Changing job - How often is too often?

Dan Newton on March 12, 2019

Let me add some context to this post. I will soon be starting my 4th role in the 4 years that I have been working as a Software Engineer. I beli... [Read Full]
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I think it is ok to change jobs more frequently in the early years of your career.
In my 13 years I've worked for 4 companies, 3 in the first 5.5 years so less than 2 years on average, and I've been working in my current company for more than 7 years. Now that I'm a senior and many projects depend on my input and knowledge I don't want to change job just for the sake of trying something new if I'm not sure I'm the best fit for a position. I've turned down many job offers that I'd have accepted in my early years, so eventually I'll leave but it has to be a really great position.
When I was younger I din't care much about that, I wanted to try something new and I don't regret that as I've seen 3 different companies with different methodologies. I think it was good for my experience, but I'm glad I was able to settle down for a few years working on the same company. Changing jobs ever year or every other year isn't great in the long run in my opinion.

 

If you can explain your reasoning and you haven't burned bridges there is no minimum amount of time. I know someone who left a role after 2 months without issue. However, if it's a pattern then I might start to raise my eyebrows a bit.

Hiring is all about telling your story, whatever that story is. If it includes short stints in a variety of roles then that's your narrative.

 

I think it also helps when I explain during interviews, was that I left one position so I could move to a different town.

 

Absolutely. There are a number of reasons for leaving a job, many of them completely non-controversial. That's why there is no hard and fast rule.

 

Change jobs when:

  • You're no longer learning anything new, or no longer being challenged
  • The skills and tools are no longer aligned with where you want to take your career next
  • You don't have any immediate opportunities for a better role or more responsibility within the company

Stick to a job longer when:

  • It's an enterprise company where they actually listen to you and where you can have a career development plan
  • It's a fast-growing startup, you're an early employee, and you can grow into a bigger role

In my own career my approach has been: "when in doubt, switch jobs" and it has worked really well for me.

 

I've been at my current (and first) company for almost 2 years now. At first, I was thinking about switching jobs about every 2 years, but I like my current position so I've decided to just evaluate my situation every couple of months and if it stop liking my role then look for something else. I know developers that have been working at the same company for almost 7 years and others that started out at the same time as me and have changed 3 companies while I'm still on my first :P Both of them are happy with their choices and so am I, that's what's important in my opinion.

 

The same has happened to me. After some time in the industry you begin to get a feel for the general state of the job market. The need for a clear (not vague) improvement over your current position becomes more important. At the same time, finding such positions becomes harder over time (there are less of them). So you stick with what you have and make it work until the next clear improvement of an opportunity comes your way.

 

Tt's true that changing the companies frequently certainly has somewhat negative effect specially if you are burning bridges along the way. (By burning bridges i mean, leaving without fulfilling notice period, not providing good reason for the sudden shift, not parting with good term with company for any xyz.. reason)

This of course applies if you ever wanted / needed to go back.

Strangely, in india it's becoming a norm to sign written contract specifying that you will work for company for minimum ___ Years.

 

Luckily I have not been in that sort of position yet where I have left on bad terms. When I left my role yesterday it was highlighted that if I want to come back the door is always open.

I don't think I could sign a contract specifying a minimum amount of years. Not saying that I feel that I couldn't do the time, but things change and it might not be reasonable to stay there anymore.

 

if I want to come back the door is always open.

That is a good Sign

I don't think I could sign a contract specifying a minimum amount of years.

Sadly, for some its not a choice, specially if you are just fresh out graduate who badly needs a job.

 

Do you know if those minimum term contracts have been tested in court yet? I can't imagine they'd hold up but of course first someone has to have the wherewithal to fight it while simultaneously changing jobs.

 

Do you know if those minimum term contracts have been tested in court yet?

I have no idea. Personally i choose not work with such companies that have such agreement.

But i have seen some of my friends accepting such offers at the beginning of their career.

Such bond includes something like this,

  1. Provide all original degree certificate (given back when contract is over)
  2. Penalty (50,000-1,00,000 RS) in a event of braking a contract
  3. Not providing Experience certificate in case of braking a contract

This 3 things brings horrors to employees.

I know one person who had 3 years of contract with above 3 conditions and wanted to change job after 2 years. he fought hard (draining mental energy) and got out but without Experience certificate

Thank god that his new employer was reasonable and understanding. otherwise he would have to start with 0 or work with less pay grade.

[Above scenarios is specific to India. I don't know if Employers / people form other countries have similarities]

Holy crap, that's up there with the Gulf state practice (now explicitly illegal it looks like, at least in Saudi Arabia?) of employers making expatriate workers and consultants surrender their passports for "safekeeping".

 

I think less than 1 year at a job consistently will look bad on your resume (or CV), especially all those less than 1 year jobs is at different companies.

For most developers, it takes average of 3 month to become productive on a new code base.

From a hiring manager perspective, they'll think two things:

  • The person is really bad, and get fired all the time.
  • The person is really hard to keep around, as soon as we spend the resource train him, he'll jump ship.
 

of course, if it is internships, it is expected every 3 to 6 month. that is ok.

