do you really have to stay at a job for at least a year?

I moved yesterday and am on an unpacking mission, so some posts this week will be reprints from years ago. This one is from November 2014, and I’ve updated in a few places.

A reader writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also! This is really important and commonly misunderstood: Making it to one year isn’t some magical mark where you’ll no longer look like a job hopper if you leave. One year is still really short in most fields, and if you have a string of multiple one-year stays, you’re going to look like a job-hopper. There is no “I made it to one year!” exemption from that.

Job hopping means multiple stays of under two or three years (whether it’s two or three depends on your field), in jobs that weren’t designed to be short-term (i.e., contract and temp jobs don’t count as job hopping).

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

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

{ 228 comments… read them below }

  1. Shadow*

    I’d go a bit further than that. As you progress you need to stay at jobs longer than 2-3 years or you risk not being able to show that you can implement long term projects-things like developing and/or implementing strategic plans or culture changes or other big changes that take more than a couple years to implement. Consistent stints of 5-7 years or more are expected once you start reaching the plateau where progression doesn’t happen as fast.

    1. Justin*

      I feel like, in an idealized world (depending on career track), it would look a bit like a gradual slope up. Shorter term after school ends, then a longer one, then a longer one, etc.

      1. Shadow*

        Really depends on your field and the opportunities in you’re org. If you’re like an architect or engineer you can be in the same job forever if you start at a large firm. you could progress in project scope/salary without ever changing titles or leaving.

        1. designbot*

          yep, and in those fields short stays can be even more egregious depending on your market sector. If you do a lot of retail or restaurants, shorter stays are fine but if you’re in education or healthcare short stays can mean you’ve never seen a project through start to finish. Know your market and how long it takes to be truly effective in it.

    2. Jamey*

      I think this is totally industry specific. In tech, I don’t know nearly anyone, even very senior people, who have ever been at a job that long.

      1. Shadow*

        Tech is dysfunctional and an outlier. Skills are so in demand that nearly everything else is overlooked

        1. The Green Lawintern*

          IT Specialist Georg, who switches jobs every 10,000 seconds, is an outlier adn should not have been counted.

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          I wouldn’t say that tech is dysfunctional, but it probably is an outlier. Still, it’s something the OP should be aware of if they’re in tech – changing jobs every 3-4 years isn’t a bad thing, and being somewhere longer than 5-7 years is actually kind of unusual.

          1. Shadow*

            IT is dysfunctional in that very few people have successfully shown that they can fix talent problems which leads to projects being dropped and restarted every time someone leaves. Accepting high turnover is dysfunctional

            1. Quirk*

              I’m not sure companies “accept” high turnover. The many many perks of tech jobs are designed to win over their staff, and arguably tech companies go a great deal further to try and acquire employee loyalty than most non-tech companies do. The reality of the situation is though that bored or upset employees have many other options, and keeping everyone happy is not always going to be possible.

              And, of course, in such a context only hiring people who have stayed in the same place a long time is a great way to build a collection of people who haven’t moved about because they haven’t had that option, i.e. the people who can’t get hired elsewhere.

              I don’t see many options that tech companies aren’t already utilising to try and stop the bleeding. How would you go about it, if you were in tech?

      2. Spooky*

        Yeah, marketing is like that as well. My boss is a senior VP, and his longest stay anywhere is 2 years (and this is a marketing department for a financial company, which is a sector that people usually think of as more traditional and slow-moving.) Even a friend of mine who works at a government agency told me that hiring managers there valued lots of experience at a variety of companies more highly than experience at just one company.

          1. GarlicMicrowaver*

            It’s not that. It’s that marketing/advertising (especially the creative sector) is an incestuous and competitive industry. I say that based on experience and fact. Poaching and company swapping is common. As a former marketing creative myself, I have 4 agencies under my belt, each under 3 years with the exception of one where I stayed 5 years. Believe it or not, that was questioned in interviews! Imagine that.

        1. anan*

          In my two experiences in government:

          1. As an intern with the NPS, it was explained to me that there were more or less two types of employees. The first was lifers who found a job near where they grew up when they were young, and stayed out their career. They might be your rank and file park rangers and low to mid level administrative staff. Whereas those who were ambitious enough to want to be a park superintendent or direct policy at a national level would jump on promotional opportunities as they came along, at whatever park they might be. They would stay relatively short stints in any location and then move on (probably 1-3 years).

          2. As a planner in local government, our civil service recruitment process means that there’s a limited ability to grow in place. You will never be rewarded for doing well with a raise and a title promotion. Nearly every position must be filled through a competitive process. As a result, you might stay only a year or two at a particular position, but if you wish to be promoted you will have to move on. Of course, as you move up there are fewer positions at every successive level, so people naturally start to stay longer. But especially as you move from entry to mid level, it’s very common to move to new positions after 1-2 years.

          In both cases, though, it’s worth noting that you stay within the same umbrella organization and you’re building institutional knowledge over time.

          1. De Minimis*

            This is what I noticed while I was in government too. The upper level people often moved around, and even when they did stay for a while they would often be called upon to work at long-term detail assignments at other locations.

            I’m in non-profit now and people seem to stick with one employer long-term, but my current employer tends to promote from within so that’s probably why.

            I’ve had some job hopping in my past and really need to stick it out for a while, but I’m not that happy so I may end up hopping again soon.

      3. neverjaunty*

        While true, that also depends on your area of tech. If you’re in video games, nobody blinks if you job hop. If you’re in network management, less so.

        1. Grace*

          Same with show biz and/or entertainment. Unless you run a real studio, no one blinks twice at frequent job changes.

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          Yeah, I work in video games and most people move around every 2-5 years or so. People who have been working in the same position or progressively more responsible positions for longer than 7 years are unusual, and usually happen at really big companies with several studios and teams.

      4. Just Another Techie*

        It depends on what sector in tech also. I work in computer hardware, and early career it’s common to see people leave after 2-3 years, but mid-career it’s more like 6-8. I have friends who work in software with similar tenures, but they are all in net infrastructure type jobs. The super short job stays are really only common in startups, in the valley, and web (and even in web, at respected established employers like Google you still see people staying 5-7 years at minimum).

      5. Don't turn this name into a hyperlink*

        For the record, the CS Career Questions subreddit seems to agree with the “don’t excessively job hop later, but reasonably short stints earlier are fine” advice:

        According to one comment in particular, “It depends on where you’re at in your career. It’s expected that new programmers would job hop, so long as you have less than 3 years experience, then nobody cares that much. Also later on, avoid strings of frequent job hopping, if you can.”

      6. AdAgencyChick*

        Same with advertising, especially at more junior levels. My industry has an epidemic of short-sightedness in which agencies refuse to give employees market-level raises along with promotions, so everybody jumps ship every 18 months during the first few years of your career to build your salary.

        Of course as a hiring manager I’d *like* to see a pattern of people staying 2 or more years at jobs, but I understand why it doesn’t happen (and if I’m hiring for a junior position, I don’t expect that I’ll have that person longer than a year and a half). If I see multiple stays of a year or less, though, I’m going to ask questions.

        1. Teapots Project Manager*

          Hi. I’m also an agency chick but I’m at sort of an outlier agency – because we’re 100% remote many of our employees are people who have constraints that make it hard for them to work a 9-5. It really is a lovely place because this allows a lot of diverse people to work with us.

          Unfortunately for me, though, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and there is no pay scaling based on where we live, so my dream agency with an inclusive culture leaves me poor as a church mouse. This was so, so helpful – I’ve been arguing with myself that it would not be good to leave after 3 years … but money!

        2. Princess Carolyn*

          Most of my career has been in advertising or journalism, two industries that just don’t give anyone a damn raise. Working at the same place for 5 years usually means making the same salary for 5 years, and that’s kind of untenable at the more junior levels. I’ve been working 7 years and increased my salary 62% (in comparable COL markets) without ever receiving a raise or promotion.

    3. CM*

      I think this is a great point that gets overlooked in questions about how soon you can leave without affecting your future job prospects. It’s not just about whether prospective employers see you as a risk because you’re not committed. The longer you stay, the more responsibility you have and the more you have to deal with long-term projects and cleaning up messes that only surface over a long period of time. You develop skills and experience when you stay at one place for a long time that you don’t get when you move around. (Of course, you get different skills and experience from moving.)

      1. Shadow*

        I heard somewhere that you become stale after about 7 yrs but I think that’s mostly BS. I think you become stale when you stop keeping up with and incorporating industry improvements.

        1. Lora*

          It also depends on which company you are staying at: if you’re at a company with a good reputation that is known to be full of innovation and so forth, then staying there a while is fine and good. If you’re at a company with a mediocre or bad reputation, staying there implies that nobody else wanted to hire you.

          There’s one in my field where really good people who have other options don’t stay longer than two years. The only reason anyone stays is for the golden handcuffs or lack of other options. It’s a really chaotic place with poor management culture, and the good managers don’t stay because they don’t want to work with a bunch of ding-dongs and nobody ever cleans house as thoroughly as needed because that would leave a bunch of really critical positions open that would effectively shut down the business. Replacing ding-dongs bit by bit is hard, because executive searches take a while (especially when your reputation as a company is horrible) and by the time they find a replacement, two good people have quit.

        2. Lolli*

          I think you are right about getting stale being BS. I’ve been in IT for 18 years and am always learning new things. But I have also been at the same place. Some people expect IT folks to have multiple different places to draw their experience from. If I only have experience from 1 place, I am not as valuable as someone who has done private sector, public sector and Sm/Lg business.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes to that last part if you’re with a company that encourages professional development and allows you to progress into other roles; adopts new tools and technology, etc.
          Whereas, where I work, people have been in their same roles as long as 20 years; we don’t adopt to change or new technology much; and there’s a lack of diversity and serious group-think problem from all that. So I’m afraid if/when I go to look for something else, it’s going to cause pause for some larger more progressive organizations.

      2. OldJules*

        Depends though, if you are getting more experience on the same thing (e.g. annual programs that runs like clockwork), it might not give you the career progression that you want. Branching out, trying different things in the same position, could prove more valuable than doing the same thing over and over.

