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Ask HN: What do you think of job hopping?
84 points by jobhopper on Nov 1, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments
How is it considered by hiring managers? How long one should stay at one place to not be classified as a hopper? Is it a big deal to hop in our (the tech) industry for engineers/PMs? Does it makes a difference whether the hopper apply at a startup or at a big company?

(also I consider a hopper who's efficient and who's seeking challenges, who unwilling to settle rather the underperformer who keeps leaving before getting fired...)

Recruiter here, and the first thing to consider is that to actually be called a job hopper, you must be pretty good at getting hired. Otherwise, you'd be called unemployed.

People define job hopping different ways, and the tenure matters. I once had a client (financial, big) that wouldn't hire anyone that wasn't at their current job for 7+ years. They abandoned that policy around 2006, as they found it impossible to hire, and they also found that the types of candidates that met that qualification often weren't that attractive. In other words, they found that if you were at your company for 10+ years, it could be because you are not in high demand by others.

In tech, moving jobs is expected and probably recommended from a marketability and employability perspective, as long as you make smart moves and don't just leave every time you get bored or passed over for a promotion.

Someone who has a pattern of staying perhaps 3 years with companies and then leaving will often be viewed as very attractive, whereas someone who has several 6-8 month stints over the course of a few years will often get a negative view. EDIT: Forgot that I wrote an article on job hopping for tech pros earlier this year http://jobtipsforgeeks.com/2013/07/25/hop/

Gray area is the most interesting as usual: 1-2 years.

I had an old manager about 10 years ago that told me his advice is, rule of thumb, everyone should move after 2-2.5 years. 1 year is not enough, he would say, to really know the business/tech of a place to make a real big difference. After 2 years, if the work isn't interesting anymore and/or if you've already made an impact, it will take a while to make a big impact again.

Looking back (I've had stints of 4 yrs, 2 yrs, 6.5 yrs, .5 yrs, and 1yr) I have to say he was pretty much on the money.

I even think 3-5 years can be a good duration if your company is doing interesting things and moving you around a bit. Multiple 2 year stints could start to scare some people, but I definitely feel that someone with five 2 year stints could very well be better off than someone with 10 years at the same place.

That person with 10 years at the same place better not have been doing the same thing for half that time! :) that's my point. It could be that you were at Accenture or IBM 10 years. Fine. You probably had a great senior manager/associate partner that took care of you. Great. Most likely during that time you wore many hats, had several roles, etc. To me that's similar to someone working at 5 different companies in 10 years. Just need the details to confirm.

But if that gal/guy is 10 years with only two different roles during that whole time. Yeah, I'd have to dig in deeper on that.

In my 20 years of hiring developers, how I feel about job hopping depends on which of two categories you fall into:

No problem: You're a top shelf engineer, you are going to hit the ground running. Your prep for the interview has almost made you a domain expert, you suggest technologies and point out issues I didn't know about. Your resume has short stints at startups, some who are now gone, and a mistaken attempt to work at IBM. I don't care if you leave in 6 months because I'll get 5 1/2 months of amazing stuff.

Problem: You are, supposedly, a solid journeyman programmer. I can tell it's going to take you at least 2 weeks to get a feel for the place and about 2 months before you're solid. If you leave in 6 months, I've invested 2 months of effort training for 4 months of return. The 2x recruitment fees are going to make it not worth hiring you, I should have gotten a contractor.

Depends on a few factors:

- Type of employment. Is it a contract or "perm" position? Contract positions are expected to hop. It's part of the game.

- Timing. Are you in the middle of something? Can someone else easily pick it? Bailing in the middle of a big migration will leave a nasty taste in managers' mouths.

- Rank. Are you a CTO or a developer? The higher up you are, the longer you're expected to stay.

Changing jobs is something that you should do, in my opinion. Here's why:

- Versatility. You'll be exposed to new challenges/solutions, practices, and possibly languages.

- Network. If you do it properly, you'll establish a lot of new contacts in the industry

- Exposure. The same job at different companies may have different responsibilities and roles. You'll get a chance to build new skills or determine weaknesses.

- Pay. If you're hopping for the right reasons and doing it right, it is hands down the best way to get a pay boost. Once you're "in" a bigger company, they'll put you on a standardized raise ladder. Sure, you can get promoted but those will often have calculations involved that reduce your elevation. With hopping, you can set expectations (I need X% more to jump).

