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The [job-hopping] tag reveals that hopping between more than a couple of jobs really damages the first impressions of a resume (the most canonical questions being here and here).

But what if those jobs were startups, and your reason for leaving is their successive failure? As a scientific and software dev worker I've done small businesses (wonderful but little career advancement), academia (stimulating but unsustainable), and big corporate (very stable but soul destroying). Next I want to see what startups are all about.

Startups would seem to have the scope for stimulating work, rapid advancement/learning and without the corporate grind / layers of bureaucracy. The oft-cited risk is that 9 out of 10 of them will fail, often in a fairly disorderly fashion. Presumably this is a risk to those who value stability and not having to search for jobs too regularly.

But aren't we supposed to be searching for jobs and keeping our networks and LinkedIn profiles ready for that next opportunity all the time? If you're following this practice anyway and value the stimulation of a changing workload, why can't you just save up the 3 months of buffer salary and jump from one startup to the next as (with 90% probability) each one collapses?

If it is understood that startups are like this, is it also understood by hiring people that an employment history full of startups is going to contain a lot of hopping?

Otherwise how do people who prefer startup work sustain a credible-looking CV? They surely can't all be hitting on the lucky 10%.

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    I think you may want to revisit where you got that number (9 out of 10 fails) from, as it seems entirely made up, and certainly without some qualifiers, like what "failure" means is not a valid indication of anything. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 19 at 18:52
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    9/10 don't "fail". It's more like 5/10 that actually collapse. And even those often last for a few years first. "fail" in that quote means "fails by the standards of a VC investor looking for a 100x return on their seed investment". It's true to say that probably 9/10 eventually cease to exist, but a lot of those are because they end up being acquired by larger companies, which wouldn't require you finding yourself a new job. – Kaz Jan 19 at 20:02
  • For reference: If you look at the restaurant industry which has famously high rates of startups going under, the rate is only ~30% a year that fail. So even if you chose which company to join at random, you would still expect, on average, to get a 3-year stint out of it. – Kaz Jan 19 at 20:07
  • So the answer to "how do people who prefer startup work sustain a credible-looking CV?" is startup work isn't as risky as commonly believed? I'm not intending to ask whether x is a good way to justify hopping (see my opening line) but rather how to work in startups with what I assumed to be a heavy CV-risk. I guess I was also hoping startups (because of their reputation for being short-lived) was a good way to justify rapid diversity of work. – benxyzzy Jan 20 at 20:31
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If it is understood that startups are like this is it also understood by hiring people that an employment history full of startups is going to contain a lot of hopping?

They aren't like that and it's not understood to be like that. The 9 out of 10 failures number is uncited and almost certainly plucked out of thin air. Under a year average work span is more in line with a contractor, not someone being an employee of a startup (or employee anywhere generally speaking), and if that would be showing on your cv as an employee, I would have serious doubts about you - as it's very out of the ordinary.

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    The 9 out of 10 failure rate is often quoted in blogs and podcasts - but it doesn't specify things like timeframe or what actually constitutes failure. For some, failure is winding down after a number of years of moderate profit without getting significant VC backing or a large figure buyout. – HorusKol Jan 19 at 20:44
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I think it depends where you are

In places where volatility is understood, it might be accepted. I am in Calgary (where oil makes the economy volatile) and I don't know anyone in technology who has stayed in a position for longer than 2 years. They either got a promotion in under 18 months from their company or got it from someone else.

They don't get stuck in career ruts. They become tech leads, make high salaries, work for established companies, etc. Calgary doesn't have offices for any of the major tech firms, but there doesn't seem to be a problem getting work at the ones we do have. The key thing for them is never having a gap in their resume, so they never seem unwanted.

But Calgary is a market where companies often fail, there are periods of across the board cuts, and it has long been accepted to chase salary. People just move jobs a lot here.

As long as the resume shows career growth, people seem fine with it here.

In a market where people stay longer than 3-5 years, you would encounter more resistance.

Tymoteusz Paul is from the UK, so his answer is probably quite applicable for his area. In the UK, people stay at their employers for 4-5 years each.

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Does hopping between failing startups look bad on a CV?

Yes, the reasons aren't important, there is ALWAYS good rationalisations for job hoppers.

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    I know you're very senior here, but this one feels like a drive-by. I'm sure you'll embellish when have time and a decent PC instead of a phone. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 20 at 4:59
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    While I subscribe to the ideia that "people always find excuses" and "it's never their fault", I do believe your answer warrants more explanation. – Mefitico Jan 20 at 19:14

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