April 17, 2024
min read

Long-Term Employment vs Job Hopping

Luis Minvielle

For developers who want better salaries, job-hopping is the best idea compared to staying at the same job for a long term. That’s at least how it has played out historically. IT workers who switched jobs in February 2024 will have earned almost a 5% increase year-on-year just for that—for swapping jobs and updating their LinkedIn profiles.

But, in times marked by increasing layoffs, is job hopping—a historically effective strategy—still so smart? The annual growth rate of employees across major companies is declining, even turning negative in some of them. This means that even the employees that are the best on paper are struggling to get a job and, when they do, they end up taking a pay cut.

Long-term work seems to be a better path for workers who want a middle ground between stability and fair pay. Layoffs, lower salaries, inflation, and everything about a job that’s not the salary are making long-term working a good choice for employees.

What is job hopping?

Companies and workers agree that job hopping means switching jobs every one to two years. Once you’ve switched jobs every year for a while, your new employee will know or assume you’ll be leaving a year from now. 

In an era where layoffs outweigh hiring, tech workers need to be careful with their employment strategies, and some sectors are more vulnerable to turnover than others. For example, software engineers working in non-tech companies are less affected by layoffs than those working in tech companies, and report higher levels of job security. This could mean that it’s a safer bet to job-hop between companies in the non-tech sector than it is within big tech companies.

Why do people job-hop? The benefits of job hopping

The best answer is—it depends. It depends on whether they are satisfied with the pay, the people they are working with, the work itself, and the opportunities for development. Also, not every occupation gets better salaries from job hopping. In some markets, for example, lawyer salaries are capped by experience, and law clerks change jobs because they need to specialise in a certain kind of defence, not to earn more money. 

Here are some reasons why people switch jobs:

1. To get better salaries

The simplified answer is that workers hop between jobs for better pay. Salary is the most important factor when deciding on a job or career path. Different surveys from different markets all agree that salary is what workers care the most about. This is true for software engineers—the latest Stack Overflow survey demonstrated that 79% of developers are open to new opportunities, with many actively seeking new roles, particularly for better compensation.

Depending on when they make the jump, people who change jobs every year could earn around 5–10% more than those who stay put. That’s a general figure. Software developers can earn up to 10–20% more.

Take the story of Alex Nguyen, a Seattle-based software engineer who wrote he was “proud” of being a job hopper on LinkedIn. His post went viral. He also wrote that he jumped between three companies in three years and had a 20% pay bump moving from Amazon to Microsoft for the same role and job responsibilities. That’s basically just replacing a logo on LinkedIn and getting a raise.

When recruiters read through his post, they said: “Clearing interviews is definitely easier than getting promoted.” That’s another advantage of jumping between jobs to get more money: It’s still easier than earning a promotion!

Still, remember that software engineer salaries have been pushed down by around 10%, a scenario that hasn’t happened since the dot-com bubble. If you’re job-hunting and can’t find a salary increase quickly, consider that circumstance.

2. To win at job flexibility 

Flexible working means doing it in your own way, almost wherever you want. And workers are ready to job-hop to get flexible. A reverse statistic about job retention demonstrates it: 62% of workers would choose to stay in a job with a lower salary if it offered flexible work options. 

In contrast, a 2022 report explains that, while being physically present in the office full-time is no longer necessary to achieve great results, some companies are not offering what 95% of working professionals desire—some form of remote work.

3. To learn new skills

Surveys continuously show burnout levels are high across the workforce—not just for developers. Less than a third of full-time employees are engaged in their positions. Out of the lot, millennials are (unsurprisingly) the most miserable group when it comes to ranking their job satisfaction.

At the same time, the 2023 Stack Overflow survey demonstrated that 64% of developers believe continuous learning is necessary for career development. If your work doesn’t challenge you these days, you’re likely to be left behind. And that could be part of feeling miserable.

Source: Learning.LinkedIn

So, given how these two figures clash—how miserable people often feel, and how important they believe learning is—then it’s likely that job hopping happens to start anew somewhere you can learn, and feel better about it. Also, not learning can take a toll on a worker’s market value, so a software engineer who considers they’re running from behind might choose to change jobs—e.g. from an NFT company to a metaverse one, and then to an AI one—to keep learning and make their value rise, not decline.

Browse Remote Developer Jobs → 

Is job hopping always effective for getting a better salary?