        1. Shadow*

          Getting stale is more about getting passed up by changes in your field and having skills that are no longer in demand. Most everyone who stays in a job for a while basically does the same thing every year but you progress at the same time. Different problems come up or you improve what you’re doing or you respond to competition, but mostly jobs change incrementally from year to year once you’re in an established company.

    4. OldJules*

      Unless you are in a hot skill job. I don’t do it lightly, but I have average of 2-3 years tenure. It helps because it gives me multi-skill and multiple perspective of how things are done. Again, this is atypical.

    5. DArcy*

      Sure, *if* you’re in the sort of job where you’re actually expected to do long term projects at all. No one is going to reasonably expect you to stay like that in entry-level hourly jobs.

    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Working on grant funded projects is an exception to that. Most grants in my field are for 5 years and sometimes get a second round of funding for another 5 and then the research focus switches. So, depending on when you hired in, you might never get a chance to do 7 years and that is OK because generally only the PIs are on for the full 10 (assuming 2 funding rounds)

    7. Elaine*

      Well, another instance where military spouses take a beating, I suppose (that and rarely living anywhere long enough to finish a terminal degree from a respectable institution).

  2. Allie Oops*

    I moved yesterday and am on an unpacking mission

    I moved in 2006 and I’m not finished unpacking. :(

    1. What's in a name*

      Mom still had a few boxes in the basement when she sold the house to my sister 15 years later. don’t know what my sister did with them. She sold the house last year.

    2. Red Reader*

      I implemented a rule several moves back that any box that hadn’t been opened within six months of the move was getting chucked unopened. :P (I also made a rule that boxes were not to be labeled “Misc” or “Stuff” or anything equally unhelpful.) It’s worked well so far.

      1. Jake*

        I moved 4 times in 5 years, and our rule was always during the packing phase, “if it crosses your mind to get rid of it, it’s gone”

        That helps so much with unpacking because there is nothing worse than throwing stuff away that you just spent effort moving!

        1. Noah*

          Yup, after multiple cross-country moves that were paid for my the company, I finally had to pay for one myself. You start looking at things differently when you are paying by the pound to move them. The guy that came to give me a quote even pointed out cheap furniture that I should toss, sell, or giveaway instead of paying them to move.

          1. Solidus Pilcrow*

            My previous cross-state move for a 1-bedroom apt (and mostly just large furniture, not even packing/moving most of the personal stuff) was nearly $5000. I could have replaced everything for half that or less. It wasn’t like they were antiques or anything expensive.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        On my most recent move, I implemented a process of labeling boxes only with a letter (my roommates, who were moving separately, used numbers, so our boxes weren’t confused) and keeping a notebook with detailed lists of what was in each box.

        It made my life so, so much better when it came to unpacking.

      3. Lora*

        What if you move in spring and it’s a box of Xmas ornaments?

        I wouldn’t blame you for saying you buy new ornaments. My mother was into that for a while, Xmas trees had a new color/theme every year. When we moved from the one house we threw out huge trash bags full of plastic pears and fake birds from the Partridge In A Pear Tree year, bags of stars, a bunch of doves…like six huge trash bags full of the holiday theme of the year.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          If they serve a specific seasonal purpose and would normally live unused in a box for much of the year even if you hadn’t just moved, I think that’s a reasonable exception to the rule :-)

          1. ACS*

            Yes, there’s always good exceptions to that sort of thing. It reminds me of the uncluttering rule that states “throw out anything you haven’t needed in the past year”. If you followed that to the letter, you’d be throwing out fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, spare tires…

      4. King Friday XIII*

        A word of warning about that rule – Erin Doland of Unclutterer has talked about how following that rule once cost her her birth certificate, Social Security card and passport. ;)

    3. Midge*

      I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever been fully unpacked since a cross-country move in 2011. I’ve moved five times since then. Ugh.

      1. Sarah*

        We recently moved, and I found PANTRY ITEMS that had somehow made it through two cross-country and one in-city move. How did I not manage to throw these things out earlier???

        1. Lora*

          Hahaha OMG I used to have a box that was mostly condiments that were cleaned out of other people’s pantries when *they* moved, and they knew I liked to cook so they gave it to me. I have a can of, I am not kidding, government surplus pork, circa 1946. I saved it because every time some politician goes on the news fussing about cutting pork-barrel spending, it makes me smile.

      2. Julia*

        I’ve moved five times (or more) since 2015. Most of my non-essential stuff is at my parents’ house these days, waiting for me to finally settle down.

    4. KAZ2Y5*

      I moved a year ago and almost had my house ready, then my mom moved in…. This was a planned move, but she’s got lots of stuff! It may be at least another year before my house is good again!

  3. Jamey*

    I work in startups and I also think that short stints come with the territory. Many startups don’t even exist for two or three years for you to stay at. That kind of instability is part of the job and leads to a lot of job changes.

    1. Shadow*

      whats the point of working for startups that you expect to fail after a couple of years? Are you playing the lottery?

        1. An Old HR Pro*

          In the tech world, it can also be a way to get experience in bleeding edge technology.

      1. Jamey*

        It’s not that I expect the startups that I personally work for to fail, it’s just realism about the percentage rates of startups that fail and those that succeed.

        I mean… it’s a little like playing the lottery in some ways but it’s not like I feel like I “lost” if I work somewhere that doesn’t become wildly successful. I feel like what I’m doing is worthwhile, I try my best to help it succeed, I get good experience in the process and if it fails anyway, I need to be prepared for that.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, ok overall. But you gotta do your due diligence on their funding situation; if they’re not profitable yet, how much runway do they have; when does next product get released; do they have big contracts looming, etc. If all that looks good and they still fail, either they lied or are inept at managing the business.

          1. Jamey*

            That’s an incredibly overly simplified view. Failure is very common for startups. Some great ideas just don’t catch on the way you hope they will. If you want to work in startups, you have to be prepared for and comfortable with the fact that it might fail and there might not be someone to point the blame finger at.

      2. #WearAllTheHats*

        The goal for startups is usually to be ACQUIRED, not fail. But when they fail, they usually fail fast. When they succeed, it’s exhilarating.

      3. TootsNYC*

        The goal is to get great experience.

        With startups, you often get to do a far broader set of tasks and achieve a far broader set of goals or accomplishments than at an established company.
        Plus, you get to achieve something. At an established company, you are mostly maintaining.

        No one really knows for sure whether a startup will fail. Some people might be pretty certain of it, and take the risk anyway, because they trust that their skills will find them employment quickly when it does. And in the meantime, maybe they’re earning well. Or they’re getting their foot in at a place that gives them the chance to learn on the job. Or they don’t have other offers.

        Plus, even w/ an established company, I don’t have a big bet on the company itself. So unless you’re working for options or something, it’s not that big of a bet for the employee.

        1. Shadow*

          thats true but unlike established small businesses everyone is hoping the business machine will work according to plan. You may be a part of a broken machine and not even know how much you contributed to it. Tough way to gauge how good you are at your job.

          1. HMM*

            That… is not true in my experience. You can definitely still gauge how good you are at your job by looking at metrics related to your performance on projects; how far you advanced x, y, z; what you were able to implement while you were at the startup; etc. If fact, I think many people are able to do MORE at start ups to show how good they are because there’s more room to grow and experiment. But the definition of success for a start up is varied: you could get acquired and integrated with a larger business, you could take it all the way into a viable independent business, you can pivot to new markets and become an entirely different kind of business, your founder can decide to shut things down because they don’t want to do it anymore… none of these are actually a poor reflection on the business or on the employees themselves. It’s just a risk you take in order to be in the startup environment.

            There’s a narrative of silicon valley tech startups out there that sort of permeates the culture’s consciousness, and while some of it is true, that experience isn’t the same across the board for all startups. My boyfriend owns a startup with no VC funding that has steady growth year over year and over a million dollars in revenue. Nobody is crazy – it really runs like a normal business. 3 founders, 3 employees. Regardless of what happens to the company, every one of them can point to growth in experience and skills when they’re ready to move on to a new gig.

            1. HMM*

              And in a start up, nobody goes into a startup thinking “I hope this fails!” They think, “maybe this is a higher risk than other options, but I want to join for x reasons and that’s sufficient for what I want out of my career right now.” It’s the same calculation you’d make at any organization, really.

              I dislike working at startups myself because I like more corporate, established environments. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t see the value of working in a start up environment for the right kind of people.

          2. TootsNYC*

            You can gauge that yourself, many times. Most people can sense their own skill levels. Sure, some can’t, or some exaggerate, but most people can tell they’ve gotten better.

            1. Shadow*

              of course. I’m just thinking as an outsider if I see someone who keeps working at startups that fail, especially in more significant roles, I’d start wondering if and how much that person contributed to the failure.

              1. Jamey*

                I read a statistic once that 75% of venture backed startups fail. So it is risky but I’m still making money and getting great experience. It would be silly to judge someone for being part of a series of failed startups. Being part of failed companies is something that WILL happen if you make the decision to go down that career path.

  4. Amber Rose*

    What about within the same employer? Like, if you take a job for a year with a huge corporation, and then after a year move to a different job and branch but still in the same corporation? Is that job hopping or just moving around?

    Have a friend who is working as X in Location A for just over a year and is hoping to get on as Y at Location B since the current job isn’t that great, and he’s worried it hasn’t been long enough. It wouldn’t be a transfer, he has to go through the usual application steps.

    1. CM*

      I think if you’re applying for external jobs, that wouldn’t be seen as job hopping. For internal jobs, I think it would be seen as job hopping if people understood that your moves were by your personal choice and were not requested by management.

      1. Anonygoose*

        Wouldn’t it look less job-hoppy if you stayed with the same company and only made internal moves?

        1. AMD*

          Are the moves showing career progression or indecision and inability to stay on one team? Because progression to higher levels of responsibility are good things.

