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I've had 6 jobs in 6 years, with each lasting less than a year and I'm wondering how this is going to affect me in the long run.

I started out after college losing my first job because I didn't understand a corporate environment, but my second job was temporary, my third job got rid of both me and my dad under false pretences of "probation failure" I quit my fourth job to go to my fifth and my fifth to sixth job was a sort of friendly leaving to a new job. I've been told that having so many jobs is going to make future employers think I am unreliable and that it's not what I can do for them its the fact I could be volatile and leave at any moment, which is not completely false, but I just move onto where I think is better for me.

The question is, what do hiring managers think about people with a lot of job history with a lot of roles?

  • 11
    To be very honest, I would see them as job hoppers (on first look at the resume) – Dawny33 Dec 9 '15 at 14:48
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    Just as @Dawny33 said, I would see you as a job hopper who can't be trusted. – Resistance Dec 9 '15 at 14:50
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    What type of job are you applying for? A salaried office type of job? Or something else? – enderland Dec 9 '15 at 14:58
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    @Dansmith Maybe your question should reflect that? E.g. if you are a job hopper for 5 jobs, but maybe you really want to know "how long do I have to stay at my 6th job before my next job won't see me as a job hopper?" – Brandin Dec 9 '15 at 16:33
  • 2
    "but I'm just thinking of plans if anything ever happens to this job" you may be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy here. – user42272 Dec 10 '15 at 3:23

10 Answers 10

59

Job hopping is a career killer.

It makes job searching harder and can cost you a lot of opportunities.

Don't just take it from me. Here are a few choice excerpts from articles and blogs posted on the subject by experienced managers, CEOs and others who have built up some authority on the subject.

But first, a survey by Bullhorn Reach among 1,500 recruiters and hiring managers found that:

According to 39 percent of recruiters, the single biggest obstacle for an unemployed candidate in regaining employment is having a history of "hopping jobs," or leaving a company before one year of tenure.


Before we delve into it, a quick note: the quotes presented here do not necessarily match my own opinion on the subject. Some are particularly dismissive of job-hoppers and you should keep in mind that these are blog articles where strong opinions abound. Combined, I believe that these articles illustrate that a history of job-hopping is a significant hindrance in a job search.

Because I can't and won't reproduce entire blog posts here, I'm only copying the sections relevant to this question. I encourage you to read the full articles; without context these people's comments can come across as harsh or even condescending.


Noted workplace advice columnist and manager Alison Green explains why job hopping is a problem in her US News article Are You a Job Hopper?:

Savvy interviewers believe that the best predictor of how someone will behave in the future is how they've behaved in the past — their track record. So if someone has a pattern of leaving jobs relatively quickly, an interviewer will assume there's a good chance they won't stay long in a new position either. Since employers are generally hoping that anyone they hire will stay for at least a few years, a resume that shows little history of this is a red flag.


Venture Capitalist Mark Suster describes job hopping and his opinion of it in a blog post Never Hire Job Hoppers. Never. They Make Terrible Employees:

It’s kind of like that famous saying about art, “you know it when you see it.” If you’re 30 and have had 6 jobs since college you’re 98% likely to be a job hopper. You’re probably disloyal. You don’t have staying power. You’re in it more for yourself than your company. OR … you make bad decisions about which companies you join. Yes, if you were a startup CEO I would probably cut you some slack. Yes, 2% of you have legitimate reasons for having 5 jobs. But in a competitive job market you’re less likely to get the chance to tell me your sob story.

Oleg V. Volkov rightly pointed out in the comments that people naturally are "in it for themselves", we work for a salary after all. I feel like the author phrased this poorly and it would be more accurate to say that job-hoppers give the impression that they're only in it for themselves, and don't care about the problems they cause by leaving jobs very early.

I should also point out that the full article has a much more detailed explanation of his reasoning and some excellent advice on salvaging a job-hopper's resume.


Nick Corcodilos of Ask The Headhunter® is particularly expressive in his article, Job hopping: Career crack for losers :

Any job hopper who’s fool enough to be one of 1,000 resumes on some manager’s desk deserves to be dumped into the trash can. Gimme a break — your work history shows you bounce around like a ping pong ball and you expect a manager to overlook it until she gets to meet you in person to see what a wonderful, unique individual you are and that your job hopping was due to extenuating circumstances that you can explain, given the opportunity?

Just stick a fork in your butt — trust me, you’re done. You not only job hopped, you’re advertising it to the world by applying for jobs with a resume. Do you really expect a manager is gonna “understand” when she doesn’t even know you? You are revealing that, on top of being a job hopper, your judgment sucks.

