The Flighty Worker: How Many Jobs Can One Have in a Short Period of Time?

should you job hop to get ahead?2016 update: Check out our latest discussion on job hopping.

How does job hopping affect your career prospects? If you take a job with the intention of quitting soon, how bad is that? Reader T writes in with an interesting question about job loyalty…

I am leaving my current company as a result of my discovery of some unethical practices. I had originally hoped to move to a job abroad after my stint here, but I had banked on a having a longer timeline to work with.

I am now looking for a new job in my current (States-side) area. However, I’m also still clinging to hope of that job abroad. My question is, assuming I can quickly find a new job in my current location, how many bridges would I inevitably burn if I were to jump ship after a couple of months? For that matter, would international companies be unwilling to hire me if I’ve only been at Interim Job for less than a year? Not to mention, I would have to leave International Job after 2 years anyway in order to pursue my MBA. Finally, would I be reducing my chances of getting into a good business school by possibly sending the (false) impression that I’m flighty? In sum, how do I make this transition as non-destructive as possible?

Wow… my first impression is that I’m tired just reading your plans! Ultimately, I think you should avoid taking a permanent job for as short a period of time as “a couple of months,” but taking a job with the expectation of going to business school down the line is fine (with the understanding that the adage, “God laughs when you make a plan,” is often true.)  Let’s discuss more — I’m curious to hear what readers say, particularly about whether multiple jobs in a short period of time will hurt your b-school prospects.  (Photo credit: -RejiK.)  A few more quick thoughts:

a) Taking a permanent job with the expectation that you will “jump ship after a couple of months” seems unethical to me.  Job hunts take time and money for the company, and there’s a breaking-in process whenever someone starts.  Yes, I think, you can expect to burn those bridges at your hypothetical Interim Job — but also, I suspect, with any people from your current job (presumably in the same market) who recommended you for the future job.  Furthermore:  why stay States-side now? Why not just accelerate things and look for the job abroad? You don’t say why you want “a longer timeline” by just a few months — is it money-related?  Partner-related?  Lease related?  I think almost all of those are things that can be worked with (e.g., borrow money from your parents, live apart from your partner for a few months, or break your lease) far more simply than actively taking a permanent job with the intention of leaving before, at least, a year.  If you really must stay States-side, there  are plenty of contract-based jobs, consultant work, and more — even paid internships — that are only expected to last for a few months, which I think would be a much better situation if you really don’t want to look for a permanent job abroad right now.  Even moving to International City to gather more experience while waiting for the right moment to apply to International Job would be preferable to burning all of your bridges in your current city.

b) “I would have to leave International Job after 2 years anyway to pursue my MBA.” Maybe I’m daft here, but:  why?  Because this is your Life Plan?  Unless you’ve already been admitted to business school in 2014 — which is probably something you should tell Future Employer about anyway, whether States-side or International — you should stop thinking about this as a plan written in ink.  You can say to yourself, “I really would like to go to Business School X in 2014.”  You can even say to yourself, “I’m not buying an apartment or signing a 5-year lease because I plan to go to Business School X in 2014.”  But… realistically speaking, life has a way of happening despite your plans.  Maybe you’ll love International Job.  Maybe you’ll decide business school isn’t for you.  Maybe you’ll quit your business job, start a calligraphy business,  and then decide to go back to school to become an oncologist.  (True story from one of my friends.)  I suppose my point here is that, in my mind, taking a job with the intention of going to business school down the line is a very different animal than taking a job with the intention of quitting two months later.  I suppose life could intervene even in the few months at your proposed Interim Job, but so much can happen in two years that, as an employer, I’d be willing to take a chance on you (and not regret it even if you did go to business school two years later).

c) Now, finally: how many jobs can you take before you’re seen as flighty as far as business schools and future employers are concerned? I poked around a bit to see what other advice has been given. Far from the old advice that job hopping was the way to get ahead, nowadays people aren’t so sure.  Ask Men notes that there may be a perception of volatility, incompetence, impropriety, and/or a lack of structure and growth in your life — as well as a fear of commitment.  Ouch. Over at Forbes Woman, J. Maureen Henderson advises that you shouldn’t switch jobs unless you’re moving up, “you’ve milked your current gig dry,” and you can tie all of your jobs together as part of some grand plan.  Meanwhile, a recent Catalyst report found that the most successful women primarily rose through the ranks at one company, something that I could see being useful if we talk about “building the bank of credibility” that’s necessary if you want to take maternity leave and the like. Similarly, a recent article in FT notes anecdotal evidence that successful women tend to be more loyal with companies.  I think for all those reasons, I would caution you against changing jobs willy-nilly — but to keep your eyes open to opportunities that materially advance your career and/or your skillset. Here, I think that means focusing your job search on International Job if that’s the career and connections you want down the line, and forgetting about a potential Interim Job.