          1. Sarah*

            Agree, I don’t think a promotion within the same company would be seen as job hopping! There could be times when a person is asking about promotions too early than is reasonable for their position/company structure, but that’s very specific to the company/job and they could discuss it with their manager.

        2. AMPG*

          It depends – I was once on the selection committee for the new VP of our division. The candidate who was clearly the favorite of our then-CEO had been with the same organization for over 10 years, but never more than 18-24 months in one position, including upper-level management. I brought it up in our interview with him, because I knew there was nowhere to advance to in our office and was concerned that he’d jump ship when we really needed someone to create stability in an office that hadn’t had strong leadership recently. Turns out I was right – he got the job and left after two years.

      2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

        I wouldn’t see that as job hopping, and I don’t think moves made by personal choice as opposed to solely due to management request are bad either. For example, applying for a promotion, going for a position at a different location closer to home, applying for a new position in a new department – all of those would be considered moves made by personal choice.

        I should also note that several of the companies where I’ve worked (especially larger companies) had policies in place about how long someone needed to be an employee before applying for another position within the company. If your friend’s company has such a policy, and he’s been an employee for the required amount of time, he should be fine.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I don’t see that as the same -I was at my last company for 9 years, 5 1/2 as a contractor, and got assigned to different departments every so often. I spent a year here, a year there, two years, six months in another … it seemed pretty normal as departments shifted, but I was using similar skills and building long-term experience and knowledge.

      1. Midge*

        I’m so curious about how these sort of internal promotions work. I came from arts non-profits where people stayed in their jobs for a long time and there was little organizational growth, so there just weren’t internal promotions available. Now I’m trying to go into educational technology, and from looking at people’s LinkedIn profiles it seems like getting a series of internal promotions after only being in the new position for 6-12 months is pretty common. From my outsider perspective, I wonder how people are even able to learn/master new skills or have significant accomplishments in their jobs is the move up so quickly. Anyone have experience with this?

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m not sure, since none of mine were really promotions, all lateral moves (though with some increasing responsiblity). I have seen people get promoted, though, and I think in some cases someone is leaving or the department is being shifted around and so a higher-up says “hey I think Jane would be good for this position”.

    3. Alleira*

      I think it looks less like job hopping at the same employer, especially if there is an upward trend in terms of responsibility. I’ve been at my current employer for six years this month and I went from Senior Teapot Attorney to Director of Cracked Teapots to Director of Teapots in that time. Next year I will probably (God willing) be in a VP of Teapots position. I don’t think a prospective employer would look at that progression as job hopping as all of the positions were upward moves with more responsibility involved.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, internal promotions are absolutely NOT job-hopping. In fact, it’s the opposite–it’s a really GOOD thing. It means that people who actually saw your day-to-day work in real time, real life, thought you were capable of doing more and liked having you around.

        Even if it’s not necessarily up, but is around–you’re at the same employer.

        1. DDJ*

          Although as AMD mentioned above, there’s a difference between a promotion within the same or similar group, versus jumping from group to group. I’ve seen resumes for internal applicants that basically show they get bored within a year. And for some entry level positions, that’s fine, but with positions that require more stability, you can’t afford to have someone come on and then jump ship in a year or two (as with the situation AMPG mentioned).

    4. Shadow*

      You can look like an internal job hopper if youre constantly moving and don’t get anything big done. I’ve seen though

      1. Alastair*

        Yes I stopped showing all of my internal transfers for this reason. It made it look like I was listless and hopping around but in reality the company just had that many re orgs! Since it was all in one role I listed it as one position and only listed my accomplishments and had a a lot of interviews pretty much instantly after taking the change.

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      Hmm, it’s definitely dependent on the type of work you’re doing and the organization you work at.

      I work at a public university and it’s almost impossible to get fired unless you do something egregious. If you are a chronic underperformer or a bad fit, you get plenty of warnings. There are people who have worked at this university for a long time and move from one department to another every year or so. Their bosses want to get rid of them so they act as positive references for the employee, who really shouldn’t be working for any department at all.

      While I appreciate my job security, I really dislike how easy it is for bad employees to stick around.

  5. CatCat*

    If you don’t like your particular job or team, you might consider moving around in the organization if it’s big enough for something like that.

    I’ve worked in 4 positions (same title though different types of work) in the first 5.5 years in my current profession, but I only worked at two organizations. One for two years and one for 3.5 years. Doesn’t look so job hoppy and gave me a broader range of experience.

  6. Future Homesteader*

    I was recently grappling with this one, myself. I’ve made the decision to stay (my job is by no means terrible, just unfulfilling) for at least another year, but my question is how do you balance this with a desire to move up? I’m early enough in my career that I have a lot of one-year stints for good reasons (moving, temping, AmeriCorps, more temping), and one solid stretch where I grew and gained responsibility. This new job, though, was supposed to be at least a lateral move but has instead been a bit of a step back, responsibility-wise. So on the one hand, I want to show I’m reliable and can stay. But on the other hand, I feel like the farther away I get from my previous job where I had more responsibility, the more I’m going to pigeonhole myself and I’m worried about being stuck at lower levels (and I’m not seeing a lot of room for growth here). The conclusion I’ve come to is it’s still a better bet to stay here, do as well as I can, and then make my next move very strategically, but is that really the case?

    1. Luke*

      It is a tricky balance. One cannot just leave at the first undersireable event at work; but there are limits of dysfunction where any reasonable person would leave forthwith. Enduring abuse or physical assault to avoid the impression of a “job hopper” isn’t good either.

      That said; someone who spent four years at a dysfunctional office may be more valuable then an employee with equivalent experience at a well run firm.They see tangible examples of how NOT to run a team, which is valuable knowledge in its own right. It’s also a badge of assurance that a staff member can handle reasonable workplace challenges without breaking under pressure.

    2. A Person*

      I’d say a year isn’t that long a period of time over the course of a career but it’s probably worth doing some research/planning now so you can make a better move when it does become time to leave.

      I’m holding out with my current job because pretty much any move I could make is this point would be lateral. For me, the next step will likely come from the next-stage qualification I’m starting next month so I figure I may as well hold onto the accured holiday time/management good will and jump ship once I’m in a position to make an upward step which could be anywhere from 8 months to two years away. It’s not exactly what I hoped for but I’d rather make the best out of an adequate thing and making a really good move later than risk jumping into the fire (again).

    3. Shadow*

      Give yourself some time to fully evaluate whether it’s something you want to do or if staying in this job will help you in the future. Sometimes just seeing how other parts of the organization work make you more effective when you move back to the role you prefer. I know some people who, in their desire to make themselves more valuable, plan to work in as many areas of an org as possible even if that particular profession is not their ultimate goal.

    4. Ghost Town*

      Use this year to focus on ways to improve yourself, professionally. Join committees, take advantage of tangentially related professional development opportunities, seek out professional organizations for your field. When I was poking my elbows through the edges of my last job and getting little traction in my job search, I did these types of things to satiate the initial “gotta move!” impulse and make me a better professional (therefore better at CurrentJob and more attractive to FutureJob).

  7. Jake*

    Yeah, I took my third job in 5 years with the knowledge that I HAD to make this one work for a long while to avoid that label. I’d say the only magic plateau that truly means you have absolutely no risk of looking like a job hopper is the five year mark. At that point, in almost every conceivable field/situation, you’ve made a true commitment. The one year mark isn’t special.

    1. MechE31*

      I’m in the same boat. Had 2 jobs that lasted just under 2 years each (after a 6 year stint). I’m 18 months into my 3rd job and feel like I’ll be here for a while.

  8. It's almost lunch wahoo!*

    I’m in development (fundraising) and right now the average stint in a position, according to one of our professional associations, is only 14 months. It’s really hardly enough time to learn everything as fundraising is almost always on an annual cycle. But everyone is almost always hiring fundraisers, so it’s easy to jump ship if where you are isn’t working out. It does speak to a need to encourage good people to stay though. Higher salaries, less stress, etc is definitely needed in this field.

    1. Jake*

      Yeah, the average stint in my first full time job out of school was just over a year in an annual cycle type of job. Most people left the position before they every really refined any of their skills. They learned a lot of raw skills, but that second year was when I truly got a chance to apply and improve those skills.

    2. CR*

      I’m in the same field and I agree. All the higher ups want people to stay long-term, but the pay doesn’t encourage that at all.

      1. Amy*

        The lack of pay and the fact that sometimes expectations and goals* are so beyond reality that leaving is the only way out…at least, that was my experience. Was hired as the assistant TO the DD (insert Dwight Schrute joke here) in Nov 2015. Excelled in that role. When DD left September 16 I was promoted to her role. It was an absolute miserable failure for many reasons. Ended up leaving just this past July. Overall less than two years at the org and only 9 months in the DD position.

        *Such as being asked to draft a plan to raise $300K in 30 days when revenue all over had taken a nose dive. Then asked on my second to last day what the next steps were and how to implement it…um, hire someone with a history of righting the ship, pay them a living wage, and trust them to do what they do. Amy out. *drops mic*

    3. Malibu Stacey*

      I’m an admin for a certain type of sales and a lot of our candidates go to new firms every couple of years and it’s not a hindrance for them, either. Having good sales numbers is more important than staying at your former firm X amount of time.

      1. Shadow*

        The sales people I see usually start out really strong then slow down at about the 2-3 year mark. And when commissions go down and you feel like you’ve already hit up the majority/all of your prospects it can feel like it’s time to move on. But you won’t typically get into the best of the best companies if you do that.

    4. ALP123*

      This is so, so true. I left my first position in development after 9 months because the organization was going through layoffs and had zero direction. After a year at my second job, I’m already thinking about what’s next. Someone told me that in this field – the only way to move up is to move on.

    5. Nikki*

      See this is where I struggle. I just finished my first year working in development. My job before this was only a year so I had decided to stay here at least 3. In the year I’ve been here the amount of turnover is ridiculous. However, I’m realizing if I ever want to make more money I’m going to have to change jobs, if I want more responsibility I’m going to have to change jobs. I’m not sure I can stick out the 3 years I had originally planned, will try for the two though!

