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I understand nobody can tell me how long I can stay in a job not to be seen as a job hopper since it depends on the culture of the country I reside in, on my industry and my personal history.

I don't want to disclose too much, but facts are:

  • I'm in an area of IT that according to research has been growing very fast in the last years. According to statistics the average salary in my professional area grew by 20% just between January and June this year.
  • The inflation is quite high too: around 8% a year.
  • I got a very good first performance review. I was told that I started being productive on the project after just several weeks, which exceeded expectations. This was coupled with a salary increase of a bit below 4%. Given the inflation, it means that I'm currently earning less than I earned when I joined the company a year ago.
  • I've been investing a huge amount of time to developing my skills.
  • The job itself is ok, although it offers me less opportunity to learn than I expected.

I've switched jobs a lot in the past. And it worked out fine for me so far: due to serious health issues I joined the labor force later than most people do but I got to the salary levels my peers quickly. However, I am asked about frequent switching jobs during job interviews. On the other hand, if I stay much longer, I will be losing money. How can I find out how frequently I can change my job without being seen as a job hopper?

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    This is too subjective there is no real way for anyone to answer this. It's like asking how long is a piece of string.
    – Dave3of5
    Nov 13, 2021 at 11:20
  • I think the best you can do is keep up your current behaviour until you find you don't get job offers anymore. At that point it's become an issue and you need to stick at your current position until it stops being an issue. Trial-and-error basically Nov 13, 2021 at 11:30
  • @JoeStrazzere, although I'm asked about it, it never prevented me from changing a job and getting +20% in the process. Nov 13, 2021 at 11:33
  • @JoeStrazzere, I don't find it very relevant. If somebody switched every several months this would be a problem, but a year in a job is in my opinion enough if the candidate is good. Some of the main problems I've been witnessing at companies are people who have been with a company forever and are opposing changes or not learning anymore. From what I've observed, good people tend to change their jobs more frequently too, probably because of higher self-confidence and their skills being in demand. Nov 14, 2021 at 21:05
  • @JoeStrazzere, e.g. in my previous job I decided to give job to 2 candidates: 1 internal candidate who have been with my company for 5+ years doing something similar in another team and 1 external person. The person recruited from outside learnt our systems so quickly that they started to explain them to the other one - who had been using them for years - just 1 month in the job (!). (We were facing some issues and the "internal person" was at a loss). I see 0 justification for the opinions that a new person starts delivering after months on the job. Maybe in some departments, but not in IT. Nov 14, 2021 at 21:08

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Robert Half, one of the largest accounting and finance staffing firm, surveyed their professionals: "At what point is 'changing jobs' elevated to 'job hopping'?". General professionals said 5 job changes in 10 years (average 2 years per job) and CFOs said 6 (average 1.6 years per job).

I would consider being under an average of 2 years to start considering a prospect a job hopper: one year learning the role, industry, culture fully and one year of fully productive work. There's other factors that play into the circumstances as well: e.g. horizontal or senior role moves? Different tech stacks? Similar companies?

At what point is "changing jobs" elevated to "job hopping"? When asked the number of role changes in 10 years that constitute a job hopper, professionals said five, and CFOs cited six.

Changing Jobs: Is It Good for Your Career to Do It Often?, roberthalf.com

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    Did someone just answer a Workplace question with data?!? Good job!
    – mxyzplk
    Nov 13, 2021 at 16:05
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However, I am asked about frequent switching jobs during job interviews.

That's a sign and perhaps a hint that you are either already over the line, or right on the border.

There's no objective measurement here. "Being seen as a job hopper" is solely in the eyes of the hiring managers. It depends not only on the durations of your jobs, but on your abilities, the local job market, the work domain, etc, etc.

You will likely only know you have gone too far when you stop getting job offers.

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Seniority plateau

While giving precise and exact answer to your question is hard, and would indeed require calculating in factors like business culture, field of occupation and personal circumstances, some patterns could be noticed. By (informal) definition, job hopper is a person who changes jobs and companies often, by his own free will. Usual reason is money i.e. salary. Some do it for excitement (new job, new technologies, new challenges), but looks like this is not the case in your case, so we will skip over that, and focus on financial motivation.

Let's assume that you are working in some hot new filed like data science for example. Demand is high, supply is not so great, so price increases. If company does not want to give you sufficient raise, why not switch companies. Pure market principle.

However, at some point in time you will reach hierarchical plateau, or seniority plateau. In simple terms, in order to offer you more money company needs to promote you to more senior role, in our example senior data scientist. And this is where you could land in trouble. Did you actually had the the time to do some senior work in your previous position, and actually finish it ? If you only stuck around for a few months or a year, this is debatable and doubtful. Serious projects tend to last a longer time, and no company likes when it has to deal with senior people leaving in the middle of it.

Things get even worse if you aim for some managerial position in the future. Companies tend to promote regular employees to low-level managers from their own people. Even if they bring someone outside, they will be asking questions like "did you ever lead a team (even a small one) in your former workplace", "did you finished that project with your team" , "what happened with your team when you left" etc.. Simply, if you want to be a manager, you have responsibility beyond personal. And nobody wants a manager who could one day just pack his bags and leave.

Final note if you don't mind being outsider and an expert that stays only short time at certain place, then consider a life of contractor. You would be essentially working for yourself, could earn a lot more, but without some illusionary job security.

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