Does Job Hopping Harm Your Career as Much as You Think?

Does Job Hopping Harm Your Career as Much as You Think?

The average millennial has had four jobs by their early twenties, but is this a bad thing? We take a look at the notion of job hopping, including it's pros and cons, and how to talk about it in an interview.

Did you know that rabbits can hop as much as three metres at a time? Well now you do. Their ability to cover so much ground is akin to that of the modern day job hopper. Recent surveys suggest that the average millennial (born between 1980 and 1995) will exhaust no less than 4 jobs by the age of 31.

Sounds alarming doesn’t it? Well we’ve engaged with a number of hiring professionals and collated masses of data, in an attempt to find out whether frequent job changes hamper your career or are, in fact, a fast track to success …

How job hopping begins

Speaking as a 26-year-old who’s had four jobs since graduating university, I can offer first-hand feedback on this subject. 

Four jobs in, I’m a CEO and worth £12.4 million. I’ve made it.

Okay well that was a lie, BUT, I can give you an honest insight into my reasons for changing jobs so frequently. I’m not going to bore you with a ‘this is my story’ type of article, so here’s a three-sentence summary instead:

I graduated university but struggled to immediately find a job in my field of specialism. I then took several stop-gap jobs in order to escape the part-time, low-paid job I held throughout university. Aware of the danger of career traps, I finally sought out a job that suited my studies and areas of interest.

And here I am. Writing things and being all … writery. 

Truth is, I imagine a lot of millennials out there can relate to my erratic career path. If the world was a perfect place, we’d all have our dream job lined up and guaranteed for the day we graduated.

The world doesn’t work like this though, so sometimes we have to take detours in order to reach our ideal destination.

Even if that detour means dancing around as Subman on a busy retail park. 

Do I regret making so many career changes at such a young age? 

I don’t. 

And after doing some lengthy research on the subject, I feel even less guilty. Why? Well it would seem that job hopping isn’t frowned upon like it used to be anymore. And, no matter what your mum and dad may tell you, hopping can actually have some very nice advantages … 

The advantages of job hopping

Getting a job at the best of times is a tough task. Finding one that is local to you, satisfies your skills, offers the right career prospects AND pays you more than just ‘this will be great experience on your CV!’ – well that’s near impossible.

The fact that many of us struggle to fill all of these requirements often leaves us searching for the ideal. Whether this ‘ideal’ exists or not is a different subject, as there are bound to be trade-offs you have to make along the way. Like when I left Subway, no more free sandwiches. No more free cookies. It devastated me.

Sometimes we have to take detours in order to reach our ideal destination.

If you feel that your current job pays you well enough, is close to home and has a strong future for nurturing your development, then you shouldn’t even be considering hopping jobs – not unless you fancy a radical career change.

However, if you do find yourself chasing that ideal, then hopping from job to job does have it’s advantages – if done correctly.

1. The potential for more money

This is probably the biggest reason for moving jobs. A 2016 article by Forbes claims that the average job change can yield around a 10-15% salary increase. Not only that, but they reckon that staying in the same job for more than two years can cost you around 50% in potential earnings over the course of a lifetime.

While frequent changes might be the norm in automotive sales, it can be considered career suicide in banking.

It’s human nature to always want that little bit more, and the need for money is the best and most relevant example of this. No matter how happy you are in a job, no matter how fulfilling it is, if you are offered a substantial pay rise to do the same thing then you’ll (at the very least) consider moving on.

2. Company prestige and better benefits

Another biggie on the list for job hoppers is the size of company and the overall benefits package (above and beyond salary) on offer. Millennials can develop strong affinities with certain brands, arguably more so than any previous generation. This is due to their accessibility and exposure to them via social networks and mass media marketing.

As a result, big companies like Google or Facebook present exciting and thriving places of employment, as they understand that retaining quality staff saves them both time and money on continual recruitment drives.

3. Gain a wide range of experience

It pays to be well-rounded. Nowadays, and particularly in the digital sector, there are a lot of roles that demand a wide range of skills – or at least find it desirable. 

