Job hopping: Can changing jobs too often be harmful to your career?

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We are all aware that staying in one job for life is not realistic anymore. Societies have changed. Work has changed, companies and employees have changed. But how often can a person change jobs before being considered a ‘job hopper’? And is being a job hopper even a negative thing?

What are job hoppers?

A person could be considered a job hopper if he or she has voluntarily changed jobs every year, at entry to middle level, or every 2 years at a senior level. In the past, it was thought that job hoppers switched employers without a rational reason and that the motivation to do so arose from a need for adventure and excitement. But that is frequently not the case. The two main reasons for a job change are a lack of career progress and the potential for a significant salary increase.

However, the reasons for changing jobs can vary according to different labour markets. In developing countries uncertainty can be much higher which can lead to it being more common for people to switch jobs every few months. In other places, it can be the norm to have several temporary contracts, with different employers, through an agency, before landing a job with a permanent direct contract. This is the situation in the Netherlands: currently 4 in 10 employees in the Netherlands do not have a permanent contract. Furthermore, some industries see a faster turnover of employees than others. IT, retail, hospitality and even consultancy are areas with a higher turnover of employees. In contrast, life science, oil and gas, and law are areas with longer tenure.

Younger generations seem more prone to quickly change jobs. The median tenure for employees aged 25-34 is around 3 years. One of the reasons for switching jobs more often can be the environment in which Millennials grew up. As youngsters during the financial crisis in 2008 they watched their parents lose jobs after decades of working for the same company. This could be a contributing factor as to why they are more interested in crafting their own individual career path rather than following the pre-defined one from a single company.

Negative aspects of job hopping

There are several reasons why hiring managers and recruitment consultants consider job hopping to be a negative thing. The general rule is that it takes at least one year to learn how to do your job properly and at least another year to show the results of your work. It is not only about the tasks themselves, but also you will need time to understand the company’s culture, processes and ways of communication. The amount of time, money and other resources invested in training a new co-worker is wasted if they leave after 6 months or a year.

Moreover, some employers find that a less consistent resume shows lack of commitment and dedication and that a person is easily bored. Employers prefer employees they can train in industry and company specific skills which takes time and can be costly. An inconsistent CV can also signal that previous employers did not renew contracts because of poor performance - a red flag for any hiring manager.

What are the positives?

The Gig economy and project-orientated workflows have grown tremendously in the last decade while job security has declined. This has made hiring managers more accepting of CVs with a variable job history.

A less traditional resume can show that a person is very adaptable, has broader knowledge of different systems and better understanding of diverse cultures - all valuable soft skills. This is even more important considering work spaces are becoming more inclusive and diversified. Moreover, a varied CV can suggest that a person is proactive and interested in developing his or her talents, accepting different responsibilities and stepping out of their comfort zone. The right mix of expertise from various jobs can be just what the employer is looking for.

Another positive can be a bigger network. A candidate who has switched jobs often can have many contacts. Numerous job seekers find their next position precisely because of the wide network they have, after all, recommendation is still one of the best ways to find a job.

How to explain job hopping in your CV?

Now that you know more about job hopping, take a look at your own CV. Have you changed jobs regularly? If the answer is yes, how do you make your resume more appealing to a hiring manager?

First, explain every gap that you have. If you lost a job and it was not your fault, state this in your resume. Give an honest reason for termination to dismiss any doubts that a hiring manager might have. Make sure to mention this during the interview as well.

If you plan to take a sabbatical (or more than one), it is advised to group them in a block and explain where have you travelled and what have you learned. Sabbaticals are quite common in the Netherlands and some employers even offer their employees a few months of unpaid leave after 5 years of work. However, in some cultures, sabbaticals are very unusual and your loyalty could be questioned. A potential employer may think that you choose to work only until you have enough funds to travel again. Keep this in mind when applying for positions in an international company. It is a good idea to write a motivational letter where you state that you’re committed to stay longer.

Additionally, use the heading of your resume to explain in short what your future career plans are and what you want to achieve. Also, clarify how the experience you have gained in the various jobs will benefit the company. Be honest and realistic. This will only benefit you and your potential employer. You can check out our blog post How to write a perfect CV for more tips on crafting an eye-catching resume.

Although job hopping still has negative connotations, managers are now more open to the positive aspects such as experience of different systems and work cultures. However, in order to be taken seriously by a hiring manager or recruitment consultant you must clarify the reasons for leaving your previous job if it was not your fault, explain any gaps including sabbaticals and emphasize how the unique set of knowledge and skills you have will help a potential employer to grow.

If you are not satisfied with your current job and you consider changing it, take a look at the new opportunities we have!