Problems with job hopping:

- Bridges. You'll burn them.

- Fatigue. It's a lot more time and emotionally consuming than you'll realize to look for work. Interviews are exhausting (and intentionally so).

- Loyalty. You won't have any.

- Rank. It's hard to climb a ladder when you're jumping off of them.

  - Rank. It's hard to climb a ladder when you're jumping off of them.
My experience has been the opposite. To move up a rank I've had to shift company. In pretty much every company I have worked in I have moved further away from the top management every year I've stayed.

I suspect this is to do with two factors: I have mostly been working in fast-growing companies; I have had managers who have had difficulty promoting from within — they see the people they have as hired for a role as the best people to do that role and new roles as requiring new people to do them.

I don't mind missing out on a promotion as long as I am considered for a role and the person replacing me is more experienced (so I might learn from them). But sadly, the people coming in have generally been job hoppers with less experience.

I would now consider myself a job hopper (despite having no intention of moving in the foreseeable future) — I've doubled my income and have a more satisfying job. I'd keep doing it if I didn't like my current job as much as I do.

My advice is to jump in two's, a hop and a skip: do one for the career (and the wallet) then quickly jump sideways to one you prefer. You can then stay put for a while until things go stale or pear-shaped and you then plan the next hop-skip.

It has worked well for me.

Plus in some companies it's very hard to advance, so it's crucial with which position you start.

There are cases where people go from one company (A) to another (B), and then after some time get back at A and get a better position. If they stayed at the same company the whole time they wouldn't be able to do that.

Exactly this. I left one of my previous employers after I got passed over a second time for a SDE1 -> SDE2 jump. It's been two years since I left the company and I've been repeatedly approached by their recruiters for SDE3 positions ;)

Sticking around for promotions is a fool's errand.

Wow. If that doesn't scream "broken system!", I don't what does.

> Bridges. You'll burn them.

As a manager, this is definitely not always the case. If someone is leaving for the "right" reasons (namely, they have an awesome opportunity somewhere else), then that's great. While it may be an operational disruption, one of my goals as a manager is always to want the best for the people on my team - even if that means leaving.

I've always wished I could be comfortable having a frank discussion about this with my management (previous jobs - actually quite happy where I am for the moment).

It would be great to be able to say "hey I'm thinking it's time to move on" and have a reasonable discussion about it (exploring other things in the company, etc) instead of being concerned that they now consider me a flight risk and will start trying to find a replacement.

You are rare, but good people.

The higher up you are, the longer you're expected to stay

This is partly it, but also, it's because as you get more senior, your personal network within the company counts for more and more. If you're going to make big, potentially controversial decisions, then you can't afford to argue every point - you'll get nowhere. You need a critical mass of people who already trust and respect you, and who you trust and respect in return, so you don't have to get bogged down in managing day-to-day stuff. That takes years to develop.

I have seen this a few times, people who job hop for promotions then end up in a position where they're so high up they're starved of oxygen - none of their direct reports take them seriously, ringleaders in the middle ranks openly disrespect them, in a few months they're gone. That's damaging to the organization too, partly because it paralyzes it, and partly because it destroys morale (and confidence in the top leadership).

Seems harder to climb the ladder staying put. Also much harder increasing your salary by staying put.

I've found both rank and salary increase with a hop. That being said I've changed maybe every 5 years

I like this answer. And I also think as long as you can speak to why you made each move in a positive way you'll be fine. I'm not a recruiter, but I've done hundreds of tech screens when I was at a consulting firm to know the difference when someone's BS'ing through an explanation of a job change.

So I didn't have a set bias for/against people that moved, say, every 6 months, or every 2 years. You just had to have a good explanation.

In the DC/Virginia area, from my experience, most people moved every 6-8 months, or every 2-3 years. Former were more contractor-types, latter were more employee-types. All generally speaking of course. I have both types on my resume, cause I've done both ;-)

IMO the minute you are hired as an at-will employee that can be terminated at any time, with or without cause, you have been granted carte blanche to do the same to your employer.

That said, staying for ~2 years and jumping when you can get a promotion by doing so seems to be a pretty common strategy. I've heard hiring managers and engineers decry this practice repeatedly, but I know way too many directors and VPs who got there by doing this very thing to feel one should criticize it. Or, sigh, hate the game, don't hate the player.