      1. Shadow*

        If you’re very early in your career it’s fine to progress to a better position/company coming up on 2 years

        1. Nikki*

          Thanks for saying this. This is my first career job, I’m hoping to be able to learn enough to move up and out. Everyone I meet in real life is always appalled at the idea of leaving in under 5 years, but I just cannot keep making minimum wage and survive in the city I’m living in. Right now it’s worth it for the experience but shortly I’ll have to either move on for more money for leave the state for somewhere cheaper.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Different field, but I once worked in a place for 3.5 years and became the institutional knowledge not just for my job, but every other position since I had covered them all for at least a few months. It was insane

    6. k.k*

      I’m in my first development job and was surprised to learn what high turnover there was in this field. It is nice when job hunting though because there’s no lack of positions to apply for, but disheartening to think that once I lad a gig I’ll likely have to start the hunt all over soon enough.

    7. phedre*

      I’m a Director of Development & Marketing and it’s always made me laugh when I hear people talk about the average tenure of a Development Director being 2 years. I feel like it takes 6 months – 1 year to really get to know your org, develop relationships with donors, and start making a difference. So if you’re leaving jobs every 2 years then how much are you accomplishing, and how does the org benefit?

      Don’t get me wrong though, I know a lot of the turnover is due to things like unrealistic expectations on the part of the ED/Board (no, I can’t grow individual giving from $30,000 to $500,000 in a year) or poverty level wages. And I definitely don’t judge early career development professionals for moving jobs frequently – those early career jobs pay terribly and expect a lot, so it’s smart for development people to move on as soon as they can get a better paying job.

      I’m lucky – I currently work at a nonprofit that pays me a good salary and has reasonable expectations about revenue growth. I asked a lot of questions in my interview though about goals, budgets, expectations, culture, etc., although that doesn’t always guarantee that you can avoid bad workplaces, it can help.

      I’ve been promoted twice in the 3.5 years I’ve been here and don’t plan on leaving for at least another 2-5 years – when you have a good thing, hold onto it! But I know jobs like this are few and far between in fundraising.

  9. Cordelia*

    I worked at one job for two years, one for five months, and now I’m coming up on three years for my current job. The five-monther was a horrible job; I was underpaid, overworked, and always stressed and I knew that as soon as I found a new position I was leaving.

    1. TootsNYC*

      And if I saw that, I might say, “what happened at that job?” but I’d expect the answer to be: “they were unstable” or “it turned out to be horrible hours” or “the job wasn’t as advertised” or something.

      I absolutely would expect the fault (if there was one) to be the company, on a resumé like that.

      (I might expect to hear “got a far better offer and couldn’t pass it up”–that happens sometimes; the other places you interviewed don’t hire you then but come back a few months later to see if you’re still in the market)

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I have one job where I worked there barely over a year. I left because my partner got a job in Rabat, Morocco and (when I was decided whether to relocate or not) my network connected me to an amazing job there.

        3 years with his employer covering all expenses except phone and food, a free move, free language school, and a job with a prestigious organization in my field doing amazing, relevant work…no interviewer has ever questioned my decision beyond, “So if I wanted to do that, how would I go about it?”

  10. CR*

    I sympathize with you LW, I’ve made it to month 11 and I’m planning my escape. I use working hours to job hunt, research, and brush up my resume.

  11. LoV*

    Also, it might take a long time to find another job, which might be a blessing in disguise if you’re currently employed.

    1. Squeeble*

      I was gonna say this. At 10.5 months, who knows, the OP could still be in that job another six months before being able to leave.

    2. TootsNYC*

      And, if the OP starts looking tomorrow and gets an offer three days later, everyone will assume that she has been looking longer, and her current employer may react as though she started looking at 6 months, which could affect the reference she’d get.

      She can combat that by pointing out that she -just- started looking because she thought it would take her longer, but she got lucky early. Nobody will know if it’s baloney or not, but it’ll help by at least acknowledging the “break in norms.”

  12. Granny K*

    This is why I like a contract-to-hire. You get to see the inner workings of a company before actually committing. And if you don’t like it, you’re a contractor, so you can pretty much leave after a ‘short’ period of time or after a project ends.

    1. Shadow*

      The downside of contract to hire is that it can look like you weren’t good enough if you didn’t get hired.

  13. Alleira*

    This is a totally timely question for me! I am currently hiring for a management position at my organization and some of the applicants have a clear pattern of staying at a single employer for 18 months (plus or minus a few months) before leaving. I realize this may be a Millennial thing, but I do not interview these people if I can help it. It is TOUGH to find a good candidate and it takes a lot of resources to train someone. If I think they’re likely to leave in a year and a half to two years it is just not worth it to me to even meet with them. I am sure some may think this is Ye Olde Fashioned (I’m 36, for the record), but I’m looking for a history that shows some kind of loyalty and growth at a current or previous employer.

    1. edj3*

      Well . . . I’m not a millennial (far older than that), and I have some short stints on my resume thanks to first being a trailing spouse, then trying to find a job as a slightly senior manager during the recession in 2008 while living in a completely new area of the country (so no network connections) and then taking an offer because my husband’s job was being eliminated–and then being laid off 15 months later.

      Sure, sometimes the short tenure is a warning but sometimes it’s just rotten timing.

      1. fposte*

        I think there are two issues. First, is somebody a job-hopper who’s likely to walk out the door after a year or so? Second, does this position need or benefit from the deeper understanding somebody who’s been able to develop longer roles and projects can bring? People who’ve been laid off and have had temp jobs end aren’t job-hoppers. Sometimes, though, a company still wants somebody with longer-term experience in a role.

    2. Elmyra Duff*

      Why should an employee be loyal to a company that wouldn’t be loyal to them? Looking for growth I can understand, but company loyalty? That went out the door with pensions and living wages.

      1. Shadow*

        You can continue with that perspective but it will cost you opportunities. When you have the luxury of many qualified candidates how long you’re likely to stick around is a major factor in hiring.

      2. self employed*

        Longevity is not about loyalty. It’s about seeing projects through and having a track record of success. These candidates have a track record of staying 18 months.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          Alleira specifically mentioned company loyalty though. I doubt Elmyra Duff is arguing against staying in a rewarding job long enough to excel at it and be a good investment, so much as the concept that employees owe employers loyalty regardless of what they’re getting out of it (the latter was not in Alleira’s comment but is a major problem with the concept of “company loyalty.”)

    3. jv*

      I’m the same age as you and in my professional career path I have had one 18 month stint… the others are 5 years, 3 years, and now 2 so far! I think the world is changing. Many employers do not reward loyal employees. I left my prior positions because there was no room for growth and I was no longer feeling challenged. For at least two of the roles I’ve held, I wish I had left earlier.

      There’s also the fact that so many employers do not demonstrate the same loyalty to their employees. There are so many layoffs nowadays that people are super wary and have become more concerned about their own survival, rather than relying on a company.

      I don’t believe it’s purely a millennial thing. The times are changing and I’ve seen it in millennials and baby boomers.

    4. namenamename*

      This is tough, but helpful to hear. I have a resume like this (no job longer than two years, plus stints in grad programs) and I am forcing myself to stay in my current position for at least 2.5, hopefully 3 years. I’ve been here a year and a half and it’s hard not to jump for the next big increase in pay/title elsewhere, but I know it would likely hurt me in the long run.

    5. CMDRBNA*

      I think you may be missing out on some otherwise good candidates, unless you really just want someone who will park their butt in a chair and stay. I’d personally rather have someone good at their job for 2 years than someone bad at their job for 10!

      Also, for employers – unless it’s entry level jobs or jobs where you expect someone to leave after a year or two, if you have high turnover, look in the mirror first. I just came from an organization that had notoriously high turnover in an industry that usually doesn’t, and they didn’t invest in their workers “because of the high turnover.” Nope, the turnover is high because you don’t invest.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Counterpoint: You can’t accomplish big things if you’re wasting time clinging to “company loyalty” at a company that has no want/need/ability to give you the experience you need to be great.

          I’m really tired of this idea that just anyone can step on the Responsibility Escalator at any employer. Some places don’t need more people to take on projects outside their job scope because they’re already paying other people to do those things (and they’re also paying you to do whatever your job is and if you have “extra time,” they must have budgeted incorrectly for your role)—or they’ll give you all the extra work you want but then never be willing to pay you more since you’re already doing that work at a lower rate.

          It sounds like you’ve never worked for an employer (or multiple employers) that try to screw you at every turn. I’m happy for you, but you should be aware that your experience is an outlier and basing general advice on the premise that your experience is universal is a mistake.

        2. CMDRBNA*

          False. My current boss is leaving this Friday. She only worked here for a year and a half, and we’re all very sad to see her go, but she totally turned around the culture and morale of her department and instituted some very much-needed processes.
          She did accomplish big things. Obviously, whether or not the department continues the progress she’s made depends on who is hired and how the transition is managed, but dismissing someone’s accomplishments out of hand because they didn’t stay for an arbitrary amount of time is pretty short-sighted.
          Some positions just have an expiration date, especially more entry-level ones (yes, I realize that the position the original poster in this thread posted about isn’t one of those), but there may be other reasons that a position has a lot of turnover. Low pay? Rigid office culture? Poor benefits? Who knows.
          Sadly, I think the days of being able to work your way up the ladder at one organization are gone. At my last organization, to get promoted beyond a certain level, you had to have a law degree.

          Despite the fact that a law degree was completely irrelevant in my department (events management) AND candidates with law degrees needed more money than we were willing to pay, I got stuck at a certain position in the department and knew I would never get promoted because I didn’t have a law degree (despite my advanced degree being more relevant to what I was doing than a law degree was).
          That was the organization’s decision and I think it was a pretty arbitrary one, but everyone topped out at that position after 3-5 years and left, including me. If the organization was serious about retaining employees, there were some changes they could have made but chose not to.

