Job hopping, which is the pattern of staying in jobs for only a short amount of time, was once seen as a sign of instability or disloyalty. In recent years, though, that perception has changed, as job hopping has become more accepted.
With the pandemic shaking up the labor market and shifting employees’ priorities, the once-frowned-upon practice has grown in popularity among workers who want to find a better career fit or earn more money in a world where stability and job security is no longer the norm.
What Is Job Hopping?
Job hopping is the pattern of moving from one job to the next in a brief amount of time, typically spending only a year or two at each company.
Recruiters don’t immediately blanch at the sight of job hopping on resumes anymore, either: “When I first started recruiting 20 years ago or so, you wanted to see long-tenure roles on resumes. That was seen as having loyalty to your employer,” Stephanie Petry, director of talent acquisition at Jobber, told Built In. “Things have really, really shifted.”
That doesn’t mean workers will get away with serially switching jobs every couple months. They should be intentional and strategic with each career move, and they need to be prepared to explain those transitions when discussing their job history with future employers.
Why Do Employees Job Hop?
Job hopping can be an easy way for workers to solve a variety of pain points in their existing role.
1. Their Current Work Situation Is a Poor Fit
An employee might feel the urge to leave sooner than normal if the role wasn’t what they expected it to be, or if they are having difficulties with their boss, their team or the company culture.
2. They Want More Opportunities for Advancement
Motivated employees might also feel inclined to bail within a year or so if they don’t see opportunities to expand their skill sets, or if they can’t identify a path for advancement within the company.
3. They’re Able to Get a Higher Salary
Job hopping can allow employees to land a new job title or a pay raise that well exceeds the salary increase they would’ve earned by staying with their existing company.
Pros of Job Hopping
While job hopping is risky, it does have several selling points.
1. More Money
The biggest factor driving job hopping in the last several years has been compensation, Petry said. The numbers back this up: A Bank of America study found that job changers increased their salary by 20 percent during the pandemic and the resulting Great Resignation. That’s a 10 percent increase from pre-pandemic salary increases. The salary increases were even greater for in-demand tech jobs, according to Petry.
“A lot of people jumped ship for [compensation] during the pandemic,” Petry said. “That was something that was huge, because you were being offered a 30 to 50 percent increase to your base [salary]. That was appealing to a lot of people.”
2. Higher Title
Employees also leave when they feel like they don’t see a path for career growth. Before you leave for a higher title, though, Petry suggests talking to your manager or your HR representative to see if there is something you can do to grow within the company.
“Make sure there’s nothing you can do within your current role or company that aligns with your motivations and ambition,” she said. “If you’ve turned over every stone and you’ve realized there isn’t, then maybe it’s time for you to go.”
3. New Work Environment
Job hopping also provides instant relief from a boss or coworker you don’t get along with, from a role that doesn’t match your interests or from a company that doesn’t align with your values. If you are job hopping with intention, you will hopefully get closer to the type of industry and culture that most aligns with your interests and priorities.
“If you’re doing that frequently, where you are getting into a role, getting an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work and then switching jobs to resolve some of the problems, you’re going to have fewer and fewer and fewer problems over time,” said Phoebe Gavin, a career coach and founder of Better With Phoebe.
Cons of Job Hopping
Job hopping can mean rapid job mobility, but at the same time it comes with potential drawbacks.
1. Possible Red Flag to Recruiters
Job hopping isn’t necessarily bad, but when it comes time for your next interview, it will likely require a little more explanation on your part.
Recruiters and hiring managers are usually reluctant to hire someone with a spotty track record; ideally, they want to hire someone who will stay with the company for a while. Hiring and onboarding new employees is expensive and time consuming, and companies don’t want to repeat the process if you leave within a couple months.
New employees generally aren’t able to hit the ground running, either, as it takes time to learn new workflows, technology tools and business challenges that are unique to each company. If an employee leaves after just a couple months, they likely haven’t acquired the skills to create meaningful value and justify the time it took for them to adjust to that role.
“If you’re only getting two years with someone, and it takes six months to ramp them up to be fully productive, then you only got a year and a half of productivity from that person,” Petry said.
That’s why, even though job hopping has become more popular, it still gives some company leaders pause.
Matthew Warzel, a former recruiter who founded career counseling firm MJW Careers, said candidates should ideally shoot for three to five years with a company. If you feel like you need to expand your skills or professional experiences, Warzel said employees would be better off taking a course instead of burning bridges with an employer.
2. Limits Opportunities and Professional Growth
Job hopping has downsides for workers, too, not just companies. From the employee’s point of view, job hopping limits your ability to develop mentor relationships and your exposure to long-term business challenges. If you’re constantly jumping every year, you are more likely to look for short-term resume-builders at each role, instead of sustainable solutions.
