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Job-Hopping: A Résumé-Killer?

Posted: March 27, 2015, 5:18 p.m.

by Laura Gregory.

Years ago the concept of “job hopping” was considered a massive red flag on a potential employee’s résumé. An article in Forbes magazine even characterized it as “career suicide.” Employers were reluctant to hire someone who seemed fly-by-night and unreliable because of their short tenures or continuous change in jobs. However, in today’s more mobile society, this idea of job hopping is becoming more acceptable for a number of reasons.

2571125122_f3e473c037_oOne of the key factors in the rise of job hopping, according to Scott Mall, chief communications officer for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is that society is much more mobile than it was 25-50 years ago.

“We are in an age of mobility and job portability,” Mall said, “You get married and move across the country and have to find a new job. Or your company is bought by another; sometimes it’s totally out of your control.”

Mall added that it is common today for a person to grow up in one place, attend school in another and find his first job in a third place.

Further, the Internet has made searching and applying for jobs anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home as easy as the touch of a button, literally. Mall compared the current Internet era to a time when all you had were the offers mentioned in a local newspaper. Nowadays, students or employees looking for a bigger opportunity can fill in some blanks online and have an application submitted within a matter of hours or even less.

Courtesy of Kate Hiscock (Flickr)
Courtesy of Kate Hiscock (Flickr)

Jamie Wernet, a senior associate at Heyman Associates, cited the declining number of lifetime positions at companies as another reason for the increase in job hopping.

“You don’t see a lot of ‘lifers’ today. People don’t see as much the potential to join a company and have a lifetime career. They won’t start at 18 and retire at 48 with pension from a company,” Wernet said. “Further, it is becoming more common for people to take a risk and start or join something new.”

Mall agreed that lifetime jobs are on the decline. “Those kind of jobs, where you stay there forever and retire with the gold watch, they just don’t happen often. You could be a teacher your entire life but you may switch schools for various reasons,” Mall said.

He argued the same case for communications. You may spend your entire career in communications, but you can switch settings any number of times for any number of reasons, whether it be a higher pay check, marriage and a related move, or perhaps simply a desire to try out a different sector of the communications industry.

According to another Forbes article, today’s employees can attribute greater job fulfillment to job hopping, which exposes them to a variety of workplace cultures and the opportunity to learn new skills. In this sense, exploring the job market exposes employees to a constant learning environment and opportunities for career growth.

Whatever the reason for switching jobs, Mall and Wernet agreed that it needs to be legitimate. “As long as you have a good reason, you can avoid the negative stereotypes,” Wernet said.

Mall added that you want a potential employer to look at your résumé and understand why you switched jobs. “You don’t want to look like a job hopper. You want to be able to say, ‘I worked here, and then I moved on for this specific reason,’” Mall said.

The First Job

Mall and Wernet agreed that your first job is critical in establishing your future career. Both cited the importance of utilizing the first job as a learning experience.

“That first job is really critical,” Mall said. “It’s the first step and you want to hopefully find a job that is going to expand what you learned in college and give you some real world skills that you can either use at that same company or organization over a period of time or at your second, third or fourth job. It’s a foundational job; there is no perfect first job — it all depends on what the individual wants. That first job – try to make it a job that really is of interest to you, where you can learn. It is nice if they pay you well, but I would say pay is not the key factor. Go for the education rather than the pay because the more educational job will ultimately pay off for you in the long run.”

Wernet echoed Mall’s sentiments. “I really encourage people who are looking for a job to think critically and look at what they can learn about,” she said, “When you’re looking for a new job, it’s good to spend some time thinking about what it will teach you the most. Many students have not had exposure to the rest of the world. I think it’s also easier if you find something that interests you. It’s easier for you to see the value that the position is giving to you. That makes it easier for you to stick it out.”

After working that entry-level job for a few years, you can begin to explore other options. If the company you are currently working for does not have any new openings or room for you to grow as an employee, then it is completely acceptable to seek another opportunity elsewhere.

“When you land an entry-level job, stay there for a minimum of a year, hopefully two or perhaps even three years (particularly if you are still learning new skills and gaining expertise),” Mall said. “But once you’ve done everything there is to do in that particular job, if there is no place for you to move in that organization, then you are faced with the choice of becoming stagnant where you are, or looking for another job, even if it is your second, third or fourth position at another location.”

Career Growth

While the negative stigmas surrounding job hopping may be vanishing, there are still a few key ideas that should remain in any employee’s mind. First of all, it important to maintain the ties and connections you have built with previous employers. Just because you are leaving one company for another does not mean you should burn that bridge. With the economy constantly rising and falling, you never know where your career path could lead.

Further, while it is becoming more socially acceptable to have a variety of jobs on your résumé, it is also important that these jobs show professional growth. Job hopping laterally is not a positive sign. Make sure your reason for shifting to another job is one that a potential employer will understand and see as a positive move.


  1. Post comment

    First of all, this is a really great piece. I totally agree with all of your points. There is a difference in the traditional sense of a “job hopper,” someone who leaves a job every few months, or only stays with one company for a year and then goes somewhere else. That can make you look unreliable. I think there is a major difference in a job hopper and someone who is freshly entering the industry. I do not plan on staying at my first job forever, but I do plan on staying there long enough to add new skills and experiences to my résumé. But I can do that without having 10 jobs in 10 years. I believe it is also important in how you leave the job. Leaving a job to pursue other aspects of your career interests is something you can easily explain in your interview. But getting fired is something that can be really damaging to your career as a whole.


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