On Job Hopping

After reading this posting this afternoon, I couldn’t help responding a little to this:

Must have career stability ie: they do not want job hoppers ……they want a long term commitment someone that will grow and shape team 

As far as I’m concerned, very few people “hop” jobs because they think job hopping is a good strategy.  Switching jobs is pretty stressful for most people, and they tend to do it for one (and often both) of two strong reasons:

  1. He/She isn’t happy where he/she is.
  2. He/She has a “better offer”.

Most people have had a job they weren’t happy with.  Many of you are probably holding a position you’re not enthusiastic about right now.  When you see problems occurring in your work environment, you have a few choices that can be grouped roughly like this:

  • Accept that your company has problems, and you can live with that.
  • Accept that the company has problems, and try and fix them.
  • Accept that the company has problems, that you can’t fix them, and that it’s time to find another option.

Most people can’t stay in the middle category for much time without progress.  If you’re seeing problems and you aren’t making progress against those problems, you have to decide if you can live with those problems or if you have to leave.  The threshold at which you choose to leave depends on the problems and on the employee; I’ve met employees that treat their job as just a job and expect it to be flawed, and I’ve met others who strive constantly to find that ‘perfect job.’

Fortunately, there’s also a counteracting factor at work: new employees have high hopes and haven’t yet started to bruse those hopes against consistent recurring problems.  This means that many people will go anywhere from a few months to a year before the issues start to rankle.  As with the threshold for leaving, the threshold after which the bloom comes off the rose varies significantly from employee to employee and company to company.

Some people get into a pattern of several hops for a while.  In rare cases, this goes deeper, and it’s an unwillingness to commit, a feeling (accurate or not) of inadequacy, or someone truly incapable of registering that the grass only seems greener on the other side.  Mostly, however, it’s the fact that finding the right fit between you and a company is a hard thing to do.

The Better Offer
The ‘better offer’ is rarely the only factor, because happy employees don’t tend to run around examining and considering other offers at all.  That said, even unhappy employees are rarely willing to sacrifice a decent, stable but frustrating job without having another one lined up.

In Summary
If you’re worried about employees moving on at the job posting level, long before you’ve even started to assess a particular candidate, you probably need to turn your focus inward.  You’re probably not as great an employer as you think: focus on treating your employees well and making them happy, and employee stability will follow.


16 Responses to On Job Hopping

  1. jedediah says:

    Indeed, employers are the primary source if instability in the tech industry, typically due to opportunism, rapid change in landscape and obsession with growth. It’s hard to demonstrate commitment as a worker when the average startup survives two years, and only pays their employees for one.

  2. I don’t know if job hopping is something people do by choice either. Given the chance at working a good, stable company job for 20-30+ years, most people would probably do it.

  3. Well, it’s definitely a choice, and sometimes it’s motivated by factors like the above, but at the same time, I agree that most people I know would be quite happy to discover that their current job is satisfying and competitive to the other options, and given that scenario, would rather stay with the job they have.

    Now, because the ‘grass is always greener’, I’m sure you’d still some some motion, and I’m sure it varies somewhat on a per-employee basis, but I think some employers bias a little too much against those who’ve needed to escape from bad jobs.

  4. Mike says:

    Great post. As someone who has had periods of “hoppiness,” I think the article is right on.

    Enthusiasm is important, and it requires progress to keep it up. When you start a new job, you are excited for the potential of what you can do and how you can improve things and make a contribution. If you run into too many roadblocks, though, that initial enthusiasm is impossible to sustain.

    Part of it is with the employee as well, I think. Different people get different things out of their work, and for some people stability, relationships with coworkers, or even benefits of a job outweigh needing to work in a rational technical environment. Not everyone has the “efficiency gene.” 🙂

  5. Dragonchild says:

    I’ve had 15 positions in 10 years. In nearly every case, it was my contract was ending and I looked around to see what was happening and got offered $5-$10/hr more for the same work somewhere else. Several employers have wondered about this, but it has turned into a strength at my current position. Most of the people where I work now have been there for years – the first two devs are still there after over a decade. They’re looking to me for experience of how other organizations handle various situations as they expand and evolve.

    Job-hopping as a strength – whoddathunkit?

  6. Hello Reddit. Thanks for the attention. There’s some good commentary in the Reddit thread.

    It’s true that some people move on because they want variety, and that some companies, particularly the smaller ones, can’t always offer that variety. I think that’s less of a factor for most employees than some might believe. It’s rarely been true for me, unless you count “At least the problems will be different problems” as an issue with variety.

  7. This a nice post and discussion. I agree with most of what is said.. maybe I could add that if you haven’t found your thing yet that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Please do not stop searching, please do not conform. While you are at your old job take the most out of the experience and grow. As Steve Jobs puts it: “have trust the dots will connect in the end”.


