The days of staying with one company your entire career are all but over. Most workers stay with one employer for an average two to three years, and then move on. Some career experts say this practice is perfectly acceptable, particularly given that many of today’s employers simply expect it. I ran across a recent Brazen Careerist post in which the blogger maintains that staying with one employer for a long time can be "career suicide," giving advice on how candidates can safely change jobs frequently.

I certainly agree with the notion that changing your career frequently is not a career mistake, especially if the move makes sense for you. For example, you find a job at another employer that will provide more opportunities to build your skills sets than your current employer, leading to better career opportunities in the future.

However, I’d argue that staying with one employer for a long period of time can also be the best non-move of your career. Let me qualify… if you have been working your same job for several years without advancement it is probably time to either speak up, or move on. But, if you receive steady increases in job title and salary, and have shaped your skills and developed a specialty, then there is no need to move on.

Through acquisitions and mergers, I have essentially worked for Spherion for more than 20 years, and I haven’t looked back. I started out as an entry level recruiter at a small boutique recruiting firm and continued to take on new positions within that organization. Then, we were acquired by Spherion and new opportunities to expand my career presented themselves. Today, I am a Senior Vice President and Group Executive of Professional Services, creating new strategy for our recruitment efforts on behalf of some of largest clients. I have managed to gain the same experience, title changes and salary increases that I may have achieved through ten different companies. Yes, there were growing pains, but at the end of the day, I have achieved my career goals and still feel confident in my status as a viable part of the company.

I am curious to hear how others have handled their career paths, and what tips can you offer as either an employee with longevity, or someone who has job hopped. What’s the longest you have ever stayed with an employer? Did it hurt or hinder your career?

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10 Responses to Is Job Jumping Good or Bad?

  1. Working Girl says:

    Well, I have had 59 jobs.
    Not because I was fired a lot (was fired from only one job). Mainly because for many years I worked two jobs at a time (not the same two) and because a lot of my jobs were by definition short term.
    Did this hurt me? I don’t think so. Did it help me? In many ways, yes. I never get too over-wrought about any work “problem” and I feel very relaxed about my ability to land on my feet. Delusional? Maybe!
    So job hopping is not bad, per se. And being “loyal” is not a cause for shame either. Depends on why, in both cases.
    Interesting post!

  2. Barb says:

    I agree. It’s good to jump from one job to another. But i think that it wouldn’t be applicable to people who are getting old, escpecially if companies already knows that you’re not stable and will jump to another if there’s an opportunity.

  3. Christina says:

    I agree completely with Brendan on this. As long as you are going places with your current employer, longevity at a company may make the most sense for some. I have also seen that when current employers are looking at resumes, if you are a job hopper they are a lot less likely to look at you. Even if the hops make sense. Employers want to know they are going to get a good-return on their investment; and they also want to have the security they are not going to have to fill this position again shortly down the road.
    I know I may have a totally different aspect then those above, but for me, staying with the same employer is almost a badge of honor. I started with my current employer when I was only 20 years old- and as I watched all my friends and peers struggle from one job to the next, trying to find their space in life, I could not have been happier with the tried and true of working for the same company everyday. Perhaps I am just a creature of habit, but I am still pleased, still moving up and still coming tomorrow to the same company I have for the last seven years. I like to think security will have to remove me one day when I am 80 and they will not let me work here anymore.

  4. Hi, Brendan. I realize, reading this string, that the discussion between job hoppers and job-not-hoppers reminds me a little bit about the debate between parent who stay home with kids and parents who don’t: It’s personal. If you don’t get bored staying in a job, then that’s probably good for you. A lot of people would get bored. Both are probably okay to do for different types of people.

  5. Brendan Courtney says:

    I completely agree with you, Penelope. It really is a matter of preference. I would recommend that although it is ultimately your choice, make sure you have a plan. Whether you strategically job hop from company to company or make a lateral move, just don’t change jobs on impulse. It?s always best to have a career plan in mind before making any move and evaluate how this new position will help bring you closer to your dream destination.

  6. Michelle says:

    It’s so interesting that I happened to be on the Spherion site looking at job postings when I came across this blog. I’ve done a little bit of hopping, some where it made sense and some where it did not, although it did at the time (I suppose I can blame it on being in my 20s back then). Right now, I’m seriously considering making a move. I have been in my current position for two years. I can’t stand it and am working for people for whom I have no respect. However, the location is close to home, the hours are great and the dress code is casual. So, I would only be staying because it’s conducive to my personal life, other than the fact that being here for three years would probably look better than two on a resume. I guess my point is, so-called job hopping is ok, as long as it can be justified. I also agree that staying with one employer for too long can be “suicide” unless you have built up your career while there and not remained stagnant. I think that you really need to look at your professional goals, what you need to accomplish to get there, and if you’re current situation is helping or hurting.

  7. Cheryl Hayes says:

    I agree that it’s personnal preference but also could be fatal.. I was with a company for 28 yrs. and then my position was eliminated. I never got bored and enjoyed what I was doing but on the other hand not moving from job to job limited me from learning and mastering other areas. Now, looking for a new job I have to more or less settle for what I know instead of something new and possibly more challenging.

  8. Ally says:

    I agree that job jumping is never a bad thing- however i began working in the corporate world four years ago and remain in the field I am in because it is difficult for me to jum into another field because of lack of experience. At my current employment I have progressed by changing positions higher but remained in the same division which increases my salary but not really my experience as it is just the same division with more responsibility. The frustration comes when trying to jump- my salary range currently is too high to jump into another field at the same rate. It sometimes makes it hard…

  9. Kelly says:

    I think it is a personal decision, first and foremost. I found it interesting to learn that most people stay in a job 2 or 3 years. My employer of 4 years was on the second year of a wage freeze, and the gasoline was taking 10% of my income because of the distance (40 miles) to the job. I left my job of 4 years, for a better paying (10% increase) job closer to home. Unfortunately, this was a temp to perm and the job was canceled after one week. Most of jobs have either been 4 or 5 years in tenure, but I have a few short term ones where companies closed or I was laid off. I am being told I am a job hopper, but I had no control over companies closing up shop. I would have thought that having a tenure of 4 years in my most recent job, would show that I am not a job hopper, but apparently not. I was even told by someone that I must be too picky in my job choices!

  10. Necol says:

    I too have stayed at most of my jobs for 2 years. I find the companies who ask and seem concerned about the jumps are those who have traditional long-term lifecycles, versus internet companies that change virtually everything more often.
    I wonder if the nature of my work makes a difference. Regardless if I’m a contractor or a full-timer employee, web projects last about that long. If you’re at a big firm, they’ll hire you as a full-time employee because the need to ramp up for a project, but then after it’s done they find random “busy” work for you to do.
    I think people like me need to stick w/ contracting / consulting firms that are willing to train you and provide a bench between projects.

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