Confessions of Job Hoppers


job hoppers 2These days, job hopping is practically a way of life. Gone is the idea of spending four decades at one company, ultimately retiring with a gold watch and a pension plan.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the median number of years workers stay at a given job is only 4.6, which allows them to rack up as many as 10 gigs in a lifetime.

The problem: Many employers still see job hopping as a deal breaker. Nearly 40% of recruiters and hiring managers say that a history of hopping is the single biggest obstacle for job-seekers, according to a recent survey conducted by recruiting software company Bullhorn.

We found four serial job hoppers who were willing to dish about their adventures in the labor market. Then we asked a crack squad of career experts for advice on how these hoppers can find a gig that will make them want to stick around.

ITJay Mehta, 36, Unemployed

A few months ago, Jay Mehta was laid off from his latest IT job in Dallas, along with a handful of other employees, because of budget cuts. “The difference is that those guys have been working for the same two or three companies for the last 14 years and didn’t see it coming—I’ve worked for 10 places,” Mehta says, who has been laid off twice, including from his last gig.

RELATED: How to Explain Why You Were Laid Off

Mehta wasn’t always a job hopper. For the first eight years of his professional life, he worked for just two different companies. “I thought that promotions were deserved after a lot of hard work and employer loyalty,” he says. “But I was wrong.” In those two jobs, Mehta’s salary increased only marginally, and he couldn’t seem to save enough money. Then, in January 2002, he was laid off due to downsizing.

Mehta struggled for an entire year looking for another full-time job in IT and the experience changed his outlook on employment. ”I figured it wouldn’t be long before something like that would happen again. Although I wasn’t sure when the next economic slowdown would come, I knew that I wanted to be debt-free and ready for it before I ever got laid off again,” he says.

RELATED: The ‘I-Just-Got-Laid-Off’ Drill

So Mehta shifted his loyalty toward making money, rather than to any one company–switching jobs eight times in the next six years. “I gained a lot by virtue of job changes,” he says. “My salary has increased significantly compared to friends I know who have stayed with the same company.”

  • Kim Martinez

    I’ll be honest here…although there is not much we can do to change it, employers really need to take a look at the way they think about people who move from job to job. The fact of the matter is, people have to pay their bills, and if one job is cutting it, they have to move on. In this economy you can’t just sit and wait to find your dream job. I’ve had a number of jobs, most of which I enjoyed for the time I was there. The job I’m at now is the first time I’ve held a job longer than 10 months. I’ve switched industries, traveled, and changed career paths because I always had to find a way to make ends meet. I present myself to a potential employer by the skills I have gained, but in today’s job market, and with the lack of loyalty from companies to employees, there’s no reason for employees to be loyal to companies either.

  • Career Coach,

    As one of the job hoppers noted, changing jobs can be a very effective way to secure a raise.

    Most managers are looking for someone who will stick around for a good while, as hiring is an expensive process for companies. So while some job hopping is normal, particularly for younger employees, it can also be a red flag for employers that you will not stay long at their company either.

    • marvin pierre-louis

      Jay Mehta was right. Your employer is only loyal to the bottom line. In today’s economy, employers want someone who will take your job responsibilities if not more for less than your present salary. Our parents taught us that if we worked hard and went to school to further our educations, our bank accounts would smile. Right now the average student loan is around 20K on the low end. Many of us have joined the p2p category(paycheck to paycheck). Employers don’t seem to understand and if they do they don’t care. You have to be on the constant look out. My dad is 56 years old and has worked for the same company in the same position for four decades. If he got laid off right now he’d have no choice but to go on disability. He once asked me to make a resume for him. After I put in his name, some education and current work history, I took a breath and realized I had 90% of unfinished white paper.

  • G

    I shared this with my Dad who offered some good advice. Given that some job hopping is a way of life for many young people, we cannot assume we will be working for the same company for forever. So without being flighty and going from job to job, we should still make choices at work that make us marketable there and at other companies…

    He said:

    “I think that young people need to develop an in-demand technical competency. Long years in a single company can make you an expert in getting things done in that company, but your technical skills may diminish and when there is no longer a need for an expert in the doings of Company X, then you can find your self unemployed with only the skill to work in a downsized or bankrupt company.

    “It is useful to know how to get things done in your employer organization. It is important to have those skills and especially to be able to transfer them to new work environments.

    “So, I’d recommend you continue to discern and build upon a marketable area of technical competency (appropriate to your profession) that you can sell to other organizations when the time is right. Try to ensure any moves advance your profession. Too many moves does make a resume look flighty. Keep advancing, whether with your current employer or with new employers. Take the time to deliver solid products to your employer (whatever the product is in your profession) so that you are building a track record of generating valuable deliverables doing something that most other people cannot do, and what people need.”

