Below, we explain the recruiter’s perspective. But first, what does job-hopping even mean in 2021, when it’s common to change jobs frequently?
Short-term yesterday vs today
“Forty years ago, a two-year stint in a company would be considered short-term in most cases. Today, it is relatively standard. On the flip side, a ten-year stint at the same company in today’s age might look like the job seeker has been ‘institutionalized,’ especially if that person has had the same role and not progressed internally, says Daniel Hale, Director at Pulse Recruitment.
Mariel Desjardins, Bilingual Talent Acquisition Specialist at Starbucks, says there are two categories of job hoppers these days: exploratory career professionals who gain tenures of two to three years to leave for greener pastures — and non-committal professionals who take temporary gigs or struggle with performance.
“What starts to become dangerous is multiple roles at less than a year of tenure. With employment rates as they are, companies are often poaching employees from other companies to fill their talent needs; this means more movement for people already working,” she says.
So let’s say you’re veering into job-hopper territory. Is it always a bad thing? The short answer is, it depends on the context. For example, it makes more sense earlier in your career, when you’re still finding your footing, according to Joe Mullings, Chairman & CEO of The Mullings Group.
“However, as a career moves into the 8+ years range, more frequent moves are perceived as a potential liability. On the other hand, the rate of acceleration of technology has been occurring at such a breakneck pace that some roles almost require individuals to consider more moves in order to get exposure to different software and technologies than other categories of other non-tech related roles,” he says.
The only challenge is, HR pros don’t have the bandwidth to get more context about every application, and having multiple short-term stints on your resume could get you disqualified before even getting the chance to speak to a hiring manager.
1. It could rob you of growth opportunities
“As an opportunist myself, I recognize the allure of trading up, whether that’s for a title or salary that better represents one’s contribution, a more favorable work environment, and/or the ability to make a more meaningful impact on the business. However, I do think that by job-hopping too soon there is often opportunity left undiscussed and therefore untapped,” says Samantha Kris, Head of People and Culture at Goalcast.
“The biggest downside of job-hopping, in my opinion, is the perpetuating belief that leaving is the only way to advance your career.”
Kris says that when she asks candidates why they left or are looking to leave their current position, some of the most common explanations include feeling stagnant, struggling to connect with leaders or feeling creatively blocked by organizational bureaucracy.
“True advancement isn’t about climbing the ladder, it’s about leaning into the problems you encounter along the way, the decisions you make, the commitment to finding solutions and the impact you’ve had when all is said and done.”
2. It might undermine your credibility as a leader
Switching jobs too often can undermine your credibility as a leader. Why? Because in a more senior role, you’re meant to have an impact on retaining others.
“Leadership and management roles are usually given to those who are expected to have longer tenure in an organization as those leaders will have an impact on retention of others,” says Mullings.
“When leaders shuffle in and out of an organization with too high of a frequency, it tremendously disrupts a culture and thereby the performance of the organization. Cohesion is one of the most important characteristics of high-performing teams.”
3. It can get you stuck in a cycle of lateral moves
Job hopping can get you stuck in a cycle of lateral moves, according to Desjardins. Landing a more senior, management-level role can be more challenging as a candidate applying externally. And short tenures make it hard to sell yourself.
“It is often recommended to grow into a senior or managerial role within a company to use that existing title or experience to move into another managerial role,” she says.
“Additionally, when interviewing for more senior roles in other companies, candidates may have trouble explaining their impact on a company if they have not been there long enough to really contribute and gain the confidence of senior leaders — this leads to those lateral moves that become dangerous for career advancement.”
4. It can tell prospective employers you get bored easily
Patrick Balyan, a community builder, sees the impact of the digital world on professionals first-hand.
“It’s creating a fast-paced environment and pushing change,” he says.
The result? Job-hopping trends are driven by low satisfaction and the need for more stimulation and meaningful work. “It is because [candidates] want something more stimulating, more challenging. Once they have mastered the work where they are, they want to move on to the next thing,” he says.
Wanting to be engaged and craving new challenges can be an amazing thing, but it can unfortunately also tell prospective employers that you get bored easily — and that they won’t be able to keep up with you and keep you fulfilled.
5. You could be seen as a flight risk
“Ultimately, as a recruiter, I’m always looking to understand the whole story, and every situation is different. By and large, someone who has consistently moved jobs every year without good reason and into similar roles, then the conclusion that I usually make is that that person is a flight risk in the next role,” says Hale.
According to him, the ideal resume shows meaningful tenure in each role — around two to six years in permanent positions — and the reason for leaving each position is valid. Think situations that are out of your control, a toxic work environment, or an employer that doesn’t support your goals or pay you fairly.