To change jobs or to stay? A dilemma

Leaving a job less than two years after getting it is a bad strategy

In Summary

• Changing jobs offers career growth and pay rise, but frequency comes with risks


Perhaps one of your resolutions for 2023 is to revitalise your career. Your life feels like a vehicle stuck in the middle of the sweltering Chalbi Desert as everyone else makes rapid progress towards their goals.

Your dreams have not materialised. The long-awaited promotion has not come through despite completing your Master's degree two years ago. Your employer has frozen all salary increases with the excuse that times are hard. You want to make a difference in your life this year.

The obvious solution is to look for another employer who can give you the money and promotion you so strongly deserve. It's not easy, though. You may have changed jobs several times in the past and you worry that prospective employers might see you as a flighty person, someone who cannot maintain attention on one thing for too long.

Is it better to stick it out with an employer for as much as possible or should one grab any opportunity that comes along? Some people have succeeded in their careers by working for a single employer all their productive lives. Others have succeeded by hopping from place to place like rabbits (job hopping).

Similarly, there are employees whose careers stagnated because they stayed with one employer. Does the term 'dead-end job' come to mind? There are job hoppers who changed jobs so often that they ended up jobless because employers can't trust them anymore.

One man who has made a success out of job hopping is corporate honcho Polycarp Igathe. He is now the chief growth officer at Tiger Brands after holding high-level executive positions in Coca-Cola, AfricaOnline, Kenya Breweries, Haco Industries, Vivo Energy and Equity Bank. Igathe briefly served as Deputy Governor in Nairobi county after the 2017 general elections. In the 2022 elections, he unsuccessfully ran for the governor's seat.

Questioned on his colourful employment history, Igathe attributes the appointments to his record of performance in previous leadership positions. "I am poached and given a higher salary everywhere I go because I'm a guy who gets things done," Igathe told an NTV talk show host. "Are you blaming me for my good luck borne of prayer and hard work?" he asked.


Most employees will not have similar good fortune as Polycarp Igathe. Dissatisfaction at work is a real concern among Kenyan workers. A survey conducted by BrighterMonday, an online recruitment company, found that 54 per cent of respondents were planning to leave their employer within six months. 42 per cent reported being happy with their jobs, while 47 per cent indicated neutrality, that is, neither happy nor unhappy with their employers.

Of interest is that working conditions may push employees to look for alternatives. Fair compensation, good working conditions, improved communication and overall employee well-being are some of the suggested ways of better employee satisfaction. "Healthy employee satisfaction is one of the best signals of a happy workplace, BrighterMonday notes. "A happy employee is more productive, commits to the job and tends to stay with the company."

The Star recently reported that the desire for bigger pay is among the key reasons why employees hop around from job to job. In the report, career experts advised that staying too long in the same job can make you get a salary below that offered to new entrants for the same position.

Other advantages of job hopping include a chance for career advancement and the acquisition of additional knowledge from diverse employers. The flip side to job hopping is that people who often change jobs don't stay long enough to truly gain new skills. Furthermore, excessive job hopping may be a symptom of personality flaws.

Lee Nallalingham, an author and speaker on human resource practices, says anyone embarking on job hopping must have a strategy behind it. "Interviewers are trying to work out whether you are just wandering from job to job aimlessly without a plan, hoping something sticks, or if there has been a logical transition from role to role as part of a career plan that has led to you sitting in front of them," Nallalingham says.

Chinese billionaire businessman Jack Ma advises the youth to be careful with job hopping. "Find a good boss that can teach you how to be a human being, how to do things right, how to do things properly. Stay there for at least three years," Ma told a forum in 2019. He noted that a lot of people change jobs frequently and, as he puts it, "that's not good".

Human resource experts agree with Jack Ma that leaving a job less than two years after getting it is a bad strategy. It usually takes about two years for an individual to fully understand his or her role in the employer's organisation. It also takes about that much time to build up the necessary personal networks to thrive in the position. Excessive job hopping ruins one's prospects of building a fulfilling career.

Research carried out in South Africa suggests that people who frequently change jobs tend to settle for any available job. This might result in the individual ending up in an uncomfortable work environment, potentially leading to a cycle of entering and leaving jobs.

It also explains why people who move from employer to employer keep complaining about the same problem, such as not getting along with co-workers, suggesting that the root of the problem lies within the individual rather than with bad working conditions.


Without a strategy, job hopping has consequences on personal financial stability. The job hopper's long-term savings will be affected by periods when he or she is in-between jobs. An employee who engages in job hopping less often and saves consistently will have better financial stability at retirement compared to another who is in and out of work every few years.

Sticking with one employer improves your chances of getting loans to finance personal projects, such as building a home. According to the Harvard Business Review, financial institutions generally look more favourably on prospective borrowers who've held consistent jobs for a minimum of two years, and preferably more.

As you think about what to do with your career, consider the pros and cons of either moving to a new employer or staying with your current one.

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