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Brazen Careerist II

In response to an entry yesterday, FC Now reader Donald E.L. Johnson asks a slew of solid questions:

  • How do you make sure you don't hire job hoppers?
  • Is there any benefit to an organization that hires job hoppers?
  • If you see a resume with more than three jobs in three years, are you interested?
  • Do job hoppers have problems focusing, learning, relating to colleagues and customers, looking out for the interests of their employers?
  • How long does it take an employer to sense the emotional, ethical and other problems that serial job hoppers have, if they have such problems?
  • Serial job hopping strikes me as being about as interesting as watching segments of a TV series and as satisfying as eating fast food. How about you?
  • If you were unable to become fascinated with law, would it worry you?
  • What do the quality and style of writing offered by Emma Gold suggest to you as a potential employer?


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  • Donald E. L. Johnson

    Whether you are an employer or an employee, you know that the hiring process is a guess and by gosh deal for all involved. We all make mistakes and have to correct them either by firing them or quitting and moving on to a new opportunity.

    You may think you're a great employee, but studies have shown 70% to 75% of us over-rate our capabilities and contributions, and your employer has a right to another view and to act on that view. An employer may think it offers a stimulating job with great advancement and compensation to someone with your capabilities, energy and integrity, but you may think the employer stinks, and you have a right to that view and to change jobs.

    If you want to work for an organization where supervisors have no influence on your job status, you can work for the state of Colorado, where the state constitution makes it almost impossible to fire people. But you will find yourself stuck working with a lot of incompetents, negative personalities and finger pointers who may not be as much fun to work with as people whose jobs are at risk. (I'm not saying all Colorado employees are deadbeats, but my educated guess is that the state employees more losers than the private sector.)

    Bottom line: While employees think it's always the employer's fault that things aren't right, employers have a broader perspective and, often, another view.

    If you have a chip on your shoulder, sooner or later it will be knocked off.

  • Bill

    As an employee, I am less concerned with how my career track looks than how the hiring companies hiring record looks. Companies that hire and fire otherwise strongly regarded employees within 18 months (not downsizing - fired them and then hired someone else to fill the position), are a bigger concern - either they hire poorly (a watchout to any candidate who feels that he/she has a chance) or their evaluation and expectations process is completely screwed up (a danger for all who work there, as well as for those who would like to).

    Anyone had any experience/perspective on this?

  • Donald E. L. Johnson

    Good comments. As an employer, unless I'm hiring a temp or a consultant, I avoid job hoppers because:

    1. They cost money and take a lot of time to hire, orient and train.
    2. Many jobs are reshaped by the people who occupy them, and once I find the right person, I'm not interested in immediate change.
    3. Job hoppers take your intellectual capital, business intelligence and, in some cases, customers with them when they leave.
    4. Integrity is important to me, and job hoppers by definition break their contracts with employers and colleagues at the drop of a hat, and that violates my personal sense of integrity.
    5. Job hoppers enjoy seeking new adventures, long-timers like some sense of security and hate job hunting. This suggests that job hoppers have little incentive to please and seek advancement, while careerists do what they have (within reason) to to stick.

  • Heath Row

    Eric raises an interesting point. But I didn't post that FC Now entry to criticize job hopping -- more to highlight another example of something we've addressed in the past. In 1998, Cheryl Dahle explored the positive possibilities of the fruit fly career. And more recently, Linda Tischler's November 2003 feature takes a fresh look at a similar career development practice. For the most part, however, when I first read that article, what struck me was, "Wow. 150 jobs."

  • Eric

    I find it rather odd that Fast Company Blog sought to single out this tidbit. What happened to 'change agents' and the like?

    I've worked at a few places where some really talented people came thru, and if anything they shook things up a little and created permanent changes for the better of the company -- much more than the 'lifers' hiding out in the cubicles in the back row.

    Are you going to be at YOUR job in 4 years? How do you know -- many things beyond your control can affect that.

  • Kevin Cheng

    Serial job hopping as defined by frequeency of jobs over time doesn't really say much in today's economic climate. I personally know a number of high quality people who I wouldn't hestitate to have in my team or company. As failing startups tend to fire their most recent hires first, these individuals found themselves changing companies more often than NHL coaches.

    However, there are individuals who switch jobs for other reasons. Much research has been performed on the validity of personality tests which predict the likelihood of a candidate being unsatisfied in a job. Generally speaking, a trait such as neuroticism is undesirable whilst conscientiousness is desirable. Thos who display extreme neuroticism and low conscientiousness may find themselves perpetually unsatisfied and jumping from job to job. Depending on the type of test you perform, the data you get may have much more predictive validity than looking at job history. (see "The Birkman Method" and other areas pertaining to personality tests and job satisfaction prediction).

  • Mike

    How does a job hopper differ from a temp or a "consultant"? Taking the approach from the management side, I care about a couple of things: do you PRODUCE? do you ADD VALUE? and secondly, when appropriate, do you fit with the rest of the team? As a manager, I will always consider a "hopper" IF hiring the person will be beneficial to both of us.

    As a potential "hopper", I always address the issue with the value that I bring. I think I have developed a temporary, almost mercenary, approach. I have a certain set of skills. My career has been very project based. I don't see why that would be an issue to an employer. And in fact, it hasn't been. I have been consistently hired to build or fix "things" (projects, processes, teams, departments, companies) and then I either move within the company to a similar situation or move out.

    I probably should and could market myself as a consultant but it just hasn't been an issue. I've moved from company to company/ project to project very seemlessly. It's never been an issue.

  • lee

    year 1: Took job, got laid off. Got offered old job back, but had already accepted another offer.
    year 2: Working as a maintenance programmer. Job was slowly sucking the life out of me. Quit after 14 months to join a startup.
    year 3: Startup was closed down after 1 year.

    3 jobs in 3 years. How do employers look at that?

    My personal belief is that what matters the most is: Do I make the company more money than what it costs to pay me? If so, then job hopping doesn't matter. It could matter in a case where training was really expensive, but I don't think that's the case in most situations...