Pretty harsh, huh? As before, the full link has advice on how to repair your work history.


Repairing your work history

How you go about repairing a history of job hopping deserves its own topic, though there is already a related question on this site. I'd also recommend reading this article by Alison Green. As mentioned, the articles linked above all provide advice on recovering from a bad work history.

  • 24
    You say "you’re in it more for yourself than your company" like it is a bad thing. You know, people go to jobs not exactly to "be in it for company", right? People who you cite seems to be complete jerkasses eager to wear you down while saving every penny they can and, honestly, I, personally, would be very pleased if I never work under any of them. If they're eager to help with that - that's even better. – Oleg V. Volkov Dec 9 '15 at 16:09
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    @OlegV.Volkov I didn't say anything. All quotes belong to their respective authors and are meant to show a trend of job hopping being a Bad Thing™. They're harsh words but they all share a central truth. Mark Suster could have said " You’re in it only for yourself" which would be more accurate but please don't jump on one statement to try and invalidate a well-sourced post. – Lilienthal Dec 9 '15 at 16:35
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    "You not only job hopped, you’re advertising it to the world by applying for jobs with a resume. ... You are revealing that, on top of being a job hopper, your judgment sucks." Uh huh... What does this guy expect a job hopper to do? Not apply? Not use a resume? Both are more career-killing than submitting a job-hopping resume. How does somebody's judgment "suck" because they're trying to get a job? The worst they can do is get a no. And obviously somebody said yes when they were looking for their sixth job. Nick's quote is useless. – Millie Smith Dec 9 '15 at 23:15
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    I understand that that's what they're intended to do. I just think that Nick is being completely illogical while at the same time attacking the intelligence of others. I don't think it's an accurate reflection on the effects of job-hopping. I generally agree with the other three quotes, by the way. – Millie Smith Dec 10 '15 at 0:02
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    Job hopping isn't inherently a bad thing for the employee - it's provably the case that more jobs (over a career) leads to a considerably higher salary overall. But for the employer? It's not so good. Onboarding costs money. Initial 'spin up' costs money (NO ONE is productive when they first start). Training costs money. If someone's going to leave before they repay that investment, then why would you hire 'em. – Sobrique Dec 10 '15 at 12:28
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My $0.02, I graduated college in 1991 and I have changed jobs on average about once every 18 months my entire career. I had some stints of a few years but some periods where I changed jobs every 3-6 months (often working as an independent consultant).

If anything this has helped me "get ahead" more. Early in my career I was fortunate to be part of a booming industry (IT) and there were many job opportunities available. I was restless by nature and was always looking for new jobs and often found another job that paid significantly better or was better in some other way so I made the move. Later I was able to strike out as an independent consultant and the work was piecemeal (often 3-9 month projects) so I changed positions a lot as one came to an end.

My personal opinion is that when a company hires you they plan on giving you "ok not great" raises for a while to keep you there for the long term. If you want to sit back and relax and don't try too hard at your job and just try to "fit in" then you can often just ride this train as long as you want.

But if you are really good at what you do, you're impatient, assertive, don't settle, always learn new things, figure out how to make yourself valuable to a company, you can often find another job that gives you a bigger increase in salary than you'll get from your current employer.

However this is not to say that you should leave a job at the first sign of trouble or shy away from tough work. Every time you leave a job you must do so on good terms and never "burn bridges". You need to leave the door open so you can come back to a job if you have to, and also realize that you may meet the same people in another job in the future and they shouldn't remember you as a jerk or a slacker. If you always do a great job and always impress everyone around you, that will eventually help you in your career as you'll be called with job offers by ex-coworkers.

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    I think this advice is very specific to your specific job. After all, an independent consultant is supposed to change jobs regularly or it would not be called "independent consultant". – nvoigt Dec 9 '15 at 16:39
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    I've job hopped a lot as well to no measurable detriment. 7 companies in 15 years. Working at one of the top companies in my field and recruiters from other big name companies contacting me constantly. I'm not a consultant. Totally agree with you – Alan Wolfe Dec 10 '15 at 6:10
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    That's an average of 2 years at each. I'm mot sure that counts as job hopping in quite the same way as the OP. 15+ companies in 15 years might count against you. – Sobrique Dec 10 '15 at 14:45
  • nvoight - i am not sure how my experience can be specific to my specific job if i've had > 15 jobs... maybe you mean my industry or profession in general. And I am not alone, I know lots of people who work on the same basis. The work is project-based, and a if a project ends in 12 months the contract is over and you find another one. Most people who work for a single company for a long period actually work on different projects while they are there so in a sense it is the same as that, but just at different companies. – Uncle Long Hair Dec 10 '15 at 18:35
15

The question is, what do most people think about people with a lot of job history with a lot of roles?