        3. LabTech*

          You also can’t be great if the biggest obstacles you’re facing in your major projects are due to a supervisor that sabotages your work, a poorly run organization that doesn’t authorize the purchase for even basic office supplies, let the alone necessary resources to get the job done, and changing goalposts attached to nonsensical deadlines.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            Yup. Trust me, having worked in two different federal agencies, where people just do.not.leave, “staying a long time” just means…that you stayed a long time? We seriously had employees who had been sitting on their butts for decades and no one had any idea what they did, we never saw any work come out of their offices, and several openly spent their days doing things like watching Netflix and day-trading at their desks. They may have been sticking around, but believe me, they weren’t accomplishing anything.

            1. LabTech*

              That’s a really good point. In the public sector, with its stagnating wages and stiflingly rigid promotion opportunities, the longer you stick around, the lower your pay gets due to inflation and the cost of living going up. Some of the people who stay in the same role in the public sector do so because they can’t get any bites from other employers, and have an otherwise stable job.

              That’s not to paint long term public sector employees with the same mediocre brush (I also remember very driven individuals who stuck around and expanded their skills in spite of the limited opportunities for professional development.), but to say that longevity in the private sector has a very different connotation than in the public sector. It’s not necessarily a good thing.

    6. MashaKasha*

      I have interviewed for a few places where the person that would be my manager had a long string of 18-24-months period in upper management positions at a large number of companies. None of these people were millennials. I’m honestly curious about why I am seeing this so often with upper management. I always looked at it as a red flag, as in “I don’t want to work for this guy, because he won’t care about long-term results of the group or company he’s managing”. Has anyone else seen that? are there valid reasons why people structure their management careers like this?

      1. Shadow*

        That’s definitely a red flag and would make me wonder if hed rather leave than deal with or fix the problems that need fixing. I don’t know how many managers I’ve seen who know they should be addressing a problem employee, don’t, then leave before the focus turns to their failure

    7. KR*

      I can understand your point but I am gently urging you to reconsider. Many military spouses have a similar type of job history. This is something you can screenshot for in your interview -“I notice that your job history looks like x. I’m really looking to keep someone in this position for at least 5-7 years. Does this sound realistic for you?”

      1. Ms. Meow*

        This. As KR and others have said, there may be a good reason why the applicants haven’t stayed long (moving because of a partner, getting laid off, moving closer to family, or maybe even just plain old bad luck). Also, maybe someone had 3 different jobs for 18 months each, but now they are finally ready to settle down for the next 5+ years. Sometimes people just need to get that out of their systems. You won’t know until you interview them. Giving qualified applicants an interview then asking about job history is a good way to hedge your bets.

    8. HMM*

      Same goes both way though – I hope your org similarly invests in employees. I think it’s not so much a millennial thing as it is that employers are no longer providing career progression within an org; employees now must go elsewhere for the pay and skill-building that they want to experience.

      1. self employed*

        Good point. I wonder if the poster above is seeing progression between jobs; I assumed not. But that could be a positive reason for “hopping.”

      2. Alleira*

        We do invest in our employees. In fact, it is one of the things I insist on during budget time. As I mentioned, we’re hiring for a management role. That involves a significant amount of training. We not only do inside training (our systems, our culture, our clients, etc) but also send them to outside training. Lots of people in this thread are commenting on company loyalty being non-existent, and all I can say is that my particular company is VERY loyal to its long-term employees (sometimes to a fault, in my opinion). We have people who have been here for upwards of 30 years, a fully funded pension, generous vacation policies, etc.

        Lots of people in this thread are also commenting on projects. This is not really a project management role; it is, instead, a manager of people role. So while there are occasional projects, the more important aspect is managing the subordinates, making sure we consistently adhere to company Best Practices, give the best customer service we can give, etc.

        It may be true that I am missing out on good candidates by not considering someone who appears to job hop. From an employer’s perspective – ESPECIALLY when looking for a manager – I think it’s imperative that you stay at an organization for at least two years. The first year of being a manager at a new org is probably all about getting to know the systems, the company, the culture, the role itself, and your subordinates. Maybe six to nine months if the person is really good or has a lot of previous management experience. The next year is where you really start to grow in the role. If you’re leaving at the end of year two, you’ve barely scratched the surface of the role.

        I mean – I’ve been a manager for six years now, in varying degrees of responsibility, and I’m still learning every day. So for people to make the argument that two years is sufficient just doesn’t ring true to my particular experience. But, of course, YMMV.

        1. HMM*

          I don’t think you’re wrong! What you said makes total sense. But I also think that you’re equating loyalty and growth when those aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

          While your org may develop people, others don’t, which could be a reason why someone stays 2-3 years, then leaves to expand their skills elsewhere. So they’re still growing, but aren’t “loyal”.

        2. self employed*

          Sounds like you’re screening correctly. I’d be surprised to see great managers with patterns of <2 yrs experience.

        3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Just remember, the loyal employees with longevity are not applying if their place of work still exists

      3. CMDRBNA*

        Yup. At my last organization, the only way to get promoted was for someone above you to move or quit or for you to move to a new organization. So a lot of people did exactly that. If there is no room for growth of increasing responsibilities, you’re only ever going to end up with entry level employees and a lot of churn.

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          This. You can’t exactly get a promotion within your organization if there are no positions available for you to be promoted to.

    9. OldJules*

      Yeah, you will not hire me for sure and it’s a good thing.

      I am looking out for my personal growth and career. If I worked in a company where my contribution is overlooked and I am just another cog with no prospective or the environment is toxic, I don’t stay long term. I also bust hump and go above and beyond. So typically, even if I don’t stay long, they wished I did. We’d still talk about what I accomplished when I was there and I am friendly with my former bosses.

      The loyalty piece for me is difficult because if I see that you don’t have my best interest at heart (e.g. I bring a problem to your desk because it’s not something I can’t resolve, seeking for guidance/help and you give me a hard time), I don’t feel conflicted about leaving. If that gives you heartburn, we both wouldn’t be happy with each other. I am glad that if my resume passed your desk, you’d pass on it. My stay might not be long but my accomplishments speaks for itself.

    10. Liz2*

      Sigh this is what weighs on me. I moved states, got a great temp job but after a year wanted long term. Awful company who let me go after 9 months. Got another awesome long term position but the company restructured completely and let me go after just under a year. I have amazing references, but my resume looks like a total job hopper. If I can convert the current contract job to perm, I feel completely confident I can get that long term streak I need. If not, then I really worry.

    11. JustaTech*

      My group just hired someone who, from their resume, looked like a job hopper. We didn’t get a lot of resumes for the position, so we had the time to go look at their previous employers and saw not so much job hopping as “this startup went under” “that employer closed that location and laid everyone off” “short-term contract” and one “quit after 6 months”.
      The only one that was concerning was the “quit”, everything else is pretty much par for the course these days (and in this industry).

      But if you don’t have the time or inclination to dig around, and you don’t know all the industry gossip, then I can totally see why it would be a big red flag.

    12. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Gen X here, it isn’t a millennial thing. I have never stayed anywhere longer than 4 years. My norm is 18-24 and during my last job search it took me 5 days from application to offer to get a new job (which screwed up my timeline because I expected at least 2 weeks!). In all my positions the lifers fell into 2 camps: loyal to the core (and not applying to jobs) and trainwrecks with no other options

      You can look for what you like but longevity can indicate many things. Sometimes it is loyalty and sometimes it is because water sinks to it’s level.

    13. Alleira*

      Just to respond to some of the overarching themes here:

      I’m in the insurance industry, so we’re not getting candidates from start-ups where the start-up folded or whatever. It’s a very consistent, stable industry (for the most part). People do sometimes job hop in the industry because insurers (as employers) have become a lot more cost conscious in the more recent years, especially as the stock market hasn’t done as well so they need to make more underwriting profit. But overall (and again, this is my opinion), it is pretty easy to see when someone’s leaving because an employer sucks vs. moving from job to job. I do know a lot of the industry gossip, so when someone only stays a year or nine months at Insurer A I am willing to assume that it’s related to the fact that they’re undergoing massive layoffs or whatever. But when I see a string of 18 months to two year jobs … big red flag for me.

      As far as people moving or being a military spouse, those are good points. I usually do not “ding” people if they’ve moved to our area recently. Sometimes you have to move (I moved here from across the country due to my husband’s job) and sometimes you don’t have a choice about when you move. However, I will say that I always mentioned this in cover letters and I, personally, wouldn’t think there’s anything wrong with a cover letter that says, in essence, “I know it may seem like I have multiple short stints at employers, but these had to do with layoffs or familial moves.” Nothing fancy or complicated. But maybe Alison would say not to do this and she is the expert.

      And as far as everyone saying, “Why should I be loyal to them if they’re not loyal to me?” … well, I guess that is a personal issue. Even if you’re at an employer where there is not a lot of upward mobility due to long-term employees, you can still learn and grow and progress in a job if you stay more than two years. So the only reason to leave after a short period of time is money or culture. If it’s culture, fine; then I expect that you’ll stay at a different employer for a longer period of time. If it’s money and you’re chasing the money, great for you … however I’m going to wonder how developed you are as an employee in a particular position no matter how long you’ve been doing that position. I just think two years is an incredibly short period of time to learn or grow in a job.

      For the record, my employer is an employer where there has been a lack of upward mobility due to long-term employees, and we do everything we can to develop candidates internally for management positions (or just internal promotions) so that people don’t feel like they are stagnant. We let employees know this so they don’t feel hopeless or like they’ll never be able to move upwards. It’s true, though, that not everyone is going to move upwards for a variety of reasons.

  14. Dan*

    AAM hints at something that I think deserves a bit more attention: OP might need to recalibrate expectations for a job, least she fall into a trap and moves on because the job doesn’t meet lofty expectations. The OP introduces what some might consider a “dream job” without acknowledging the j-o-b part of things. I mean, you can be an accountant for the organization of your dreams, but at the end of the day, you’re still doing the job of an accountant. (My point here, and I’m going out on a limb, is that being an accountant is probably a similar job in many places, and a bit removed from the “mission” of the organization. You could be an avid gamer, and go work as an accountant for Microsoft’s Xbox division, and I’d wager that a majority of the time, you wouldn’t have a clue you’re working for a video game division.)

