The Potential Consequences Of Being A Job Hopper

If you've recently entered or re-entered the workforce, or decided to make a change to another industry, you've likely received more than your fair share of solicited (and unsolicited) professional advice. One of the most common warnings passed around professional circles of all industries is to beware of listing too many jobs on your resume within a relatively short time period. Working a series of jobs for short periods of time is often referred to as job hopping — and can result in potential employers labeling you a job hopper. And it's not exactly a compliment.

You may be wondering how many jobs in what period of time it takes to earn the title of "job hopper," and what you can do about the assumptions and implications that often go along with it. We've got you covered. Here is your guide to understanding and navigating the potential consequences of job hopping when you're looking for a new position

Consequences of job hopping

You may have heard that people who jump around from job to job are dooming themselves to a horrible fate: becoming a candidate no employer is willing to hire. While this isn't necessarily the case, there are certainly some significant potential consequences of job hopping. Starting and leaving several jobs over a relatively short period of time can serve as a red flag to employers.

Most companies are looking for candidates they can invest time, money, and energy into. In exchange, they expect to receive a return on that investment in the form of the employee's contribution to the company's success. This means that the more desirable a position is, the more candidates will apply — and the easier it will be for the employer to screen out job hoppers.

The problem with job hopping, then, is not that it prevents you from being hired, but that it lowers the quality of the jobs you're likely to be hired for. Once you accept a lower-quality job, you're more likely to leave that job in a short period of time, and then the cycle is perpetuated. The only way to really break the cycle is to hold out for a job you can see yourself thriving in for three years or more — and then following through with that goal. 

What really defines a job hopper?

Generally speaking, a person who stays at a series of multiple jobs for two years or less before moving on to the next one may be labeled as a job hopper. Are there any exceptions to this rule? Of course. If you only recently entered the workforce, it is normal and expected for you to cycle through a few jobs before you find the right fit for you. The same is true if you only recently re-entered the workforce after having a child or going back to school, or if your position changes have been within the same company.

If you have determined that you meet the definition of a job hopper, be prepared to answer questions from potential employers about why you've left so many jobs after short periods of time. As long as you can provide a truthful, professional answer — and a legitimate reason why you think this job will be different for you — you'll have a decent chance of being considered for the position. 

Know your industry

While most traditional industries carry the expectation that a reliable employee will have a solid employment history, there are industries that tend to have less stringent standards for longevity. Hiring managers in industries that are newer and faster paced, such as technology, may not find it troublesome that a candidate has cycled through a few different startups. Industries that are more on the cutting edge of new developments might even find this rapid way of gaining experience to be an asset.

It is essential that you take some time to get to know the general expectation of the industry you're either already working in (or attempting to enter). For feedback from current and former employees of the companies you may be applying to, consider visiting a review website like Glassdoor. Information is power, and you want to be armed with as much of it as possible when searching for the right employer to break your job-hopping cycle. 

Quality of life vs ideal job opportunities

The ever-present question when approaching the issue of how your job history may look is whether you should remain in jobs longer — even if you aren't happy — just to avoid the consequences of being deemed a job hopper. While the decision is ultimately yours to make, it should be given very careful consideration.

Anyone who has ever worked at a job that invoked daily dread and anxiety is aware of the negative effects it can have on your overall quality of life. In fact, many studies have proven that staying in a job you hate can negatively impact your mental health. One published by the University of Manchester suggested that even unemployment is a healthier option.

You deserve to enjoy your life. If that means missing out on a few ideal positions because of your work history, then so be it. Once you find a work environment that suits you and supports your mental well-being, you can begin to reverse your cycle of job hopping. In the meantime, consider setting a goal to start working to live instead of living to work. Treat yourself with compassion and the rest will fall into place.