Job hopping: Does it matter?

Back in the day, people didn’t really skip merrily from job to job. The baby boomer generation would typically stick with an employer for 30 to 40 years, take their pension and ride off into the sunset. Job hopping was considered akin to career suicide.

These days it’s become commonplace to perhaps only stay at a job for a few years. Surveys suggest 60% of millennials leave a job within three years of being hired. Add that to the explosion in the freelancing economy, and it’s fair to say the pattern of nine-to-five plus long-service leave has been truly disrupted.

If you’re looking for a job, what does an employer think? Should you be showing loyalty and sticking with the one employer? Or is diversifying your CV with multiple jobs a good thing?

Benefits of job hopping

Job hopping can enhance your skill set, so emphasise your strong points in your CV. You’ll have broader industry knowledge and experience from working at different companies. You’ll also have a bigger professional network that you can draw on, which will benefit both you and your potential employer.

If you’re looking to increase your salary, sometimes changing employers can be the quickest way to do it. Internal promotions and pay rises can take time, so applying for a new job with a higher salary is an attractive option.

What employers think about job hoppers

Don’t assume employers will think negatively about job hopping. A Career Builder study in the US found more than half of employers have hired job hoppers. Of those surveyed, 53 per cent said job hoppers have a wide range of expertise, and 51 per cent said they can adapt quickly.

Employers find job hoppers attractive because they have insights into how their competitors work. People who have worked in multiple roles also bring transferable skills that aren’t company-specific, and they can be a fresh set of eyes.

On the downside, if you’ve jumped around a lot, an employer may question your loyalty and staying power. They’ll ask themselves, “If I invest time and money training this person, will they stick around long enough for me to reap the benefits?” A 2015 survey by recruitment firm Robert Half found that some employers considered just two job changes in 10 years quite enough.

Some employers also don’t want to hire a person who doesn’t really know their company­ – or anyone else’s. Staying at a job for a short amount of time means you don’t get the chance to really understand an organisation, its culture and history. Those are important things when you’re trying to sustain a healthy business.

How to job skip into a permanent position

You can’t change the past, but you should acknowledge it. If you’re looking for a long-term position, clearly state this in your job application. You can also re-write your CV so it showcases your skills, knowledge and expertise first, and your work history second.

When updating your CV, show that your career has progressed with each job. Forward-moving jumps are considered more favourable than sideways or backward jumps. If you’ve had a position change due to a company merger, downsizing or redundancy, make that clear on your resume.

Create a professional network

Whether you’re a job hopper or a job stayer, it’s important to create a professional network. You’ll want to stay in contact with people, even if it’s just a quick ‘hello’ email every once in a while. You never know when you’ll need support or your next reference.

Speaking of references – ask for them. Explain to your colleague or manager that you’ve enjoyed your time working with them, and would appreciate a written reference. To make it easier, you could even ask if they would be happy to write a reference on LinkedIn.

Before applying for jobs, make sure your referees are up to date. Having lots of referees means you have more people to keep track of, so always double-check they’re still at the same company and their contact details are correct. With a little effort, you can make job hopping work to your advantage.

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