Switching jobs—again? It’ll cost ya

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Early in my career, I was a habitual job hopper. I held my first four jobs in five years. The restlessness wasn’t without source; I was in the midst of a search for a vocation that would define me, if I want to be all existential about it. The good news is I found it. Here I am, an 11-year veteran at the same dang employer. The bad news is I’ve been eating the same cafeteria food for over a decade now. You know you’ve been here too long when you’ve memorized the daily soup special.

It’s nice to settle down, job-wise, if only to avoid the hassle of ordering new business cards every 12 months. But it turns out I’m also scoring major financial gain by staying in place. New research finds that workers who change jobs a lot wind up earning less than those who stay put.

The study, published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review, the journal of the American Sociological Association, sought to determine the impact of career mobility on worker’s wages. Sociologist Sylvia Fuller of the University of British Columbia tracked nearly 6,000 workers during their first 12 years in the labor market.

Here’s why job-hopping costs workers:

• In the first five years of a job, Fuller found each year of tenure is associated with approximately 2.4% higher wages for men and 2.9% higher wages for women. In other words, earnings, like interest, compounds; if you miss the raises that come with tenure, your later earnings will reflect that loss.

• Job-hoppers tend to spend a greater proportion of time unemployed.

• A greater proportion of their job changes are the result of layoffs.

Fuller doesn’t address the oft-heard argument that the best way to get a raise is to take a new job. But she does find that job-hopping “can be a wage asset when it is concentrated in the early years of employment and not coupled with layoffs, discharges, employment gaps or family-related leave. In this case, moderate or even high levels of mobility can lead to equal or better wage outcomes than stability.”

So hop away, young ‘uns. Just settle down before too long. You could always skip the caf and brown-bag a sandwich.