Job hopping, a term used to describe moving from job to job in a relatively short period of time, has typically carried a negative connotation. This is mostly due to the fact that, for generations, it was more commonplace for someone to settle into a job and stay at the company for 20 years. But today, it’s increasingly common—if not expected—for Gen-X and Gen-Y professionals to hold a number of jobs, some much shorter lived than that.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average Gen-X employee today stays at a job for around 4.4 years. For Gen-Y millennials, cut that number in half. It’s becoming more widely accepted for shorter employment tenures to be the norm, especially as the number of new industries that require professionals to keep their skills sharp and stay ahead of the game grow in number. However, many employers are still wary of lengthy and varied job histories on resumes.
So what are the pros and cons of job hopping? And how do you explain it to a possible employer?
- You gain more experience and acquire new professional skills from each experience. Candidates who have worked in a number of different positions often have confidence in their abilities, and exercising their skills in several different jobs keeps those abilities sharp. Job hopping can also give professionals a good sense of the variety of work environments out there and which types of work culture they may or may not work well in.
- It’s easier to move up. Once upon a time, the path to developing a career involved settling into a job and climbing the corporate ladder. Today, it’s still important to gain long-term experience, but many jobs may not come with the opportunity to advance. Learning all one can from a position and then moving on, often to a higher position with better pay, is the Gen-X and Gen-Y way—and, arguably, an effective way—of moving up in one’s field.
- You learn what you want through trial and error. Some positions may sound like great opportunities, but in practice, aren’t a good fit for you. Especially early on, candidates can often get a much better feel for the type of job placement they work best in by trying it out.
- An employer might see it as a sign of irresponsibility. After all, as we stated in another post, longevity in a career is one of the most attractive qualities a candidate can have. An employer may find a candidate less attractive if he or she has a record of job hopping; not only can it make one appear indecisive, it may also give the impression that a candidate lacks a sense of direction for their career.
- It may compromise your job security. Should an employer decide to hire you, he or she may keep your job hopping tendencies in mind for the future. In the event of a mass layoff, for example, you may find your position less secure because your employer would prefer to keep the employees who he or she knows are loyal and in it for the long-term.
- Your experience may be limited, depending on your industry. Although you have a lot of short-term experience, you don’t have any long-term. So while you may have the adaptability to change positions every two years, you haven’t had the experience of settling into a company and becoming a part of its long-term plans. This may be okay for some industries that are constantly changing, like IT, but this may raise some questions about your loyalty and ability to see the big picture in others.
The best way to explain a history of job hopping in an interview is to reflect on why you’ve changed jobs so frequently, keep these pros and cons in mind, and formulate an answer that best describes the experience you’ve gained. Don’t apologize or seem uneasy with your employment history—you’ll only be showing the employer that they have a reason to be uncomfortable with it, as well. Instead, detail how your different positions have helped you grow as a professional and how the experience you earned makes you a great fit for the role. Give genuine reasons for your departures, such as layoffs or a folding company, where you can. For the positions you decided to leave, it could be beneficial to say “I felt that I learned all I could from that company in the time I was there, and as a professional in my field, I felt that moving on was the best way to stay up-to-date and keep my skills sharp and relevant” or “My experiences have helped me decide what direction I want to take my career in, and I believe this organization would allow me to grow as a professional and build a long-term career.”
Remember, only your relevant employment history is needed on a resume. So if you’ve held a number of different positions in a variety of fields that aren’t relevant to the current role you’re applying for, leaving some of those off and shortening your resume can help reduce the chances you’ll be labeled as a job-hopper.