 

I think the market has changed and society at large has changed.

It was normal for baby boomers and Gen Xers to stay in a job for a long period of time. It's quite common for Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z to change job (and even career) more frequently. Most of my friends, even in other industries, have changed jobs frequently and get restless after 2 years :D

I think that unless you change every six months or have a trail of "bad breakups" you'll be fine, as long as you're a good fit for the company and you are not lying on your resume.

 

If you leave on good terms then it's not an issue and places that want to know why you don't stick around are probably not places you want to work anyway. Company tenure and loyalty are the wrong ways to choose programmers in my opinion.

Only advice I have to give is wherever you go try to make a few friends. One benefit of job hopping is that it's one of the ways to build up a network of professional friends.

 

I can tell about my experience.. I have switched 3 companies in 5 years.

1st > I was in a company having 10000 employees, I was not convinced with my role provided and work was more of filling excel sheets in the name of testing. I learned programming and I tried hard to switch and I switched . (2 years)

2nd > I was in a company having 1000 employees. The environment was awesome, I learnt a lot. Pay was not super great. An employee of that company moved to a startup and he pulled me into Developer role. I couldn't miss out the opportunity (1.5 years)

3rd > This company had 100 employees. Very good culture like previous one. And I had very nice mentors. one fine day acquisition happened, and the company culture totally changed , and many people left the company (1.5 years)

Now I am in a startup created by the same people who left the 3rd company. the startup is small (10 people) and I am enjoying it.

 

4 jobs in 4 years on IT would be seen as a yellow flag for any HR person sourcing candidates for a position. Then it would be really up to the hiring manager. But definitely, as you have noticed, it is something it will be spotted.

It's natural to question this when hiring. Soon you will progress on your career and you will have to hire. Then, if you get a resume from a young person that has been 4 jobs in 4 years, you will be asking yourself the same question, is he going to leave on a year?

There are many valid reasons to leave jobs frequently. Even boredom is a valid reason. Without knowing your actual reasons, personally, if I find myself changing often, I would consider whether I should be contracting instead of going permanent.

 

Hi!

  1. Changing a job every month is too often :) But seriously, it heavily depends on many conditions. For instance, if you work mainly in big corps, you may work at one place for 10 years. If you work in startups - well, many of them don't live too long. Also it depends on your level and so on.

  2. I started to work as a Java engineer full-time in a software dev company about 2014, and worked there until 2018, when I started my own company. That means I haven't really feel any impact on my working history, as my new employer is me. BUT I know cases, when people of both groups - who works on one place for many years, and those who didn't - have troubles during career search.

  3. As a CEO, I consider it more positive. When you work on one place for many years you focus only on your realm, you stay in your comfort zone, you don't learn (well, you can claim that you learn everyday, but actually you learn things you work everyday).

  4. Age is a crucial question. Many talented freshers can't get a job for their level as they are considered "too young". I think age is a "good" reason to discriminate and should not be considered.

 

As always: it all depends.

I have spent 4 years in my previous job and didn't get into my comfort zone at all. Until the very last day I was learning and trying new stuffs. So now you might ask why did I get a new job. I went for it as a personal challenge. New country, new life, new product, new... I wanted to try it all.

I honestly think that if you stay something less than 2 years on a job is because the company just not suits you and you have the opportunity to work somewhere else. Because if the company suits you I'm pretty sure you'll have enough challenges and develop yourself in 2 years.

Going back to your questions:

  • Yes, I've interviewed candidates. First I like to know why is he/she looking for a new job and if there is something from the previous position that they didn't like. Second, if the candidate's job changing rate is too high I would look into all available candidates before hiring he/she. As someone that is hiring I don't want to have someone for a short period of time which in most cases is not enough to have impact in the business.
  • IMHO age shouldn't matter but it is not true for most of the companies :/
 

Sounds like you had a nice position and I hope you are enjoying your new one just as much 😄

 
  1. I'd say a year is a good minimum time. If you have had lots of really short gigs in short time it will definitely come up in the interview.
  2. I'm still at my first company and have been for 8 years, including the internship and the first years as designer.
  3. If they can explain it, it's a positive sign. If they start blaming others for it etc., the interview will end much sooner.
  4. In my case, I got more and more grateful for working in an area that I like and that is fun to be working at. Especially seeing non-techie-peers who are frustrated and live from weekend to weekend and hate Mondays.
 

Personally, anything more frequent than every two years would raise an eyebrow (not fatally, it's just a bit odd). Unless someone's a contractor.

Speaking of contractors, if you don't like staying in one place all that long why aren't you contracting?

 

thanks for starting this converation--i'm now learning coding precisely to have a little more job-hopping flexibility, so its good to see all these perspectives on how to do it right :)

 

In the UK, contractors tend to have had lots of roles, often staying as little as 3 months at time. For permies, I would like to hope they would be willing to stay for more then a year.

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