing exactly the same thing you were doing before.

      Likewise, I’ve been in positions where the title itself hasn’t changed but the responsibilities and pay have gone up.

      1. Anon13*

        Your second point is where I was at, until I pushed for a new title. (I got a tiny pay bump, too, but that wasn’t as important to me.) My only issue now is that, while I’ve been performing the duties of the more senior position for about 18 months, I’ve only had the more senior title for about four months, so I’ve got to figure out how to indicate on my resume that I have 1 year+ of the more senior experience. (Which I know is not a ton, but, since I started casually looking at job postings about a month ago, I’ve noticed that a lot of jobs ask for 1-2 years of experience performing those specific duties.)

    2. James*

      It’s not necessarily the gridlock you mention. I’ve heard of a lot of companies that put caps on internal promotions–meaning if you go from a janitor to a manager, and your new peers make 6x your previous salary, you may still only get a 10% or 15% raise. In such situations the only reasonable option is to move to a new company.

  35. AnotherAnony*

    I was asked during an interview, “You were at X for 6 years, Y for 6 years, and Z for 2 years. Why did you leave after 2 years?”

    I had the opposite problem compared to a job hopper, lol.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s kind of a silly question, though. 2 years is not a shameful amount of time to be somewhere. The last job I left after 2 years I did a ton at, didn’t leave on bad terms (in fact, they offered telecommuting to try to keep me), and didn’t hate either.

  36. Jade*

    What if you are leaving your industry? I’m in a situation where I’ve had several jobs fail in the past few years for what many people have told me are considered legitimate reasons (like getting assaulted by clients!), and at this point I’ve realized the common thread of all these failures is the field I’m in, and I just want out. Prior to that I worked at one company for 10 years, and since have also had recurring seasonal work and a part time job I enjoy. Will hiring managers be more accepting of that scenario? Is that something I’ll need to address in cover letters?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      I’m in a somewhat similar position; I’m tired of trying to make something stick with small businesses and I’d like to make the jump to a bigger corporation that feels more stable. I’m going to try to pick up new skills at my current job (one of the only tangible benefits of working at a small business with no official differentiation between jobs) and I wouldn’t be opposed to jump-starting my career track by getting a relevant certification.

  37. Bigglesworth*

    I have a question as a fairly new professional. I’m currently job-hunting because my job is incredibly toxic (I even wrote in to Alison and she said to start looking). Right now I’m considered a senior member of the team, since we’ve lost 65% of the staff in my department since I started. I work in higher education and would like to stay in it, but I’m having difficulties getting interviews. My current resume looks something like this:

    Current Job – 17 Months
    Job 1 – 1 Year (food service)
    Job 2 – 1 Year (Retail)
    Job 3 – 15 Months (Call Center Rep – Temporary)
    Job 4 – 4 Months (Seasonal/Summer)
    Job 5 – 4 Months (Seasonal/Summer)

    I’d hate to be considered a job hopper since most of my previous positions were seasonal and/or temporary, but it is a fear I have. Any advice or help to not be considered a job-hopper would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Bellatrix*

      Hm. Don’t take my word on this, but I’d probably leave all of your previous jobs off unless they’re specially relevant to the jobs you’re applying to. That way you’ll look like you graduated two years back and then stayed somewhere for a year and a half, and that’s just fine. Am I correct to assume you did in fact make the leap from food service to an office job and that’s what you’re pursuing now?

      1. Bigglesworth*

        Hmmm… I don’t think that that would work, since all of those jobs were in different parts of the country. Part of my problem is that I graduated in 2013, but moved to a different state the following fall after traveling overseas. I looked for different jobs while paying the bills working food service and retail. I’ll definitely think about leaving off some of the shorter jobs I worked while in college.

  38. De Minimis*

    My concern is I keep having to change jobs due to relocation. I know normally that’s okay, but for me it’s getting to the point of ridiculous, and I think employers may not trust me to stay in one place for longer than a couple of years. I have a feeling we’ll be moving again next year, and that means I’ll probably have less than two years in at my current job [was at the job prior to that for almost 3, but that’s the longest I’ve worked anywhere for the past 10 years.]

    1. Emma*

      That sounds like the kind of thing you explain in your cover letter, though to be honest, yeah, I could understand employers being wary. Though ~2 years is more what I’d consider the shorter side of an average stay, not necessarily job-hopping, though I get that varies by industry.

  39. Mx*

    I’ve overstayed at my last two jobs so as not to look job hoppy, which is kind of funny, because my field is the one full of job hoppers. My second to last company, in the time frame I was there, sold the project I was working on, then sold off stakes in the next project I worked on (twice, its complicated), and then a year after I left, finally sold itself.

    I think I’d have been bored though if I had spent the entire time in truly one part of the company, which has me kind of reflecting on things.

    1. Emma*

      You know, your last paragraph brings up a point – if you do take a serious look at your life/career and decide you’re okay with not getting good jobs/being stuck in retail/whatever, because, say, traveling is more important or you get bored with jobs after a while – I actually think that’s okay. It’s going to make a lot of employers look askance at you, but if you’ve legit decided there are more important things and don’t mind the consequences, that’s great. (My best friend is a job-hopper who is perfectly content doing retail and seasonal work because she prioritizes traveling.)