    Also, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, “organizations” don’t have a culture as much as specific departments/teams do.

    1. Coldbrewinacup*

      I thought this too. There are always going to be people you don’t like, people who don’t like you, boring tasks you wish you could ignore, bad bosses, times when you feel overworked and under appreciated, etc., but you have to be careful when assessing your prospects and what you can deal with. The grass isn’t always greener, believe me. I found this out the hard way.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      My dream job: I want to work somewhere that values transparency and respect, instead of management lying to employees and changing policies with little notice for reasons they acknowledge are mostly arbitrary. I want to work somewhere that doesn’t have a mission that is counter to my ethics or values, or tries to deceive clients as a matter of course. I want to work somewhere that pays a living wage or (because I’m not too picky!) gives full time hours to at least try to make up for the low wage (instead of paying $8 and then capping hours at 20/week). Benefits would also be nice, but I don’t want to get too outlandish here—where do I think I am, Narnia?!

  15. TootsNYC*

    I once had a resume of four or five nine-months-or-less jobs.
    In none of them did I quit (well, one of them I quit, but it was really more like a temp job).

    But I still had some serious explaining to do sometimes. I ended up putting the reasons in parentheses, like:
    (company folded)
    (position eliminated in reorganization)
    (company folded)
    (company folded)

    Also know this: you may burn bridges with your current manager.
    In my field, the conventional wisdom is that you stay for one year, especially in your first job (higher levels, it’s more like two or three). The assistant to the top person in our unit left at something like 8 months to a great job–those next-step-up openings can be really hard to get, and when they pop up, you need to grab them.

    It was a bit of a scandal. And her boss was really, really, really mad. It would probably be reflected in any reference she gave. Now, the people who hired her (Job 2) didn’t care–they already knew why she was leaving (great opportunity, not the kind you wait for to come around again). The people at Job 3 would be likely to call the boss at Job 1, so they’d hear, but I think they’d probably understand as well. Plus, if she didn’t start looking from Job 2 until a couple/three years, they’d say, “nope, not a problem; she didn’t job-hop away from this one!”

    1. Solidus Pilcrow*

      I’ve been struggling with how to address something that *looks* like a short term stay, but really isn’t — one of those deals where the company changed around you (due to mergers, buyouts, spinoffs, etc) but you’re sitting at the same desk doing the same job. A couple years ago, the division I worked for spun off into it’s own company and then I was laid off from the new spin-off not quite a year later (they stopped offering the services I provided). On paper it looks like an 11-month stay, in reality I was doing the same job for 7 years.

      I may try your method of listing the reason. I’m past the 2-year mark on my current job, but that apparent 11-month stint just bothers me.

      1. Glenn*

        If you’re dong the same job in the same group for the same people, I would just list it as a single entry, with a footnoted explanation of what happened. E.g.

        Company A / Company B: JobTitle [dates]

  16. Kiki*

    So I am a self admitted job hopper. My post-college resume looks like this:

    Job #1– 2 years, left because company was bought by a larger company and my role changed drastically and dramatically
    Job #2– 6 months, left because of a personal health issue and also because the company was having issues meeting payroll
    Job #3– 1.5 years, left because the whole environment was toxic in a myriad of ways and I was on the verge of a breakdown
    Job #4– current job, just hit the 1 year mark. Will probably end up leaving after 2 years because my husband and I are moving to another state and that commute will kill me

    Though I’m not actually worried about my history because I like the level of work I do. I have no interest in managing people or being in charge of anything super complicated or high-profile. I’m basically 1.5-2 steps above entry level and my work is interesting but I’m able to leave it here at the end of the day. But I don’t know, should I be more concerned?

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      If you’re getting the kinds of jobs you want, then no, you needn’t be concerned.

      That being said, I’d take the 6-month gig off your resume entirely. You likely don’t have any especially meaningful accomplishments from such a short stint, and it invites conversations that won’t help advance your candidacy. Let it go.

      1. Kiki*

        That’s good advice, thank you. I mainly kept it on because during that six months I ran an entire warehouse by myself without training (that company had lots of issues, hence the payroll problems) but I now have more successful projects from Job #3 and #4 I can point to.

    2. Shadow*

      depends on how good the job is. The more viable candidates it attracts the worse off you’ll be.

    3. Just Another Techie*

      Same here. My resume for a while was
      Job 1 – 1 year known temp/contract position
      Job 2 – 1 year, left because I realized I hated that field and wanted to switch to different work
      Job 3 – 10 months, horrible toxic work environment with blatant sexism and racism
      [gap of 1 year while I failed to find a new job and dealt with various mental health problems]
      Grad school, 2 years, lots of short-term RAs, TAs, and internships

      And now I’m coming up on 5 years in my first job post-grad school (with one in-place promotion), and finally feel secure that my resume isn’t a total disaster without a clear story to tell, when I’m ready to move on from here.

  17. Amber Rose*

    As for me, I’m at 2.5 years and I’m planning to start looking just after the 3 year mark. I want to stick around long enough to implement some of my plans, but I really need to get out of small family businesses. They just don’t tend to mesh with me very well.

    I have no idea what the norm in my field is but I’ve been running into walls for two of those years and I’m tired.

  18. A.N.O.N.*

    “Job hopping means multiple stays of under two or three years, *in jobs that weren’t designed to be short-term* (i.e., contract and temp jobs don’t count as job hopping).”

    So my question is if you’re a young, ambitious person trying to climb up the career ladder quickly. There’s some basic entry-level jobs where there isn’t any growth and after 1 year you’re not learning anything new, so the only option is to leave it for another position. Would future employers frown upon that? Is it expected that you’ll stay in a job like that for 2-3 years, move to another, stay in that for 3+ years, before moving to another?

    (Obviously, it would be ideal to get a position where there *is* career growth within the company, but with some employers, the only way to move up is if someone hire up leaves, so the timing doesn’t always work out.)

    1. Amber Rose*

      I would think it depends on whether you’re moving up or laterally. Even if your stays are shorter, if you’re obviously moving steeply up in responsibility then clearly you have some desirable traits/skills. Although it’s better if you only interview for/take positions in companies that let you do that internally rather than company hopping, but that’s not always an option.

      Anyways the key is to have good explanations you can give during interviews.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I wouldn’t think so. At that point, you only have the one position, true, but I think it’s reasonable to pitch this as “I’ve really enjoyed my time as Junior Handle Coordinator, but I’m looking for a position where I can grow for the next several years, which is why I’m interested in your Spouts and Handles Specialist position.”

    3. Shadow*

      Depends what you mean by entry level job with no growth. If you’re fresh out of college and take a job flipping burgers you’re allowed to leave pretty quickly for something in your field. But if you take a job in an entry professional role and you quickly get bored the bar is a lot higher because sometimes there are bigger picture things you can learn that you may not realize because you’re too focused on your tasks instead of learning the business.

      1. sstabeler*

        I think what they’re trying to ask is if it would look bad if (for example) you went from Graduate Spout Engineer to Junior Spout Engineer to Spout Engineer to Senior Spout Engineer to Junior Teapot Engineer to Teapot Engineer- admittedly that’s slightly exaggerated, but the point is that there’s fairly clear progression- hence why Amber Rose mentioned it mattered if it was a lateral move, or a promotion. If it’s a lateral move, it looks like boredom. if it’s a promotion, it looks like you’re moving up.

  19. Mimmy*

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I wrote this letter. I’m dealing with a very similar dilemma. I’ve been working for a state-run educational facility since late March (so about 4 and a half months) and am already itching to get out. I was really excited during the interview and hiring process, but almost immediately got deflated when I realized the job different from how it was presented to me (to their credit, they did say during the interview that the position was newly-created and that they were still working out the details, though I think the director misrepresented it to others for awhile even after I started).

    I think each person has to consider their own situation and weigh the plusses and minuses–the job duties, staff, culture, etc. This is something I definitely need to do (with some help, hopefully). My job classification is technically temporary, so it might not look as egregious if I left within a year. My job classification is technically temporary, so who know what’ll happen in the meantime!

  20. MashaKasha*

    Early in my US career, I went through three jobs in a 33-month period (11 months, 19 months, and 3 months, respectively). And I was able to provide compelling enough reasons to interviewers that I was able to convince them that I would not run out on them before my first year is up. (And of course, then followed through by staying a decent number of years at each subsequent job.) Here they are.

    1) the boss I had at my first job, went to a new company, and brought me over.
    2) the three-month job was supposed to be a Web development job (BIG deal in 1999) with a 20 mile commute. Their pay and benefits kind of sucked, as did the location (downtown with heavy traffic and $$$ parking fees), and one of their selling points was that I’d gain experience with them and move on to something better. I found out on my first day that the company owner had rented me out to his friend’s consulting business, and my real job was to support an outdated legacy app at a manufacturing plant 65 miles from my home. They initially told me it was a temporary arrangement. I started looking the minute I found out it was permanent, and left a month later. Not one person at the panel interview at my next job had any issues with me looking to leave so early after starting.
    3) (that went over really well at one of my interviews where they basically asked: why did you keep changing jobs your first three years here?) I came to the US with a CS degree and four years of relevant work experience. Because of how things worked in 1997, none of that counted here. I had to start from an entry level job and the lowest salary anyone I know had ever heard of for a software developer. The only way for me to move to what my actual level was, was to keep changing jobs until I ended up at one that fit my skillset. The guy that interviewed me was very satisfied with that answer, and made an offer a couple of days later.
    TL;DR: you can do it. You can do it more than once, even. But you’ve got to be able to provide extremely good reasons when asked. And you cannot keep doing it for the rest of your life.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Yeah, nobody begrudged me my two 13 month jobs, since the first was a mail room job, and the second was an increase in responsibility related to my degree but then my boss died and everything went belly up.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I left my second ~1 year stint because I was recruited away by a former coworker, and that always seem to go over fine in an interview. (I left the first one for many reasons, but the one I say in interviews is that I was exploring a new part of my industry, which I ended up not liking — that’s also fine, because I’ve never been looking for jobs in that area!)

