Ask a tech worker: How much job-hopping is too much job-hopping?

Aim to stick around longer than a year, but don’t stay too long, tech workers told me.

Two chat bubbles in front of a building: Ask a tech worker image

Tech workers have differing views on job-hopping.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Tech workers have more reason than ever to change jobs these days. In the race for talent, companies are offering more money, expanding already-plush benefits and adding flexibility. Job-hopping has always been part of the culture in Silicon Valley, but the current market is creating even more incentive to jump ship.

But employers — even in tech — still want to hire candidates who can commit and help scale a team or an organization: The cost alone of hiring a new employee can amount to as much as 20% of their annual salary, according to Ideal. And a resume with too many brief stints might raise eyebrows down the line. In this market, are job seekers even worried about it? On a balmy day at Salesforce Park this week, I asked tech workers I met about their views on job-hopping.

Ed Kraay, an agile transformation coach at Salesforce, took a relatively conservative view.

“You need enough relationship-building so that you can get things done,” Kraay said. “If you change your job every year, people look down on that, probably, because you’re not able to really do the things you need to give back.”

Some companies even expect employees to return their sign-on bonus if they leave within a certain period of time.

But there’s also a risk to staying in a job for too long. More than a decade in the same job can bring scrutiny, Kraay said.

“My last job, I was at for eight years, and it felt like almost too much,” Kraay said. That said, there are some situations where such a long tenure can work, like if the company transforms a lot over that period, he noted.

Generational differences play a role here, and the data shows that younger workers tend to job-hop more often. Research from CareerBuilder released in October showed that millennials and Gen Z spend less than three years in each job, on average, compared to five years for Gen X and eight years for Baby Boomers.

Much remains to be seen about Gen Z’s tenure in jobs, since the oldest members of that generation are only in their mid-20s. Some expect this generation to be more risk-averse and cautious about professional expectations than its older counterparts, according to CareerBuilder’s research.

Lee Murdock is still new to the workforce and said she’s changed jobs twice in the last two years. Now an associate program manager at Salesforce, Murdock said employees should stick around for at least a year before moving on.

“I think people should do whatever they want, but as far as career success, [less than a year] is not enough time to really integrate into a team and show results that you can take forward,” Murdock said.

Murdock pointed out that some companies require employees to stay on a team for two years before transferring to a new internal role — a clue about the longevity that employers still expect.

There are always exceptions for great job offers, she said.

“It’s an employee’s market right now, and folks should take advantage of that,” Murdock said.

Research from the Conference Board found that almost a third of professionals who have left their organization since the start of the pandemic now make more than 30% more money.

Gopi Karunamoorthy, finance manager at the ecommerce software maker Recharge Payments, agreed that job seekers should take advantage of the market.

“The longest I’ve ever stayed at a company is two years,” Karunamoorthy said. “Especially in San Francisco, in tech, there’s a lot of opportunity, and if you want to change, you have the right to choose.”

Karunamoorthy said he’s not worried that his record of frequently changing jobs will, at some point, get in the way. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if a job is the right fit before a few months in the role, he said.

“Hopefully, the interview process is good enough that you know what an opportunity’s worth and if it’s right for you, but it’s hard to judge in an hour or two hours,” Karunamoorthy said. “So you find out three months down the line, and go somewhere else.”

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