Six job in six years is excessive. Having that many different position on your resume will certainly raise some eyebrows. Its called job hopping and is generally viewed very negatively by hiring managers. Having hopped jobs that many times is a major hurdle to being hired again.

If you are currently employed, commit to staying for at least 3 years (preferably 5), and that will go a long way towards fixing your job hopping image.

If you are not employed, here are two suggestions...

First, be sure you want to work in this industry. Take some time and decide if this industry is a good fit for you. With that many jobs, its sounds like it may be time to come up with a new career path, as your current path is leading to nowhere.

Secondly - if you choose to say in your field, start going to network events and offering your services as an independent contractor. As a contractor, your resume will be your body of work, not the jobs you've previously held. This is the best way to rehabilitate your reputation if you know you can deliver.

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    There are people that have 10 years of experience, and those that have the same year of experience 10 times. That is, people who have spent a lot of time in the industry but have not really learned anything. I think having multiple jobs gives you more breadth and diversity and makes you a more valuable employee. – Uncle Long Hair Dec 10 '15 at 18:39
  • I would think that depth is far more valuable than breadth. Depth is an indication of patience and focus whilst learning on the job. A lack of these qualities is surely a setback for all but entry-level positions. – Patrick McLaren Dec 11 '15 at 0:29
12

There is hope

Despite what others may have answered, this doesn't have to be the end for a few reasons.

First you should recognize that if you're likely to job hop, then temporary work is for you. There are lots of head hunters aka recruiters that would love to get people like you to work on contracts for 6 months then be shipped away to another job for another 6 months.

Secondly you can spruce up your resume to not reveal certain job positions, or frame your resume as having one position across multiple companies. During the interview you should not bring it up if your interviewer hasn't, but they likely will. When they do explain how you transitioned easily with help from one job to another, not exactly job hopping as much as going with the flow of what was best for both companies.

An important point to also bring up here is that today's workplace is changing. The fact that you need to stay in the same company for 2+ years is an outright lie. The new normal is that you have 1+ year of stay in the same company. Work is now incredibly fast paced as well as being global with companies always looking for someone to hire with the knowing intent of them leaving within the next year.

If I was in your shoes my overall goal would be to do temporary work until I found a company I really liked. Then stay with them for as long as possible and build my retirement, network, and relationships.

Good luck.

  • 4
    This guy knows what's up. Lots of people answering questions as if they are in the 1980s in this thread. – user2989297 Dec 9 '15 at 17:22
10

The question is, what do hiring managers think about people with a lot of job history with a lot of roles?

They don't like it. See Lilienthal's answer for plenty of evidence of what people on the other side of the table think about job hopping.

I want to offer a contrary opinion of sorts: Yes you are a job hopper, yes your history of job hopping will hurt your chances of being hired but I would like to offer an alternative perspective. Workplace.SE's culture, either rightly or wrongly, seems to tilt very much to the employer's side of these discussions.

First off - all this stuff about "loyalty to the company" or being "in it more for yourself than the company" is straight up, weapons-grade bullshit. Of course you are in it for yourself! Who "else" would you be "in it" for? The idea that you should be "loyal" to a company died when companies stopped being loyal to their employees. Do not expect for one second that you can work yourself into bad health for loyalty's sake and some CEO won't make your job redundant to increase the company's share by a quarter of a percent without losing a wink of sleep over it. This is just how business works.

None of this means you cannot be a professional or successful or a good employee. Businesses enter into partnerships all the time and as an organizations they are just as "self-centered".

I think the most important thing you can do right now both for yourself and your current and future employers is sit down and take a long, hard and honest look at why you lost some of those jobs and why left the others. Then next thing I would do is pick my next position very, very carefully because you will need to be in it for three to five years come hell or high water.