    It is a difficult world that you young people have to live in. In a halcyon time, experienced managers developed their talented young people; now you have to do that yourself. It is not easy.

    • Anita

      Your dad is a smart man, great advice. As someone in their early thirties, I still find myself job hopping a little, having only been on my current job for about 5 months and already wanting to quit because there is literally nothing to do, but I do work in state government, so that’s nothing really new in my field. I agree with your dad in that job hopping doesn’t look good on a resume, but one must really consider, in taking another job if it’s something they could see themselves doing long term and the most important thing, ASK QUESTIONS during the interview, detailed ones. That will help quite a bit in determining whether you should take a job or not.

  • Z

    I might seem like a job hopper. Long time student. I worked part-time to finish college so held student jobs while I was doing that. Also was overcoming medical problems. I’m fine now, but I don’t want to be labelled a job hopper just because of life events. And I can hardly put on my resume ‘had medical condition’ to explain longer time in college or job changes.

    Since finishing college, I’ve held 3 jobs. One was for 3 years, and I moved to take care of a sick parent. Second job was over in a few months – really bad work enviornment. My current workplace is probably best so far. I have a ton of responsibility and I like where I work. I’m up for a promotion but higher level jobs have really really high requirments. I can’t afford to stay in my current job just because cost of living is too high where I am and piled on debts. I’d like to meet requirements of other jobs but can’t afford the schooling.

    I’d like to change jobs but don’t want to change for sake of changing. Its mostly for salary.

    Life isn’t always easy for everyone. At least some consideration should be given for life circumstances when looking at a resume.

  • liz

    I would LOVE to stay at a job for a few years, at least, and grow through the ranks. But my industry has moved to hiring my position as contractors. So, over the last few years, I’ve had 6 month contracts at about 4 different places. Each time they tell me they will try to convert me to permanent, but usually as soon as I get to the company I find out this never happens, and sure enough, the contract ends.
    Luckily, because of this, other future employers are used to this and don’t necessarily think of it as a red flag.
    However, none of these jobs come with health insurance, 401Ks or any other benefits. They do have high hourly rates, which is why I stay in the industry.

  • Gisele Marie

    Changing job is a good way to increasing your salary. Everytime i change employer I often get at least 10% increase. I’ve been working as a paralegal for 20 years and I’ve worked for 10 law firms to date, and my job hopping did not affect me in obtaining a new employment.

  • Anonymous

    I find this article somewhat misleading in the fact that it insinuates that job hopping is a choice. I don’t believe it always is. As someone who’s job hopped quite a bit I found myself in several positions where I was just scraping by and either completely bored or overqualified for the position. As was pointed out in the article by several of the examples, sometimes being laid off results in job hopping. It’s not a choice. We’d all like to be making more and sometimes you have to take a position you aren’t crazy about just to make ends meat and continue to look for that right job. I really didn’t like the tone of this article indicating job hopping is a choice when sometimes it’s not our choice.

  • Kayla Cooper

    It sounds like some of these people should look into going through a staffing company for short-term contracted jobs. It gives you the variety you need and won’t label you as a “job hopper”.

  • Brynne VanHettinga

    From reading this and other posts as well as everyone’s comments, the evidence suggests that there are greater problems with the job market than with prospective employees. Although there will always be a small segment of young people/new graduates who are searching to find the best career match, the majority of job hopping is due to one of the following: (1) layoffs, reorganizations and mergers, (2) an increase in the number of part-time, contract and contingent jobs (the BLS has plenty of documentation on this), (3) a path-dependent sequence of layoff, followed by the necessity of taking a “survival job,” with recurrent attempts to find suitable (and financially sustainable) employment, and (4) lack of internal upward mobility. The fact that employers benefit from these conditions and then use the perfectly rational strategy of job-hopping against job seekers is pure evil.
    Last year, I completed a doctoral dissertation on professional underemployment, and am currently in the process of finding a publisher for a book based on the findings titled The Great Jobs Deception. While looking for work, I attended three job clubs in the Austin, TX area. Notwithstanding all the ballyhoo about how great the job market is there, the job clubs were filled with professionals–people with college degrees and purportedly in-demand skills in IT, systems engineering, web development, and program management. Anyone who finds work–or takes a job to survive–that pays only a fraction of the prior job or does not fully utilize one’ s skills, education and training is considered (for purposes of BLS statistics) to be fully employed. Our labor statistics do not capture the deficiencies in the job market, and–although there is plenty of academic literature on this–the discussion needs to get out of academia and into the mainstream.