Yes, job hopping has always been an effective way to get a pay increase, but maybe it’s not viable right now.

Even if it historically has been an effective way to bring in more money, developer salaries have been dropping by 9%15%, depending on the market. So, it’s unclear if, a decade from now, we’ll see this time in the software development market as a good time to switch jobs or as a comparatively bad one.

Is job hopping always good for a developer’s career?

Let’s suppose that one benefit, which is earning better salaries, is a given, since you’ll only accept a new position if you get a better offer.

Still, not every job hopper instantly accesses the benefits we listed. If you’re interested in other variables besides salaries, there’s no way to guarantee that job-hopping is a good idea. It could actually backfire.

Is job hopping bad? The downsides of job hopping

The reasons for switching jobs are clear, but the benefits could not follow suit. Here are some key considerations:

1. Lack of notable wins for your CV

Job hopping can allow you to flex about having worked with plenty of programming languages, but it doesn’t teach you much about a company’s code, systems, and procedures. Gallup suggests that employees need to work a full year at a company before reaching peak potential, and if the company’s codebase is a mess and the technical debt is still accruing, it seems too optimistic. Constantly jumping ship will make it hard for you to collect achievements you can show off, like shipping an app to the Play Store in record time.

2. It can be a red flag for your professional reputation 

If you constantly job-hop, especially if you’re in a niche industry, you could become known as an untrustworthy worker, even if you’re very professional and you always bring in results. This happens because employee turnover is expensive.

While some employers are changing their negative views on job-hoppers, many are not. Multiple short-term positions on a resume can still be a red flag for some employers who may question the candidate’s loyalty, commitment to long-term roles, or ability to integrate into company culture. They might worry that you won’t stay long enough to see projects through to completion or that you only stick around to get what you want before leaving, which costs them money. Each departing employee costs a company 33% of their annual salary in replacement expenses alone. So if you’re wondering why companies want to keep turnover low, it’s because it’s cheaper.

3. It compromises job security during layoffs

A wave of layoffs in the tech sector throughout 2023 and into 2024 has undermined job security. By March, almost 30,000 tech workers in the US alone were already let go. Job security is low and competition is high—and while there’s no such thing as a “sure thing,” companies might prioritise retaining those employees who have been with them for longer.

There’s no hard evidence that being a job hopper will increase your chances of being fired during a layoff spree—no one would admit to that. But there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence explaining how layoffs work, and it seems that being a hopper will put you at a disadvantage compared to long-term folks. 

Sometimes, upper management opens up a spreadsheet and deletes a column, and puff, that’s 4,000 workers who’ll be sent home. Other times, though, HR will ask around for staff member referrals. They’ll go to a manager and say: “What do you think of this guy or this other guy? Their performance metrics are so similar we can’t decide which to let go of.” And having a friend who will say, “This person works well,” can be the difference between preserving your job or losing it.

If you’ve been job-hopping, it’s unlikely someone with decision power will vouch for you when the axe looms. Also there's the understanding that the last one in is usually the first one out.

Still, no one’s immune to layoffs. Very recently, a Naughty Dog employee—not a software engineer, but someone working alongside them—who had been working there for 18 years was laid off. His farewell went viral, and it’s evident from the responses that he had friends who could’ve intervened for him. So, of course, this is not a silver bullet.

Benefits of long-term employment—When to choose it?

For companies, having long-term employees is very beneficial because it’s cheaper that way. 

For employees, it can also be wise staying put at one’s job. It’s not especially because of loyalty—you stay in your job because of the security it offers. These are the main benefits of long-term employment and the reasons it might be better to stay put instead of hopping:

1. You are in a sector that is not as affected by layoffs

Not every tech worker has been affected by layoffs. Software developers from non-tech firms, including those employed by Fortune 500 firms (excluding FAANG), have mostly observed the storm brewing from afar. Also, jobs in cybersecurity, for example, aren't impacted as much by job cuts. So if you’re a software engineer in the information security field and find a better-paying position as Senior Developer at a FAANG company, perhaps job-hopping isn’t worth the risk.

2. You have inside information that could help you survive layoffs

Think about it this way: If there are layoffs happening suddenly, it might not be a good idea to move to another company that might also be affected a week after you join in. It does seem like a better idea to stay where you are and try to build relationships—with the HR director or with the administrative sector—to try to narrow the possibility that layoffs, if they happen, will impact you.