Things to think about:

  • What kind of culture/workplace/company do you really want to work in?
  • Do you even want to be in this industry at all? Maybe you always wanted to be a gardener but for some reason you convinced yourself a business degree and office work was the pragmatic choice. You know what a pragmatic choice is? A field of work that you enjoy.
  • Do you quit at the first sign of discontent? Time to build some coping skills. Work is not fun all of time (or even most of the time).
  • Do you quit at the first sign of conflict? Time to build some communication and conflict resolution skills?
  • Do you jump the first available position that presents itself? Just because you do not like your current job doesn't mean you will like then next any better.
6

The question is, what do most people think about people with a lot of job history with a lot of roles?

If I am the hiring manager, I would consider the candidate as a job hopper as the first impression after going through the resume.

So, that is why cover letters are for. Explain properly about why you had to change.

Finally, if I were to give an objective answer to your question:

6 jobs in 6 years, all less than a year, is this going to affect me in the long run

My answer would be Yes

Helpful Reference

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    @JoeStrazzere With the info. provided in the question: NO – Dawny33 Dec 9 '15 at 17:06
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    @JoeStrazzere The info in the question sounds like excuses particularly "my third job got rid of both me and my dad under false pretences of "probation failure"" would be a big red flag. – Tim B Dec 9 '15 at 17:21
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    @JoeStrazzere: at six jobs all lasting under a year, no matter how excellent the reasons, he'll often not get a chance to explain. – RemcoGerlich Dec 10 '15 at 9:27
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It certainly would be a negative factor and you try to reduce those. That doesn't mean you won't get job offers, but you will be someone who is looked at after stronger candidates don't work out or when they have no strong candidates. That means that you are far less likely to get considered for the really good jobs.

At your stage you should be starting to be somewhat senior, but senior people are expected to have more in depth experience than you can get when you only stay for less than a year. Senior people are also expected to be better at dealing with the soft skills of the job and job hoppers tend to have more problems in that area because they run away from problems rather than try to solve them.

Personally If I saw your record, I would still consider you a junior dev if you were in software development. You would have to be in the top 1% of 1% before I would feel that you had the kind of experience a senior dev needs with that kind of history. There is a lot more to being senior than knowing the syntax of various languages and the job hopper doesn't tend to get that kind of experience. Further, I would be concerned that you might have difficulty working with others and that is why you move on so often.

Hiring managers in other fields would likely feel the same way.

Job hoppers also are often the weakest technically because they don't stick around long enough to really learn the business domain and the problems that their work approach caused over time.

This is especially true in software development. A dev who has never stuck around to deal with the pain of fixing what he wrote is a dev who is not going to learn better, more maintainable ways of doing business.

  • Job hoppers can also be very strong, because they need to ramp up quickly, sometimes in a new language but always in a new domain and codebase. They also might have experienced a broader set of challenges and so have more solutions at their fingertips. I say this as someone who contracted for years and so I was on a different job every few months. – Amy Blankenship Dec 9 '15 at 17:10
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    @AmyBlankenship Contracting is very different though. In contracting it's expected that you are in places for the short term. Job hopping is a permanent employee who can't hold down a job for longer than a year...not contractors hired for a specific role and duration. – Tim B Dec 9 '15 at 17:24
  • But the actual experiences you'd get in one vs the other may not be that difficult regardless of what the expectation was when you were hired of how long you would stay. – Amy Blankenship Dec 9 '15 at 17:28
  • @AmyBlankenship: they may not be that different, but from the hiring manager's POV what matters is that they're probably different. Getting ditched at the end of a probation period typically is a different kind of experience from a successful contract of the same length (granted I've chosen the most alarming of the questioner's jobs). The period during which a contractor has experience similar to that of a probationary junior employee ranges from 0 to 5 minutes while they're being shown where their desk is ;-) – Steve Jessop Dec 10 '15 at 2:02
  • @SteveJessop I was not speaking to whether someone's subjective opinion was that they're different. I was speaking to HLGEM's statement that job hoppers are often technically weaker. I think of any given population, most are technically weak and a few are technically strong. Someone who has held a lot of jobs for whatever reason has a greater potential for more areas of expertise. – Amy Blankenship Dec 10 '15 at 15:57
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If you are not a job hopper, all it does is move you from the a perm-employee realm to the contractor realm.

Higher pay, but pay for your own insurance and don't get PTO.

I find contractors actually have a much MUCH easier time finding work.

Contrary to popular belief, having diversity in your experience is worth more than being demonstrated as being able to do one job the way one company does it for 10 years.

Hiring managers who look down their noses at "job hoppers" generally build teams that are great at keeping the job, but horrible at doing the job. Bloated egos and incompetence all around. The types of places you probably want to avoid.