VP of Operations here. The longest I've stayed at a job was three years in thirteen years. I make what I make because I don't wait around for a raise. If you haven't given me one, I go to greener pastures (as we all should!).

Loyalty and waiting years for recognition via compensation? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Do you at least ask for a raise first?

A raise usually means a 5-10% increase, a job change a 20-50% increase. Asking for a raise makes little sense.

Asking for a raise also puts you on management radar. some people like that, some people don't. they consider you a "flight risk" at that point. good companies will try to figure out ways (other than money) to keep you around. Sometimes though, personal dynamics change and those people just leave a few months later anyway, even if they do get a bump in the short term.

My company has straight up told me that they know I'm a "flight risk". I've been there for a year and a half, and they know I'm looking to do "bigger" things then what I currently work on.

So, they've been continually giving me raises. It's really nice, but frankly, it doesn't matter. I'm still interviewing elsewhere.

They're right; I want to go somewhere where I'm challenged, and unless they can pay me 40% more than what I'll make on the free market, I'm a "flight risk".

You and the parent you posted to answered perfectly for me.

You can usually get way more by switching.

I would assume he did. I would usually make it known that I'm not pleased with my current pay level and that if an opportunity were to arise that compensated me fairly, I would take it.

No. Asking for the raise sours the relationship (In my experience). I have an expected time frame, and if it doesn't occur, I go.

you'll see what you were missing on when you give a notice to your manager :)

Depends on a few things. what you are looking to achieve in your career and how far along are you ? Let me explain further. In my opinion and experience, if you are entry level or about <5 years of experience, changing jobs a couple of times may not be a bad idea. It gives you exposure to a new environment and you could learn a different set of things which you may or may not at the same company. Not to mention that in the initial few years of your career, job change will get you a decent raise which is almost nothing these days if you stay at the same company (even less than inflation for majority of us).

Once you have reached a certain level of experience or no. of years (say average 7+), then the question becomes: what is your goal now ? If you want to be a manager/executive/director/VP etc at a company, then you need to be able to show some stability in employment history otherwise you are getting into the territory of "job hoppers who are not good fit for the senior level roles". But if you instead want to become a consultant/contractor/SME in your field, then you can keep hopping from client to client of course and sell yourself as the guy who comes, solves problems and leaves while making a good chunk of dollars. I am personally in the second category and even though at times I have considered the stable option, it just does not cut it for me.

One final advice (been in professional industry for 10+ years), most employers are not loyal to employees anymore. Gone are those days when employers actually invested in their employees as assets and not cost/headcounts/resources. So just like you are considered job hopper, I consider many companies "Candidate hoppers". They will get rid of you without any remorse (well may be a sorry from a nice manager if at all) and will just officially say "we are cutting down on budget so need to get rid of you". Always remember that hopping is two way.

My last year of still being considered a "junior/mid" level developer I job hopped about 3 times within 7 months and propelled myself into the very high end of the (national and local) pay scale for a Senior Developer. A lot of people take years to make this transition (or wait to be promoted) but I felt I was considerably undervalued and that I could be a Senior within a couple of years. To my surprise, the reality became that I did it in 7 months by taking a lot of big risks (including moving across country) and doing a lot of bluffing (but never lying) with regards to my contracting terms. I tend to be offered a lot of contract-to-perm but in practice I never actually get around to the "perm" part, as I like to control my hours and my overtime and usually by that time I am ready to move on to broaden my experience.

These employers were more surprised rather than pissed at me. I don't consider myself a "rockstar" or any of that mumbo-jumbo but I always make sure I am a productive part of any team I'm on. I made it clear I wish to burn no bridges and that I always followed my experience and the opportunities they opened up. I also always make sure the money is right so that I could say no to any counter-offers. Usually when I'm ready to leave money is not going to get me to stay. There are always many other factors at play in a departing worker's decision besides money.

That very much meets with my general career pattern. If you want to make quick advancement (especially if, like me you started as a developer at 33 instead of 23), then this make s a whole lot of sense. I literally doubled my hourly rate every three months for a year (it didn't hurt that I started off crapping out small marketing sites for $14/hr).

I gave each group I moved on from chances to match whatever offer I was moving to, but usually when confronted with having to pay me almost double, they were quite happy for me and totally understood why I was moving on (even though it's not about the money).