Many people who have had to communicate layoffs agree that many people lose their jobs or are saved by small details. Did you have a good relationship with the HR manager? Maybe that tiny detail will save you, because when they are crossing out names, they will say out loud that you are too valuable and should be kept.

And if not, they will at least tell you in a hallway that you will be fired so that you can start looking for offers while you quiet-quit at your current job. Office gossip still happens. So, the impulse seems to be to stay, but not out of loyalty to the company—rather, out of loyalty to oneself.

3. You have friends at work (and actually like going to the office)

Alright—this one sounds naive. You work for the money, not for the friendships. Moreover, you can job-hop and keep your friends. Friends and work are separate entities.

We mentioned how a friend at work can save you from a layoff. But this is a different angle: It’s about being more cheerful at work. Evidence suggests that having friends at work will make you more engaged. A non-HR terminology translation: You’ll hate your job less if you have a buddy to talk to. Recent Gallup data reveals that employees with a best friend at work are 12 times more likely to be engaged at their jobs. And these friendships can only flourish if you stay on board for the long term. Being a job nomad might mean you won’t be able to form that additional layer of attachment that could motivate you or make your job more enjoyable. 

Drawbacks of long-term employment

Sticking with one job for an extended period also has drawbacks. It’s not just about the easy-to-calculate cost of leaving money on the table for not switching to a higher-earning job. There’s more to long-term employment than just losing a better pay cheque.

1. Loyalty takes effort—and it doesn’t count

Ultimately, companies will prioritise their bottom line and profits over their employees. And there’s no evidence that company loyalty will help you survive layoffs. So, really, your loyalty will entail a lot of effort on your end that won’t yield truly significant benefits in the long run.

Testimonials increasingly show big tech won’t give you a one-to-one meeting to tell you’ve been fired, or explain they did it because you cut a deal with a California bassist.

This is the state of tech work in 2024 and being loyal to a company, which takes active effort, might not save you when the axe comes crashing down.

2. You’ll limit your salary

When you stay at your job and accept to work for, let’s say, 15% less than a colleague at a different company, you’re implicitly showing indifference, and your company will likely keep that salary raise to themselves unless you fight for it. Job hopping, even if not the most viable option in this climate of low demand, is one of the best ways to earn a salary increase.

3. You could limit your skill development

This is a hidden cost behind working long-term at a job. Suppose the tech stack you’re working with was a hit a decade ago, but it’s becoming increasingly old-fashioned. Since there’s hotter tech out there, the market will demand workers who know how to handle that new tech. And if you’ve stuck with the old, legacy one, your market value as a developer will decrease.

How to explain job hopping (interview)

This is where it gets tricky—you need to approach this strategically and with tact. To explain job hopping in an interview, you can use our last item from the negative side of long-term working: You were not learning any more, and, in turn, you needed to go somewhere more exciting and less boring.

By saying this, you can demonstrate your priority is to get better day by day, not to jump between jobs and collect the best pay cheque the market has to offer. “I can’t work at companies that get boring and don’t innovate—that’s why I switch jobs so often” is an HR-certified winner answer.

Browse Intermediate Experience Jobs for Developers → 

Job hopping vs long-term employment—which is more effective for developers?

Many workers are understanding that staying at one’s job is the best idea right now. Still, it’s not out of loyalty to a company. Any company will prioritise its own bottom line first, and so should you.

Software developers are less sure that companies are trustworthy, and salaries have been dropping very rapidly. Job loyalty is on a downward trend, while loyalty to oneself is on the rise. 

With that, since layoffs are so fashionable, weathering the storm at a job you know well and pays well enough seems smart. It looks like loyalty to the workplace, but it’s really just looking out for yourself.

The most effective move is caring for one’s career. It’s not worth the risk of jumping ship and risking becoming a victim to a round of layoffs at a new company. Maybe it’s time to stay loyal to oneself and work long-term.

Hop to a tech job that offers a better salary

Wages are down for software developers, but you can always find a job that has a better salary and only jump ship once you get that higher figure. One place to look at is our job board, where we list tech jobs for beginner, intermediate and senior developers alike.

At WeAreDevelopers, we connect the top talent in Europe with leading companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other more stable markets. Sign up, browse jobs, consider your options, and eventually take off on a new career path without suffering through the loyalty-or-layoff mania. Good luck!

Long-Term Employment vs Job Hopping

April 17, 2024
min read

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