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Is 3 Years at a Job the New 5 Years at a Job?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to career devotion, is three years the new five? Many experts say "job hopping" -- spending less than a year or two in a position -- isn't quite the resume killer it used to be.

During the Great Recession, many companies were forced to lay off loyal employees who'd devoted 20 or 30 years of their lives to their jobs. Today's workforce saw that happen and realized they have to look out for themselves first. As a result, there's less of an expectation of loyalty all around, says Mary Hobson, executive vice president at recruiting firm EFL Associates.

"We have seen a change in the expectation of the traditional company/employee relationship," Hobson says. "For several years, we had people taking any job they could get, and that reduced the expectation of a longer-term relationship."

Because for several years people were snagging any job that could pay the bills, many began looking for a new, better job more applicable to their skill set almost from the minute they were hired, says Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich, career expert and co-founder of Masthead Media.

"They knew the first day on the job, 'This is not the job for me,' and they started looking," Ilkovich says.

People realized, "No company is going to watch out for me -- I have to watch out for myself," and now, as soon as people are unhappy, they start looking -- they start taking control of their career, she says,

"People have more of an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to finding a job. They are trying to be successful the best way they can," she says.

Right now, we are at a temporary "new normal" for what employees' resumes may look like, says Chad Oakley, president and COO of Charles Aris, a global executive search firm.

"If you do have shorter stints on your resume, it's more understandable now than it was," Oakley says. "It's accepted today because of the economic turmoil, but in any kind of normalized economy, it's not something recruiters are going to like to see."

Even so, the "rules" for how long one must stay at a job to "prove stability," are evolving, Hobson says. In today's market, three years in a job is considered as stable as five years was pre-Great Recession.