At the age of 25, Hannah Williams has an extensive resume, even though she started working full time only less than three years ago.
Since 2019, she has held a total of five jobs — with the longest tenure being a full year.
A number of reasons made her leave those jobs. Once, she discovered a job was different from what she signed up for. Other times, it was either because of poor work-life balance or burnout.
“This was during the Great Resignation, so I felt kind of empowered, because other people are going through this and they’re quitting too. I’ve done it before, I could do it again,” she told CNBC Make It.
She is far from being alone.
According LinkedIn’s 2022 research, U.S. LinkedIn users who changed their jobs increased 37% in 2021. Generation Z workers — those born in 1997 or later — were the “most restless,” the report showed.
About 25% of respondents say they hope or plan to leave their current employers within the next six months.
Another research by CareerBuilder in 2021 found that Gen Z workers would spend an average of two years and three months in a job, while millennials (25 to 40 years old) stayed for just six months more.
It sends quite a few negative signals … It tells me that if the going gets tough, you get going.
In comparison, Gen X employees (41 to 56 years old) spend an average of 5 years in the same job, while and baby boomers (57 to 75 years old) stay in their jobs for about 8 years.
The days of working for the same company from the start to finish of one’s career may be over — but what do hiring managers think about job-hoppers? CNBC Make It finds out.
Is there a ‘sweet spot’?
While job-hopping is “more acceptable than ever” now, a job switch under a year of tenure is still “too quick,” said Amy Zimmerman, the chief people officer of Relay Payments.
“It sends quite a few negative signals. Number one, you lack commitment. Number two, you lack perseverance. It tells me that if the going gets tough, you get going.”
Zimmerman said the so-called sweet spot for switching jobs is every two to three years, as it allows job candidates to show they can “make a commitment and honor it.”
A minimum of 18 months at a job is acceptable, but it will be “wonderful” if a tenure lasts between three and five years, said Randstad’s Managing Director for Singapore and Malaysia Jaya Dass.
How long should you stay at a job? Two to three years is the sweet spot, experts say.
“I also tend to ask what the calendar year of the company is they worked for — that’s one of my personal favorites to find out. I want to know whether you went through two budgeting cycles from the company,” Dass said.
Typically, companies will budget for new initiatives at the start of a calendar year, which presents new opportunities for employees.
“Those who see the company start projects and initiatives … be given those KPIs for the full calendar year to produce them, go through the challenges and the difficulties,” said Dass, referring to key performance indicators that firms use to measure employees’ progress.
“You see the continuation and how someone sees something through.”
‘Depth of knowledge’ is important
While Williams has had much success job-hopping, she also faced questions from potential employers during interviews.
“They’re always worried that I’ll start and then leave and screw them over, which is valid because it does cost money to hire people. They’re just worried about me wasting their time.”
However, Williams insists that’s “not the goal at all” and prides herself on her work ethic. “I hit the ground running. As soon as I start, I get deep into the weeds,” she told CNBC Make It.
“People will say, you didn’t even learn anything in two months. I’m like, what do you think I’ve been doing – I work eight hours a day, five days a week on this.”
Industry experts acknowledge the possible upside of job-hopping every two years or so, such as agility and adapting to new environments quickly. However, they also stress the importance of “depth of thinking,” which comes with a longer tenure.
"I think the salaries that people are making out of college now, especially with student loan debt, and inflation, are just not realistic anymore," said Hannah Williams, who has tripled her pay in two years through job-hopping.
“I think the salaries that people are making out of college now, especially with student loan debt, and inflation, are just not realistic anymore,” said Hannah Williams, who has tripled her pay in two years through job-hopping.Hannah Williams
“Knowing it once and knowing it 10 times is very different. It’s nothing to do with your level of intelligence. It’s just a degree of internalization,” said Dass. She added that she would take the achievements on a job-hopper’s resume “with a pinch of salt.”
“The younger generation is not wrong in saying that they’ve mastered the job in its functionality,” she said. “But when you skip on tenure in a particular role and function, you ignore the factors of change that will help you evolve in decision-making complexity.”
Factors of change may include team members, bosses or even the wider organization.
It will catch up. It will affect your depth of knowledge and ultimately, your value to future companies... The short-term gain isn’t worth the long-term risk.
Job-hopping may be a quick way to bump one’s pay — compared with promotions within the same company. For example, Hannah is currently paid almost three times more as a senior data analyst than when she was in her first job.
However, Zimmerman warned against the price that one will have to pay in the long term.
“It will catch up. It will affect your depth of knowledge and ultimately, your value to future companies. You will not be as competitive as your peers because your knowledge will be stunted,” she said.
“The short-term gain isn’t worth the long-term risk.”
What job seekers should know
For Williams, job-hopping is something she would “absolutely” recommend for anyone.
“Right now, the job market is so hot. People are hiring, they’re paying well, and they’re giving good benefits,” she said.
However, she has reservations too. “If I keep doing this for 10 years, that would be not good. I would wreck my resume,” she said.
“I think it’s more so a worry now than it was before, just because I have a track record … I would have to explain why I left five times in a short time.”
1. Big gaps in the resume matter
According to Dass, if there are no employment gaps, recruiters may see the job-hopping as “a good thing.”
“It means that you are in demand in the market … If someone is getting asked somewhere else for better money and a better position, it is human nature to move,” she said.
“But if there are big gaps, it signifies that this person has a habitual pattern of exiting when the going gets tough.”
2. Employers may look past it — but not always
When it comes to circumstances like toxic workplace culture, Zimmerman said she would not fault a potential employee for making a quick exit.
“What tells me is you signed up in good faith to work for a company that you believed you aligned with their values.”
However, if it happens too often, it could raise serious red flags for employers as well. “I would argue, you either have really bad judgment or you’ve got a different motivation [for job-hopping].”
“If it only happened once or twice, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and I’ll at least have a conversation. But once you become a serial job-hopper, it will tarnish your reputation and it will be really tough to recover,” she added.
3. Job-hopping is not sustainable
To minimize the need to job-hop, Zimmerman advised employees to “do a good job in finding the right place” for themselves.
“If you’re really motivated, ambitious and you get bored easily, make sure that you pick the right company, one that is on a wide growth trajectory, because they will be able to keep up with your growth pace.”
Career coach Chelsea Jay added: “I always recommend for job seekers to first decide what it is you want, because job hopping can only last for so long. After a while, you get tired of moving around.”
Instead, she hopes professionals can use job-hopping for “self-reflection and self-discovery” so that they can eventually settle in a job where they can stay for anywhere between two and five years.
“A lot of times I found that professionals haven’t figured out what has been missing in the past and what they want going forward,” she added.
“Take the time to sit down and write down a list of what you need from a job to be happy and in order to stay there.”