A professional career has often been considered analogous to a ladder. Just like a ladder, there is a progression, from the first rung – when one first landed a job, often at entry level – to the second one, the third one, the fourth one and so on. One cannot get to the top of the ladder unless they clear the lower rungs or steps first. In the same way, one cannot reach the summit of their career without having gone through the lower levels first.

Since it is a progression and an upward climb, there are bound to be instances when there are stumbling blocks, or parts where the climb is derailed. That can also happen in one’s professional career. This means that they could get stuck in one rung – or one level – for a long time, or they could fall back a couple or more steps, and start the climb anew.

There are several reasons why people find their career paths blocked. They may voluntarily take a step back because of a shift in their career trajectories or a change in their career plans. Their career choices may also be affected by several external factors, such as the state of the economy, industrial upheavals, and the like.

Job-Hopping: Can Having Too Many Job Changes Hurt Your Career?

© Shutterstock | Tomas Urbelionis

In addition to all these factors, one’s career might also be hurt by the person’s own attitudes and actions. They may have attitude or personality problems that stop them from being able to work with other people. They may also lack consistency which causes them to have a tendency to hop from one job (ladder) to another, destroying their chances of climbing up the ladder steadily.

In this article, we examine 1) what job-hopping means, 2) reasons why people do job-hopping, 3) the benefits of having seen many jobs, and 4) ways how job-hopping can hurt your career.

WHAT DOES JOB-HOPPING MEAN?

Although some career coaches may argue against it, job-hopping is still considered one sure way to ruin one’s chances of furthering their career. It is often considered as “career suicide”.

Job-hopping is, just as the term implies, hopping from one job to another. It is the act of moving from one company to another, often after serving a short stint or period in one. If you do it more than twice or thrice in a short period of time you might find yourself being referred to as a serial job-hopper.

In order to qualify as a job-hopper, you may have done any of the following:

  • Moved from one company to another at least once a year, two or so years in a row
  • Moved companies or jobs more than a couple of times with no particular reason
  • Changed a number of jobs in a row for reasons other than the company closing down or the company laying off its workers

REASONS FOR JOB-HOPPING

Latest records (as of September 2014) of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the average tenure of employees with their current employer is 4.6 years. This means that, on average, employees stay with their employer for close to five years before moving on to another employer or company.

Why do people hop from one job to another?

  • The constant quest for greener pastures. Employees are bound to be interested in going where they can get higher pay or more benefits than the job that they are currently in. That is why, even when they are already gainfully employed, they would still keep their ears and eyes peeled for any news of other workplaces that have higher salaries, more benefits and additional perks.
  • The lack of incentives to stay put in one place. There are also instances where the main reason that employees switch jobs is because they feel that there is less incentive for them if they stay within the company. For example, an employee may be enjoying a high-paying job in company A, but feel that the opportunities for advancement or being promoted are low. Then she receives an offer by company B, which has comparatively lower pay, but the opportunities for going up the ranks are greater. In this instance, the employee may positively consider jumping ship.
  • Lack of personal growth opportunities. There are some cases where employees get in-job training to further enhance their skills and knowledge in the particular job. An example would be customer care and first aid training for employees in an organization. Employees in these companies are generally happier because they feel that they are getting better and more competitive in addition to getting paid. Such companies tend to attract employees from companies that don’t offer these opportunities.

Some interesting perspective on job-hopping for tech professionals.

BENEFITS OF TRYING MANY JOBS

There is also an upside to job-hopping; it’s not all bad. In fact, if you ask hiring managers and recruiters these days, not all of them think that having worked on several jobs is such a bad idea. They do not consider it career suicide. On the contrary, there are even those who consider job-hopping as a way to climb up the corporate ladder.

This way of thinking is however still quite uncommon, with the general consensus still on the idea that, if you want to stop your career path in short intervals, then you just have to be a serial job-hopper.

Still, we have to acknowledge the reality that job-hopping is not entirely bad. It can actually even be advantageous to some. Let’s take a look at some of these advantages.

Job-hopping enhances worker or employee versatility and adaptability.

Working on different jobs means that the person gains a lot from the diversity that they will be exposed to in multiple working environments. Job-hopping can be an advantage, depending on the nature of the job or industry, where skill sets are highly valued in employees or workers.

For example, in the technology industry, in jobs such as mobile development, software development and the like, it would be more advantageous if the person has been exposed to different fields and working conditions. This is because these varied experiences and trainings will aid in their performance and outputs.