      What I get annoyed by, personally, are the people who think that all their job-hopping should just be ignored and, without explanation, I should believe that they’ll totally stick around this time. But if, say, I was hiring you for a seasonal job, and your “job-hopping” resume showed you doing seasonal gigs but completing the whole season, and you told me you intend to move on after the season’s over, I’d not consider that a black mark.

  40. Susan*

    I graduated in 2012, and I’ve never had a full-time job with benefits, only contracts. I want a full-time job, though! My current position just got extended for the second time, but the company doesn’t let temps stay for more than 18 months so this might be the end after this. I just feel like not a lot of people in my industry are able to offer full-time jobs anymore because the industry is struggling.

    I put language like “6-month contract extended based on performance” in the bullets for each position, so hopefully my ~1 year stays don’t look bad.

    I work in publishing, btw. Magazines and newspapers are folding left and right, so I guess it doesn’t look too odd to people anymore. I know one woman who was laid off twice in one year (the second organization laid off their entire staff, so it wasn’t performance based at all).

    1. Emma*

      Also, besides the industry consideration, I think contracts and seasonal work are different. You take those jobs knowing there’s an end point – maybe one that gets extended, but the general assumption is that those aren’t permanent jobs. As long as you list them as contracts/whatever in your resume (so hiring managers don’t just assume you up and left), it’s probably fine.

    2. Candi*

      Maybe a smaller book publishing house? I also know there’s companies* that contract to help independent publishers with aspects of the work they aren’t familiar with**, like artwork and marketing. (Watch out for the extortionists and scammers, though. You really don’t need that.)

      *I’ve heard good things about Lucky Bat Books. A person contracts for Y service for $X amount, and it gets done in a timely manner and good quality.
      **As a note to others, freelancers do this too. It’s just not what Susan expressed interest in.

  41. boop the first*

    And then there are cases where people stay a wee bit too long, now that every “entry level” white collar job requires 2 years relevant experience + a Bachelor’s degree. I take a huge pay cut every time I get a new shitty job. I lost $1.50/hour leaving a retail job for a hospitality job, and then lost more than $100/month moving from hospitality back to retail. That last move would have been way more painful though, if they were paying me anywhere NEAR what they were paying the men in my position. Thank heavens for that gender wage gap, amirite?

    1. Candi*

      Hypothetically, when someone is leaving anyway, it’s a really good time to report pay disparity nonsense. Just be careful when and where it’s done, and that the information is truly confidential.

      And don’t immediately believe a worker who tells you nothing can be done. I’ve run into a few such workers myself, and more than a few stories, where the issue was they didn’t want to deal with it, not that anything couldn’t be done. Laziness exists across all jobs.

  42. Bethlam*

    Interesting topic and comments, especially because job-hopping is generally so uncommon here. So maybe a bit of a tangent, but I wonder what role geography plays in longevity. It’s not unusual for people around here, professionals included, to spend most of their lives in one job, because you work where you grew up and where your family is. And nobody thinks that’s out of the ordinary or “looks sideways” at them wondering why they haven’t moved on/up.

    For example, I work for a manufacturer in a suburban/rural area.Out of 60 current employees, I have 34 who all have more than 15 years here, and 6 with 40+ years. These are all both laborer and professional positions, and many of my employees have never worked anywhere else. One of my engineers just celebrated his 43rd anniversary with this company. I’ve had 5 retirements in the last couple of years of employees all with 30 years or more.

    I would estimate that 95% of my employment base expected to retire from here. I say expected, past tense, because unfortunately, we were informed last month that, due to the economy, our business was being consolidated with our locations in 2 other states and this location will be closing. I certainly hope that everyone’s longevity is seen as an asset when we all look for new jobs.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Location makes a difference! When I lived in a large California city, job hopping is considered more of a normal. Nobody bats an eye at a series of 2-3 year stints. You move on to move up and gain experience. But now I live in a much smaller city in the East and job this kind of short tenure (anything under 3 years) is looked at as hopping.
      I have a lot of that, but in my case it was often due to layoffs or the company going out of business and I explain it that way.

    2. Manders*

      Location makes a huge difference! I live in a large city with lots of startups and tech companies that go through cycles of layoffs and hiring booms. The general attitude among a lot of my friends is that their jobs, and even their companies, might not exist in a decade or might look so completely different they won’t want to work there anymore.

  43. Manders*

    This is something I’m worrying about now–I have a history of jobs at small family-run companies, and sometimes, there’s just no way to advance past a certain point or take on new responsibilities when the person above you is never leaving. For my next job move, I think I’m going to have to look for a larger company, even though there are things I like about working at small ones.

    I think I’m in a bit of an unusual spot, though, because I work in an industry where a lot of people change jobs after 2 years. Plus, I’m in a city with a company that’s notorious for managing people out right at the 18-month mark.

    1. Emma*

      That, and as Alison keeps mentioning, cover letters! You can explain a lot of “sins” in a cover letter, and even turn them into strengths.

  44. Joe Blow*

    Companies (specifically HR, because they have nothing better to do) will sell you every different way about why it’s so great to work there, then you get into the position and find out it’s truly awful…but you have to spend a few months there first.

    Run into a few of those in a row, and your resume is screwed…because clueless HR types won’t even schedule you for a 1st interview. That is, Or they’ll hammer you relentlessly about why you left other places — even though you can never speak negatively about anywhere else you’ve ever worked.

    Of course, it’s only if their resume scanning software tells them to schedule someone, which interrupts scheduling their kids’ soccer games and all..

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