Readers, what are your thoughts?  Do you think it’s wrong to take a permanent job with the expectation that you’ll leave in a couple of months?  Do you think employers and admission committees are more suspicious of people who’ve had multiple jobs in a short period of time?  Do you think actively job hopping is a bad move, in general, for women?



  1. This all seems like great advice.

  2. Two months seems crazy to me. I would feel really bad about letting the employer down. You’re giving them nothing but hassle by doing this. I think anything under a year will be suspect in most people’s eyes. They’ll want an explanation for sure. If money is the issue, why not work a temp job or a retail position or even pick up a few babysitting jobs or work at a seasonal position at a country club? Find a job that tends to have more turnover and will not cause a huge problem for others when you quit.

  3. I think all your advice is sound, the article caught my attention though because I work in an industry that has high turn over and short stints in many places (temporary positions and contract work). While thats typical, its also not unheard of to be in one place for several years. I still get nervous about how much jumping around is to much jumping around, and at what point does its start looking bad on my resume? My current position lasts a year, the one before this was 8 months, etc.

    • It’s different for contract work.
      Which, BTW, Reader T should consider as a means to funding her search for International Job.

      • Diana Barry :

        Yes. The two month thing is crazy. Either consider staying at the unethical firm for 2 more months, move up the international job search by 2 months, or take a temp/contract position for 2 months (or volunteer, if $$$ allows).

        And do NOT tell whatever hypothetical international employer that you will be starting B-school in 2014 (unless you already applied and got a 3-year deferral????). You may think the chances of this are 100%, but they are a lot less than that.

      • I don’t know if the writer is a lawyer, but contract work is much plentiful than it used to be. It’s not easy to get even temporary work for which one is considered overqualified.

  4. I finished college in the late ’90s and started work in a field where job hopping was common. There wasn’t too much job security, which encouraged people to switch jobs every 6-12 months. It wasn’t a big deal to the employer if people left in a short period of time, but people will still ask about those jobs today and why I moved around so much. Luckily none of those employers exist anymore, so that helps my argument that the jobs really weren’t longterm places of employment.

    If you’re looking for something short term, that is really what you should do instead of going for a job where you come on and people expect you to put in a few years before you leave. I had a year between an international job ending and going to law school, and in that time period I just picked up contract work and short-term work at several places that knew from the start that I planned on leaving in a set period of time.

  5. a few things that annoy me :

    1 – “stateside,” not “states side”
    2 – why would job-hopping be bad for women and not just for people?
    3 – “daft”? Has Downton Abbey taken over everyone’s vocabulary?
    4 – general tone is pretty condescending. And why is it bad to have plans? Yes, letter-writer should understand that plans may have to change. But I don’t think it’s crazy to expect to spend a few years doing X, then studying Y, then working in Z.

    • 1. Concurred.
      2. Job-hopping may be considered bad for people, not just women. The path to professional success, however, *is* different for women than it is for men. See: the reason for this blog and why it’s so awesome. Also, I appreciate that Kat researched trends of women being successful in the workplace.
      3. “Maybe I’m daft here” is a perfectly acceptable substitute for Kat’s more commonly used “Call me crazy”.
      4. I didn’t find the tone condescending. It’s not bad to have plans but the reader was asking for Kat’s opinion, which she gave. It’s not going to always be, “yes, reader, you’re brilliant and I agree completely.”

    • Amelia Bedelia :

      1. even brilliant bloggers make mistakes — just breathe.
      2. this is a blog focused on women. We need the credibility bank more than men do for certain life plans. Just because it is not fair, does not mean it is not true.
      3. as a Brit, I appreciate the word choice!
      4. I honestly did not find this condescending. I found it very logical, practical, well-reasoned, etc. Reader asked for advice and received very sound advice. Well done, Kat!

      as an aside, I fondly remember being in my early twenties and thinking that in X years, I will definitely do Y, but only for Z amount of time . . . ahhh, the glory of youth . . .

      • Diana Barry :

        Agreed. I agree with Kat and don’t think it’s condescending at all.

      • I’m gonna be the skunk at the garden party here. Job hopping being a CV killer is very 2000. If you read many future-cast opinions on the way people will work in the next 20 years (Intuit 2020 being a favourite) you will see that the traditional long term corporate role is diminishing in both prevalence and importance. The social contract that binds organisation to employer has weakened. It is about people being the right fit for the right project at the right time.

