It’s the worst-case scenario: After months of searching for a job, you find one that sounds like the perfect fit. You have the requisite qualifications, make it past the interview round, and get an offer—only to start work and find it’s nothing like you imagined.
How long do you stick it out before starting to look elsewhere? It may depend on how bad the job is. But by and large, the question of how long to stay at a job you’re not crazy about seems continually up for debate.
In an April survey by Lattice, an employee management software platform, more than half (52%) of respondents who have been at their job for three months or less said they are actively trying to leave. For folks in a job for between three and six months, that figure jumped to 59%.
Across the board, of the 2,000 U.S.-based respondents, nearly three-quarters (74%) said they would be open to leaving their current role—regardless of how long they’ve been there—in the next six to 12 months. In last year’s installment of the survey, only 47% said the same.
Some act beyond just looking—and fast. In a survey of millennial and Gen Z jobseekers earlier this year by career site The Muse, one in five said they would quit a job in less than a month if it were dramatically different from what was advertised. Another 41% would give it two to six months, and less than a quarter (24%) would stick it out a full year.
As with most job-related trends, this one skews strongly young. Only 23% of baby boomers, 33% of Gen Xers, and 41% of elder millennials (aged 35 through 44) said they’re job-hunting—unlike Gen Zers, three in five of whom are looking, and younger millennials at 59%.
No two job seekers are alike, and hiring managers can’t expect them to all value the same things. The contrast between generations is stark. For example, nearly half (44%) of younger millennials say mentorship opportunities are extremely important—but just 18% of baby boomers agree. Meanwhile, Gen Zers and millennials called “sense of belonging” a key factor in their job search at almost double the rate of baby boomers.
“Younger workers are really looking for a sense of belonging in the onboarding process, especially with so many hybrid or fully remote roles,” Dave Carhart, Lattice’s vice president of people, tells Fortune. “Everything companies can do to really support new hires and help them make connections will be particularly important.”
“Anecdotally, we [had] certainly heard about attrition risk among folks newer in their jobs,” Carhart adds. “The extent of it still surprised me.”
Employers have worked extra hard to hire people during what Carhart calls the “great reshuffling.” Even so, he adds, “it’s clear you really can’t assume the work is done when someone starts.”
Often, new employees are likelier to leave than more tenured folks who have invested the time and effort into their employer.
“Particularly in such an active market, new workers realize there’s not a need to stick it out for 12 or 18 months in a job that’s not meeting their needs or expectations,” Carhart says.
When he started his career as a recruiter in the mid-2000s, Carhart says he and his coworkers would “really screen folks” on their job-hopping habits and how long they stayed in one place. No longer.
“Historically, people have needed to worry about looking like a job hopper when they had a pattern of leaving jobs quickly,” Alison Green, hiring and management expert behind the Ask a Manager blog, tells Fortune.
What counts as “quickly” varies widely by field. In some roles, like service work or a consulting project, it might be anything under a year. In others, like marketing or engineering, the expectation is at least two or three years.
But in today’s white-hot job market, all those old rules are out the window, Green says. Even without market forces, the pandemic has completely inverted prior norms.
“There’s a lot more understanding that you might have left because your employer was mishandling the pandemic or because they’re stuck in outdated practices around remote work,” she says. “There’s so much churn going on right now—and so much power on the workers’ side that hasn’t been there traditionally—that [prospective] employers are much more willing to overlook short stays than they might have been previously.”