To add to the other things that I agree with (don't burn bridges, neither lie nor undersell yourself, don't move to "perm", money isn't the motivator as much as finding higher quality projects): having a pad of cash saved up when you can do it makes all of that a lot less risky and makes decisions easier to make.

If you're used to living on $16/hr, the first step is risky and hard to take, but if you can maintain that way of living the next several steps all seem increasingly less risky, to the point where I have tow concurrent contracts who want to hire me and I don't know if I want to get pinned.

My general rule is that I will stay with the same job for at least 1 year. Part of that is to not look like I'm job hopping, but mostly it's because it generally takes me around 6 months to fully acclimate to the environment and another 6 months to get deep enough into development to figure out if it's somewhere I want to stay.

Of course that timing changes depending on the product and company. If you're working on a well established product at a medium to large company it may take longer to do much real development (beyond bug fixing and paper shuffling), so it may take longer to figure out if you want to stay longer. However, at a startup, you'll probably be dropped right into the fire on the first day, so you may be able to determine that more quickly.

When I've looked at resumes, anything less than a year at a job usually raises a flag. Unless there are a lot of jobs on your resume like that, it's not a negative thing, but I would absolutely ask about it during an interview.

I figure I should stay a year because usually the hiring bonus has to be returned if I don't.

Just tell your new company that they have to make up for that, if they want you sooner.

I made the mistake of staying at one job for 9 years. I was raised by my Grandmother who in her generation staying for a long time was a good thing. 9 years on one technology and tools is a huge distaster that I realized too late. My current position I have been at for 4 years. Now every day I am making sure I learn something new so I can prepare to find a new position.

I've worked in startups for most of my 10 years being paid to program computers. I probably average about 1-1.2 companies a year. The reason being that most of the companies I've worked for folded, pivoted or down-sized. It doesn't help that the technology sector in my neck of the woods is anemic at best and supported by very cautious investors.

I've never had a problem. I can only recall being asked about it by one or two people. I was just honest and they didn't seem to mind. I got at least one job despite it. I might have missed out on another offer because of it but I doubt it.

The weird thing is that this is just the sort of thing I was warned about before I even got to college. I was told that the norm would be to have many different jobs in my lifetime and not to expect to be with the same employer throughout my career as my grandparents were. I just see it as the new normal; a symptom of a network economy as Pekka Himanen describes in The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age. A bunch of people get together, build something cool, make some money and move on. We're not in the business of building widgets on an assembly line after all.

But maybe my path has allowed me to be blissfully ignorant of the whole "job-hopper," conundrum. I'm sure it still exists. I just think it's a very backwards ideal in a creativity and knowledge-based line of work such as programming.

Update It's not for a lack of trying to stay on a long-term project. One startup I worked at for 2 years and had no intention of leaving. It was being shuttered and I got laid off. That is a fairly common occurrence for startups in my neck of the woods where funding and investment is anemic and the majority of talent is funneled off to SV.

I'm trying to hire an engineer right now and job hopping is almost an instant reject. But my guess is that it really depends on the stage of the company and size of the team.

If you come from a recruiter that I have to pay $25k (or more), then there's no way it's worth it for me to only have you for 4-8 months.

If you are one of the first few engineers on the team then there is no way I can justify building a team of people who I suspect are going to jump ship in 4-8 months.

But, if you have a more established team, the candidate doesn't come from a recruiter, and I have projects that I know are scoped in the 4-8 month time period then I may consider it.

So I'd say if you are a job hopper it's fine, but don't get upset with me when I refuse to talk to you even if you have the best skills I've ever seen.

If a job hopper hops to get raises, then it's easy to makes sure he stops hopping: pay the employee market rates. If they can't get a raise, they probably won't quit.

Sure, but comments in this thread alone tell us that not all job hoppers do it for money/title bumps. I'm happy to pay market salary, and give competitive raises if warranted, but you aren't going to become the VP of engineering or CTO at any company I'm involved with if you are 24 and have worked at 8 companies for 4 months each no matter what skills you have.

That doesn't mean that person isn't good at what they do. But I'm building teams, not a group of mercenaries. If I need a mercenary I'll hire a contractor.

In my industry (info sec, UK) most people consider 2 years to be the (permie) line. The farther below this you go, the more of a liability you start to look (it costs a lot of money, time, and effort to recruit - I don't want to be in a constant recruitment cycle). Conversely, if you're a "lifer" then you've got work to do to convince me I'm your next butt-groove.

