Too many job changes in the experience sections of a candidates’ work history, often find their CVs being rejected. The reason for this is because hiring managers assume that a history of job-hopping makes an unreliable employee. But isn’t this is a sweeping generalisation? We take a look at the reasons why people may have several job changes within a short space of time. Furthermore, we explore the ways you can market your work history to make it more appealing to hiring managers.
What is Job-Hopping?
In times gone by, school leavers would join a company as a tea boy or apprentice. It was a given that jobs were for life, and longevity was companies rewarded longevity with long service awards. These days that simply isn’t the case. It is perfectly normal for people to change jobs several times throughout their career.
Unfortunately, too many frequent job changes are a red flag to potential employers, but how many is too many? Well, it seems that it depends on the viewpoint of whoever is evaluating your CV and reasons why you switched jobs. Location, profession and age also seem to influence how often people change jobs and what is considered job-hopping.
Here in the UK, an acceptable length of time to stick with one employer seems to be about five years. By comparison, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Americans change jobs around every four years.
Recent research by Gallup shows that millennials change jobs three times more often than people from previous generations. Fortunately, the growing number of millennials in managerial positions often share the same mindset. The most sought after IT talent gains a vast array of technical and soft skills within a short space of time by job-hopping. Millennial managers seem more willing to understand this having grown up within such a fast-paced environment.
Whereas older generations are more likely to view people as job hoppers if they flit from job to job more frequently than every two years. They are more likely to hold the opinion that job-hopping denotes flakiness and unreliability. Consequently, they focus more on the idea that employees who only stay with a company for a short length of time cost a business more money. While this is true, the value of their experience often far outweighs this cost.
Why do Millennials Job Hop?
Nicknamed snowflakes, Millennials have a reputation for being dissatisfied and having a sense of entitlement. With higher student debts and less chance of getting onto the property ladder than previous generations, their dissatisfaction is understandable.
Millennials are as likely to be loyal employees than any other generation providing they are satisfied at work. However, their lower net worth than previous generations makes them more likely to leave if they believe it will accelerate career advancement.
Additionally, there are times when life throws us a curveball. This can force us into a situation where we must look for another job but may not have done otherwise. Maybe the funding runs out for a project you’re working on. Or the company you work for goes bust during the coronavirus crisis. Nobody can foresee these changes of circumstance that send our careers off in an unexpected trajectory. Unfortunately, such situations can often result in a shorter period of work experience than we expect upon accepting the job.
Benefits of Job Hopping
No matter what your age, there are many benefits to job-hopping. Below are just a few of the main advantages job hoppers benefit from in comparison to more loyal employees:
Employees who stay in their jobs year after year on average only receive a pay rise in line with inflation. If they are lucky. A pay rise that doesn’t match inflation or no pay rise at all effectively means taking a pay cut. If this is the situation you find yourself in, of course, you would be better off by switching jobs.
Expand Your Skill Set
Tech professionals will often have to change jobs if they want to gain work experience in a particular technology. For example, let’s say you’re a software developer working for a company who builds apps using React JS. If you wish to gain experience working with Angular, you would likely need to seek opportunities with other companies.
Switch Career Paths
There are many reasons why people may want to choose a different career path to the one they begin pursuing. Millennials or Gen Zers may have focussed on a particular job title when leaving university. While this may have felt like their ambition, may not have turned out to be as fulfilling as they thought. Technological developments also open doors to many career options that weren’t available when Gen Xers and Baby Boomers left university.
Often the only way to switch to a completely different career path is to seek opportunities outside your current organisation. Climbing an alternative career ladder can be much quicker through job-hopping.
Meet New People
University life presents us with many exciting opportunities to meet new people, thus expanding our professional and social networks. In comparison, working life can make our world feel relatively small and networking opportunities limited. This can be exaggerated by not getting along with work colleagues. Or if there is no mentor within our existing working environment. If this is the case, we may feel we have no choice but to change jobs.
Better Work-Life Balance
There are many ways to achieve a better work-life balance by changing jobs. Choosing a position closer to home may result in a much shorter commute. Or a job in the city an easier one. Alternatively, seeking opportunities that allow you to work from home may result in a better working life balance.
Explaining Job Hopping
Employers with a negative view of job-hopping, may hint at this in the language they choose. So if you have a slightly sketchy work history, pay attention to the wording of job descriptions in any adverts you reply to. Look for words such as ‘dedication’, ‘commitment’ and ‘long term’. This kind of vocabulary is a good indicator that the hiring manager may have a prejudice against job hoppers.
If you think your employment history makes you look like a job hopper, don’t worry. You can always explain your reasons for leaving each position on your CV or in a cover letter. Of course, there are no guarantees, but this may encourage wary employers to view your application more favourably.
When justifying your reasons for leaving, consider the skills you acquired by making each move. Most importantly, think about how they might benefit a potential employer. This will help you craft a winning exit statement for each position you have held. Just make sure that whatever reason you give on your CV is also consistent throughout your cover letter. You should also prepare to be able to justify your loyalty in an interview.
Exit statements should be as positive as possible and less than 25 words long. When crafting an exit statement, treat it as an elevator pitch. The aim is to convince prospective employers that your reason for leaving each role is valid. Delivering that message using a minimal word count leaves less room for them to read between the lines.
Acceptable reasons for leaving a job:
- Seeking career advancement
- To diversify your skillset
- Desire to pursue a different career path
- In search of a better fit for your area of expertise
- To work for a company whose values align well with your own
- In search of something more challenging
- To have children or take care of family
- Going back to college or university
- To gain experience in an area not covered within your existing role
A Few Final Words on Job Hopping
Despite the stigma surrounding job-hopping, it does come with many advantages. The obvious downsides are having to go through the interview process more frequently and having to convince sceptical managers of the benefits your varied work experience brings. However, many will be willing to see the positives of a diverse background if you choose your words wisely.
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