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Should I stay, or should I go? An overview of job-hopping syndrome

September 13, 2022 - 14 min read

Woman-making-a-decision-at-work-job-hopping-syndrome

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What is job-hopping?

The job-hopping generations

Is job-hopping bad?

When to job-hop — and when not to

How to job-hop successfully

How to explain job-hopping to prospective employers

Is it time for your next job change?

Are you thinking about quitting your job?

Maybe the culture isn’t the right fit, or your boss is a micromanager, which is affecting your mental health, or this was your plan all along — to quickly ditch your job in pursuit of a higher salary elsewhere.

No matter the reason, you’re not alone: 64% of American workers would rather job hop than ride it out at their current workplace. This might seem like a good idea, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. 

Your current boss might not take kindly to you leaving after a few months, harming your chances of getting a reference. And if you job-hop more than once, prospective employers might see it on your resume and worry you’ll do the same to them.

But not all job-hopping is bad. Changing jobs can help you discover what you need as an employee, what kind of work you enjoy, and what challenges you to develop and sharpen your skills.

So what’s the right move for you? Here’s everything you need to know about the job-hopping syndrome.

What is job-hopping?

“Job-hopping” refers to a pattern of leaving workplaces after a short amount of time — usually within one or two years. That could be to switch to a higher-paying position at another company, move somewhere with a better company culture, or find a job in another field. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. But whether or not it hurts your career will depend on a few things:

  1. Your industry: In some industries, like tech, job-hopping is a fairly common phenomenon. It’s an opportunity to quickly learn skills and join fast-growing companies. In recent years, though, more and more startups are looking for long-term workers who can help them scale up.
  2. Your career stage: If you’re in an early stage of your career, it’s normal to bounce around. You’re trying things out, gaining experience, and finding your place in the industry. However, more established professionals are expected to spend more time in a role.
  3. Your pattern: Job-hopping is an issue if it’s a pattern on your resume. If you’re coming off a string of three or more short-term jobs, a hiring manager might consider that a red flag and be hesitant to hire you.
  4. The type of work: Some jobs are meant to be short-term. If you’re a contractor it’s normal for you to be hired for a project and then move on shortly after. But if you’re a lawyer, you wouldn’t want to be bouncing between firms. 
  5. Your reasons for leaving: Bad luck happens. Company #1 went through mass layoffs, Company #2 had a toxic work environment, and Company #3 changed your job description mid-way through. Most prospective employers would understand such circumstances. But, as the job seeker, it’s your responsibility to explain your job history.

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The job-hopping generations

Job-hopping is growing more popular among younger generations. The average time millennials (1981 – 1996) spend at a job is two years and nine months.

On the other hand, Gen Xers (1965 – 1980) tend to stay at a job for an average of five years and two months. And Boomers (1946 – 1964) are the most committed of the generations: they spend eight years or more in a role.

Usually, younger people leave a job for better working conditions — meaning better pay, benefits, flexibility, and more fulfilling work.

group-of-people-from-different-generations-working-together-job-hopping-syndrome

Is job-hopping bad?

Your personal circumstances will dictate whether changing jobs is the right move. But here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros of job-hopping

  1. Sharpened adaptability skills. A new position means new experiences, responsibilities, and colleagues. If you can quickly thrive in a new environment you’re more valuable to potential employers.
  2. Improved communication. Finding new work means networking, interviewing, and communicating your skills and desires to prospective employers. These skills are useful in any job and make you a valuable asset to a team.
  3. Increased salary. Finding a new job is the most effective way to boost your salary. If you wait for a raise at your current company, you’ll likely receive up to a 4% pay increase. But when you switch jobs, that number can jump to 5.3%.
  4. Diversified skill set. Different jobs demand different skills. As you gain experience in various workplaces, you’ll develop a flexible toolbox within your industry.

Cons of job-hopping

  1. Lost benefits. Starting a new job means starting at square one in terms of benefits. You might need to accrue a certain number of hours before taking a paid vacation or receiving matched 401K contributions.
  2. Stigma. If employers think you’re a regular job-hopper, they may worry about your loyalty and whether you’ll leave them sooner rather than later.
  3. Job-hopping syndrome. If you don’t have a clear reason to leave, you risk falling into the same loop of dissatisfaction at your next job. It’s important to know what you want so that your next job brings you closer to your professional goals.

