About a decade ago, employers were wary of candidates with a history of job hopping. These candidates were perceived to be a risky proposition, with great doubts being cast over their loyalty.
This was the baby boomer workforce era- when the workforce was stoic and long-term oriented, and it was quite common for professionals to stay with an employer for decades or life. Within an organisation, things moved slowly, and long term associations were a demonstration of personal integrity and professional commitment.In the last decade, a variety of forces have exerted their influence to change the employment landscape. The internet has erased borders and created a fluid, global workforce, giving rise to a ‘free-agent’ economy. Companies are becoming more open to part-time, contract and outsourced work. The 2008 recession caused hiring and salary freezes within companies, making workers more mobile along their career trajectory as they no longer had incentives to hold them back and so sought better opportunities.
There has also been a shift in demographics, and the millennials have entered the workforce with radically different values regarding the role of work.
An Elance Odesk survey in 2016 found that 52% find employee loyalty to be overrated. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of years that U.S. workers spend with an employer is 4.2 and declining. In contrast, young employees (aged 20-34 years) have a median tenure of only 2.4 years on average since 2012.
As the focus on tenure with a specific company has drastically changed, there has been a shift towards a more positive view of job hopping. Where a single move in five years may have labelled a candidate as unreliable, a move per year is now quite common.
What Is Job Hopping?
Job hopping today is moving from one company to another for reasons other than company closure or redundancy. According to Forbes, the shift is due to “lateral move or promotion”. Due to its sheer frequency today, job hopping is becoming synonymous with climbing the corporate ladder or ‘hopper ladder’. A job hopper chooses to experience and contribute to many companies, and moves from one workplace to the next every couple of years.
The Benefits of Job Hopping
In many ways, changing jobs frequently can be advantageous for career progression.
Job hoppers can accumulate a wealth of experience in a wide variety of functions, industries and technical fields. This diverse experience can signify the depth of functional knowledge, and is invaluable to employers. For example, an employer will consider the candidature of a marketing specialist seriously if they happen to have experience in both agency and brand-side marketing. Diversity in experience is hard to come by and demonstrates initiative, talent, adaptability and confidence.
Job hopping provides exposure to new management styles, working environments, tools, information and resources. Working with several different employers can help develop a holistic view of businesses processes. This exposure can be particularly helpful for those wanting to start their own business. Job hopping can also provide an insider-view to jobs available in different places, and provide avenues for progression.
Changing jobs frequently is a great way to learn new skills and stay competitive. For example, for those in technology, e-commerce and digital advertising, job hopping provides an opportunity to gain valuable technical knowledge and skills. In these industries, lack of movement raises a red flag and denotes change aversion. As these industries are constantly evolving and value dynamic candidates, new skills learnt are a key part of a job hopper’s resume.
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Job hopping brings contact with a lot of people and can create a valuable professional network. Networking is more valuable than ever before, and more hiring is done via referrals than any other avenues.
Few fresh graduates know what they want to do for the rest of their life. A process of trial and error is essential to narrowing options and making an informed decision about vocation. Job hopping increases the chances of finding a job that is a good fit with professional goals and personal values. For example, young professionals today value a work-life balance more than previous generations. Many need only a short stint in a high-paying but demanding job to know they would rather get paid less to work less stressful hours.
Job hopping is a great alternative to waiting for a promotion within a company, and can be a fast-track to title and salary upgrades. Shifting to a new position will almost always result in a greater salary increase than a simple raise, as the new employer pays more to attract candidates. As Forbes reported in 2014, loyalty does not pay; employees who stay put earn 50 percent less over the course of their career, whereas the average job hopper receives a pay increase between 10-20% per year.
The Disadvantages of Job Hopping
With all the positives, there are a few drawbacks that job hopping bears:
Lack of Loyalty
It is hardly possible for everyone to be on board with the job hopping trend. Companies in traditional industries such as banking, auditing and pharmaceuticals view frequent movement as negative, as it implies dissatisfaction.
Recruitment, training and replacement of employees are time-consuming and expensive activities. Employers looking for loyal candidates for the long haul view job hoppers as a liability. A history of movement may soon be perceived as a salary chasing tactic, and employers may will avoid investing in candidates that could be lost to more lucrative offers. Many job hops may also imply professional recklessness and cast a negative light on competence.
Loyalty works both ways. A firm may view a candidate’s employment as short-term due to their track record. As new hires, job hoppers are more vulnerable to layoffs, and may be forced to depart against their wishes if the firm is looking to downsize.
Lack of Job Satisfaction
Frequently changing jobs may ensure that an employee is unable to view the long-term impact of their own contribution at a particular firm. It can be dissatisfying to move on and never see the culmination of many activities, especially where a long product life cycle is in play. Job hopping also bears a high risk of experiencing only a superficial or shallow version of each position. The professional and personal value of growing with one company is lost.
Short stints may not provide enough time to develop or nurture camaraderie with colleagues, or develop deeper contacts at a workplace. Changing jobs frequently can also significantly damage professional relationships and cause loss of social capital. Colleagues and managers may be disappointed by an untimely exit, and this can reduce chances to have a guarantor or reference for future opportunities. Without a reference, future employers may believe a candidate was asked to leave, rather than having left of their own volition. It is important to maintain professional and respectful work relationships to avoid damaging professional reputation, and also to be welcomed in the event of a return.
The ‘Quitter’ Label
Catering to only personal interests is regarded as highly unprofessional. If an employer believes that a candidate is likely to flee at the first sight of trouble, or suffers from a ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ syndrome, they will take the candidate less seriously. It is important to make sure that frequent career changes do not result in a serial job hopper brand or label.
The main goal of job hopping is to improve a professional career through job switch. If done too frequently, it has more drawbacks than benefits. However, if job hopping is done for the right professional reasons, and whilst maintaining healthy relationships, a candidate can project an image of flexibility and resourcefulness. It is important to have clarity on the reason for the move, and each move should denote an increase in responsibility, scope and success.
The key to being respected while changing jobs frequently is to be able to demonstrate growth, and effectiveness in creating and adding value, even in a short stint.