Gone are the days when employees spent their entire careers working for the same company. While ‘jobs for life’ have obvious upsides, an increasing number of workers are discovering the benefits of well-timed job hopping.
It’s not hard to see why many Gen Z and millennial employees have decided the time is now to vote with their feet and move to a job providing a better work-life balance or an enhanced salary or benefits package. 2022 saw over 135,000 tech industry layoffs, with no sign of abatement moving into 2023. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic created the perfect storm of conditions for the Great Resignation, as many workers began reassessing their priorities in the face of an uncertain future.
Purposeful job-hopping may appear to fly in the face of everything you’ve heard about showing tenacity and commitment with longer tenures. However, the conditions created by the pandemic have forced many employers to work harder to attract talent, often leading to significant financial rewards for job switchers. In fact, ADP’s 2021 Workplace Vitality Report found that job switchers enjoyed an average yearly wage growth of 5.83%, compared to just 3.08% for people remaining in their existing roles.
Thanks to the growing normalization of job hopping, there’s a strong case for using strategic switches to your advantage. However, understanding when job hopping can help your career — and when it can be harmful — is essential.
The benefits of job hopping
Well-planned, intentional job hopping can give you the range of experience you need to progress along your chosen career path more quickly. Having multiple roles under your belt could benefit your career in the following ways:
Developing skills and job knowledge
No two jobs are the same, even within a niche industry. The broader your job history, the more opportunities you have to learn new skills, processes, and methods that could give you the edge when it’s time for your next career move. Experiencing working with different colleagues and client groups can also help you develop the soft skills many employers value, such as communication, adaptability, and teamwork.
Varied work experience can also hone your ability to recognize good employment opportunities. Working for multiple companies allows you to evaluate workplace standards in your industry and appreciate both good and poor practices. Therefore, you’ll be more likely to identify employers offering the best benefits, compensation, and conditions while weeding out companies that don’t meet the mark.
If you’ve ever been missold the dream of fast progression by an employer, you’ll already know that getting promoted within your existing company isn’t always a given. Depending on retention within your company, you could be waiting years for a senior colleague to move on before you can advance. Job hopping can help prevent a stagnating career by taking advantage of more senior vacancies at other companies instead of waiting around for opportunities in your current job.
Exposure to new industries
Working across multiple industries can be particularly advantageous for young or recently-qualified employees. It allows you to gain valuable experience in different sectors while finding the career path that best suits your preferences and aspirations. As a candidate with a diverse employment history, you can offer employers a fresh perspective while bringing valuable transferable skills to your new workplace.
Increased earning potential
The ADP workforce report demonstrates how lucrative a job move can be in the right circumstances, and the current hot job market allows jobseekers to benefit from increased competition for the best talent. You may find a new company is happy to offer you a better salary and benefits package than you could negotiate with your existing employer.
While the outlook for job hoppers is rosy in most professions, it’s essential to consider the climate in your particular industry. For example, a career move could be an excellent option if you work in resources or manufacturing, with job switchers enjoying 11.81% wage growth in 2021 compared to 6.06% for job holders. However, leisure and hospitality workers were generally better off staying put. Wages in this industry showed negative growth, with job holders taking a smaller hit than those changing employers.
Experiencing different workplace cultures and methodologies
Exposure to a range of cultures and management styles can be attractive to potential employers, provided your time at each company was long enough to give you a thorough grounding in its methodologies. A diverse job history can make you a more well-rounded employee compared to experiencing just one way of doing things during a single, longer tenure.
Experience with multiple working styles and practices can also make you a valuable knowledge source to a new employer, especially if you have experience working for an industry leader and then switch to a smaller company or start-up. Your industry insights could help your new employer discover new, more effective ways of operating and even save them a significant amount on consultancy fees.
When does job hopping go too far?
Fortunately, there’s now significantly less stigma attached to reasonable job hopping, and many employers expect applications from candidates with broad experience. So, when does job hopping turn into a red flag?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how often you can change jobs without harming your prospects, and what’s acceptable will vary from employer to employer. However, multiple tenures lasting less than a year could indicate a lack of commitment, leaving employers questioning how soon you’ll quit. Furthermore, spending at least a year at each company allows you to grow into the role and acquire new skills and knowledge — in other words, you need depth as well as breadth.
Another factor to consider is the number of short tenures on your resume. Many employers are fine with an applicant having one or two year-long stints on their resume, but may be spooked by applicants with exclusively brief tenures.
Perhaps the simplest way to establish what’s normal (and what isn’t) is to look at average employment lengths. According to research by CareerBuilder, Gen Z workers (aged 24 or younger) stay in each job for two years and three months on average. Millennials (aged 25 to 40) typically stick around for an extra six months, with an average employment length of two years and nine months.
How to explain job hopping in an interview
While job hopping shouldn’t be a barrier for many roles, some hiring managers still prefer candidates that show commitment to one company. If you sense that a potential employer has a negative view of job hopping, there are a few ways to positively frame your changes in employment to help you succeed in an interview.
First, provide context for why you left your old job and explain how you managed the transition to minimize any impact on the company so hiring managers know that you won’t leave them high and dry.
Then, communicate how you can help a prospective employer meet their goals and express why you want to work for them specifically so they know you’re committed. Focus on the aspects of the company and role that excite you and offer examples of how your previous experience makes you the best candidate.
Finally, when asked about short-term goals, emphasize your intention to grow in the role. Hiring managers are much more interested in a candidate that’s worth the effort to train, so let them know where you see yourself in the role down the road.