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How Often Is Too Often to Change Jobs?

In the world of about 40 years ago, when my parents were in their working years, the prevailing notion was that an employer would "take care of you" for a long time with a secure job and a decent pension. But that's gone the way of the typewriter and carbon paper. Today, it's not uncommon to change jobs — voluntarily or not — every few years.

Employees are more likely to say "take this job and shove it" and move on to something new than put up with a job that doesn't launch them out of bed in the morning with a daily sense of joy or hopeful anticipation. That illustrates a big difference between my Baby Boomer generation and our parents.

TWO PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES

  • My dad spent the last 30 or so years of his working life at a job he grew to hate. One night after he complained about work, my then-teenage self asked why he didn't look for another job. He thought about it a bit, then replied, "Because I'm stuck there!" Changing jobs wasn't even an option in his mind.
  • In the 30 years since I graduated from college, I've worked full-time for nine different employers. Give or take, that averages out to a job change about every three years. That was enough to make one potential employer uncomfortable about extending me a job offer in the mid-'90s (yes, he was of my dad's generation).

Of course, job mobility and job searching are commonplace now. It seems the younger you are, the more apt you are to switch employers when the current job is no longer satisfying you.

Certainly, employers are aware of how frequently some people change jobs. In fact, they're partly to blame, since they don't hesitate to lay off people if they need to meet profit or budget goals. But at what point does repeated job changing stop being a sign of ambition and motivation, and instead start making you look like an undependable job hopper? (Or, maybe this question is not as simple as it seems?)

That's the question I pose to you:  How often is too often to change jobs?


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Brag Your Way to a New Job or Pay Raise
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