        I have held no job or more than 2 years. I continue to progress up the ladder and do very well in my field. The key is that not one of my employers would give me a poor recommendation nor say that I left them in the lurch. Being a job hopper is not bad per se. It simply must be done strategically and with a great deal of appreciation for current and future employers.
        For the OP, my advice is to not be concerned about the overseas role regarding the potential timing of the MBA. Depending on where you are looking to move, the job market is most likely much less stable, so 2 years is plenty. In the UK/EU redundancies abound and ppl are moving around like crazy. In emerging markets, ppl are always looking for the next big jump.

        Two things to keep in mind. If you want to stay overseas, MBAs are not so respected as they are in the US. An MSc in Economics or the like would be a much better choice. Second, visas are very very very difficult to come across in many places these days. (I know, I have lived it) Looking to get a degree in another country gives you an instant visa and time to establish yourself. If you’re not ready yet for that move yet, then perhaps a contract role stateside. These are easy to come by as many firms have hiring freezes on but can swing a contract employee.

        Plan your heart out but don’t be hung up if your Journey takes you in unexpected directions, and live this one by the golden rule. If you were the hiring manager would you want your new hire to ditch after 2 months? No way.

      • “2. this is a blog focused on women. We need the credibility bank more than men do for certain life plans. Just because it is not fair, does not mean it is not true.”

        There’s a line between recognizing reality on one side and reinforcing stereotypes and capitulating to expected gender roles on the other.

    • 1. Fair enough.
      2. Studies have shown that women have fewer traditional networking opportunities (senior men paranoid about sexual harassment charges, some just too lazy to do so, fearful of their wives kicking their @sses) , and are often held to a higher standard, so it may be easier for women to develop political capital and credibility by staying at a place where they’re a known quantity (for their track record of successes) and can rely on that, rather than the old boys’ network. Also, the maternity leave issue that other posters have raised.

      There’s the world as we’d like it to be, and the world as it is. Corporate America is very much in the latter category at this point.

      3. Um, you know “daft” has been around a lot longer than Downton Abbey. Relax. And go listen to a band I loved in the late 1990s– Daft Punk. Also, in the first Bridget Jones movie, I loved the scene when Bridget’s Dad reconciles with Bridget’s Mum and he calls her, quite affectionately, a “daft cow” and tells her that he can’t live without her.

      4. It’s not bad to have plans, and I don’t think Kat was being condescending. It’s just that it’s often better to look (carefully) before leaping (precipitously).

    • I agree with your comments.

  6. I left a bad-fit, bad-culture job after 9 months and it didn’t seem to have a negative impact. It’s not something I’d want to make a habit of!
    That said, Taking a job and leaving after 2 months is poor form. It could take 2 months to find a job anyway! Is the overseas job locked in? Are the unethical practices so bad that you have to leave immediately? Can you report said practices to higher ups? If it’s that bad do police or other authorities need to be involved?
    2 months is short. Do you have enough savings to volunteer for a cause you love? Or how about working freelance or on a specific project for a few months?

    P.s. Kat- i am wearing the boiled wool ruffled blazer from Macys today and i love it. Thanks for recommending it!

    • Oh this reminds me of things I left out:

      If the overseas job isn’t locked in, then that does raise a lot of questions, particularly about job-searching while overseas.

      As far as leaving the unethical job, I agree that things should be reported to higher-ups and legal authorities, but I do agree with the original writer that she should leave the company if she disagrees with their practices. I am a full believer in standing by principle.

    • Maine Associate :

      I bought the boiled wool blazer and wore it last week! It wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. I loved it too!!

  7. I do agree with pretty much everything said in the OP here.

    One question I have: Why can’t you continue working at International Job while pursuing an MBA? Plenty of people do it. It takes longer, yes, but it will keep your resume from looking as interrupted. Kudos, btw, on leaving an unethical company. A lot of people won’t do that. I do think finding a contract or temp job in the interim, or relocating ahead of time and finding a temp job, is the best option.

    @a few things that annoy me – Women tend to have to deal with a lot more issues with things like maternity leave OR perception of anticipated maternity leave (like people assuming all women will take it and that affecting their promotability, etc.) so they have to be more conscious about building up a history at a company. It’s also not bad to have plans, but it is ill-advised to have plans that can damage your credibility in your career, like things that keep you from keeping a consistent job.

  8. Andrea Mercado :

    I am a headhunter for lawyers. You are allowed one or maybe two jobs where you stayed less than two years following law school (excluding clerkships, of course) during your first six years out. After that, you are considered jumpy and a bad employment risk. Or as I explain to candidates, lawyers in the top firms have extraordinary credentials demonstrative a wide breadth of interests and pre-law experience. Employers know you are smart and accomplished. They are afraid that you are smart but easily bored and that you will “up and join the circus” (i.e., leave) at the slightest whim or that you don’t know how to take direction/play well with others. An employer won’t be committed to you unless you demonstrate an equal commitment. Now, at least in law, law firms, being more straightlaced, eschew even law firm partners 25 years out and with big books of portable business who have moved around alot– either generally or in the first six years after law school. The almost irrebuttable presumption for the partner with multiple career long moves is that some combination of the following is true: he/she doesn’t know how to play well with others, is lying about their book size and stays in one place only long enough for it to be discovered, or is mercenary (looking at the first flashy offer of higher pay instead of building for a long horizon). If the partner has moved a lot in his or her formative years, the suspicion is that he or she did not get good training because he/she wasn’t around long enough to get trusted with successively more complex/advanced tasks and responsibilities. Unfortunately, when it comes to more than one or two moves in that six year period, employers often don’t care the reason.

