How To Weigh The Benefits Of Job Hopping

There's a happy medium between stagnating in a dead-end job and changing your job every year. Here's how to find that balance.

It used to be considered a mark of loyalty to stay with one employer until you retire. In today’s business environment nobody expects you to work in one position for 10 years, but that doesn't mean you should change jobs after every six months.

When is changing jobs actually okay?

According to the Bureau of Labor Department, the average employee stays at a job for 4.4 years, but for younger employees, it's about half that. People change jobs for better opportunities like higher salary, more benefits, more challenging work, or a higher position. If you feel any of the next points pertain to you, it might be a good idea to update your résumé and look around:

You’re underutilized
If you have nothing else to do at work than read news until your boss gives you the next assignment or wait half the day for a customer call, it’s time. Although you might feel really comfortable in your situation, in the long run, you're not investing your time wisely--you're not gaining any new experience nor developing your skills.

You’ve just started a new job, but you realize it’s not what you wanted
It sometimes happens that the job you have applied for and secured turns out to be something other than what was advertised. If you feel this is the case, find a new one. Reflect on what you got wrong when you chose to accept this job. Every day you spend time at a job you don’t love is one less day committing yourself to your passion.

You’re lacking career prospects and growth in your current role
When your target is to develop your skills and climb higher on the career ladder, you should find a company that offers you this possibility. You can’t expect to be promoted before you have proven yourself to your employer, but if you have already done this and your endeavors are not appreciated, it will be hard to stay happy and productive. It's time to move on.

You are answering yes to the following questions:

  • Is your work-life balance poor?
  • Do you feel you have way more to give than is asked of you?
  • Is your job flexibility limited?
  • Have you seen better job offers and thought about sending your résumé?
  • Are you working in a demotivating working environment?
  • Do you dislike what you do?

If you start to feel like you are changing jobs too often--twice a year, for example--you should seek career advice from a professional and decide what it is that you actually want to do. In the long run, serial job hopping will make it harder for you to find a good job, so be careful and analyze what you are actually looking for. The problem may not be the jobs--it could be you.

Can you stay at a job for too long?

For recruiters, staying in one role for too long might signal a lack of ambition and reluctance to take the next step in your career, but there really is no specific time frame to say you have done so.

It’s great to stay with one company for tens of years, but it's also important to keep yourself motivated to develop your skills during that time and move up the company ladder. Loyalty is always appreciated and cannot be considered negative unless you have stayed in your comfort zone and haven’t advanced your career.

Make sure you stay up to date in your area of expertise and gain new contacts. This way you’ll have a better chance of finding a new job when the time comes.

The pros and cons of changing jobs often:

Pros

  • You become fast in learning new skills and adapting in new situations
  • You will get to work with different technologies and approach and experience different ways of doing things
  • You may get a higher salary
  • You will get plenty of new contacts
  • You’ll experience different management styles and working environments, which might help if you start your own business one day

Cons

  • You may not understand the long-term strategy
  • It will be more difficult to convince recruiters that you’ll stay with your next company
  • You will miss the value of growing together with one company
  • You won't see the long-term impact of your work

How You Appear to Hiring Managers

When employers hire you, they are investing in you--so it stands to reason that they won’t waste their time and resources on anyone they consider a bad investment.

If you have a series of short jobs, it’s important to emphasize your accomplishments and ascertained skills during the job interview.

If you have been working for a longer time in one company or one role, show how you have evolved in the position and that you want to keep on growing.

In the end, it all comes down to whether or not a job encourages you to grow and maintain a work-life balance. We work to live; we do not live to work.

Hat tip: Forbes, About.com

[Image: Flickr user juicyverve]

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