How to Explain Job Hopping in an Interview
Many companies have become more open-minded about shorter tenures in the past few years, as the pandemic may have forced employees to lose their job, care for family members or reconsider their work-life balance.
Even so, if you have short stints on your resume, Gavin said it’s important to proactively address those transitions in a coherent professional narrative on your cover letter and during the interview process.
Describe How Your Job Changes Align With Long-Term Goals
When sharing your professional narrative, Gavin said to articulate how each job change aligns with your long-term career goals and how this new job is a logical continuation of that journey. (A word of caution: It can be hard to weave a consistent narrative when those transitions are too frequent or disjointed.)
Highlight Your Ability to Adapt
Recruiters are starting to recognize that shorter tenures allow candidates to gain diverse experiences and skills, Gavin said. So if you’re a job hopper, you could highlight your ability to quickly adapt to new environments, new people and new ways of working. If you are interviewing with a company within the same industry, you might emphasize how your outside perspective could offer new solutions that might not be on the radar of incumbent employees.
Showcase Your Impact in Previous Roles
Companies are always looking for employees who can quickly make an impact, but if a candidate has particularly short tenures, Petry said a recruiter or hiring manager will want to guarantee that the candidate is able to learn the ropes quickly and have a meaningful impact in their (likely brief) time with the company.
To show the impact you have had in previous roles, showcase specific, measurable accomplishments that demonstrate the results you delivered during your short tenure in previous roles. You will also want to provide references from previous supervisors who can vouch for your impact, as well as your ability to work collaboratively with a team.
Things to Consider About Job Hopping
Job Hopping Is Becoming More Common
The past few years have demonstrated that employees who don’t feel appreciated and nurtured in their existing roles are more likely to find another company that offers what they are looking for.
“Recruiters are increasingly recognizing that shorter tenures are not necessarily ‘job hopping’ in a negative sense, but a way for candidates to gain diverse experience and skills or a result of factors external to the candidate,” Gavin said.
“Recruiters are increasingly recognizing that shorter tenures are not necessarily ‘job hopping’ in a negative sense.”
Changing attitudes about job tenure may be partially explained by generational differences. A CareerBuilder survey found that Gen Z employees spend an average of 2 years and 3 months at a company, and Millenials last just six months longer. Gen X, on the other hand, averages 5 years and 2 months at a job, whereas Baby Boomers will stay an average of 8 years and 3 months.
It makes sense, then, that Millenial and Gen Z recruiters and hiring managers may share some of their colleagues’ opinions on job tenure and may not be concerned about an employee staying with a company for less than three years.
Ultimately, Gavin said your career decisions should be based on your personal and professional priorities. She suggests her clients worry less about what a recruiter or hiring manager might think of their short job tenure and more about making the career move that helps them reach their career goals.
“I ask them instead to worry about: What is tomorrow going to look like for you? Because that imaginary recruiter that you’re thinking about making this decision around, they are not thinking about you,” Gavin said.
Job Hopping Means Constant Change and Expectations
Job hopping isn’t for everyone. Some workers value the relationships, learning and development and on-the-job experience that often come with longer tenures. Others may simply want to avoid dealing with the headaches of filling out new tax forms, switching health insurance plans and opening new 401(k) plans every time they switch jobs.
Also, if you’re going to hop between jobs for a higher salary, your new employer might expect you to make a substantial impact in a short amount of time — a high bar not all workers can live up to.
Don’t Job Hop to Run Away
Above all, if you’re thinking about job hopping, you should make sure you are moving closer to your long-term career goals. Employees who are unhappy in one job sometimes take the first new opportunity that comes along, only to find themselves unhappy again.
When you focus entirely on the negative aspects of your job without thinking strategically about your next opportunity, you are in what Gavin calls a “running-away mindset.” When you are focused on what you are leaving, you are less likely to notice any hurdles you might encounter in the next job you are about to take, she said.
The opposite of a “running-away mindset” is a “running-toward mindset.” When you transition with a running-toward mindset, you are taking inventory about what you want out of your next role and crafting a plan to meet those needs.
“If you’re very intentional about what you want that role to be,” Gavin said, “you’re more likely to land somewhere where you don’t have to do another hop, where you are actually happy to stay there for multiple years.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What is job hopping?
Job hopping refers to the pattern of moving from one job to the next in a brief amount of time, typically spending only a year or two at each company.
Is job hopping bad?
Job hopping is not necessarily bad; it depends on the reasons. Employees may job hop to increase their salary or find a better cultural fit. But too much job hopping can limit professional development and scare recruiters.
What are the consequences of job hopping?
Recruiters and hiring managers might be reluctant to invest time and money into hiring, onboarding and training someone who has a habit of leaving jobs within a brief period of time.