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Is there a negative stigma tied to jumping from company to company every few years?

Is there a negative stigma tied to jumping from company to company every few years?

Sign Anonymous


Dear Anonymous

In today’s more mobile workforce, it is become rarer that a person stays at one company for the entirety of his or her career.  The days of having lots of workers who hit their 20th, 25th, or 30th anniversaries at a single workplace are long over.  In fact, I’ve recently heard from some recruiters that employees can be perceived at staying at one workplace too long – it creates an impression (perhaps falsely) that a long-serving employee may not be ambitious or willing to seek new challenges. 

By contrast, I have also heard that that a person’s resume can be perceived negatively by prospective employers if there is too much jumping around.  Unless there is a good explanation, a series of short-term jobs may convey an impression that an employee has a “its always greener on the other side” attitude towards work.  Certainly, a series of jobs that last less than one year – without some explanation – could provoke many questions from prospective employees

So, is there a rule of thumb about how long a person should stay at a job?  I don’t think so.  Rather, your resume should tell a story about how you’ve planned and stagedyour career.  Assume for example, after graduating from college, you start your first job.  After a few years, you decide to move to another job because you got a big promotion, were able to enter an industry in which you’ve always wanted to work, or you had the opportunity to learn a whole new skill.  After a few more years of experience under your belt, you decide you are ready to start managing others, work more independently, or take more responsiblity so you start looking for a new opportunity that will give you those experiences.  So on, so on, and so on . . .

Even though you’ve moved every few years, your resume now tells a story about each new job added something new to your career –  a new skill, a new experience, or more responsibility.  As you move into your mid-career years, you are now able to tell a story to prospective employers about how you were able to build your career through strategic and well-timed job moves.  So long as you can explain how those moves contribute to building your career, there should be no negative stigma associated with jumping to new jobs every few years.