Discovering that today's workforce typically spends only 4.4 years in a job might surprise you. 

Assuming that an average worker stays employed from age 18 to retirement at 65 equates to holding 10 different jobs throughout their career. 

However, younger generations are even more prone to restlessness, with 72% of Gen Z and 66% of Millennials contemplating a career change in the next 12 months

In contrast, only 55% of Gen Xers and 30% of baby boomers share similar considerations.

Recent data from the Canadian Labour Market Information Network sheds light on the dynamics of the Canadian job market. 

The study suggests that those who frequently switch jobs earn higher salaries than those who remain loyal to one employer. 

This phenomenon aligns with the current trend in the job market, where job-hopping is encouraged for the promise of higher compensation. Employers are increasingly willing to pay a premium to attract new, well-qualified candidates.

Intriguingly, the report indicates that Canadian workers may anticipate an average pay increase of 3.6% in 2024, further emphasizing the evolving landscape of employment dynamics and the potential benefits of embracing career changes.

Are there downsides to staying at a job too long, or is it more beneficial to be a job hopper? Let's find out.


the downsides of staying in a job too long

In previous decades, companies viewed full-time employees as investments. A skilled worker was an asset who would grow with the company over time. 

As workers gained new skills, there would be opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. 

Employees took on more responsibility as their experience allowed and received a sizable salary increase with each promotion. 

Today, that model is disappearing. Companies are becoming wary of investing heavily in training employees who, more likely than not, will pack up and leave within a few years.

In some industries – we’re looking at you, the technology industry – lifers are all but extinct. Ongoing skill development is crucial. 

Statistics Canada data reveals that people who stick to one job for an extended period may require additional training to stay up-to-date, creating a potential "skills gap." 

This leaves workers needing to prepare for fresh challenges.

Furthermore, a lack of diverse work experiences can result in stagnation. Long-term job stability may prevent individuals from exploring new roles, industries, or entrepreneurial opportunities, limiting their overall career growth.

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are you more of a ‘lifer’ or a ‘job-hopper’?

Lifers are more likely to stay with one job for the majority of their career. They may advance through the ranks at that company as their career progresses, but they’re loyal to their employer for the duration of their career.

They prefer a stable job and knowing what’s waiting for them at work each day.

Job hoppers are always looking for what’s new. They tend to get restless for too long when employed by the same company. 

They enjoy variety at work and aren’t afraid to try new and risky things in their career. They’re more likely to work for startups and take on risky ventures. They tend to switch jobs every few years (or less) and thrive in temp or contract jobs.

Then there are the people who don’t fall into either of these categories. They take a little from column A and a little from column B. 

They might prefer stability at work but are happy to switch jobs if an exciting opportunity arises.

Job-hopping can offer numerous benefits, but finding the right balance between being a lifer and job-hopping is key. 

Changing jobs too frequently may raise concerns among potential employers regarding your commitment and reliability. 

Evaluating your career goals, industry trends, and personal circumstances is vital to determine whether you should job-hop or stay put. 

is there a sweet spot when it comes to job duration?

There’s a fine balance to walk when determining how long you should stay in a job. Excessive job hopping can be frowned upon. 

On the other hand, some career paths all but expect you to flit between jobs, picking up new and cutting-edge skills to stay competitive.

So, what is the magical sweet spot? Here are a few general guidelines:

  • skill development: ensure you consistently develop new skills and stay current in your field. If your current job doesn't provide these opportunities, consider changing.
  • compensation: evaluate whether your salary is competitive in your industry and location. It might be time to explore new opportunities if you need to catch up.
  • job satisfaction: consider how content you are in your current role. It might indicate that it's time to move on if you are disengaged and unfulfilled.

Think about your long-term goals before job hopping. Does it align your job duration with your long-term career objectives?

If your current job hinders your progress toward your goals, it might be time to explore other opportunities. 

According to recruiters, you should keep each job for at least 18 months. With a solid 18 months under your belt, you’ve settled into your job and received the training to do your job thoroughly while also bringing value to your company.

Less than 18 months, and you’re in danger of being seen as a flight risk, particularly if you habitually bounce from job to job. 

