Job Hopping

By Holly Valovick -QLK
The term “job-hopping” can mean different things to different people; Frank Dadah of recruitment firm WinterWyman defines it as “moving from one company to the next every one to two years, [having] done it multiple times, [with] the reason for each move due to something other than a layoff or company closing.”  To some, it is a term ripe with negative undertones, while to others, it is simply a way of life.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty; it is predicted that younger workers will hold 12-15 jobs in their lifetime.  Indeed, the millennial generation (those ages 18-34) is most notorious for job-hopping:

  • A 2013 survey by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com, a career networking site, found that 30% of companies lose 15% or more of their millennial workers within a year.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of years that U.S. workers have been with their current employer is 4.6, while the tenure of young employees (i.e. the millennial generation) is only half that (2.3 years).
  • Staffing firm RecruitiFi’s recent study, The Millennial Outlook Survey, found that as many as 86% of Millennials would quit their jobs today if it meant pursuing something else that catered to their “professional or personal passions,” such as a higher salary, more immediate benefits, or a more appealing position.
  • The RecruitiFi report indicates that 53% of millennial workers have held three or more jobs in their lifetime, and while 33% plan to remain at their current job for 3-5 years, another 20% plan to leave after only one or two years.
  • A recent survey conducted by Accountemps found that 57% of millennial workers think changing jobs often is good for your career; only 38% of professionals between the ages of 35 and 54 surveyed viewing frequently changing jobs as beneficial.
  • According to the research of Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, it costs about $15,000 to $25,000 to replace each millennial employee.

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Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, star of MTV’s “Hired,” and author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad, would say that the idea of job-hopping is replacing the idea of climbing the corporate ladder.  What is the reason for this trend?  In addition to the obvious motivation of gaining a better salary, and allowing that younger employees are new to the job market and are trying to find their place, there appears to be an underlying cultural force behind job-hopping.  Nigel Dessau, founder of the online series “The 3 Minute Mentor” and chief marketing officer at Stratus Technologies, points out that, while in the past “the need to have a job was more important than what the job was,” jobs are now viewed “less as a requirement for living and more of an extension of [a person’s] purpose.”  David Parnell, a legal consultant, communication coach, and author, agrees:  “When the bulk of the workforce constituency was the Baby Boomers – stoic, long-term-oriented, and collectivistic in nature – job-hopping was highly frowned upon.  It was the norm to stay with an employer for 30 years, grab your pension, and ride off quietly into the sunset. With the entrance of the dot.com bubble and Gen X (and eventually Gen Y) came a much more instant gratification, self-oriented nature to the workforce.”

As the attitudes of employees toward job-hopping are changing, so, too, are the attitudes of employers.  The RecruitiFi survey indicated that 55% of respondents felt that there was no negative impact on their careers after job-hopping.  A large benefit to job-hopping is the diversity it provides – exposure to many different industries, different-sized companies, a variety of challenges, and different people who conduct business in different ways.  This may be a selling point to an employer who is interested in new ideas.  An employer may also see employees who have changed jobs frequently as being flexible, adaptable, and quick learners, and unafraid of change or taking risks.

In the field of technology, it may be necessary to job-hop in order to be able to keep up with the vast array of knowledge needed to be fresh.  Laura Lopez, a partner and senior general manager in the IT contracts division at WinterWyman, describes the employee in this case as a “resource” to the company for a time, bringing their piece of knowledge and then moving on.  Similarly, the human and informational resources needed to keep up with the change wrought by the Internet’s massive information capacity cannot all be found under one roof.

Additional benefits include the opportunity to develop a large social and professional network, which may pay off in the future; the chance to gain a sense of what one likes and does not like in a job, and then be more prepared to take on a long-term position down the road; and the likelihood that the increase in pay that comes from a new position will be greater than that which would result from a raise in an existing position.

However, there are still a number of drawbacks to job-hopping.  The first reaction an employer may have to this type of resume – that the employee is unstable.  While further discussion may be able to put their mind at ease, they may be afraid that that individual will leave them, too, in the lurch.  Most companies are looking for loyal, dependable employees who will be part of the solution if the company experiences turbulence.  Employers also want to hire employees with good judgment; if a resume indicates that the individual does not make good calls about job selection, the employer might generalize that that person will not demonstrate good judgement overall as an employee.  Companies do not want to face the prospect of having to recruit, hire, and train new employees any more often than necessary.

Not staying with a company long enough to see projects through from conception to completion, an employee may miss out on the satisfaction that comes from being part of something great.  And if that employee needs a reference for his or her next job, they will not have invested the time to have developed the relationships that would produce a strong endorsement.  In addition, they may lose money in the end, in the form of retirement benefits that require a certain tenure for matching; a study from Fidelity found that as much as $203 million was forfeited by employees who cashed out or rolled over their 401(k) accounts in 2013 alone.

In a job interview, employees whose resumes contain job-hopping should be prepared to discuss:  1) what was missing from their previous jobs that led to their departure, and what they are hoping to find in their next job; 2) “take-aways” from their previous positions that indicate that knowledge was gained; 3) how, during their brief time with a company, they were critical to its success in some way; 4) an overall pattern of career growth through the moves they have made.  Then, no matter where an employee lands, or for how long, he or she should be prepared to give 100% to that company at that time.