Is Job Hopping Bad For My Career?

What do you think about the taking of risks in job opportunities by following the career journey no matter where it leads?

I have had numerous positions and never seem to be able to call one my home with the exception of one company from 1981 to 1995.

Since this position I seem to have changed jobs every 3 years or less.

Is this a real reflection of the present job market? I always produce exceptional results so that has not been the issue.

A friend suggested that I am bored in my roles and need more challenge.

The Harvard MBA says:

The tough part about answering your question is that there are competing factors.

On the one hand, job-hopping is undoubtedly unattractive to employers.  I have been involved in a lot of hiring meetings in my career, and I have never heard anyone say, “Looks like Candidate X switches jobs every 18 months.  We’ve got to hire him!”

Nor is this a wrong-headed attitude.  Every employee takes time to ramp up to full productivity; the costs of hiring and training are high, and no employer wants to pay those costs more often than necessary.

On the other hand, if you truly find yourself in a bad job situation, getting out is the best solution.  The days of gritting out 20 years of service in a job you hate are largely over, and that’s a good thing.

In my own career, the longest I’ve ever spent at one company was 4.5 years; switching jobs every 4-5 years is generally accepted, especially in Silicon Valley, where 4-year vesting schedules offer a major economic incentive to hop at the 4-year mark.

Given that you produce excellent results (I’m taking your word on this), it sounds like you’re initiating the job hopping.  Your friend’s suggestion that you may be bored could very well be accurate.  If that’s the case, I will offer two suggestions:

1) You may need to change the types of jobs that you seek out.  Perhaps you’re the sort of person who needs a lot of change and variety in his life.  If that’s the case, you may want to opt for more of a professional services job, especially one like management consulting, where you might hop from industry to industry every 6 months.  You may also try being an independent consultant, so that your thirst for change will seem a strength, rather than a weakness.

2) You should also do some introspection, and figure out if you are approaching your work with the right mindset.  Positive psychology researchers have shown that those who believe that they’ll be happy if they find the right job are mistaken; there is no “right” job.  Those who hunger for something different may very well be better off figuring out how to reshape the way they perceive their work.  I recommend reading Sonja Lyubomirsky’s “The How of Happiness” for details and specific exercises.

As I said, my advice is somewhat contradictory, simply because I don’t know the exact details of your situation.  But I hope that I’ve provided enough food for thought to help you find some insight.

2 Comments

  1. Jim Mei
    Posted September 10, 2008 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Might I suggest a career which is constantly changing… consultancy.

    Check out a career in general consultancy (eg McKinsey, Monitor, BCG, Bain etc). Such a position is highly respectable, pays well and offers constantly changing challenges.

  2. Barbara
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    You’ve touched on something that often gets ignored – the term “job hopping” needs to be unpacked.

    Looking for Job Charming in every position and then storming off at the first sign of disappointment is bad. A person in that situation needs to look inward.

    Being a very quick learner who wants to keep growing is good. A person in that situation doesn’t need to learn to be slower; he needs to find a line of work that capitalizes on that skill.

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