Ask older generations for their opinion on job hopping and they’ll probably tell you it’s a bad thing. Short 1-2 year stints at numerous companies will give potential employers the impression that you’re disloyal, unpredictable and ultimately lack direction, they’ll argue. Furthermore, they’ll question why you’d want to flit from position to position anyway when you could be enjoying a comfortable 30-year career within a single organisation instead.
But, while these points may have held water a few of decades ago, things have changed. In today’s world, where start-ups emerge all the time and we’re all connected by a fleet of internet-enabled devices, attitudes have shifted as the benefits of job hopping have become increasingly apparent to business leaders and workers alike.
To see if the advantages are as significant as some suggest or if the detractors are correct to voice their concerns, ABRS Ltd. and TEC Partners review the evidence.
Empirical data makes clear attitudes toward job hopping have altered. Research conducted by the Bureau of Labour Statistics in 2013, for example, revealed that the average American employee spends 4.6 years with a single employer which seems like quite a long time to some until you discover this number is halved for people aged 20-34. However, this only hints at the practical benefits.
As much as anything, switching roles semi-regularly can put you on the fast track to career progression. The general consensus says that working for the same organisation over an extended period of time makes it trickier to secure promotion, especially in smaller businesses where advancement might only be available when an established senior member of staff leaves. Even if promotions are relatively common, it may take years before your boss is convinced that you possess the requisite skills to perform effectively at a higher level. On the other hand, since the final decision as to whether or not to hire you is based solely on your previous experiences, qualifications and achievements, starting fresh with a new firm can give you an edge over the other candidates. Branching out in this way provides you with the freedom to apply for any applicable vacancies as soon as you feel you’re ready; you’re not restricted to waiting for your colleagues to retire or receive a promotion themselves before you can seriously consider climbing the career ladder.
For those working in certain sectors (technology being one such) job hopping is particularly attractive, better enabling you to pick up additional skills, gain an understanding of different working environments, remain current in a constantly changing field and expand your professional network: software developers, for instance, will find it far easier to obtain regular contract work if they’re familiar with multiple coding languages and systems. Meanwhile, managers in general tend to favour diverse teams these days, so as to take advantage of a broader range of ideas and working styles offered by a multi-faceted team; ensuring they’re able to move with the times and make the best business decisions possible.
Moreover, job hopping demonstrates flexibility, adaptability and an openness to change; characteristics coveted highly by employers. If you’re applying for a position that requires a certain amount of creativity, for example, a CV replete with a multitude of disparate roles at a panoply of separate companies suggests you enjoy a challenge and possess the traits just mentioned, whereas if you’ve spent 15 years with one firm, it might give off the impression you prefer the status quo or lack a sufficiently well-rounded array of abilities.
From a strictly personal perspective, changing jobs every couple of years helps you figure out exactly what vocations suit your personality; something that’s especially important during the early stages of your career. By discovering what industries interest you the most, how much responsibility you desire, what type of company culture matches your personality etc. sooner rather than later, improves your chances of finding your ideal position; maximising the job satisfaction and money you’re likely to accrue when the time comes for you to retire.
Despite its newfound popularity and the many benefits associated with job hopping, there are nevertheless certain aspects that can cause problems.
Possessing an extensive array of abilities is all well and good, but if your employment history shows a pattern of constant change and thus signifies you’re likely to move on relatively soon after joining, an employer is more likely to opt for someone on whom they can depend, someone willing to help the business develop. They want a certain amount of loyalty, not to be used as a stepping stone on someone’s journey toward bigger and better things.
Others might attribute your frequent vocational re-directions to faintheartedness, believing that you jump ship at the first sign of trouble. Being laid-off by a struggling employer is one thing, but abandoning them because you don’t want to be contaminated by a failing venture or are simply not up to the challenge sends out the wrong messages, making you appear mercenary and disloyal.
Alternatively, it could give employers the impression that you’re incapable of making good decisions. Rather than viewing your professional odyssey as an itinerant learning experience, some managers (though, to be fair, I imagine they’d be in the minority) might think your patchy employment history is actually a result of knee-jerk decision making; accepting roles and joining unsuitable companies without due consideration. Whatever the cause, if an employer has cause to doubt the reliability of your decisions, they might worry you’ll bring that same ineptitude to the job itself.
From a practical perspective, the recruitment process is surprisingly expensive in terms of time and money for employers. Everything from sourcing candidates and arranging interviews to CRB checks and actually incorporating the new starter into the team has an impact on productivity, so when confronted with a list of applicants, those who display symptoms of job hopping may fall down the pecking order regardless of their skills. It’s a perfectly understandable response, after all, organisations don’t want to expend all those resources, only to have the newly hired individual leave within a week or two of starting.
Some suggest employees stand to lose out too. In the majority of cases, it takes a while before you fully understand the nuances of the role and your place within the company, particularly in the modern workplace, considering how quickly and radically your daily duties can shift over a short period of time. This means we don’t necessarily have to move jobs to develop and improve our skills as most of us are still learning one or even two years into a contract; joining a promising start-up to broaden your horizons might seem tempting at the time, but leaving your current employer may turn out to be a step back in the long run.
Regardless of where you’ve worked in the past or how long you spend at a specific employer on average, it’s your abilities as an employee that will resonate most with hiring managers. If your CV makes clear that you’ve been instrumental to an organisation’s success in the past and that you approach each and every role with the same high-level of conscientiousness and assiduity, it’s unlikely to matter how often you decide to change roles.
Therefore, if you feel confident in your skills and believe you’d be a genuine asset to any firm, as the points in the first section of this article should make clear, job hopping can be hugely beneficial.