Job Hopping – Strategic or Problematic?

 job change

Job Hopping – What does it mean in today’s business world?

Job hopping is a term that means different things to different people. Why?  Because it can depend on industry, situation, generation and/or decade.

Generically, most people agree when using the term job hopping that it references full time employees (contract workers are off the hook) who work briefly in one position after another rather than staying at any one job (or organization) for a longer period of time. Note -“longer” is also a relative term.

When full time employers chose a pattern of changing companies every year or two, it is not always a negative. The red flag would be when these people are constantly moving and taking for positions that would be considered “lateral moves”. Note: the exception is when an individual who has experienced company layoffs, downsizing or closures.

long term employeeSince our most recent economic meltdown in 2008, changing jobs has now replaced the concept of “climbing the corporate ladder”. Years ago, most people worked for the same employer their entire careers. In those years, it was something to be proud of and was rewarded with a “gold watch” or “bronze plaque” for 20 some odd years of service. Of course during that period there were also company pensions – otherwise known as “golden handcuffs”.

There was a time when a pension was a huge incentive for an employee to spend their entire career with one employer. Young people today have likely never even heard of a company pension (except for government roles) and in rare occasions the odd traditional blue chip company. Today the “best” companies might offer a RRSP matching program which is great, but a far cry from what were company pension plans.

Changing Jobs Today and in the Future

So where do we draw the line between a job hopper and a typical employee in 2015? Like most subjects, the answer leans towards “that depends”. Today, evaluating the frequency of job changes tends to be governed by a number of factors ranging from the industry sector, function, position, age group, and economics to politics, etc. According to recent studies, the average length of time a full time employee stays with their employer is of 4.6 years. For workers aged 20-34, that average drops to 2.3 years.

A survey conducted by the online job site, CareerBuilder, found that certain industry sectors were more likely to see workers making more frequent moves –

  • Information Technology—42% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • Leisure & Hospitality—41% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • Transportation—37% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • Retail—36% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • Manufacturing—32% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.

Do job and/or career changes suggest someone is unreliable? Uncommitted? Disloyal? Unstable? Flaky? Difficult to get along with? Etc., etc.? That is what most employers thought pre-1990. Until recently, job hopping was considered career suicide. The difference today is that staying in one job forever is now considered that recipe for career suicide.

Clearly times have radically changed. Job longevity is now a thing of the past – not unlike the aforementioned company pensions.

A high “churn” rate is typically seen as a reflection of a healthy economy.

New Thinking about Job Hopping

While job hopping used to have a negative connotation, today all that has changed. It is well accepted, by progressive companies, that the length of employment is more fairly judged by the ability to continue providing value to a company, or for the individual, realizing there is nothing more to learn in the environment.

opportunityEmployers, and recruiters, now acknowledge that they prefer to work with candidates with more jobs on their resumes than candidates who have stayed in one job for a long time.

Employers, and recruiters, fear that individuals who are long term employees are resistant to change, risk adverse and/or have become unmotivated. The exception is when someone has been regularly, and consistently promoted, within one company. Recognition for a job well done, promotability and career diversity squash any fear that someone has nothing more to offer. A desire to make a career move, in this case, is perceived as having hit the end of the road – or in the case of women, the glass ceiling – hence an excellent reason to move on.

People, who have worked in a number of different capacities within different (or singular) corporate environments, will have developed and acquired a much broader range of skills. They will have experienced more change, disruption and have become very skilled and adaptable.

Job Hopping – done right

Over the last 20 years, it has become commonplace for companies to lay off employees for financial reasons, market changes, out of date employee skills, mergers, acquisitions, etc.  It seems the concept of “job security” went gone out the window. Today this change is directly linked to how employees perceive company loyalty.

experience ideasJob hopping, when done for the right reasons, can be extremely advantageous for both employers and employees. It may even be considered ‘strategic’ for one’s career and a company’s hiring practices. Leadership today recognizes that in order for most companies to continue to grow, it is necessary to create an environment where skills and experience are constantly evolving. This means encouraging the strategic acquisition of new employees AND the development of skills in high potential people.

An individual who has worked for 3-4 companies over a 15 year period acquires greater depth of experience than someone who has spent that same time with one company. Hiring people from several different work environments provides employers with more “resources” – both human and informational – than the employee who has less “diversity” in their work experience.

Exposure and interaction within different industries and market sectors, while working with a variety of leadership styles, provides and encourages personal growth. Add to that the chance for someone to experience a variety of different business challenges, customers and colleagues – now that describes diversity resulting in a much broader problem solving experience base.

Employers are more open to hiring employees with more companies under their belt. Expect this trend to continue.

Motivation in Changing Jobs

stay or goCandidates who have spent a minimum of 2-3 years at one company will have lived through full cycle projects, programs and events and experienced several different forms of change. The number one complaint contractors have is that they have never seen the early stage or final stage of any project. They are brought in to execute which ends up being somewhere in the middle.

Candidates, whose experience includes a few solid growth roles, are better able to demonstrate their transferable skills – flexibility and adaptability, quick study learning a new business, culture, product, etc. Individuals, who make good career move decisions, are not afraid of change or taking risks in the development of their future careers

What motivates a successful individual to make a job change?

  • More money – the best way to increase salary is by making the right job change. Annual salary increases average 2 – 3%, however a job change will be much more of an opportunity to increase income.
  • Wider range of experience by working in different fields and work environments. In some cases, a person discovers a more fulfilling job after they have tried out several others.
  • Opportunity to explore diverse interests or global work possibilities
  • Improve personal situation – relationships, happiness and health
  • Reduce travel; provide more stability, decrease stress and chaos.
  • Ensure fulfilling, relevant and challenging work opportunities where one can continually deliver a positive impact.
  • Develop an in demand linear career specialization by exploring more opportunities to complete a career puzzle.
  • External hires for newly created roles may come with more education and experience than those who are promoted from within saving the employer ramp up time and the cost of retraining.

Changing jobs is a great opportunity to show off ones’ best attribute.


Staying too long in one job limits one’s ability to experience a continual source of new learning and can be a real detriment to a progressive career. A couple of decades ago employees who were considered to be not too ambitious or unable to adapt to a new situatons were not regarded as limited. Today this is a position that no one can take for granted any longer.

Although there are several advantages to making a job change, it doesn’t always work for everyone. The key to being successful in changing jobs is to clearly, specifically and precisely articulate one’s individual results in a resume. The reader should be able to clearly determine the value that was added to the business, what major contributions were made and in what direction a career is heading.

A new employer wants to hear new ideas, develop new processes and share in a different experience that comes as part of the hiring package. They want to understand they are getting access to more information, more resources and broader experience and education.

Takeaway – Job hopping definitely has its benefits – when done correctly. Skipping out too soon runs the risk of being perceived as a quitter – someone unable to commit to a team or a project.

“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” ~Reid Hoffman, Chairman & Co-founder, LinkedIn

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