The expectations brought to us via the digital age is slowly killing perseverance.

For example, to be a good Web Designer, it helps to understand social media, SEO and even have a background in sales. These attributes all help when it comes to designing a website that appeals to a target audience and is optimised for maximum conversions. 

Transferrable skills are a big topic, too big to feature heavily here, but many job hoppers are looking to build an arsenal of transferrable skills – making them a highly desirable candidate. Not only does this mean they can demand more money, but it also makes their job safer – as the plethora of skills they possess could become indispensable to a company.

The disadvantages of job hopping

The term ‘job hopping’ brings with it a (generally) more negative perception amongst older generations, whose working philosophy revolved around company loyalty and time served. It’s this philosophy that leads into the first disadvantage of being a job hopper … 

1. Can make you unappealing to traditional companies

Job hopping doesn’t necessarily suit every sector and every company. While frequent changes might be the norm in automotive sales, it can be considered career suicide in banking

The millennial generation is privy to getting anything they want instantaneously.

Long established companies that have a low staff turnover and put emphasis on retention, take pride in the fact that employees stay with them for a long time. It’s almost integral to their branding. So a candidate with all the right skills, but a job history longer than their arm, proves to be a worry and a risk.

If they are going to invest lots of money into recruiting you, then training you up and moulding you into the perfect fit for their business, they want to be sure you’re in it for the long haul.

2. Could imply short attention span / focus problems

The millennial generation is privy to getting anything they want instantaneously. When I say anything, I’m referring to information and news. Knowledge or confirmation on any subject can be solved and verified with a quick ‘Google’ (other search engines are also available). This wasn’t the case 30+ years ago.

Although this is a great thing, it means that the generations born into this ‘ask the internet’ world expect things to be instant – and can grow agitated if it isn’t.

How many jobs have you had so far? And over what period?

Think about it, how many times have you become increasingly frustrated when your search takes longer than 10 seconds to populate millions of relevant results? I know I have. Crazy isn’t it?

This impatience is the harbinger of attention span issues. If we are denied an efficient solution then we simply click away and move on to the next. 

This ‘click away and move on’ concept has filtered into our working life. Employees simply up sticks and move to the next company if they aren’t satisfied. 30 years ago, perseverance was an essential part of getting through a job you didn’t necessarily like, and just hope that it would lead to something better.

The expectations brought to us via the digital age is slowly killing perseverance.

Another key difference from three decades ago is the changes to union representation. Smaller, private companies don’t have staff affiliated with unions who look after them and their finances, should there be any disputes. This can lead to employees leaving jobs much sooner, should there be any signs of trouble on the horizon.

3. Can make you appear costly and difficult to please

Employers are all too aware of the costs of making a bad hire. In 2012, research by Bersin & Associates showed that the average UK spend per hire was £5,331. With this in mind, it makes sense that employers are looking for candidates who are intent on staying with their company for the long term.

If the employment history section on your CV is 10 pages long, then it’s bound to beg the question “what do I have to do to keep this person happy?”.

Not only will the initial cost of hiring you be a factor, but employers will also be considering the fact that you could be harder to satisfy with standard pay rises and benefits further down the line. 

How to explain job hopping in an interview

To combat the negative perception job hopping can bring with it, it’s important to state your intentions of finding long-term employment, and tell the employer that you believe they’re the ideal suitor for you achieving this goal. 

Make sure your CV, cover letter and even LinkedIn provide a clear account of your job history – stating the individual and important contributions you made at each company. Acknowledge the fact that you have moved around, but emphasise how this has only developed you further – giving you a wide skill-set and advantageous experiences other candidates might lack.

DO NOT, under any circumstance, justify your hopping by throwing mud at past employers. No matter how true these feelings may be, keep them bottled up and show some grace – otherwise the interviewer will just be thinking how long it will be before they fall victim to such abuse.

At the end of the day, we are all searching for that perfect job – one which excites us, fuels our passions, but gives us the time and ability to chase down our other hobbies and life goals. Job hopping is a necessary process in achieving this sometimes and, if you explain it well enough, employers will understand that.