Deep Thoughts On Job Hopping
Job hopping has always had negative connotations with one-hundred and one different meanings. I want to explore job hopping and perhaps help professionals get an greater understanding of how job hopping can affect your life and career.
I’ve been working since I was fifteen years old. Many of the jobs I had were summer jobs. I worked a summer job as a forklift operator in a Walmart warehouse. It was a pretty nice paycheck, but it was a summer job and I knew I wouldn’t work there for years.
I worked several part time jobs in college. Just like all of my friends, we did any project – big or small – that would help pay for beer, tuition, and god-awfully expensive books. My mom always told us to stay at a job for at least a year, if possible, and learn as much as we could no matter what. Since I was young, she encouraged me to take on as many jobs as possible to see what I really liked. Getting caught into one thing and later realizing I hated it wasn’t going to serve me, I realized, so if a project or a better job came up, I took it. Even if it meant starting all over again in the food chain and building on top of my skills.
My brother who is twenty three, on the other hand, worked at Dairy Queen for two or three years and then got a job as a vet tech, a job in which he’s been working for about five years. He took a different route than I did. He has stated that he liked stability and low-profile positions. I enjoy risk and pushing myself to the limits. We have two different work personalities with only one commonality: youth and time. He’s still figuring out what he wants to do, while I’ve already figured out my goals, purpose, and work values. While I did as much as I could and pushed myself to extremes to figure “it” out, he continues to take his time. Two different strategies of job hopping, one end goal.
Now, at a twenty five, I can’t escape my older friends, clients, and colleagues who always say, “You have a maturity beyond your years.” When I explain my work and life experiences, they understand: I’ve been through a lot. That’s why I cling closely to the quote, “Beware of the man who says he has twenty years’ experience when what he should be saying is he has one years’ experience repeated twenty times.”
I don’t condone job hopping in the traditional sense. In fact, after twenty five-ish, a person – in best circumstances – should have got a grasp of who they are and what they want out of life, if only for the next few years. Once you’ve identified who you are and what you want, choosing a career path is pretty clear, however, be warned that it’s not always easy, nor simple.
Unfortunately, not every body knows what they want out of life, let alone who they are. So, they spend their lives doing jobs they hate – sometimes their entire life – or they hop from one job to another, hoping they find satisfaction and clarity after the fact.
I relate a career to marriage. When you’re young, you should feel free to date around. Even just go on a date or “project”. No long-term commitment, just fun and exploration. You try out different people, lifestyles, and relationships. You identify your strengths and weaknesses, your core values, what you really believe in and want to impart on the world – through the process, you find someone who can help you create that something special in the world – make those intangible ideals into a reality. When you’re settled with yourself, you can then settle down with something you can commit to.
When I see so-called HR experts and career experts saying, “Avoid job hoppers at all costs,” I cringe. It really depends on age, maturity, and experience. Sometimes, people are young and they figure it out fast. Sometimes, people figure it out in their mid to late thirties. It’s like expecting a young man in his late teens to marry his first girlfriend. Fortunately, careers are not totally like marriages. If you realized it was the first gal, or in this case job or career path, all along that got your heart, you can always go back and re-hash the old flames.
Today, temporary projects and pre-determined contracts are all the rage, especially here in Europe. I’ve got friends who work at prestigious companies with just one year contracts. These people are constantly looking for new jobs. And, I hate to bring this constant theme up, but it has to be said that companies are not offering long term advantages to its employees, and quite frankly, it’s the international corporations that started the trend of going overseas and seeking short term advantages; why is it so terrible that workers do the same?
Before companies toss out the resume of so-called “job hoppers”, they should think twice and consider the context of their work and career. Does the candidate in question have a resume that shows steady upward progress? How does the experience relate to their overall body of skills and competencies? Naturally, with a giant pile of resumes, this is not necessarily possible to consider these questions for every person that applies. However, I do encourage HR professionals and employers to consider what those resume dates really signify.
Job seekers must do an excellent job of communicating their experience in such a way so to avoid appearing like a job hopper. Show a steady increase in responsibility, appearance of new skills, exposure to different types of environments and organizational structures, expanse and regularity of projects with evidence of successes. Most importantly, convey that they are excellent in maintaining relationships.
For example, I quit my job at Bollotta Entertainment after only 8 months on the job. I didn’t have much choice, because my husband lost his job and we had to move back to Florida to avoid paying a rent and a mortgage. Fortunately, I had such a great relationship with my boss, he continued to contract me for his communications projects. Our relationship has continued for a better part of three years. We both have mutual trust, respect, and commitment to each others’ goals.
I’m not a person who can look solely at dates to determine loyalty and commitment. I know many retired persons who stayed with their jobs for over thirty years only to confess that it almost drove them insane. That’s why there has to be a balance between context and length. It’s like I always say, “People come into our lives for a reason and when that need has been met, they can move on.”
Let me use this final thought to advise young people to take their work seriously, even if it’s at a fast food job. Learn as much as you can, ask as many questions as possible, share your ideas and learn the ropes. Understand politics and the nature of work relationships. Learn acceptable boundaries and learn when to break them. Get to really know your trade. Most importantly, learn how you fit in the mess of it all. What makes you valuable, indispensable, and worthy of a paycheck? Take as long as you need to figure out your long term career goals; stick with a job when the going gets tough. Stay committed to fixing mistakes and creating new solutions. Don’t let dates be the determiner of your commitment; let your performance and reputation do the talking.
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