The one exception to this rule is contract work. Contracts are usually for a set duration ranging from 3 months to 2 years. Most employers will understand that contract work comes with a finite timeline.

smaller salary increases

Unless you’re receiving promotions every 2 to 3 years, along with significant increases in compensation, seeking out new opportunities is likely the chief way you will receive raises and promotions. 

Canadian workers could see an average pay increase of 3.6% in 2024. 

However, a salary increase from a job change can boost your income by as much as 10-20%, while a C-suite executive, particularly in high-demand industries like technology or finance, could command a salary bump of 25-30% when switching companies. 

Fortune estimated that staying at one company for more than 2 years, on average, will reduce your lifetime earnings by 50%!

According to a Mercer report, Canadian companies plan a modest 3.7% total salary increase and a 3.3% merit increase in 2024, signalling a trend of smaller salary increments. 

In contrast, changing jobs increases the likelihood of a pay raise and tends to yield more significant financial gains. 

The average annual raise after one year of work is a mere 2–3%, insufficient to counteract inflation. Some employers may consider adjusting salaries based on market conditions. 

Still, substantial raises are often reserved for high performers seeking a merit increase, with an average raise of around 5%, falling short of covering inflation.

lack of skill development & the role of job hopping in career advancement  

Overstaying at a company can hinder the opportunities available to you in the future, too. This is most apparent in tech fields such as development, mobility, IoT, and data mining and analysis. 

Once you start to fall behind, it’s difficult to catch up again. 

In reality, staying in a job too long can pigeonhole your career. Immersing yourself in a career with a narrow skill focus will make you an expert in that field. 

But you risk not learning new skills because they’re not needed in your current role.

Employers in quick-moving IT fields seek innovation and individuals with the technical expertise to drive their company forward. The technologies five years ago are no longer relevant or necessary. Sticking with a job for 10+ years is unheard of in these cases. 

Employers actually assume that their best performers will move around. If you’re staying in a job too long, employers in fields driven by innovation may begin to wonder if you have the drive, adaptability and fresh skills needed to bring value. This is why job hopping can lead to career advancement.

job hopping and inflation

Job changes can serve as a strategic response to combat the impact of inflation, offering the chance to secure higher pay increases. 

According to Statistics Canada, for workers aged 25 to 54 across various industries, the average wage increase between 2020 and 2022 was $2.27, translating to an average raise of 7% over two years (from $32.28 to $34.55). 

Notably, there exists a gender wage gap, with female workers in the same age group receiving an average increase of 6.4%, while their male counterparts received 7.6% over the same period.

Given the backdrop of rising inflation, reaching 6.8% in 2021 and 6.5% in 2022 — the highest in over three decades — employees should actively negotiate for higher pay increases. 

To counter the decay of real income caused by inflation, workers now need to seek a pay raise of at least 7% in 2023

Those taking on increased responsibilities or senior roles need to aim for a raise of at least 10%. 

Job hopping has now become a strategic move, as changing jobs often provides a more substantial salary increase than promotions within the same company.

Job hopping for higher pay is now sometimes essential to ensure that your salary keeps pace with the rising costs of living due to inflation.

balancing job hopping and long-term commitment

Though staying in a job too long can hinder your career, not sticking it out long enough can also be a problem. When hiring managers see a string of jobs lasting only months at a time on your resume, they may start to wonder about your stability, personality, and competency. Are you difficult to get along with? Are you easily bored? 

Hiring managers need to justify the expense of hiring and pouring resources and training into you. You’re as much an investment as a shiny new piece of technology – let’s say, a new printer.

Striking a balance between job-hopping and commitment is key to a successful and fulfilling career journey. While exploring new opportunities can enhance skills, boost compensation, and increase job satisfaction, excessive job-hopping may signal a lack of commitment. 

To find a balance, you must consider factors such as skill development, ensuring each move contributes to your professional growth, and aiming for competitive and fair compensation. You must consider your overall job satisfaction and evaluate your cultural fit.

Does job-hopping align with your long-term goals, or should you stay? By weighing these aspects, you can navigate your career paths strategically, embracing change when it aligns with growth and commitment when it aligns with long-term aspirations.

The bottom line: in today’s employment landscape, switching jobs every few years can actually be beneficial to your career, particularly if you work in a fast-moving field. 

With that in mind, everybody is different. Some people prefer a stable work environment; others believe variety is the key to enjoying coming to work each day. There’s room out there for everyone.

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