by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig, Manager of Strategic Programming and Outreach
For those of us who spend time every day on Chicago public transit, the RedEye newspaper (a bite size edition of the Chicago Tribune, for those not in the know) is a necessary distraction from the slow plod of buses through the city. And a week ago, while traffic meandered through the mess on Michigan Avenue (thanks, Transformers 3), a RedEye cover story caught my eye. Entitled “Confessions of a Job Hopper”, it discussed young professionals’ increasing propensity for moving from job to job in a relatively short period of time. One of the women interviewed has held six jobs in the past seven years. Her reason for so many transitions? To enhance her skills and challenge herself. But while she indicated that she enjoyed her many moves, such frequent shifts may elicit concern from prospective employers.
So the question for young professionals becomes, what is the appropriate balance? The days of graduating from college and going to work at the same place until retirement are certainly gone. Nowadays, experts expect that, over a lifetime, the average Gen-X or Y-er will hold more than 10 jobs over at least five different careers. That’s a huge change from the model our grandparents held to. But while few will begrudge someone who leaves their current job for one with more power, prestige, and/or higher pay, if that person has left three jobs in less than three years, prospective employers may begin to worry that this person will not be fully invested in the success of the company, and their own success in a given position. The bottom line is that you need to be aware of the story that your resume tells. There’s nothing wrong with being someone who enjoys change, but companies will notice frequent job hops, so be prepared to explain how each experience has benefitted you, and to combat an employer’s concerns about your early exits.
Some pros and cons of job hopping:
Pro: Pay increase. Moving from company to company can often be a good way to increase your pay grade at a much faster rate than you would if you were to stay at the same company, because with each move you bring more experience to the table.
Pro: Networking. Like it or not, networking is a HUGE part of today’s job market, as this blogger can personally attest (all but one of the jobs I’ve held were found through networking contacts). The more contacts you have, the more likely you are to find out about a position that fits your personality, interest and experience. If you’re frequently moving around, you’ll definitely meet more people than if you stay in the same place.
Pro: Learning new skills. Any new job will come with a new set of skills, which you’ll be expected to master quickly. If your learning curve has stagnated in your current job, a new position will likely offer a different set of challenges for you to tackle.
Pro: Figuring out what you love. Most people need to try something to know whether they like it or not. So, while you may feel that your college coursework has helped you figure out what you want to do with your life, the reality of your “chosen” profession may prove less exciting than you anticipated. By moving through a series of jobs early in your professional life (between the ages of 20 and 30, the average person will have eight jobs), you’re more likely to find out what your passion is.
Con: Moving too quickly. Most jobs require at least 6 months to one year of continuous learning before an employee has mastered the position. If you move on too quickly, you may be missing out on the chance to fully develop your skills in that position.
Con: Lateral (or backward) moves. If you end up in a job that you’re not in love with, moving to a different one may seem like a good idea. And it certainly can be—but be careful that you’re moving forward, not sideways (or worse, backwards). Each new job should reward you in some way, whether that’s in pay grade, increased responsibility, or the chance to do something you’re really passionate about.
Con: Burning your bridges. As someone who’s had more than one unpleasant employment experience, I’m very familiar with the urge to go out with a bang (euphemistically speaking, of course). But even if you hated every minute of your time at an organization, make the most of the connections you made there, and never burn a bridge if you can help it. It’s a networking world, and every contact can help (or hurt!).
Con: Turning off prospective employers. In the words of one hiring manager, “When I look at resumes, if someone has jumped from job to job very quickly, it makes me nervous—I never want to hire someone who may be using my organization as a stepping stone. That's why, in an interview, I often ask the question ‘How does this position fit in with your long-term goals?’” This concern is shared by many employers, and is something that you should be prepared to respond to if you’re frequently on the move.
Con: Losing sight of your narrative. Your experience is your narrative, and your resume is your record of that narrative. It’s important to make sure that your story makes sense, and that you can easily explain to an employer how each step led to the next.
Ultimately, the choice to job hop can be both risky and rewarding. When deciding what your next career move should be, make sure that you have evaluated your reasons for moving, and that you are being mindful of how the next chapter of your narrative will portray you to future employers. Most importantly, commit yourself to making a measureable contribution wherever you go. If, like most young professionals, your goal is to move quickly up the corporate ladder, make each step count, no matter how long (or short) your time with that company is.
Do you have a job hopping success or horror story? Leave a comment below! And remember, if you ever have questions about your career path or your personal narrative, CAPS counselors are here to help. Make an appointment today!