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How job hopping can be good for your career (and for employers)

Peter Harris|

Last week I wrote an article called busting the top five myths about job searching. Another myth has come to mind since, and this one deserves its own article. It’s the misconception that people who have numerous jobs on their resumes (job hoppers) have limited career potential and make for bad hires.

I was speaking with a recruiter last week, and she told me that the number one red flag she watches out for on a resume is job hopping. She immediately screens out people who have held four or five jobs in a relatively short period of time.

Her assumption is that these candidates may look good on paper but actually be poor workers. This would explain why they could keep getting hired, but never last long in one spot. Or perhaps they have personality issues that lead to conflicts at work, also causing them to move on frequently. Even if neither of these are true, and the job hopper is merely restless in their career, their habit of changing jobs still makes the costs involved in recruiting, training and then eventually replacing them a poor investment.

I nodded in agreement, as all of this made sense to me at first hearing. But new research shows that the world of work has changed – and the whole notion of job hopping may be outdated. Now the majority of Canadians stay in any one job for less than two years. [See Thinkopolis research: Job hopping is the new normal]

More and more people chose to reinvent themselves and change career paths several times over the course of a career.  Many industries have been drastically affected by sweeping market changes over the past few years, and numerous talented, hard-working people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Sometimes more than once. When faced with economic upheaval few companies have the luxury of showing loyalty to their people. This turmoil could leave a completely loyal employee who craves stability being screened out for having a resume that implies job hopping.

But that’s not all. I actually think even intentional job hoppers can make better employees.

At this point, I should make a slight confession: my own resume may give some potential employers the impression that I am a bit of a job hopper myself. I’ve worked for four different companies over the past ten years (three of them in the past six).

At each of these companies, I have joined a team that had its own way of doing things. In each case, I have looked at the process and the goals with a fresh perspective and changed those ways of doing things. Each of those organizations broke new records of editorial success during my tenure.

Why hiring job hoppers is good for employers:

  • Changing jobs frequently gives workers a broader perspective of their industry, because they become familiar with the inner workings, challenges and strategies of numerous companies.

  • Job hoppers are perpetually the ‘new guy’ on the team and so work extra hard with no sense of complacency, because they are in the honeymoon, make a powerful first-impression phase.

  • Job hoppers tend to have valuable networks of contacts across the industry because they connect with new teams, clients and partners at each job along their journey. Hiring a job hopper gives your whole team access to this network of resources.

Why job hopping is good for candidates:

  • First off, you tend to make more money faster by jumping jobs. The amount a new company will pay an employee they are trying to woo is higher than the average annual raise most companies pay their employees.

  • You will likely have less periods of unemployment. As a person who changes jobs frequently, you learn to see the writing on the wall early when departments are in trouble and cutbacks are coming. Choosing to make a move before the axe falls puts you ahead of the competition that will soon be following after.

  • Job hopping allows you to make valuable connections and build up a powerful personal network. Of course in order to do this, you have to be very professional about each job move you make and not burn any of your bridges along the way. (I’ve known job hoppers who ended up black-listed for years because they had too many contacts – none of whom wanted to work with them ever again.)

  • You can work your way up to your dream job at your dream company. If you plot your job hops strategically, you can work at the jobs that will give you the skills and experiences you need to achieve your ultimate goal. (Which is of course when you can hopefully stop hopping.)


By making strategic moves, negotiating your salaries and nurturing your network, you can job hop your way to the top. That’s what a modern career is: a trajectory, a series of jobs that add up to the whole of your career journey. Not necessarily any one of those jobs that you held along the way.

Hopefully more recruiters will recognize the valuable skills and experiences these candidates can bring to the table, and let go of outdated biases against career changers.

Read the complete Thinkopolis report @ Workopolis.com/research.

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Peter Harris
- Peter Harris on Twitter

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Category: Hiring Advice, Recruitment Challenges,
 
  • Yub

    I totally agree with your article.

    First, with LinkedIn and their HR Group, I can see that HR Department,
    Recruiter firms and other job companies send us messages for job offers and
    when we look at the profile of the recruiter himself (or herself), we can see
    that they’ve change Recruiting Firms several times in the last few years and
    they tell you that you are a “job hopper”. They know you cannot bring that
    up in an interview how can we address that kind of trap in an interview ?

    We have to consider today all those jobs sites where we build a profile
    and leave our “up to date” resume on for years, even if we have a job. It is
    when you have a job that “Real” head hunters call you so they look
    for the « From … till today » sign on your last job. This is a reality.

    Those recruiters call you because, they say, you are the perfect candidate
    for their client (our future employer) but they make money out of it. They
    insist, they call you back, offer you a good raise, better conditions and when
    you « hop », after they say « How come you hop that much ? ». I
    understand they need to present a candidate to get paid, but they take no responsibility on the job market movement they caused.

    I got (and still get) the same treatment from some recruiter (male or
    female) exactly because I “Hop”. They don’t seem to figure out why a
    25K$/years raise and better conditions is a good incentive to change job and
    often, they don’t see they were the one who negotiated those conditions for me.

    But mostly, degradation of the conditions negotiated at the interview is the reason. Some employers seem to think “we don’t have a choice”, especially after we made the switch. We don’t have leverage anymore, or, now that we got better salary, try
    to go away now ! Some attitude. You would be stupid to leave a 100K$/year job, isn’t it ? A candidate with real potential will leave.

    HR and Recruiting Firms get paid but make money and get rich when there are a lot of job movements. In an interview, I’ve been asked that if I have a better offer
    while I’m working for them, will I move to the other company ? What do you want
    me to answer to that ? The answer is “Wouldn’t you ?”

    The experience I have on the market is recruiters who look at my resume and call me for an interview, phone or on site, and they ask me “WHY” I left for each place I’ve been. They want to know so I tell them. But it is not the answer they want to hear.

    For me, the interview is the key for long stay in a job but also the deal
    breaker. If I could give any advice to any “HR process” recruiter is to apply
    the ISO philosophy: “Write what you do and Do what you wrote”. So, don’t modify
    the conditions of what have been negotiated at the time of the interview without
    sitting down with your “brand new” one year old candidate and “discuss” with
    him a reasonable raise and improvement of his conditions.

    Using the yearly evaluation and salary equity chart to explain to that candidate that, according to same level jobs servey reports and scales, that individual won’t get a raise, and the company made some 500M$ more because of that guy being evaluated. This is not a wise management choice. You can be sure he’s
    gone in some months. People know, more and more, what they worth and this has
    nothing to do with superiority syndrome or arrogance. It is only market offer and
    demand. Business.

    Yes you are the boss but we are the manager of our career. All HR team know about conferences about “The Me Inc.”. People with real potential manage their career like a business. Treat them likewise. If not, they will open their own company and charge you twice the price of an intern candidate would cost you.

  • Angela

    I completely agree. I graduated with my bachelor’s in accounting 2 years ago and I have been “job hopping” ever since. My first job after graduation was in customer relations for a chain of urgent care clinics. I stayed there 7 months until I found something that was at least more related to my major (worked for a third party payment processing company). I worked there 11 months as a customer service/sales rep until I found something in accounting which was accounts receivable. Am I where I want to be yet? No, since the position where I am now is basically clerical work and not necessarily accounting per se. But at least it is closer. So I would be considered a job hopper since I am at my 3rd job in 2 years. But I would hope that a recruiter will be able to connect the dot and make sense of the progression.

    I am sure that there are many other younger workers like me, who are still trying to find a job and establish careers in their field of study. Anyone that graduated from 2008 to 2012 were dealt a very bad hand as far as employment prospects.