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    I think your last paragraph is incorrect in most cases. Certainly few managers want an entire staff that rolls over every year or less. Hiring is time-consuming and expensive, Why should I bother with someone like this unless he or she has something very special to offer?.Diversity is good for some things and not others. 6 jobs doesn't guarantee diversity of experience though. From the resumes I have read, It often means six years of doing very basic entry level work. Contracting is certainly a valid option. But only if he or she happens to be in a profession where contracting is common. – HLGEM Dec 9 '15 at 21:35
  • Well, you prove my point. "Why should I bother with someone like this unless he or she has something very special to offer?" By necessity of contract work, you need to develop several very special somethings to offer. That's how you get contracts, and get to/past the 3 month mark to not completely bone yourself. And then you do it again. And again. From your standpoint, I don't believe a filthy job hopper can have something to offer, so ill just hire someone on the merit of their staying employed, not because they have anything special to offer. Its the contractors that develop actual skills. – user2989297 Dec 9 '15 at 22:30
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    On the flip side, you get a 10 year entry on your resume by keeping your head low, playing it safe, and taking as little risk as possible. You need to box yourself into a nice safe little cubby hole, and hide there for as long as you can. You are not gaining skills when you are hiding in your safe-bet, 10 year tenure job. – user2989297 Dec 9 '15 at 22:42
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    Anyway the questioner is not a contractor, and the question isn't about how hiring managers view contractors. So "by the necessity of contract work" is beside the point, and in HLGEM's comment, "someone like this" is not a highly-skilled and successful contractor with a bee in their bonnet about being accused of job-hopping, it's someone with a series of jobs that didn't work out. If the questioner thinks they can spin their stated history as "being a contractor", I say good luck to 'em but I wouldn't hold much hope. Better to make sure at least one job works out. – Steve Jessop Dec 10 '15 at 2:15
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    I have worked with many contractors and many permanent employees (and many who were both in the course of the time I worked with them) and I can tell you that there are as many bad contractors as bad employees and as many good employees as good contractors. This guy is not a contractor however, he is an employee who can't/won't keep a job. I have interviewed many of these people and they are generally poor in either role. – HLGEM Dec 10 '15 at 14:41
1

The question is, what do most people think about people with a lot of job history with a lot of roles?

Its called job hopping, and viewed as very negative. Depending on circumstances they might give you a shot at explaining it, but you will have to expect that many corporations will now throw your resume straight into the bin upon seeing this.

Consider staying longer with your next job.

-1

I'll extend @UncleLongHair's answer a bit. I single him out for his reference to leaving on good terms, because if you burned 6 bridges in 6 years, and you have nothing to show for it, my answer doesn't apply. Also my answer is somewhat specific to IT, so keep that context in mind.

The departure of the talented for greener pastures, and who is left behind, has a name: dead sea effect. A lot of my answer is inspired by that article.

Sometimes the job market is NOT competitive.

Many previous answers quote experts who are mentioning you being one of a thousand resumes, aka a competative job market. IT frequently has had, does have, will continue to have, the exact opposite scenario: lots of demanding jobs and extreme difficulty filling them.

Obviously this quality matters when determining if a manager is willing to overlook job hops. Are they really sorting through a thousand resumes? Are they oblivious to how hard it is to get a good candidate, and how likely their candidates (and their employees) are to get poached out from under them? And will they hold it against a candidate if they sought out the best job they could over a period of several years?

The answers to those questions matter. A manager should be aware of continual churn in candidate pool.

Leaving can indicate good qualities

Here are some things that are good:

  1. accurate documentation and lack of tribal knowledge
  2. clear, stable, extensible architecture
  3. software that can be maintained by someone other than its author

Sometimes we call these things hit-by-bus planning. But you could equally well call them I-won't-work-here-forever-and-I-know-it planning. In other words, people who are willing to leave a job know that they have to do a good job all the time. People who intend to stick around can cut corners in terms of communicating what they know to their future successors.

Staying at a job can indicate a lack of options

If a company begins to struggle (layoffs, wage freezes, etc), and an employee "stays loyal", then they are proving nothing except that they can't find a better employer. As implied by the title of that article I linked, the employees who feel they are capable of finding a new job will "evaporate". The employees who choose not to job hunt stay put. The result is a collection of employees who are less than average.

This can be doubly bad if a company offers incentives for leaving. In that case, rather than terminating bad workers in the layoff, the company actively encourages their best job seekers to go out and find something new.

  • A comment to go with the downvote, please? – Seth Battin Dec 10 '15 at 17:12

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