Job-hopping provides more experience.

This is closely related to the first benefit. Employers highly value experience in job candidates, and seeing a considerable amount of experience on their resume is bound to get them more points during recruitment time.

Job-hopping lets you know yourself better.

It may also aid in self-enhancement and increasing self-awareness. Many employees still do not really know where their true strengths and weaknesses are, and the best way to determine what they are is to go out there and be subjected to the tide. It’s hard to know that you don’t like apples or bananas if you have never tasted one.

Being able to try many jobs will definitely help the employee know where she is best at, and which areas need to be worked on to better suit the work environment. This will then contribute to one’s personal growth.

Job-hopping keeps the passion for work alive.

Sometimes, staying in one job or one company for a long stretch of time can prove to be boring, to the point that the employee may feel like their workdays have become monotonous. Changing jobs awakens their passion, or rekindles whatever dying fire they may have for working.

Job-hopping helps widen one’s network.

Personally and professionally, it is important for an individual to have a wide network. This will come in handy when they are working on something, or if they are looking for another job.

Job-hopping will help you find your dream job.

You never really know what is best for you until you have tried them all or, at least, most of them. While changing jobs, you will get to know yourself better, until you find the job that you enjoy or like the most.

HOW JOB-HOPPING CAN HURT YOUR CAREER

If you ask hiring managers and recruiters, the biggest mark against a jobseeker or a candidate is having a history of hopping from job to job with relatively short intervals. Yes, job-hopping can still hurt one’s career, despite how the job landscape has changed in recent years.

There are two perspectives or points of view to take into account: external and internal. What impression are you giving to employers and headhunters by changing your job too often? Next, what is the impact of your frequent change of jobs to you, personally and professionally? These will give you a clearer picture on how job-hopping can hurt your career.

Bottomline: in terms of hiring, employers will think more than twice before they hire a serial job-hopper. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this hesitation before hiring.

Job-hopping presents one as disloyal and a flake.

Employers seek loyalty from employees. They want to hire people who will be loyal to the company and who will stay with them for the long haul. For many, hiring someone is based on trust: they trust the person that they hired to keep their end of the bargain, which is to accomplish their designated tasks and responsibilities in the organization, without having to fear that they will just give up and leave whenever they want to.

Even if the serial job hopper swears that they will be loyal and stick with the company, their previous history of a string of different, short-term job stints will make it difficult to back up that claim.

It also points a little to an employee being unstable and undecided, because they can’t seem to stay in one place for a long time. For employers, they do not seem to have the ability to commit to a project, much less a long-term commitment, such as being employed in an organization.

Switching jobs too often may also make one look like someone who easily gets bored and who, at the first sign of boredom, resigns and takes off. Companies do not really need these kinds of employees because they invest some resources in training you to be a good fit for the position. When you leave, they will have to do the training all over again.

Job-hopping puts your skills and qualifications into question.

Could it be that the employee switched jobs too often because he found the job too hard or difficult? This is a natural conclusion for some observers to arrive at. Otherwise, he may have stuck it out, rising up to the challenge. Employers want members of their organization to be reliable and have the initiative to learn and hone their skills, not bow out at the first sign of difficulty.

This is especially true in cases when an employee hopped laterally and in many different sectors. For example, he may have started by working for a year in the IT industry, then spent another year in a construction company. Then he quit and transferred to the hotel industry. After less than two years, he moved laterally to a real estate company.

Not only does this show a lack of commitment on the part of the employee, it also makes him unreliable in the eyes of employers. Having dipped his foot into too many waters, it’s more than likely that he’d be a “jack of all trades, but a master of none”.

Job-hopping paints one as a poor investment.

When an employer hires someone, they are basically investing in that person’s skills, talents and qualifications. Investments are, by nature, long-term, and employers naturally try to get the best returns out of them. If the employee they hired is likely to hand in their resignation in less than a year, then they consider the resources they put into hiring and training the employee during the first couple of months to be wasted. The hiring process is also tedious and demanding, something most employers would rather not do.

The job-hopper could be seen as one without focus or direction, and employers will no doubt feel that they will have nothing to gain by hiring that type of employee or keeping him on.

Besides, if the employee can easily switch jobs after less than a year, and they have done it multiple times before, what assurance will they get that the she will not do the same once they are accepted into the organization?

Job-hopping gives employers the impression that you cannot work well with other people.