    • karenpadi :

      This. I did two moves in the first six years out of law school and I knew, taking my current job 3 years in, that I had to make it work for at least 3 years or leave law altogether.

      We just extended an offer to a 5th year lawyer. We’ll be his third firm if he accepts. I didn’t think much of it. But a few of the others wrote in the interview evaluation that they were worried he might change jobs in 2 or 3 years because “there is a pattern developing…”. Cheese’n’crackers…

    • Andrea,

      Just curious, are any of your clients able to offer the candidates permanent employment, regardless of what happens to the economy or the practice group that they are in? If not, they can stick their opinions where the sun don’t shine!

      I work as an in house attorney in Silicon Valley, and was hired in 2011 after 18 months of unemployment and consulting work. I actually had three offers to choose from at the time, and if those companies were using your yardstick, I would be considered unhiriable.

      • Just out of curiosity, what kind of consulting work did you do during that time?
        And what do you think you did to get 3 companies after you…?
        I’m in the same situation & same place and very curious!

        Also, as a note about the recruiter, I think recruiters are looking for very specific things to be able to get someone else to hire their candidate… I’m not sure the same rules apply if you are looking for your own job… but eh, what do I know.

        • In addition to a JD and bar membership, I am a certified federal contracts manager (CFCM), so I got some work from tech companies with government contracts.

      • I think consulting work is different. It’s people who were at-will, regular employees who change jobs every couple of years that look flaky – if you’re consulting, temping or otherwise on a term contract, it’s fine.

    • SoCalAtty :

      In 6 years, I’ve been at 4 firms. That’s terrible, I know, but the first move I was “stolen” by an entire team that left, the second was a lay off due to the economy (construction industry), and the 3rd was an ethics conflict (major violations by the sole proprietor / attorney that later got him suspended). The other was me working as a solo, but I did that for over 2 years. I was just picked up as an in-house by a giant company.

      All of these moves (save being laid off and the ethics issue) were premeditated and part of my plan to get increasing responsibility as outside counsel in my industry. The moves (and my record) demonstrate that, so it ended up being fine.

      Without really solid explanations? 2 months? I wouldn’t even put it on my resume. I don’t have anything on mine that was less than a year. It takes me at least 3 months to even feel comfortable at a new employer!

      All good advice here, I just wanted to chime in with my very weird, but great, story.

  9. What constitutes as short? I’ve gotten progressively shorter timespans (3, then 2, 1+ @ current job). If you’re moving up each time does it matter? I find that often you have to move out to move up, but maybe that’s my location/field (non-law).

    • anon for one :

      I have found the same to be true and I am in law (but via in-house career trajectory, not big firm path).

  10. Sort of a threadjack, but along the same lines. What about leaving a clerkship or fellowship early? Would that be a bridge burner? I am currently in a situation where something sort of fell in my lap ( an amazing position that would be my utter ideal) and I am hoping that it might work out where I get an offer. Even if this one doesn’t, I feel I should continue to apply to others. Started my one year position in Sept. and my at-will contract is up at the end of August. There was never any talk of making me full-time, always the assumption when my tenure was up, I would be out.

    What do you think? I would appreciate any feedback here, because I feel sort of stuck. On one hand, I really love the people I work with and don’t want to screw them. On the other hand, if opportunities come in this market, you have to take them.

    • AnonInfinity :

      Are you in a judicial clerkship? In my area, it is absolutely bad form to end a judicial clerkship early barring crazy circumstances. I am in a mid-sized area in the South, in case region makes a difference.

      Are you in the middle of nowhere and the opportunity is in some far away, big city? If so, that might be different. But if you plan to stay in the area you’re in now, I think you should really really think about it.

      Also, if you are a judicial clerk, I’d think that most firms would be understanding and want you to finish your term with the judge because that kind of good will is seen as being good for the firm as a whole.

      • Second all of this re: federal judicial clerkships. (CA and western states area here.) Leaving a federal clerkship early is going to stick with you as a big negative on your professional resume/reputation in almost all circumstances. The one exception would be that you had to leave because of massive health problems or something at that level.