  21. KR*

    I’m a military spouse and likely to have some short term jobs on my resume in the future, so this is a helpful post just to see what the general consensus is and Alison’s take. Luckily I worked for the same job for 6 years as a young adult before moving to be with my husband so I don’t look like a job hopper but I have the potential to look like one.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I think being upfront about the circumstances is the way to go, even if it might hurt you in the short-term. In addition to explaining several moves in the past, if you’re likely to be in a location for a relatively short period of time, it’s a kindness to tell prospective employers that.

  22. KaraLynn*

    The first 6-12 months of your job is a grace period. You have no legacy there, you’re learning what you need to do and how to do it, you’re building relationships internally and externally.

    It’s once you get past that time that you actually come into your own and really begin being in your role instead of just practicing.

    To constantly leave – even to constantly *want* to leave – not only looks bad to employers, but it is bad. A career of 1-3 year stints is shallow and surface-level. Find what you want to do, find where you want to do it, then dig in and really work your job instead of skimming its surface. You’ll have much more value that way.

    1. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

      There’s another side. I work in software, and I stayed at the same company for almost 10 years. I would say the first 5-6 years, I was growing my skills. After that, it was the same stuff, over and over, and I also wasn’t being paid what I should have been. Why’d I stick around? 1) Misplaced loyalty 2) firefighting environment was so exhausting that it was hard to motivate to find jobs 3) after that much time in one culture, which I knew to be dysfunctional, and also with a lot of proprietary tech that wouldn’t translate to new jobs, I felt insecure about my ability to get hired anywhere else. I was miserably comfortable.

      When I did finally decide to find a new job, I was so desperate to leave that it oozed out of my pores during interviews. In retrospect, thinking of the questions I asked – I wouldn’t have hired me, either. Eventually I had to take a hiatus to get myself back on track before looking for a new job.

      I learned a lot at that company. The first few years were a positive experience, even though they were incredibly stressful. But in the future, I plan to check in with myself regularly about job satisfaction and stress levels. Not to mention paying more attention to pay. I suspect I left $100k or more on the table by sticking around.

      1. KaraLynn*

        Sounds like you overstayed your useful period. I think there’s a lower limit but there can be an upper limit too, for sure, depending on the person and the company.

        1. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

          Yes, exactly. I was just concerned by “Find what you want to do, find where you want to do it, then dig in and really work your job instead of skimming its surface.” There is definitely a limit to this.

    2. Cookie*

      This is pretty job-specific. Where I work, the job is extremely process-based. Once you learn the process (which can be perfected in 6 months or less), there’s no more opportunities for growth at that point and you’ve got to move out to move up. Even though there are higher level jobs within my agency, they don’t promote from within as a policy.

  23. Junior Dev*

    This is freaking me out because I’m 26 and have never been at a job for a year. I think this current one is one I could stay at for a while if I chose to, but there are things about it that stress me out and upset me. Nothing awful, I’m not being harassed or anything, but things are disorganized and people don’t know the basics of the software we use and treat me like a bag for asking them to do stuff correctly. Should I be trying to make it to the two year mark anyway?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. That’s run of the mill annoying stuff, but nothing worth leaving a job over when you’re trying to establish a stable work history.

      1. Shadow*

        I don’t think I’ve ever work for a company that had all of their shit together in every area of the company. I’m not sure they exist. As you get older you expect there to be problems at work. The better companies just have smaller problems.

  24. Cruciatus*

    And for job hopping purposes, this all still pertains only to time with the employer, not the job, right? For example, I’ve been at my current employer 2 years, but I’m in my second job here (because much like the letter writer, I needed to get out. I lasted nearly 20 months, now nearly 4 months in the new position)… At my former employer I was there 4 years, about 2 years in 2 different jobs. It looks kind of job hoppy on my resume, but I hope that people see the employer part of it since I’ve been with each employer a respectable amount of time I think (and am planning to stay in this position as long as I can (but since I can only plan on getting a $500ish merit raise each year and no other raises so as to remain “equitable in the system” I realize it’s likely only a couple of years at most–though my next job may still be somewhere else on campus).

  25. VermiciousKnit*

    I work in government in a state that is increasingly stingy toward its employees. The ONLY way you can negotiate a salary increase or a promotion is by transferring – to a new position, or the same position in a different team or agency. As such, most people here are “job-hoppers” but within the state we don’t think anything of it. People are just doing what they have to do.

  26. LKW*

    When I was not quite starting out, I had four jobs in 1 year. I had been in my old job (Job 1) for 5 years, left to move to a new city and got Job 2. Was recruited by a firm I had worked with at Job 1 and left Job 2 after about 3 months for them (Job 3). It helped that my boss at Job 2 was also leaving. Job 3 turned out to be insane and I hopped to Job 4 three months later. I was with Job 4 for close to 10 years, left to Job 5 and then returned to Job 4 and have been there since 2010.

    So it happens. You have to move for “worthy” reasons. I’d say that in under a year, ethics, growth and fit are good reasons to move on. If you’ve been sold a bill of goods – that the job isn’t what was promised/ discussed, they don’t behave ethically (ghosting hours, lying to clients, hiding information) or that the fit is all wrong then move on. If it’s just for title or money – biding your time while you execute may be worth while.

  27. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    One aspect of this conversation that I think is too often overlooked is that leaving for reasons that aren’t explicitly the “fault” of the employee is still problematic for potential employers. Employers want to see that you’re doing your due diligence about an organization before choosing to work there (if you aren’t, then you may not be evaluating their offer well enough and may end up choosing leave quickly, too) — so leaving because of a bad relationship with a manager, a dysfunctional office, a cultural mismatch, etc. is rightly on the employee as well as the former employer.

    1. Hello it's me*

      Good point but how people are supposed to KNOW they should be doing their due diligence when they’re first starting out? Maybe some people have their parents or mentors to tell them but what if you don’t have that? I am the first white collar worker in my family and I didn’t have a clue about that. I was told take a job, any job, you need money. Thanks to that I have been fired 4 time in 5 years for the things you mentioned. I know now but my reputation is tarnished.

    2. Rebeck*

      How are you supposed to find out any of those things? People here talk about multiple rounds of interviews but the most I’ve ever had in a standard hiring situation is one 40 minute at most interview with set questions based on the selection criteria for the position. Sure you can all say that’s not how hiring should happen, but that’s how it DOES happen in my industry and part of the world.

      For example, how would you suggest I have found out, in one 40 minute interview, that my entire organisation underwent a massive restructuring two years ago that people still aren’t happy with and that some people at my particular workplace are ignoring as much as they can? I don’t think there’s any way to find that stuff out unless I had happened to personally know a member of staff who was willing to tell me that sort of backstory. (Mn: I’m not looking to move because of this, but it sure was a shock on the first day.)

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Also curious. How was I supposed to know that my manager (and most of the managers) were verbally abusive and/or passive-aggressive to everyone who wasn’t in their friends clique when all interviews were with HR, never with potential managers? How was I supposed to know that the office was dysfunctional when HR staged everything we saw and only let the “good” employees talk to potential hires? How was I supposed to know that the company culture HR talked about and had on their website was more their goal than any kind of reality (unless it was a trap?), and petty backstabbing was the only way to get ahead?

        I only got any of this information after I started working there. Given, this was one of those high-turnover starter jobs, but is there a way to avoid this in future when interviewing with companies that are potentially super-villain level evil, or does due diligence only get you as far as good companies and really bad companies that are clever enough to hide it?

  28. NPOQueen*

    Dang, I’m the worst job hopper ever then. Four jobs in seven years; the longest I lasted in one was 2.5 years, the shortest was 1.5 years. Working in academia during the Recession meant that moving out was the only way to move up, at least where I was. I’ve doubled my salary in that time as well, though I do get the feeling that I should definitely stay at this new job for about three years. I keep ending up in places where people stay for 20-30 years, but seeing myself stay beyond three years anywhere is really difficult. I’d certainly like to settle down, move up the chain in one company, but I haven’t been successful in that since I started working a decade ago.

    1. Erin*

      I’m in a similar boat. But a lot of those were seasonal jobs for the summer while I substitute taught or were worked simultaneously. Like I had a second job to make ends meet while i was buying a house and planning a wedding. When things improved financially I left with notice.

  29. Oryx*

    These posts and conversations always make me wonder if it’s weird that I DON’T want to leave my job.

    I graduated with my MLIS about 10 years ago, first post-grad job was 20 months, second was 5 years, and I’ve been at my current job for 2 years and I sincerely don’t want to leave. Like, ever.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s cool, as long as you don’t get pushed out. I have a couple of friends who got a first job out of college or grad school and stayed there for 15+ years and then got laid off. It was tough to get jobs after that (fortunately, they did). I do think, similar to the prejudice against job-hoppers, there is also a prejudice against people who have experience at only one workplace… not insurmountable, obviously, but still a thing.

  30. Becca*

    Sometimes it does depend on the industry (as others have mentioned). Education (what I’m in) falls under the category of having high turnover or multiple jobs lasting 1-2 years on a resume. Sometimes a teacher finds out this school is NOT good, sometimes a teacher moves for various reasons and not uncommonly, budget cuts means layoffs. 95% of the teachers I know (myself included) have dealt with at least one of the three aforementioned things.

    1. Julianne*

      I see this with a lot (but definitely not all) early career teachers, too. In my district it can be easy to get stuck in a sort of long-term sub purgatory; it’s not that hard to get your foot in the door as an LTS, but it can be hard to use that to get a permanent position unless your school loves you (and happens to have a suitable opening at the same time). I was lucky to get hired right into a permanent job in my district, but I know a lot of teachers who were long-term subs for 2-3 years before they got a permanent job.

