Job-hopping used to be considered the worst thing possible for your career. One of the unwritten rules of work culture used to be that to avoid looking unreliable, you should stay at least a few years at a new job, even if you hate it. That’s changing.
What is Job Hopping
“Job-hopping” is traditionally defined as working for two years or less at multiple companies over a small amount of time. The red flag signaling that someone is a job-hopper is when the resume is a series of multiple jobs, with a short time at each one. Frequent job changes on a resume are not the career-ender that they used to be, and have become more common in this current work environment.
To be clear, job-hopping isn’t specifically one year or two years, or 18 months vs. 10 months. It’s repeatedly leaving jobs without an extended time at any one of them. This steady history of leaving a company after a short amount of time is what makes someone a “job-hopper”. There is no magic difference between 10 months, 12, or 18. It is about how your experience is perceived.
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Why People Job-Hop
So why would people change jobs so drastically, possibly to the detriment of their own careers?
For starters, it’s the most common way to get a raise. Once you’ve stuck it out and gained your experience at work, it’s common to then find another job that pays more. Perhaps it’s a toxic workplace and you’re sick of it. Or they never promote from within and this is as far as you’re going to get. There are many reasons why someone would job-hop.
Many people have no choice except to change jobs frequently. College students often work in what positions will work with their current school schedule, but that schedule usually changes after 6 months. Single parents may have to work multiple jobs at the same time. Adult children taking care of elderly parents may have to change their careers around caregiving. Whatever the reason, job-hopping is a lot more common than most people expect. That became apparent during the Great Resignation when employees by the millions quit their jobs due to reasons like wage stagnation, long-lasting job dissatisfaction, and safety concerns regarding the Coronavirus.
Generational Differences Around Job-Hopping
Age and experience need to be taken into account when looking at job-hoppers, as it’s often used as a way to figure out what you will or won’t be willing to do for work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of years that U.S. workers have been with their current employer is 4.6. The tenure of young employees (ages 20 to 34) is only half that (2.3 years), which is to be expected when young employees have just entered the workforce, finished college, etc.
According to Catalyst.org, the workplace is mainly made up of Gen Z, Millenials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. Each generation treats job-hopping a little differently.
Gen Z was born between is set to eventually outnumber Millenials, but a lower percentage of them are in the labor force compared to previous generations. That could be due to multiple factors, including delaying college or entering the workforce due to the global pandemic. Either way, only 18% of teens (15-17) were working, compared to 27% of Millennials and 41% of Gen Xers of comparable ages. When it comes to job-hopping, Gen Zers are staying an average of two years and three months.
Millennials (born from 1981 to 1996) are between the ages of 25-41 years old and are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, with one in three fitting the description, according to Pew Research Center. On average, Millennials leave a job after 2 years and 9 months.
Gen. X (born from 1965 to 1980) is between the ages of 42-57, and saw or experienced the Great Recession firsthand, which could keep them from leaving positions once they have them, but on average Gen. X stays 5 years and 2 months.
Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) also have a history of job-hopping, with a 2019 study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that Baby Boomers held an average of 12.3 jobs between the ages of 18 and 52. That means that the average person switched employers 6.6 times, or about once every four years. Most of these jobs were not long-term, with 75% of the positions lasting five or fewer years and 36% lasting less than one year. When it comes to job-hopping, Baby Boomers stay an average of eight years and three months.
One more thing that encourages the younger generations to job-hop while the older ones do not: expectations of what kind of environment will happen at work. Millennials and Gen Z want more than the right pay; they want the right workforce.
This means that personal motivation to work is more than just paying your bills. While Baby Boomers usually expect the workplace’s leadership to be ethical and the company financially stable, according to SHRM, Millennials and Gen Z want their workplace to care about the employees and that the leadership is open and transparent.
One thing many employees of all generations agreed on was shown during the Great Resignation. Employees by the millions quit their jobs due to reasons like wage stagnation, long-lasting job dissatisfaction, and safety concerns regarding the Coronavirus. If an employer can’t keep the pay rate to match with the times and at least keep their own workers safe, then they should expect high turnover, particularly during low unemployment.