        A fellowship may be a completely different story, though.

    • karenpadi :

      I think you have to take the opportunity.

      I am of the mindset that institutions that hire people who are looking/qualified for a permanent position for a limited period and expecting them to not keep looking during that limited period are delusional. By leaving during your “tenure” you aren’t screwing them because they were already screwing you.

      You are at-will, you have an end date, and I bet they aren’t paying you nearly what you are worth. You don’t owe them anything. Give two weeks notice, be upfront that you are taking a permanent position that pays way more, and leave professionally.

      • AnonInfinity- I have a fellowship in NYC. I had worked for a few years before taking it, took it so I could switch gears. Now I am looking for something more permanent and hopefully, that pays more.

        Karenpedi- The money is pretty awful, but it honestly has more to do with the fact that I want to do a specific type of work and this position would be an in for that. My last position I was underpaid and gave them a months notice before leaving because I was afraid to rock the boat. Never again.

        Thanks to you both for responding.

        • AnonInfinity :

          Ahhh… I have no idea about fellowships.

          I do wish you luck!

        • karenpadi :

          Well, it sounds like this fellowship worked out and accomplished what you wanted it to accomplish.

          I’d notify a future employer that you do have an end date at the fellowship but that, considering the difference in pay, you’d be willing to leave the fellowship early. That way, if rumors that you left the fellowship get around, your employer is prepared and doesn’t question your professionalism.

        • @ Anon – I started my career 6 years ago with a fellowship. I viewed it as a stepping stone to a career in my field and there was no possibility of my becoming employed full-time at the place where I did the fellowship, and the pay was crap with no benefits. Therefore, I would not have hesitated to leave early if I had the opportunity for a permanent job before the fellowship ended. YMMV.

          • Thanks Bluejay, that is the exact situation I am in. I feel like I will also leave if said opportunity arises.

    • It really depends on the context. If this is a judicial clerkship, then do not leave unless the clerkship is absolutely horribly unbearable.

    • You should not leave a judicial clerkship early unless it’s for a truly once in a lifetime opportunity.

      First, it looks bad. Clerks are supposed to be reliable and exercise excellent judgment. Leaving a judge in an important court in the lurch is the opposite of those qualities. Many judges stay in touch with their former clerks, hosting a dinner once a year, etc. If you leave early, don’t expect an invitation or to benefit from any networking opportunities.

      Second, most employers think a clerkship is valuable as a credential. There’s no point in your tarnishing it.

      I knew a woman who left a prestigious clerkship early over stress from a romantic relationship. Talk about reinforcing stereotypes. And unfortunately, I don’t think things worked out with her and the guy.

  11. Reader T, you’re worried that this will seem flighty because you ARE being flighty. I agree with all of Kat’s advice. Also, without knowing what industry you’re in, the way you phrased your question makes it sound like you have no clue about industry hiring practices or how to conduct an international job search, and you just want to go anywhere outside the US for a couple of years just because. If you’re not bringing an in-demand skill set that can’t be found with a citizen employee, you’re not going to get that job.

    On a related note, I’ve noticed a trend of younger staff at my organization looking for a new job when they haven’t been promoted after a year or two or, in some cases, quitting when they got one promotion but then don’t get a second one as quickly as they’d like. WTH is up with this? I try to be nice when someone complains to me about not getting promoted quickly, but it just seems to betray an sense of entitlement – if you’ve only been in your position for a year or two, reality is you are probably not ready to turn around and supervise people in your current position. Any suggestions on how to counsel people in this position?

    • Does it help to turn it around on them? Ask them what they have done in the past year that they think warrants promotion?

      Otherwise, let them know it because they’ve been diagnosed with S-cubed – Special Snowflake Syndrome. Unfortunately its not a protected class, so its fair game for discrimination.

      • Special Snowflake Syndrome. LMAO. I am going to use this.

        • SoCalAtty :

          Sounds like my brother! Also, what my husband projects on me. He used to get more mad that I did when I didn’t get exactly the raise / promotion / position I wanted. I had to finally show him all of the attorney unemployment statistics for him to understand that, in law, there are about 237,000 others out there just like me, and a lot of them have more experience! (…and that’s just CA!)

          That’s relevant to the original posting too – don’t let anything on your resume that will cause your prospective “dream” employer any doubts about you! Competition is insane and I don’t think it is going to get any better.

    • I think it’s a misconception about what career progression “should” look like. People may feel that if they aren’t moving up, they’re stuck and they’re losing ground. Plus, let’s face it, a lot of entry level jobs are boring and tedious and make people antsy to move on. When you’re used to learning in a classroom setting and feeling a sense of progression in school, entering the work force can be a rude awakening. It requires a lot more patience. And I think young people tend to make their careers a priority since many of them don’t have family obligations etc. So they get jumpy when they feel like they’re not learning or moving up as fast as they should.