We cannot blame hiring managers and employers when they jump to conclusions once they find out that a candidate for a job has been hopping jobs in the past. One of the most common assumptions is that they may have trouble getting along with other people. They may not be team players, which may lead to less productivity because they cannot work with others.

In their defense, job-hoppers may cite several situations where they may have had good reasons for falling-out with their superiors, or that the corporate culture in the previous company did not allow for them to get along with other employees. However, this line of reasoning will backfire on a job-hopper, especially if there are multiple jobs or companies in question.

Think about it (because hiring managers and prospective employers will): you have worked in at least 5 companies for the past 5 years. In each move, you cited any of the reasons mentioned above. The common denominator in all 5 environments or scenarios is you. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that the problem is more likely to be with you and not the other people in the companies you worked at.

Job-hopping may make you look greedy.

So you have changed jobs because the next one is much higher-paying than the previous one. While it is true that there is nothing wrong with seeking greener pastures, doing it too much, too often, will make you look like you are greedy, and most employers will not feel comfortable hiring someone with too much greed.

Job-hopping makes you look like you are very hard to please.

Unless you are highly skilled and very much in-demand in your field or industry, it is not the job of employers and hiring managers to please you. Being employed in an organization is a two-way street, and if employers feel like they have to meet your high and exacting standards, they may decide to keep their hands off you.

Some job-hoppers often boast that their experience in various companies in short stints has given them extensive skill sets which make them a great catch. Thus, they negotiate higher salaries and benefits. They tend to become demanding, and this is a turn-off for some companies (again, unless the company really, really, really needs them).

Job-hopping makes it hard to establish lasting relationships.

Does this not contradict the benefit of job-hopping about being able to widen one’s network? Not necessarily. Job-hopping does let one meet a lot of new people and expand their network. However, it will be difficult for them to establish long-term and good lasting relationships.

Job-hopping essentially means you will be burning bridges many times. You will have a lot of contacts, yes, but they may not be contacts that are reliable enough to vouch for you. For starters, you only spent a short time with them, so they will not be considered by recruiters as reliable sources of information on how you are and how you perform as an employee.

Job-hopping makes you dispensable.

Let us say, for example, that management is thinking of downsizing, and laying off employees. When they have to consider the employees that they will keep and those that they will lay off, they are likely to put the job-hoppers on top of the list of people they will let go off. Besides, their relationship with job-hoppers is not as strong as that with long serving employees.

Of course, the circumstances or reasons behind the frequent job changes will also be taken into consideration by hiring managers and employers. In many cases, job-hoppers who had to change jobs due to layoffs or other similar company actions are given more leeway than those who voluntarily quit or resign from their jobs.

Job-hopping does not only have external impacts, or affect how people perceive you. It will also affect you internally and, consequently, your performance as you attempt to bring your career forward.

Job-hopping will hinder your growth.

Most companies prefer to hire or promote internally, and usually it takes at least 2 years for an employee to have a performance review that will give him a shot to be promoted within the organization. If she did not stay long enough to gain the necessary credits, then there is no way she will grow in the company, because she’d have gone on to another job.

In the same vein, employees will not get the chance to see the long-term impact of the work that they have done. They may have started a project, but since they quit after only a few months, then they won’t be able to see the results or fruits of their labor. They will also not have stayed long enough to learn the company’s culture, something that most employers take very seriously.

Job-hopping will affect your satisfaction levels.

If you make a habit of moving from one job to the next, always seeking “the next best thing”, there may come a point when you will not be satisfied enough, or you won’t find a job that you will be contented with. Disappointment will be frequent and, all too often, high.

Job-hopping will lower one’s morale.

There are instances when job-hoppers may feel their morale going low. An employee who has worked in a dozen companies over a span of two decades because he wants to find his dream job finally realizes only too late that the job no longer exists. By the time that realization sank in, he is stuck with a job that he does not enjoy and actually even hate. The grass is almost always greener on the other side.

Again, times are changing, and hopping from job to job is no longer 100% negative. Still, it will take more time before this mindset becomes fully accepted, since recruiters and hiring managers still do not totally look at job-hopping favorably. However, it is possible plan your moves in such a manner that gives you an advantage.

Plan your career well, and make sure each step you take has been thought out carefully, with all angles explored and all pros and cons considered. This way, you will be able to keep the damage to your career at a minimum and possibly get some benefit out of it.

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