Cons to Job Hopping
If you’ve left four jobs that are pretty similar to each other after about a year, it will be pretty difficult for you to find that same kind of work again. Employers will see that you don’t have specific skills that you’ve perfected over time, just the usual industry skills. Not only do you come off as not interested in staying somewhere, but you don’t bring specialized experience.
Harder to Get a New Job
It takes new employees an average of 6 months before they’re fully up and running in a position, according to Investopedia. Seeing someone who has only been in multiple jobs for a year is offputting to hiring managers. Employers don’t want to invest the time and money in interviewing, hiring, and training a new person only to have them leave in a year, 6 months after they finally learned training. Some industries do look down on resumes that have multiple jobs with only a year or two at each, simply from a financial perspective.
That doesn’t include jobs that are designed to be short! Any contract positions with an end date or gig work or project-based assignments are absolutely supposed to be short. If you have handled short-term projects, it’s important to note on your resume which ones were contract work or short-term. This will help hiring managers understand that you won’t leave as soon as you hit the one-year mark.
Higher Pay Elsewhere Could be a Red Flag
When considering leaving your job, it can be easy to only double-check if your current problems will be an issue at the new job. For example, if you can’t stand working in an office, now you only apply to online jobs. With higher pay, of course. The trouble is the pay could be there on purpose to distract job seekers. That larger pay rate might be there to cover up other bigger issues. Before you jump to a new job, try to look at the whole job and see if there are other issues. After all, you don’t want to be in a worse position than the one you’re in now!
Check out the warning signs: 5 Ways to Spot a Toxic Workplace Before You Take the Job
Pros to Job-Hopping
One of the primary reasons that people leave jobs is for a higher salary. According to the Workforce Vitality Report from ADP, in general, when you stay at your current job, the raise is about 4%. When you switch jobs, you’re likely to receive a salary bump of 5.3% more.
A new job also makes sense when there’s room for advancement. If you’re at the top of your game, or as high as the system or company will let you, why stay? Unless everything else (the pay rate, the benefits, and the culture) is all enough to keep you happy at this level you’ve achieved, it may be time to look for something else.
When To Job-Hop
No Opportunities for Growth
Are you open to learning, but there’s no room for opportunity? If there’s nowhere for you to expand your potential skills then there is little hope of expanding your position.
When the market says you’re underpaid, it’s time to change jobs. It can happen to anyone. Kelly Brooks, executive director of human resources at the talent-solutions firm Atrium, says it’s a situation she’s seen before.
“Employees who have been in the same position for 10 years are getting yearly raises, but find out that someone right out of college is making more than they are,” she says.
That’s why it’s important to keep track of the going pay on the market. Using websites like Salary.com, Glassdoor.com, SalaryExpert.com, or PayScale.com can keep you informed about what is considered a reasonable rate for the amount of experience. This way you’ll be armed with hard data when it’s time for either a raise or interviews.
When To Stay
Are you getting paid the rate your experience would earn at another company in your area? Remotely? Do you have the benefits that make an impact on your personal life? Are you offered any education or way to advance your skills? If your employer shows that they’re invested in your growth and have shown that they want you to stay enough that they’ve kept your pay up to the standards of the market, it will be hard to find a better situation.
You Have Most of What You Need
If your pay rate is on track, raises are matching the rate of inflation, and your benefits are standard for the industry, it’s hard to argue why you should switch to another position. If you have a retirement plan set up and your raises match the rate of your skills on the open job market, it would be hard to argue why you should leave.
You Haven’t Maxed out Opportunities
If you’re gaining both experience and learning opportunities that you can’t get elsewhere, the pay rate may have to be on the back burner. For instance, college graduates starting out in a new field often aren’t in a position to negotiate their starting pay, because they would earn experience with the job. That first job then helps them find the second job, and so on.
(Here’s a way out of that Catch-22 if you can’t land the first one: 9 Steps to Getting a Job Without Experience)
Between pay raises, improving skill sets, and expanding horizons, job-hopping is rapidly becoming the new normal. It’s easy to see why each job might be reduced to just the bottom line if the employee doesn’t have any personal investment in the position, health benefits, or strong community culture. Job-hopping used to be a red flag showing that someone wasn’t reliable, but now it’s a green flag of looking at the big picture. That kind of forward-thinking could be an amazing addition to any team.
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