  31. HR Girl*

    I was really worried about this when I first started. My first job out of school was with the company I interned with. I was barely with them over a year (outside of the internship) when my husband and I got an opportunity to move closer to our family with his job. We jumped at it and being halfway across the country, I took the first job I could get. It sounded great. But after I started there, my life was miserable. The turnover was high and the people were miserable. I applied for another job within 3 months. And the recruiter and hiring manager were totally understanding. I even started to explain my short tenure, and they already knew the story. A relocation that made sense + I had taken a chance on a job I wasn’t sure about and in a part of HR I had never focused on and didn’t end up liking. I was with the company for almost five years. The right people totally get it.

  32. An Inspector of Gadgets*

    What about a short stint in a very different type of work environment than another? My resume right now would state education (with attendant part-time field-relevant technical jobs), 6 months in a strict technical private industry context, 2 years in a fed context (a type of employment about which people draw their own conclusions, generally very different from “strict technical private industry”)…thoughts?

  33. anon designer*

    Can I get some feedback on my flighty resume? I work in architecture, where it’s super common to move jobs every 2-3 years until you’re in your early 30s. From what I’ve seen, the average stay at a firm becomes more like 5-7+ years once you become more senior.

    I’m 25, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2015, and I am about to go back to school for my M.Arch which will take one year. My resume looks like this:

    Internship at Firm A: 8 months
    Internship at Firm B: 8 months + another 6 months of interning around graduation (I loved that firm and they ended up offering me a full-time position, but unfortunately it was at the eleventh hour. My lease was up, and for financial reasons I had already made the hard decision to leave that city and move home)
    Full-time job at Firm C: 11 months (the only place I regret working, the job description/interview and *actual* job ended up being completely different and I left to work at Firm D)
    Full-time job at Firm D: 11 months (I work here now, it’s fine, but I’m moving far far away to attend grad school)
    Part-time job at Firm E: I lined up this job to work while I’m in grad school! It has potential to become a full-time role post-graduation if the firm has an opening.

    Should I attempt to stay at Firm E after graduating? Whatever I do, I’d really like to stay in a position for three years after graduating. I never intended to be a job hopper, I just hope my resume appears less suspicious because some of these are internships or otherwise concurrent with school. Any thoughts are welcome!

    1. SusanIvanova*

      I wouldn’t worry about internships and jobs you take while you’re in college; they’re expected to be short, even if you’re lucky enough to get jobs in your major.

  34. Basil*

    I am job searching at month 6 to now month 11 in new job. I have found the job market not the best in my region. Now I am looking at a relocation to another metro area, interviewers have never mentioned the length of stay in my current job. People transitioning in my field have an unwritten understanding when you leave non-profit to profit. It is usually fueled by burn out and finally wanting to make more than a pittance of a salary.

  35. floating*

    How should you indicate on a resume that a job is designed to be short term?

    I took a temp job after graduation that was at an important company within my field. I stayed there for 8 months (position was for at least 3 months and could be extended for up to a year) before finding my current position. My current job is a training position, and I’ll probably be leaving after about 8 months as well (not a red flag for my industry, this position is commonly understood to be a stepping stone, no one stays longer than a year). But it still makes me anxious to have these short tenures on my resume. I could take the first job off as I consider my current position to be my first career job, but the company is a really, really big name that I think helps me.

    Is there any language that should be used in a cover letter/resume to indicate that the position is supposed to be short term?

    1. Ego Chamber*

      When I work seasonal jobs, I put “seasonal” in the job title. With contract jobs I put “contract” in parenthesis after the job title.

      I don’t think it would be disingenuous to list the 8-month job as a temp job, like literally putting “8-month temporary position” in parenthesis after the job title (I’m not super in love with that wording but something like that). I wouldn’t say anything in the cover letter, unless you already plan to highlight something you did there, then I’d refer to it as a temporary position, the same as however you end up acknowledging that on the resume.

  36. anon1*

    I worry a lot about this. My last job lasted almost nine years, but before that my job history is short stints in retail (which I was terrible at) or long periods of unemployment (depressed at the thought of another retail job). My current job has turned out to be have much fewer responsibilities than I expected, and I’m worried about the impact on my career, but I’m also afraid that if I leave too soon then I’ll look flaky. I was already planning to stick it out for a full year and through the holidays (it’s been about nine months so far), but do I have to stay longer?

  37. Princess Carolyn*

    Yes, it’s best practice to have longer tenures and more tangible achievements for all the reasons Alison says. But a job-hoppy resume is not going to ruin your life. I see people getting themselves really stressed out about it, but I haven’t had many issues finding work with my somewhat hoppy resume. If your skill set is valuable to the HR rep/managing editor, you can likely get an interview — and then you can give them plenty of useful data about your qualifications and potentially explain your short tenures.

    In my case, I have a few short stints because I knew I was walking into a not-great fit but couldn’t afford to turn down an offer. (This is why I’m currently building up my savings — I want my next job to be a really great fit, not a survival job.) I left these jobs when I found better, more suitable jobs, and that’s reasonable. So, yeah, definitely be thoughtful in your choices — but don’t torture yourself over things you can’t change, and don’t stay in a truly toxic situation just to meet that 1- or 2-year mark.

  38. overeducated*

    I’m struggling with whether it would be a problem to leave a contract job early for just this reason. I’m no longer entry level, but I have also never had a long term, full time, salaried job (thanks to spending most of my 20s in grad school with a string of semester, summer, and part-time or project-based positions).

    My current position is full time and I’m only one year in with another to go, so ideally I’d make it most or all the way to two years and build up more of a track record. (It is not an academic postdoc, where it’s expected you leave early if you get a tenure track offer.) But my my last job search showed me I can’t predict how quickly I’ll get a new job, so I’ve already started applying for the occasional niche position that look like a particularly good fit. I just got an invitation to travel for an in-person interview, so I guess I have to talk to my boss about taking leave tomorrow. BAD IDEA? Stick it out and potentially be unemployed, vs. leap for opportunity and potentially be stuck?

  39. Erin*

    I have two job hopping questions
    1. Where does part time work fit in on the job hopping list? I left my former part time job after 6 months because I found a full time job with full benefits and doubled my income. I would’ve been crazy not to take it. That was 2 years ago now I’m looking because I fear my current company may go under soon.
    2. How does it look to have multiple jobs simultaneously on your resume? I was a substitute teacher for four years and I worked retail part-time. I currently work retail now.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Neither of those are job-hopping, and neither will be an issue with decent employers.

      Leaving a low-paying, part-time job for something that pays better and/or is full-time is expected by employers who don’t suck—you’d probably only get pushback on this from employers hiring for low-paying part-time jobs who have a weird sense of how much loyalty their employees owe them for those jobs.

      Working multiple jobs when you work part-time is normal—you’d probably only get pushback on this from employers who intend to have you work part-time hours but give them full-time availability (the classic “this position is 15 hours per week but you must be available to work during all days/shifts, schedules vary weekly, no exceptions” scenario).

      So basically, I think you’re okay.

      1. Erin*

        Thanks I was worried that it looks like I’m a job hopper when someone glanced at my resume. But if you read it a lot of my jobs are simultaneous. I’ve been worried since I’ve been job searching for almost a year.

  40. Dido Jones*

    I have a similar issue but I just started my position this passed month. My manage was hesitant about my degree in my interview and even offered me a different position that was a little better but had no benefits and was an on call position (nope not for me). I decided to take a full time position as front desk assistant instead. It is with a large nonprofit organization (old an prestigious, I’d love to move into a fundraising position but it looks like there are high barriers to movement in that organization). I needed a job and was lucky to get one (fired from my job of 6 years) that is in my field of study (I am studying for my masters in public administration: nonprofit management emphasis). I graduate from college in April (that is the hope) and if I am not able to move in the organization it is likely I will have to leave in less then a year to pay off student loan debt. I understand the employers perspective but I am simply can’t live by it. There was a time one could have a reasonable expectation to make a living wage and stay with an organization, that expectation is gone now. I am doing all kinds of research to see the best way I can move within the organization or find a job after college if necessary. I understand where the reader is coming from. It is no longer worth staying with an employer if there are other options.

  41. skeptical*

    Is this really still true in this day and age? I’m a software engineer, am excellent at my job, and “job hop” approximately every 1 to 2 years. I have developed more skills, have gotten to live in a half dozen really cool places, and make far more money than if I’d stayed at the same company getting a ~6% raise each year. Maybe I’ll want to stay in the same place eventually, but I don’t feel I’ve been hindered in any way by doing short term stints at multiple companies (in fact, I’ve been hired back by the same company, at a significant raise, before).

    1. KaraLynn*

      You’re speaking about all the benefits to you, the individual employee.

      The point being discussed is whether or not it’s bad to job hop because companies look at constant job hoppers as a negative. And for all you’ve benefitted, the companies who hired and trained you no doubt lost out on the deal when you left them prematurely.

      1. sstabeler*

        a) in software engineering, quite a lot of the training is done before entry into the field. most onboarding training is on that particular company’s system.
        b) it’s long enough for them to have completed multiple projects.
        c) you don’t plan how long it takes to develop a piece of software around a particular engineer’s skills.

  42. kathy*

    I have held four jobs since 2010 – one year at a law firm that was boarderline sexually harassing me, then 2 1/2 years at a dead end EA job, which they did not pay me for an EA position and never promoted from within, the third I stayed for just over two years as well, but the enviornment was toxic and because the manager who hired me and was amazing got laid off, I fell between cracks for almost a year! Knocking me off track of big corporate ladder climbs, and leaving me in the dust to try and work that out, needless to say, it didn’t work out! So I have a current employer, been here almost two years but the job is absolutely not what was advertised or discussed with me on interviewing (I interviewed multiple times, just trying to avoid this again!) but now I am basically just my co-workers babysitter, who never gives me credit for anything and treats me like he is still ‘training’ me, even though I am learning he is not the brightest bulb…. If I leave this job now, will I look like a job hopper? None of these titles was too specific, admins, coordinator type positions… I want something more than this, the companies were unable to give them to me, I am trying to find more! But am I a job hopper? How do I avoid this but still find a good job that I like or that gives me meaning instead of just always being someone’s admin in one way or another??

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