      • These aren’t even entry level people! They’re mid- to late 20s employees, one or two levels above entry level. I think the less junior you are, the longer it will take to get your next promotion. But you’re absolutely right that it’s a misconception about career progression and relating it to school where you progress every year.

        • anon for one :

          It’s not a misconception if they are quitting to move to a position that offers a higher title, more responsibility, challenge and/or pay.

          • job hunting :

            Agreed. More power to them if they can move up and out. That’s the American dream.

          • Actually a fair number of them quit to go to (ack!) law school. The rest mostly make lateral moves to similar organizations.

    • Is it normal in your business for people to be promoted quickly? (I’m sort of presuming not, but just checking).

      I have to admit that it puts my teeth completely and totally on edge when people start talking about how all or many young people have a sense of “entitlement” because I’ve found that it frequently translates to — I hate how these young things want to “achieve” things and think their career should be going places eventually. But that may just be my own special snowflake syndrome showing.

      In terms of counseling people in that position, I like nona’s advice but I would add that it would be especially helpful if you helped them determine action items and experiences they should get to become more ready for the next step. It may just be that they don’t know what they need to do and no one has told them. Help them develop a plan.

      • No, but there are always one or two outliers who get promoted quickly (either because they’re superstars or because the person immediately senior to them left and their boss decided to promote them early)

        I don’t mean to sound like I’m judging young people – I’m not much older than most of them, and only about two levels above them. It’s just unreasonable to expect to move up after only a year. Having worked at the same organization for a while now, I can say with confidence that it takes a year to even figure out how things work around here. You need a couple years to build up credibility in the workplace and then people will start considering you for promotions and new job duties. By jumping ship, not only are you losing the credibility you’ve accumulated at our organization, you’re also going to be back at square one in your new job. I just wish I could make them see that.

        • Yes, my office has its own special snowflake or two. The one I’m thinking in particular of is really bright and motivated (when she’s interested in a topic, anyway – can be a slacker if not) but is really insistent about being promoted after as little as a year in each stint. It leaves her managers in the lurch after they spent most of that year training her. After her most recent move, our head of office said, well, if this doesn’t make her happy then we’re done trying to make her happy.

          I think it’s going to be a rude awakening for her that she may not be as special as her mommy has been making her think she is her whole life.

    • Jumping ship is a reliable way to increase compensation beyond regular annual raises – especially at earlier stages of a career.
      I recommend having them identify the promotion as a goal in their performance assessment and tracking their progress in developing the qualities/skills necessary for this next position.

    • I’ve left a few jobs where there wasn’t room for growth at all and it was made very clear. Presuming that isn’t the case where you are, you should encourage them to take on additional responsibilities (that interest them) and would make them a stronger candidate in the future. I think the lack of potential growth really makes people start to look outside the organization.

      • I agree. My organization seems to be divided between younger employees with 20 years of experience who intend to stay until they retire. The only thing that ever ends up happening to younger employees is that they take on more and more responsibilities but have no hope of ever getting a raise (salary freeze) or promotion.

        • It’s a generational thing. My mom “paid her dues” for years and years, never got promoted or a pay raise and was laid off just before her pension became vested… why on God’s green earth would I (or anyone of my generation) be content to “pay dues” endlessly without any promise or potential of reward? We were taught that greed is good and that we get what we ask for… baby boomers were taught something else altogether. However, they seem to refuse to retire so we Gen Xers are stuck without any way to move up.

          Then again, millenials annoy the crap out of me.

          • I dunno. I guess I’m technically a millenial (26, soon to be 27), and I don’t expect to be promoted endlessly or quickly. I don’t think most of the peers I associate with do, either.

            The truth is, we were taught the same things you were, and generally have a higher debt load (even if we didn’t go to graduate school – undergraduate tuition is also insane) and less of a hope of retiring comfortably. I’m not saying that’s an excuse to believe that we’re all special snowflakes. But many of us are having difficulty finding jobs that pay the bills and that allow us to use our brains at all (or allow us to move out of our parents’ houses). We feel, overwhelmingly, that this recession has kept true adulthood out of our reach. And I think we’re entitled to be a little bit angry about that.

  12. Anne Shirley :

    Why do you think you’ll be able to get an international job in a few months?

    On a more general note, I know my issue with job change tends to be that I can’t predict exactly what will happen, so I pass up opportunities. Writ large – don’t want to buy house without husband. I think that is a fairly common issue for women.

  13. Business, Not Law :

    Graduate admissions committee member here. Beyond the basic requirements (read: test scores, GPA, etc) in my experience, a resume is reviewed on a case by case basis. If there are multiple positions: did the job changes occur due to growth? shift in field with logical progression? all over the board? Where all things are equal, the story behind the change(s), as well as the in-person interview are likely going to be very key components to the admissions decision. Can only speak to my specific experience here.

