Job-hopping - a leap forward for your career prospects or a giant step back?
We live in an age when the one-company individual no longer exists. Your father, mother or grandparents may have worked for one company their entire lives, but it is becoming commonplace to be employed by three, four or more companies during one's lifetime.
Up to a decade ago, interviewers frowned upon a resume that betrayed you as a "job hopper". However, this attitude has started to shift with industries such as technology, advertising and PR firms who have elevated job-hopping to a lifestyle and a necessity to keep up with industry changes. Because of this, the tables are turning in the more traditional industries as well, and the once negative image of job-hopping is now being seen as ambitious. In fact, according to one recruiter, in some industries, if you stayed at the same job for five years, you'd have some explaining to do.
However, this doesn't mean the job-hopper stigma has completely vanished. If you've got too many jobs on your resume, you could end up getting pegged as unstable, disloyal, or unable to work as part of a team, especially if these jobs are typically for terms of six months or less. Lou Adler, author of Hire with Your Head Down says, " when you look at a candidate who can't get promoted and who keeps moving in and out of lateral positions from company to company, you can't help but think 'what's wrong'?
Thinking about a change?
When it comes down to it, if you must job-hop, make it constructive. Sometimes the best time to switch jobs is when you're feeling good about your career - and that means moving out to move up. You don't want to completely shut yourself off from opportunities to change jobs, however, take your time and consider the effect the change will have on your career. It is important to take a step back, re-assess your work habits and to make sure your next move is the right one for you.
Constructive job-hopping takes thought and planning to achieve the goals of moving forward and strengthening a career. Do it badly and you'll move laterally, or even backward.
It is also a good idea to thoroughly research any new company prospects. What sounds good on paper doesn't always mean that it will be any better than where you are now, especially if it's a lateral move and isn't a career advance. Things to look for are: company background; what the company culture is like; will you fit into the team; and how has the company performed financially over the past year?
There are many reasons why you switch jobs, some more positive than others. And the key is to articulate to a prospective employer why you left and to eliminate any negative association with your frequent job changes. Some more positive reasons are:
- I followed the best and brightest: companies want people who bring varied experience to the table. For that reason alone, job-hopping makes you more of an asset to a company.
- I followed the money: no one will argue with a move that gave you a salary boost, as long as money is not the only reason why you left.
- I followed the promotion: a promotion shows that you are both valued and that you're managing your career aggressively.
- I followed my spouse: employers are typically understanding of this type of move, but also want to know that your career matters too.
These are completely feasible reasons for job change, but if you're constantly moving because you feel like you've exhausted your opportunities in a short period of time, hiring professionals will question your decision-making ability.
An individual with a job history showing several job experiences can be very attractive to an employer. It says that you have vast experience and shows your value having worked under different systems, structures and management styles. The key is to communicate what you accomplished at each job and how your contributions at each company made a difference.
Once you've decided it's time to move, keep these points in mind:
1. Avoid frequent lateral moves. If you're repeatedly switching industries and you constantly feel underemployed or unfulfilled, there's probably something deeper going on. Try temping for a while, take some time to assess your skills, and figure out what you like and really want to do.
2. Don't burn bridges. Even if you dislike your boss, your job, your office, etc., leave on good terms. If you're moving within an industry - and in one geographic area - there's a good chance your old boss has some sort of connection to your new one. Keep in touch with other people you worked closely with. You never know when you'll need a reference.
3. Leave a positive lasting impression. When resigning, start off with a carefully thought out resignation letter, explaining the reasons why you're leaving and thanking your boss for the opportunity to learn with the company. Then make an effort to stay on for a mutually agreed time frame and train your replacement. This may take longer than the traditional two weeks, but will be appreciated and will reflect that you are still interested in the success of your replacement and any projects that you are currently working on. These actions will send a positive message to the recruitment marketplace, that you are responsible, reliable and career-focused.