For contractors, the length of time is less directly important, what I'm looking for are people who were extended from their original contract length a few times - this tells me that they're not just purely contract hopping (constant recruitment cycle again), that they're willing to stay in the right place (which I obviously believe we're offering), and that someone felt they were good enough in a previous role to try to keep them.

Job hopper here.

I used to come to these threads hoping to find comfort for the job hopper in me. Now that a couple years have gone by and I'm OK I think I can provide some comfort to job hoppers.

My background: I've been an employed developer for over two years. Over the two years I've gone from cutting my teeth at a start up doing Customer Support and any programming they would let me get my hands on to being considered somewhere in between Mid-level and Senior in my particular environment. During this journey I've been at four different companies for 6 months, 8 months, 4 months, and 6 months. I've always exceeded all goals and contributed in big ways in short periods of time. I'm now a Consultant because I think it is more suited for how I like to work on a lot of different things with different people and I have enough experience and successes to be able to be a consultant (ie. people will pay me for my services).

During the interviews for my last two jobs the hiring managers brought up my job history point blank. One even directly called me a job hopper. I didn't shy away from their perception or try to convince them that this time it would be different. While some may see this as sugar coating, I indirectly told them that I am a challenge hopper. I talked about the projects I've worked on and the impact I've had. I talked about the value I've brought to the teams I've been on and what I do to better myself as a programmer.

All companies are looking for the good old "V" word - value. Some companies will be more interested in how long you're likely to stick around for. If how long I'm likely to stick around is that important to them then I treat this difference the same way I would anything else that we don't see eye to eye on - I walk away.

In the land of software we are lucky to have this affordability because of demand for programmers is high and margins on software can be extremely high. Jump around a little bit and learn a lot. Maybe you'll do that forever. Maybe you'll go do your ownt hing. Maybe you'll settle down. You've got a skill. People want it.

Hopping is great. I'm 20 and work as a contractor, so I just work on a per project basis. It's great being exposed to a different set of tech on nearly every project. Plus, as a contractor, you get paid a lot more.

I don't see any downsides. I think I'll hop until my mid 20's and then I'll either start my own gig or stay somewhere for an extended period of time.

Hop when you're young, get experience, build connections, meet people.

My current place is actually pretty mad I'm wanting to leave, but I don't want to dedicate the next 10 years of my life to just one company.

> I didn't shy away from their perception or try to convince them that this time it would be different.

Good point. Don't let managers/recruiters guilt you. No shame in job hopping.

It's less stressful working on a per-project basis. If the company wants you to stay, you'll get another contract for another project, nothing wrong with that.

If you're 20, you can't yet speak to the potential long-term downsides of being seen as an opportunistic job-hopper.

I've been hopping since I was 14.

Still doesn't count. You're perceived entirely differently being that young (younger than a typical college grad new recruit). You also don't have the same life goals to deal with, like raising a family which is much more expensive and requires more stability than a young single guy in an apartment who can move at a moment's notice.

Even still, one would probably expect a different degree of commitment from a 16 year old than a 26 year old.

Regardless, that's awesome. Keep at it.

As an employer I am acutely aware of:

1. Are you a contractor who is short of work 2. Are you a full-time individual that can't stick at a job for > 2 years

If you appear to be either of the above then I won't even get you in for an interview,

A recruiter earlier in this thread said that a "job hopper" could also just be someone that is good at getting hired. That may be true, but I am not remotely interested in employing you, regardless of how good you may be.

If my investment of time in you is out the window in a year then you may as well be a junior programmer, because I will have to start all over again.

Employees aren't obliged to be at a company for any amount of time, but it really looks bad if you appear to not care (IMHO).

I've been a developer for a little over five years now, and I've had four jobs. The longest of them lasted over two years, and shortest lasted three months. I'm actually leaving a job today after a little over eighteen months.

In my limited experience, rapid job changes at the outset of one's career aren't particularly damaging -- providing you can offer an honest and reasonable explanation. I left my longest job because I had to move in support of my wife's career. I left my shortest job because the technical lead was toxic and the work would have led to a dead-end career. I'm leaving my job today for a variety of reasons which I've discussed amicably yet honestly over a period of several months with my manager. In no case was a better salary or some other material gain the primary motivation behind my decision to leave.

