The pros and cons of job hopping

Fans of football will have heard of Nicolas Anelka. Currently at Chelsea, Anelka made his football debut when he joined Arsenal in 1997 for a fee of £500,000. Three years later he moved to Real Madrid for fee of £22.3m before returning to his home club Paris St Germain for £20m and then a further 5 clubs in as many years in the English Premiership, netting him over £43m. The point to this analogy is to illustrate that regardless of what profession you are in, job hopping inevitably occurs.

Indeed, it is common knowledge that the job for life culture that once existed during the Babyboom generation has all-but disappeared. Today, it is widely acknowledged that workers in their 20s and 30s will change jobs as many as 8 or 9 times. So does this make you an erratic employee that any recruiter in their right mind should avoid at all costs? Or does it actually make you a highly experienced professional and an attractive proposition for any would-be employer?

According to the latest industry statistics, the latter is probably the answer. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation recently confirmed that there has been a continued growth in the number of temporary positions filled compared to permanent positions, as employers attempt to meet the peaks and troughs in business workloads during the current testing economic climate.

Of course, job hopping suits the employee rather than the employee – one employer’s loss is another employer’s gain. But with the job market at its most competitive in many years, employers no longer have the luxury of writing people off simply because they have moved from one employer to the next over a period of time. Instead, employers are increasingly looking to see what an employee can contribute to their company, no matter how long they stay there for.

Take Katie Vanneck for example. She was the sales and marketing director for The Times Newspaper Group for two years before being poached by arch rivals, Telegraph Media. Within a year Vanneck radically transformed the fortunes of the Telegraph’s online audience and print circulation to position it as the market leader. A short time later she quit and returned to The Times to take up a more senior role with a higher salary. In this instance, most people would not care if Vanneck was job hopping because she had made an impact by increasing sales and distribution during her tenure – most employers would be chomping at the bit to hire her even if she only stayed for a short period of time.And that’s the point about successful job hopping.

When you are applying for another job and have already had say 3 or 4 over the last years, for instance, you need to demonstrate to a would-be employer what significant contribution you can make and, with several sectors experiencing a shortage of skills, experience is the deciding factor that can work in your favour.

However, job hopping can have its downsides too. Personnel departments in the main dislike job hoppers and a candidate who has had a number of jobs can signal a number of red flags to a potential employer.

Firstly it could be argued that it demonstrates a lack of commitment to an organisation. And secondly, more worryingly, it raises a level of doubt in their minds as to the genuine reasons why you left a previous employer – can you talk-the-talk but unable to walk-the-talk, are you in the wrong career?

In fact, some career experts argue that people do not fully learn their jobs and gain valuable experience until they have been in the same role with the same company for at least two years.

So if you are to job hop, the trick is to effectively market your penchant for short-term success and your ability to meet an employer’s need for your skill-set. And as demand continues to outstrip supply, you are equally well-positioned to command a higher salary than what you are currently earning.

Indeed, this move away from the job-for-life ethos that previously existed has been confirmed by research by Lifelong Learning which found that nearly 1 in 6 UK workers have changed their entire careers three times already, while more than 1 in 10 has switched more than three times. Interestingly, only 10 per cent of workers have remained in the same career throughout their working lives.

While switching from one career to the next can increase your overall skill base and keep your interest levels high, flirting between roles and interchanging with a number of different employers will almost certainly ring alarm bells for recruiters.

“The limit is about three jobs in two years,” says Sarah McParland of Search Consultancy. “After that employers will want a very good reason why you keep jumping around.”

Therefore, make sure you have a good explanation that settles any fears that an employer may have about you such as your interpersonal skills (or lack of) with your colleagues or you limited attention span.

So before you rush into your boss’ office brandishing your resignation letter, stop and think about the practicalities. Short-term workers have fewer rights and are not entitled to things like maternity pay until they have been with the same employer for at least one year. Similarly, employers can side-step unfair dismissal claims, write-off pension contributions and avoid redundancy pay – if you lose your job you will not be entitled to any pay-back. And whilst these things may not be a priority for you in your 20s and early 30s, they will almost certainly dictate your career options when you have your family’s security to consider and you start to plan your retirement…unless of course you plan to work into your old age?

About yourcareermatters
CareerMatters was founded as part of MacKenzie-Cummins Communications in 2006 by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins MICG (Member Institute of Careers Guidance), regarded as one of the UK's leading career's advice and guidance writers and specialist PR consultant for the UK recruitment industry. Since 2006 Paul has been the leading advice writer for and - the two biggest careers website in the world -tackling all aspects of workplace and management issues, job seeking, career change and hiring trends. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 his writing contributed to Monster winning the Best Employment Advice on the Internet Award for an unprecedented three times beating the likes of The Guardian, Learn Direct and Personnel Today on each occasion. And his work was a runner-up for the same award in 2009. In 2009 Paul was a nominee in the prestigious HR Journalist of the Year Award and Recruitment, Retention & Motivation Journalist of the Year Award. Paul has been commissioned to write more than 500 careers advice and guidance articles for a number of lpublications, from regional and national newspapers to industry publications and various career-specific websites in the UK and USA. Recently, Paul was the Technical Editor for career psychologist Dr Rob Yeung's Job Hunting & Career Change for Dummies (John Wiley & Son, 2007). Dr Yeung is better known as the TV psychologist for Channel 4's Big Brother and the BBC's Who Would Hire You? series. Clients include: MSN Careers (Europe) TheLadders TotalJobs IntaPeople Recruitment Lifetracks/YouthNET MediaSalesJobs The Press Gazette

One Response to The pros and cons of job hopping

  1. Hung Lee says:

    There does seem to some maths in it…….3 in 2 is about right as the absolute limit. That said in some industries where there is a particular paucity of skills or knowledge, and a corresponding level of urgency by putative employers, some individuals can get away with it. I am reminded of the time when no one knew what anything about Java (the programming language) in the early noughties – techies who could speak were bouncing around like jumping beans and did very well out of it too.

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