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Job Hopping Versus Longevity - What's Preferable?

There was a time when taking a job with a company and staying with them for the rest of your working life was the primary career goal. In the past 20 years or so, that thinking has evolved to where employers and employees alike want to see experience with multiple different companies. Today, job hopping has become more the norm among workers and employers realize that experience with diverse companies has its benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today has been at their job for 4.2 years, but the typical tenure for many millennials is about half that.

Despite this trend, when an employer sees numerous short job stints (less than 1-2 years each) on a resume, red flags go up. They may question whether that individual is hard to please, unstable, unmotivated, disloyal or difficult to work with. So, how much job hopping is acceptable? And, how much longevity do employers want to see at each of your jobs? Employers expect to see job changes on a resume due to geographical moves, career changes or a company downsizing. If you moved around a lot early in your career, that probably won’t be held against you, as most employers recognize that you were trying to find your niche. Employers in some industries are less concerned about job hopping than employers in others; for example, job hopping appears to be more prevalent in media, entertainment, government and non-profits, while longevity is highly valued in corporate environments.

Individuals may job hop to get a promotion, make a lateral move to a more desirable position or join a company offering more money. Here are some other reasons that employees may change jobs more frequently:

  • To gain experience in a number of different industries and different size companies. In technology, workers can gain valuable technical knowledge in different environments and cultures.
  • To get exposure to different businesses, jobs and people, and build a large, resourceful network.
  • To find a job that is the right fit and most fulfilling.
  • To show flexibility, adaptability and openness to change and risk.
  • To speed career advancement.

While employers recognize the advantages of having experience in multiple and diverse companies, industries, jobs and environments, a resume with a number of jobs lasting 1-2 years (or less) will ultimately raise concerns. You may not be considered for a position because:

  • They feel that you will not be loyal to them and will soon leave their employ, as well. They may be less likely to want to invest in hiring, training and developing you vs. other candidates.
  • They may fear you will leave at the first sign of perceived "trouble", such as changes in management, reorganization, budget cuts, etc.
  • They might question your judgement regarding the companies you chose to join and leave.
  • If they do hire you, you may be among the first to go during a layoff because your history of job hopping indicates that you wouldn't have stayed with the company for an extended period of time anyway.

Since loyalty is important criteria for hiring, employers tend to value longevity over job-hopping. A resume showing longevity with a company makes a stronger impression. Once you find a good job fit somewhere, consider investing time (several years) with that employer. It will not only help your resume, but provide you with an opportunity to make your mark on an organization and build trust and valuable relationships with supervisors that will last long past your tenure.

While hiring managers understand that job hopping happens, you will increase your chances of landing interviews if you craft your resume to minimize short-term gigs. Highlight positive contributions you’ve made to those employers, showing that you were someone who was critical to the success of specific projects or the company as a whole. Indicate that the short-term jobs allowed you to build a broad set of skills and varied experiences and that you have grown over the course of your job history, gaining increased responsibility, range and accomplishments. If you changed jobs due to a layoff or career change, provide a brief explanation in your cover letter. And, if you do get an interview, be prepared to answer why you left each company after such a short time.

How Do You Define a Job Hopper?
Take a Leap of Faith in a Job Hopper?
How Often is Too Often to Change Jobs?
Should I Put a Short-Term Job on My Resume?

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