The highs and lows of job-hopping

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Labor Market Entrants’ Job Satisfaction Trajectories During Consecutive Job Changes

New research from Surrey Business School reveals the psychological effects of job-hopping, and how the highs of a new job can quickly fade away - raising questions around its long-term benefit as a career strategy.

Job-hopping has become increasingly more common, especially among Millenials, as people choose to actively manage their own careers; and outdated views of the behaviour have softened post-pandemic. Data shows that the average American worker has 12 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. 

There are undoubtedly benefits to job-hopping in some sectors, from salary growth to fast-tracked career progression. However the research uncovers the psychological impact of multiple job changes, and in particular how job-hoppers respond to a phenomenon known as the ‘honeymoon–hangover’ pattern. 

Author of the report, Professor Ying Zhou, explains.

When we transition to new jobs, we initially experience a significant increase in job satisfaction, known as the honeymoon. With every job move comes a stronger honeymoon effect. However, the research shows that the thrill of the new job is relatively short-lived. We generally experience a hangover effect after each honeymoon, which eventually reverts us back to our baseline level of job satisfaction. Despite rising career attainments over time, the happiness generated by each new job is unlikely to last. 

Professor Zhou goes on to explain that the hangover effect, however, need not be seen negatively, as it prevents complacency - motivating a new cycle of learning and growth. With an understanding of the ‘honeymoon–hangover’ pattern, organisations may consider adopting realistic job previews and expectation alignment interventions to help new recruits cope with the transition, which will signal concern for employee well-being and build trust.

The findings raise the intriguing question of whether job hopping is worthwhile given the time and resources it takes. With this knowledge around the effects of moving jobs, however, employers and employees will be better equipped to manage expectations and plot more realistic career pathways.