BetterUp can help you with your next career move. Our coaches will advise you on how to network, prepare for interviews, and challenge the way you think through each decision. With their help, you supercharge your career development.

woman-explaining-a-chart-to-workmate-and-smiling-job-hopping-syndrome

When to job-hop — and when not to

Sometimes, job-hopping is acceptable and imperative for your health and well-being.

Here are some examples to consider:

  1. You want new skills but can’t get them in your current role. For example, if you’re a social media specialist but want to write longer blog content, you may seek opportunities more aligned with the writing you want to do.
  2. Your job is causing chronic stress. Picture this: you have a long task list, and it’s only getting longer. You ask your boss for a reprieve, but they can’t or won’t ease your burden. In this scenario, you can ask for stress leave or find a job with a healthier work environment.
  3. Opportunities for advancement are non-existent. If you work at a small non-profit under the management of a long-term director or CEO, it’s unlikely you’ll take over. It would make sense to look for advancement opportunities elsewhere.
  4. It’s not a good cultural fit. Work culture is difficult to determine during the interview process. After a few weeks, you might feel like you don’t quite fit in — like a square peg in a round hole. In these instances, you might look for a better fit elsewhere.

man-at-work-thinking-with-serious-face-job-hopping-syndrome

How to job-hop successfully

The above examples are good reasons to leave a workplace, but you have to be confident in your decision. Here are some tips to consider for your departure:

  • Make a plan. Take some time for self-reflection. Create clear goals for how you want to configure your future career and life, and then make sure your new job can bring you closer to that.
  • Follow a job-search methodology. Instead of just browsing LinkedIn job boards and applying to whatever’s available, visualize your dream job. Then make a plan to get there, and start looking at postings with clear intentions.
  • Develop new skills. Make the most of your current position. Network with your colleagues. Take on new projects. And if you have a professional development budget, train both hard and soft skills. These will come in handy for your future job.
  • Don’t quit just for the money. Make sure you’re considering the whole package before taking a new job. Look for benefits, vacation pay, retirement plans, and job stability. You can also ask about specific things that bother you about your current job. If you’re frustrated about the lack of work-life balance, make sure your new employer is more flexible.
  • Don’t burn bridges. Even if you don’t like your boss, you never know when that connection will be useful. Try to maintain the relationship; your current employer can be a valuable reference for you in the future.
  • Give your current role a chance. If you’ve been at your job for less than a year, it might be worth riding it out to see if things get better. But if you’re seriously struggling or suffering, it makes sense to leave quickly.

man-explaining-something-while-on-video-interview-job-hopping-syndrome

How to explain job-hopping to prospective employers

If your resume shows three jobs in three years, your interviewer will have some questions. How you answer will shape how they interpret your track record.

Hopefully, you had good reasons to leave. If you left due to a poor work environment, career change, or layoffs, you can feel more at ease in the hot seat. But if you left because you were bored or couldn’t get what you wanted, you might have a harder time presenting a story that makes you look good.

In either case, you need to own your work history. Talk about the positive experiences, what you learned from each position, and why you’re looking for a change. 

It also helps to show enthusiasm for your prospective job and industry. If you’re there for the right reasons, that shouldn’t be difficult. You picked your dream job, made a plan, and now you’re on the cusp of achieving your goal — that’s a lot to be enthusiastic about.

Is it time for your next job change?

The Job-hopping syndrome isn’t inherently bad. But if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, it makes progressing in your career harder.

If you’re considering leaving your current employment after less than a year, make sure you know why. Take your time before making a decision. Before leaving, make sure that a new job is truly what you need.

Only you know your list of deal-breakers. And if you don’t, now is the time to identify them. When you understand your boundaries and what you need from an employer, you’ll have an easier time finding a better job.

BetterUp can help you navigate your career path. Our coaches are here to give you career advice, quiz you on your plan, and guide you through the saturated job market.

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Published September 13, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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