    But I can also say that in our observation/experience, volume of applications to graduate school are UP…WAY UP…and it’s getting more competitive. Things that might have been tolerable or overlooked in previous years are now the very same things that are causing people to be wait-listed or even rejected. Application volumes may be up, but cohort sizes are generally not changing and it makes for really tough decisions all the way around.

  14. flying squirrel :

    Hoping to get some helpful advice on a related situation. I’m a bit more than 4 years out from finishing my science PhD. I did not intend to necessarily stay in research science, but I did take a temporary research position coming out of grad school. With the support of my supervisor and my senior management, I applied and received a competitive 1 year fellowship that is designed to help introduce scientists to a new career path. Upon leaving I had an offer for a 1 year contract position and an open application to my “dream for now” job. I took the contract offer thinking they had hired someone , and quite unexpectedly got a call regarding the dream job a few months later. My then boss also considered this her dream job and basically almost refused not to let me leave my contract early and take it.

    The reason I was hesitating is the dream job required a cross-country move with uncertain job prospects for my husband. We decided to take the risk, though, with him keeping his job a searching in my new town (he earns twice my salary, so it didn’t make sense for him to lewave w/o a job in hand). FFW 1 year and not even a formal interview yet for DH. For age and medical reasons, we also can’t really put off a family any longer…and we both want one.

    So now I’m starting to look again in his city (or one he can easily transfer to). Though only my current position is permanent, my work history is 1.5 years, 1 year, 6 mos, 1 year. My current job is a huge step up from my previous positions, all of which probably helped me get this one. That said, I can’t really continue to do what I’m doing now anywhere else without much more experience…meaning I’ll probably have to move to an industry that wouldn’t easily understand the way my work history is related. How can I even begin to approach this? And do I have any hope of finding a job that doesn’t make me want to quit everyday because its so mind-numbingly boring (how I felt about my short contract job)?

    • flying squirrel :

      Please excuse smartphone-induced typos :)

    • I may be confused by your descriptions of the positions ,but it sounds like at least two of them were academic positions, which are by definition short-term. I mean, no one expects to see that someone was a TA for ten years, even though that might imply an extraordinary level of loyalty!

      I wouldn’t worry too much about those two, and just focus on why your two most recent positions are short. Have a good story.

      I hired a guy a few years ago who had job hopped every 1-2 years before me. Sure enough he was only with us for two years, and since he left me around 4 years ago, he’s on his third job. He makes up for all of this by being brilliant, and I mean obviously brilliant the minute you sit down to speak with him, so his job-hopping seems to not have hurt him at all. And I still appreciate the two years I got out of him.

    • Just to reassure you, my cousin has had a different job every year since she graduated from college (that’s a total of six jobs). She wanted to stay put at her current job, but her husband moved to a new state and so she had to look again. She found a job without a problem – in the matter of a few months. She may be lucky because of the field she’s in (now law), but I’m telling you this story to show that job hopping is not necessarily a fatal flaw that will hold you back. Good luck to you.

      • Opps – I meant *not* law

      • anon for one :

        This is so funny and bizarre, because MY cousin has jumped at least 6 jobs since she graduated college 9 years ago! And she keeps making more and more money and gaining more and more managerial advancement with each move. She defies everything I’ve been taught. I’m in law and she’s in advertising so maybe it’s her wackadoo industry (they drink during lunch meetings to get the creative juices flowing, and this is not some rinky dink shop I’m talkin about here!)

        • Crazy!

        • I’m a consultant and in 20 yrs in the workforce my longest stint is 4 yrs. most are 2… Depends on the type work and role.

        • MichelleInMarketing :

          Just a non-law lurker popping in to say that yes, in certain industries it is becoming much, much more the norm to switch jobs frequently. In fact – it’s pretty much the only way to advance your career.

          I do notice that when I interview with older hiring managers they tend to comment on it, but frankly even so as long as you can tell a story with your career and show upward movement and valid contributions to each position I don’t think most hiring managers really see it as a negative.

    • Flying squirrel, no help here but I see you as asking two questions. The first concerns your work history, and I think you just have to explain it to potential interviewers the way you’ve explained it here. It’s very reasonable and understandable. The second question you’re asking is about staying with your dream job or going to a boring job for the sake of keeping the family together, and starting a family! This is a toughie. I can relate to this, and have no advice except to say keep telling yourself why you’re doing this (e.g. that family is the most important thing to you, and that this non-exciting job is a temporary setback you’re accepting for the sake of it). Good luck!