There's something to be said for getting exposure to a variety of environments early on. Freelancing, consulting, part-time jobs, summer jobs, and co-op terms can help to maximize exposure without much risk of negative career implications. If you have good priorities -- e.g. eventually ending up in a fulfulling, long-term job with appropriate pay -- a few changes will likely do more good than harm. But if you routinely leave when the technical challenge stops being sexy or if you attempt to get a cushy job with nothing but shortcuts, you can find yourself in trouble.

The severity of hiring manager "job hopping" alarms are inversely proportional to historical job tenures listed on your CV.

If you show that you changed jobs at a rate of 6 months then hiring managers will extrapolate this and conclude that you are less likely to stay longer than the preferred minimum 12 months. A severe "job hopping" alarm will be triggered in this case.

If you change jobs every 12 months, then you're in more-likely-to-land-an-interview territory, but there will be questions and reservations, depending on the job position.

Anything longer than that and it's probably unlikely you'll trigger job hopping alarms for engineers. PMs may be a bit different depending on the industry. For example, if you're a PM in a slower moving technology industry like telecom then anything less than 24months would probably count against you, especially if you're moving between different completely markets.

Startups help to explain short job durations, but hiring managers would then expect to hear what you learned and convince them you were insanely productive during said period.

> but hiring managers would then expect to hear what you learned and convince them you were insanely productive during said period.

Hopefully you can say these things about any job you were at.

Hopefully you can, especially about the "insane productive" part. But for startups roles due to the shortened timeframe and heightened expectations on the part of the hiring manager the job applicant needs to make doubly sure they convey this impression.

My advice is to always stay at your first job for about 3 years. Then any question of "job hopping" does not happen. If you really really hate your first job, then switch and stay at the next one for 3 years.

I stayed at my first job for three years. It was a mistake. I could have gotten way more money by switching.

You have your entire life to make money. First, get experience and show you won't jump ship for no good reason.

You gain way more experiences by exposing yourself to different environments. More challenges and more money is a good reason. It's just a job after all, not a ship.

Continuous Growth and Continuous Improvement doesn't always mean leaving your current gig, but if that is what it takes, then hop away. For me personally, in the last 4 years I have been in 4 different companies. I had one job offer that asked whether bringing me on meant that I would be leaving after a year or two, I declined the offer because it was not enough to make me want to leave the employer I was at. I feel that each one of my previous endeavors has lead me to the next opportunity.

It is a concern. It says to me the applicant is all about accelerating their personal income growth while the company is just a stepping stone. I know they will be looking for a new job the day they start. My feeling is, if I can milk them I will, so they need to be good. But our system takes time to master, so prolly not even gonna be an interview.

In India project managers(usually non-coders and highly paid than any programmer) never switch jobs until they get fired or the organization goes bankrupt.

Good Programmers always switch approximately about 3-6 years once and usually get about 30-50% hike with promotion.

It really depends on the complexity of the product(s) your working on, and how much you enjoy the position.

There's also something be said for hopping until you find a nice set of golden handcuffs. :)

What about resigning after < 2 months? Solid record before that (to the point of petrification).

Speaking from the perspective of an interviewer (so assuming you pass the HR filter) it wouldn't be an issue as long as: 1) you had a good story why it was not a fit for you, and 2) why moving to my company, in contrast, is a good fit

While I say "story" above I don't mean something untruthful but rather a concise, credible, and compelling narrative. Concise - because you want to quickly get through this part of the interview and onto the "real" stuff. Credible - because you want me to believe it. Compelling - Because you want the narrative to show a transition to why you are interested in this new company and demonstrate that you are not just "looking for any port in a storm".

Just wanted to add an additional perspective, lending some weight to a few others here.

I assume I'd be considered a mid-level developer, over 6 years out of school, with a master's, though I've been called a "senior software engineer" at times, mostly for billing purposes. I've held 6 positions since school, ranging from 6 months to just over 2 years. I've been in my most recent for about a year and a half, and am considering making another move.

In nearly every interview, I get asked about why I've changed jobs so frequently. The 6-month stints have mostly been about culture, other job changes have mostly been boredom or frustration. Many interviewers have been sympathetic to my issues, and maybe some even see it as a good thing - learning quickly, contributing fast, etc, all look good, especially when you're young.