  8. Thomas says:

    Job hopping was the only reason I was able to get significant pay increases early in my career. I started my first PHP job in 2001 at about 40K annual. I got a raise after a year to like 42K and it was very difficult to get. I immediately sent out some resumes and got an offer for 50K and took the job. My previous company told me now way they could match the offer. At job 2 the same exact situation arose. They would not increase my salary significantly enough. 1.5-2 yrs later I got a job offer for 60K. Again, my existing employer refused to match the offer and I left. I stayed there for a few years and quit to get into freelancing where I remain now. My point is, in my experience job hopping was the only way for me to get significant salary increases. Employers in my field were always willing to let me go and hire another junior rather than show me the money.

  9. gfish says:

    It’s interesting that companies want someone that’s willing to make a long term commitment, but they don’t want to make this commitment themselves and grade their potential hires on unrealistic criteria. And yes, I agree, if you have to make a constant point of how you need employees willing to make a long term commitment, it sends a red flag to the candidates and should send the same red flag to upper management.

    When I see this disclaimer, my first thought is when an employee at the company makes a mistake or there’s a problem with a project, new people are gutted like fish and thrown out. New people are then hired in to repeat the cycle. I’ve seen this happen many times. All of these employers stress how much they want someone willing to invest years and years with them.

    Upper management should be wondering why they have to stress long term commitment to the company and take a look at their turnover rates. Not all their hiring managers are brilliant and there may be great people they’ve never used then laid off or fired for personal reasons rather than professional ones.

  10. modestypress says:

    Well, besides those people who have been involved with “job-hopping,” there are those companies that engage in “employee-tossing.” And then they are surprised when employees aren’t “loyal.”

  11. dsc082779 says:

    Great post, and great comments as well. Climbing the corporate ladder might have meant within the same company 40 or 50 years ago. These days that is unrealistic. It is also hypocritical of most employers to have those types of expectations when they give most employees the least they can in order to keep them. Also if it came down to it, the employer wouldn’t hesitate in laying off that same employee if the circumstances called for it. I believe it is also unrealistic to expect employees in their 20’s to settle down for the long haul and stay in the same place. How many of us change companies, change specialties, change complete industries, or change where we want to live. If the job is a good job, and the company is a good company, and the employee is well taken care of, generally most will stay. Having been an employee before, and now being a relatively new business owner, I understand both perspectives. Instead of pressuring my people to be loyal or stay here, I’d rather focus on making them so successful and happy that they would never dream of leaving. As an employer i’d rather be respected and adored, instead of feared and resented. If more employers focused on making their employees successful, instead of how the employees could make the employer successful, there would be much less turn over, and stronger companies, and a stronger economy.

  12. prfx says:

    Thank you for validating job hopping a bit and it’s appreciated at a personal level for me. Having been at companies that are massively flawed at the policy level and speaking up leads to career suicide of the Jerry Maguire variety or worse. So most quality employees either leave or slowly suffocate their innovation through acceptance of “reality”. This kind of lack of willingness for companies to adapt leads to exactly what is happening now at a macro economic level. Job hopping is also good for the economy because it increases mobility within the labor market which benefits overall economic well being in the long term. The negative stigma against job hopping is ludicrous and small minded, but from an employee standpoint should be accepted as the way things are because what’s the point of trying to change something if there is no immediate, direct individual benefit?

  13. mikewalzman says:

    love the post. Many people in this world are the “why me” type. They always think they are the victim and so because they never look at themselves they are doomed to be in the pity cycle.

    You summed it up perfectly at the end.

  14. […] On Job Hopping After reading this posting this afternoon, I couldn’t help responding a little to this: Must have career […] […]

  15. Sheri says:

    If it’s a passing thought or possibly even a mystery to upper management why they have high turnover at their super great company, you are so right that they need to take a harder look. I agree that a company must invest in its employees in order to get a return. And sometimes, you may make a bad investment. But if your company is good at what they do, and you care about your employees, investing time and money in them will pay off. Instead of asking for long term commitment from new applicants, you should be asking 1) are they good at what they do and 2) are they a good fit for your company.

  16. David McKenzie says:

    The problem with many candidates with ‘job hopping’ resumes is that they are decent-to-good interviewees, but lousy employees, due to lack of ability, bad attitude, or inability to get along with co-workers. They have had lots of jobs because they interview well enough to get hired, but then leave or get fired as soon as it becomes obvious that they can’t do the job. It is an unfortunate fact that candidate pools are full of these schmucks, because they spend so much time on the market. This makes things tough for those who have ‘hopper’ resumes due to plain bad luck, but wariness about this pattern is by no means irrational on the part of the employer.

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