  15. I’m gonna be the skunk at the garden party here. Job hopping being a CV killer is very 2000. If you read many future-cast opinions on the way people will work in the next 20 years (Intuit 2020 being a favourite) you will see that the traditional long term corporate role is diminishing in both prevalence and importance. The social contract that binds organisation to employer has weakened. It is about people being the right fit for the right project at the right time.

    I have held no job or more than 2 years. I continue to progress up the ladder and do very well in my field. The key is that not one of my employers would give me a poor recommendation nor say that I left them in the lurch. Being a job hopper is not bad per se. It simply must be done strategically and with a great deal of appreciation for current and future employers.

    For the OP, my advice is to not be concerned about the overseas role regarding the potential timing of the MBA. Depending on where you are looking to move, the job market is most likely much less stable, so 2 years is plenty. In the UK/EU redundancies abound and ppl are moving around like crazy. In emerging markets, ppl are always looking for the next big jump.

    Two things to keep in mind. If you want to stay overseas, MBAs are not so respected as they are in the US. An MSc in Economics or the like would be a much better choice. Second, visas are very very very difficult to come across in many places these days. (I know, I have lived it) Looking to get a degree in another country gives you an instant visa and time to establish yourself. If you’re not ready yet for that move yet, then perhaps a contract role stateside. These are easy to come by as many firms have hiring freezes on but can swing a contract employee.

    Plan your heart out but don’t be hung up if your Journey takes you in unexpected directions, and live this one by the golden rule. If you were the hiring manager would you want your new hire to ditch after 2 months? No way.

  16. This is a somewhat related question. I work for government and have just found out that the likelihood of promotion in my current position is pretty much non-existent. I would like to move back to my hometown or surrounding area, but at the moment most of the good opportunities are where I am now. I can either risk staying in this dead end job longer in hopes something will pop up in my hometown, or I can try for a new job here and stick it out another 1-2 years until the economy picks up.

    I’m just worried that with 18 months at my current job and another 1-2 at a second job, I will seem too flighty. On the other hand, I’m currently living in a city that is fairly remote (flights out of here are typically $400+ and the nearest “cheap” airport is a 2.5 hour drive away) and far from family. I am wondering how employers in my hometown would look at this situation.

  17. In my industry, if you don’t job hop you’re dead quickly :-)..
    That said, when I was interviewing on the East Coast I got questions about my jobs’ length, which I never had before. Upon investigation, it turned out that the average job length on the East Coast was twice what it was while I was living on the West Coast. When I started quoting these statistics, and pointing out that I was actually quite stable compared to average, things looked up for me.

    That said the idea to take a ‘permanent’ job for 2 months by lying to the employer is insane. If you fall under a bus 2months after starting, so be it. But to do it on purpose?!? International jobs are much harder to get, and -they- will look carefully at your job stability, standards are very different, they’re only beginning to get out of the lifelong company thing. And Americans are known to be leaning to job hopping. It looks like you’ll be working at that not-temp job a lot longer than you’re planning to :-).

  18. Anonylawyer :

    It is VERY poor form to stay at a job for a very short period of time without a reason. I know of two people who have left after short stints:

    (1) 1 person at my current firm was in her position for 6-8 weeks. She was at her previous position for about 12 months. She definitely burned bridges here because the general feeling is that either she didn’t give the job a chance or she had no intention of staying. Don’t take a job you don’t intend to keep for a year. It’s really not appropriate to accept a job and keep searching for another job. Interviewing is time consuming and expensive, as is getting someone new up to speed.

    (2) 1 person I know was at Job #1 for 6+ years, then took another job but then got a call 3 or 4 months later from a headhunter about her dream job. In that case, the dream job was closer to home and was all-around a great fit. While she may have a few burned bridges at job #2, she had a track record of being committed to job #1 and there were valid, sound reasons for taking job #3 that weren’t offensive to many of her job #2 colleagues.

    While it isn’t a no-no, a short stint should only happen ONCE and there should be a good explanation for the short stint. At minimum, you should be at a job for 2 years before moving. I think the letter writer should stay in the “unethical” job until she meets her goal of finding the international job she wants. If she can’t bear the thought of staying in the “unethical” job for a moment longer, then she should find a new job in the US and give herself 18 months before resuming the search for the international job, knowing that she’ll be prolonging her ultimate B-school timetable.

  19. GovtLawyer :

    I don’t necessarily agree with this advice for fed gov’t lawyers. Many fed gov’t lawyers hop around to another agency after 2-3 years. It is generally viewed as a way to gain breadth of experience. That said, it is usually in one field, i.e. labor law, or policy work, or civil litigation. Most federal government lawyers I know don’t stop hopping until they hit a GS-15, Step 10, and don’t see a good way to get to the SES or Admin Law Judge pay scale.

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