As I've gotten older/deeper into my career, the questions have changed somewhat. Instead of "why did you leave," it's becoming more of "why do you leave so often? Did you try to work it out with your manager? What assurances do I have that you'll stay?" It's critical to have solid answers to those questions, assuming you even get in the door. Unfortunately too, I have gotten passed over several times even for an interview because of it - many employers in my region are either larger (so more traditional views on employee tenures), or very small, so looking for low-churn employees that are willing to make longer-term investments in being more of a "family." Those smaller companies also tend not to be high-growth or high-margin companies, hence why they tend towards longer-term views.

To more directly answer some of your questions, in my experience, the longer your career, the more stability you need to show. Of course this is industry and locale-specific, but at this point, my average of 1-1.1 years/position is becoming detrimental to me, and I think employers are probably looking for 2-3 years. I have, as has been suggested, dropped a couple of the shorter and less-relevant positions from my resume, both to keep it to one page, but also because as mentioned, a 6 month gap can often hurt you less than a 6 month job. It's also critical to demonstrate a track record of delivering for the client, and doing great things. You want your resume to say "if you hire me, this is exactly the type of thing I can do for you." If you're "efficient and seeking challenges" as your question indicated, make sure that you can back up that claim on your resume and interview.

Keep in mind as well the type of company you're applying at. Hiring managers at startups and big companies are going to have similar rubrics, as many of the responders below have indicated, but you're going to have a different rubric for your satisfaction at these places. Find a company, big or small, where you will enjoy the type of work you're doing, can find projects that you can sink your teeth into and really own, and also can have a good time (all the soft stuff like coworkers, office environment, etc). Make sure to find one that acknowledges your skills and type of worker you are, and can provide opportunities for rapid growth, tons of learning experiences, and a chance to deliver. Try to avoid a company where saying "I'm bored" is going to turn you into a black sheep or flight risk. Find a company where your manager is interested in your growth as a human and as a developer. And this is not to say that this only exists in startups or big companies or whatever; some startups will not have that sort of culture, and some big companies will. I wish I had the magic bullet for figuring those out - if I did, I probably would have had better luck finding places I could thrive in.

And now that I've carried on much longer than I thought I would, best of luck in your potential job search and career!

Me, personally?

My thought is that you should do what will have you learn the fastest. If you have a good job, try to stick it out 3+ years. You'll learn more. It's faster-than-linear (for a while) what you learn by sticking with a job. I'm trying to level up on machine learning, into the big leagues, and you don't get heavy-duty production experience if you're a rolling stone. There are things you learn from building and supporting a system over 2+ years that you don't if you move on before you have the time to really finish anything.

If you're not learning, though, I'd say that you should hop.

If you are, try to stick with it for 3 years at least, and 5-6 (with promotions) is ideal. Including consulting + career counseling I've seen a lot of companies (probably 40+ of which I have intimate knowledge) and good jobs are not the norm (maybe 30%). When you have a good thing, stay the course.

I'd be pretty forgiving of a good candidate with a job-hopping history, but I'm also at the 99th percentile of progressivism on this sort of issue. I've seen people get utterly raped by the job hopper stigma, and many were people with normal careers by VC-land standards.

How is it considered by hiring managers?

One hop's not a big deal, but a pattern burns you. Finance and large companies look down on that, and after 30 you're going to be a lot less interested in the VC-funded startups (for one thing, they won't be able to afford you unless you're in management).

I've seen consultants and startup people face this problem when trying to move into more conservative (stable) industries like finance. They weren't disloyal and had done nothing wrong, but having been in a world where 18-month tenures were normal and not unstigmatized (because the only way to move up in the startup world is to create bidding wars; internal promotion is rare amid the social damage wrought by 90-hour weeks) made them unable to get, e.g., proprietary trading firms (which are very paranoid about IP) to take chances on them.

Here's a guideline:

    0-4 months: -6 points (but take it off your CV because even the gap is less damaging)
    5-8 months: -4 points
    9-17 months: -2 points
    18-29 months: 0 points
    30-47 months: +3 points
    48-71 months: +5 points w/ promotions, +1 w/out. 
    72+ months: +7 points w/ continuing promotions, -5 (yes, negative) w/out promotions.

What's peoples experience with job-hopping vs sticking around and hoping for raises and/or promotions while sticking to mostly technical roles? I've heard that the "ladder" for programmers that don't want to eventually go into things like (project) management can be a bit stunted at some companies.

What, oh kinda like Stephen Elop? I'd say go for it since, you know, #yolo.

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