• Career Center

    Can Accountants Job Hop Without Worry?

    By | July 14, 2015

    I like this Harvard Busines Review post that questions some of the conventional wisdom on switching jobs. Tropes like, "Stay in a job for at least two years" and "Never leave a job until you have your next one lined up,” feel like they're from the same era as "Best practices for sharpening pencils," and, "How to keep your adding machine from jamming."

    The article covers some stuff we've discussed before, most recently the fallacy of counteroffers and whether or not you should always be looking for your next job, so we won't rehash those; I'm most interested in the notion of job hopping.

    The age-old advice is that you should stay at a job for at least a year or two, that moving around too much makes you look disloyal, malcontent and always looking for a better situation. We've all known people who fit that description; they're chasing more money, a better title, or a bigger office with a better view. At one time, that may have been a problem (and it still can be), but according to San Francisco State's John Sullivan, the stigma is gone:

    Sullivan says that employers have become more accepting of brief periods of employment. As many as 32% of employers expect job-jumping. “It’s become part of life,” says Sullivan. In fact, people are most likely to leave their jobs after their first, second, or third work anniversaries. Millennials are especially prone to short stays at jobs. Sullivan’s research shows that 70% quit their jobs within two years. So the advice to stick it out at a job for the sake of your resume is just no longer valid.

    Yeah, there's the generational thing; a recent survey found that 13% of Millennials think workers should stay in a job for 5 years, as opposed to 41% of boomers. You can make that point if you want but generational differences bore me and I don't care about the Gen Y/Boomer breakdown because the amount of time is irrelevant. Jobs eventually run their course for everyone; it may be 1 year or 10, but trying to cross an arbitrary timeline of 2 or 5 or 7 years could be do far more harm than good. If you've been at a job for 1 year that has no career prospects, isn't teaching you anything new, is filled with people that suck, and you could be happier, it makes no sense to stick around. Just like showers, sometimes a job doesn't take.  

    However! There is one important point to be aware of when it comes to job hopping, says Egon Zehnder's Claudio Fernández-Aráoz:

    [Y]ou should avoid jumping around if you can, not because of any potential damage to your future job prospects, but because of the emotional drain. “The real problem is starting again to find a new place, a new location, new friends, constantly reproving yourself,” he says. You can avoid a lot of switching by thoroughly assessing any potential jobs. Because many interviews are what he calls “a conversation between two liars,” it pays to get a sense of what the job will truly be like in other ways. Some companies will offer a realistic job preview that will give you an inside view of the company, not the sugarcoated perspective you get in a series of interviews.

    Seems reasonable enough; interviewing sucks and rehashing your professional achievements, aspirations and skills would get pretty old if you're going through it with multiple prospective employers every 12 to 18 months.

    Ultimately, many of you got into accounting because it would afford you a lot of career options, so skipping around may be inevitable. Hell, it may even be necessary for finding the one job that you do want to stay in for a decade or more. If you're restless at a few (or more) jobs, people may warn you against making a move too soon, but they're basing that on worn out risks and maybe their own motives. Focus on what's important to you — even if it could be embarrassing for a brief period of time — and don't worry, be hoppy.

    Setting the Record Straight on Switching Jobs [HBR]

    • Bloviator

      It really depends on the industry you’re in and how conservative the industry is. If you’re in the Internet startup biz, you may have 20 prior jobs on your resume with an average stint of 6-18 months. In accounting, not so much. Accountants are cowering, risk-averse traditionalists who see danger at every bend in the road. The thought of changing jobs fills them with terror, and anyone who has job-hopped a lot must be a maniac. Thus they stay in jobs they hate for below-market pay, waiting for the rewards that are sure to come to them in the great by and by for being good boys and girls.

      • I Just love this

        So much truth it’s unbelievable

      • iamthelolrus

        I agree with you. The problem with this mentality is that if you’re not always always always looking, you will miss that perfect opportunity that you’ve been waiting for (like a dumbass).

      • Derrick Rose

        the brush stroke is too broad. accountants are not risk-averse. they dip out once they run a cost-benefit analysis.

    • hacker13

      I have 3 stints off less than 18 months – but explained the specific causes in each case (family, relocation and acquisition). It wasn’t an issue in finding my current role even though the job description said “no job hoppers”. I’m two years in on this role and did recently interview for a position that would have been a significant promotion (in responsibilities and pay) – but have said not interested to at least 20 other positions after doing a screening call with the recruiter. I realized a few years ago that companies will always do what is in their best interest regardless of the impact to their employees – so why shouldn’t I do what’s in mine and my family’s best interest?

      • N.E.R.D.

        “I realized a few years ago that companies will always do what is in their best interest regardless of the impact to their employees – so why shouldn’t I do what’s in mine and my family’s best interest?”

        This is the only way (IMO) to proceed in making career decisions.

        If they get pissy, tell them “it’s just business.”

    • Village Idiot

      Hell no you can’t! I recently left a $500mil company as a senior accountant to come on as a “data analyst”, which was sold as SQL + finance/analytics and it has been crap. Can’t go back to the old company because they reorged and filled my old position with two people, and can’t get on anywhere else.

      Had a history of accounting “hopping”, which means if you work anywhere under 20 years, you’re a risk.

    • SouthernCPA

      Maybe the hiring stigma from job hopping is going away… but there is still a certain benefit from sticking around a place long enough to actually learn something and not be constantly the “new guy”

    • Mountaineer

      While sitting in a clients office, 2 managers had an entire conversation about hiring a new guy. They decided to hire him becuase they had no better prospects and figured if it didn’t work out they could fire him in 3 months. And this is after moving him from Florida to Texas….

      • I Just love this

        But what about employer loyalty for employees?

        • cpanum31

          I have observed that loyalty, both ways and world wide, is a very rare thing.

          I stayed with the first firm for nine months. That was nine months too long. I did learn my lesson. Now if it smells, and most do out West, I just cut the interview short and walk.

          Life is too short to be stuck in a sewer.

    • I Just love this

      I’m gearing up to start my 3rd job in my 3rd year out of college. I realize I must stay at this one for a few years MINIMUM else I will definitely be branding myself as a job-hopper. I do have specific and clear reasons for each move that I drive home in interviews.

      But make no mistake, job hopping has been amazing, has done wonders for my salary.
      I went from 53k (lol KPMG, just lol) – to 62k – to 83k.

      • iamthelolrus

        FFS 83k? Nice!

        Still in accounting or did you pivot?

        • Derrick Rose

          prob industry

    • Another exKPMGer

      A big part of whether or not “hopping” will affect your job prospects is the company that you’re trying to hop to. If you’re transferring to a smaller company, let’s say $1B or less in annual revenues, chances are many of the people have been there two decades or more. Add to it some of those people have been in the EXACT SAME JOB for that 20 years, and these folks will get nervous about someone who might be perceived as a hopper because in 3 years when that person gets bored, there may be no other job for that person to take. It might take another couple years, in which time the person will have left. If you go to a really big company, then chances are everyone rotates within the company every 3-5 years, so it’s not like the hiring manager is expecting to have you for the next 15 years. Plus, that manager is probably looking at his/her new job opportunities already, so they just don’t care.

      • iamthelolrus

        This is why you don’t work at small companies until you are ready to settle

    • Derrick Rose

      The important question is “How does hopping affect the chances of making Partner?”