how bad is job-hopping, really?

A reader writes:

How bad is it really to “bounce around” jobs frequently?

I’ve been practicing in my field for about five years and have had three jobs in that time – the first for about five months, the next for about two and a half years, and my current one for about a year and a half. Recently, I’ve been starting to feel unfulfilled at my current job, partly because of the pandemic (my workload has been really inconsistent), but also because the workplace in general is a lot more anti-social and older-skewing than I was originally expecting. I came from another job where there were a lot of people around my age, frequent group lunches/happy hours, etc. Here, while everyone I work with is super nice and lovely, most of them could be my parents and everyone simply sits in their office alone, not really interacting (the only plus was that this made the transition to working from home very easy for everyone).

I’ve also been thinking about my long-term goals and have concluded that staying where I currently am may not lend itself those goals. I’m an associate at a law firm doing a kind of niche work that isn’t typically valued outside of the specific field, and I know that I want to eventually go in-house with a company rather than become a law firm partner.

All of this seems to point to searching for a new job. However, I have heard time and time again that it looks bad on a resume to have bounced around a lot and was advised by someone I used to work with that I really need to stay at my current job for at least two years before moving again. I myself have judged someone’s frequent moves when evaluating potential candidates. But is this true? Will I really be hamstrung in a potential job search by not hitting an arbitrary mark of time at a job I don’t like? Should I just wait it out?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.