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The Case For And Against Job Hopping

Should you stay in your current position or jump ship for a potential better opportunity? Here are the arguments for both sides.

The Case For And Against Job Hopping
[Photo: Flickr user Elisa Moro]

It wasn’t that long ago when a resume filled with short stints at different jobs could kill your chances of getting ahead.

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But the days when employees would get a gold watch or a bronze plaque for 20-plus years of service are mostly over. U.S. workers stayed in one job an average of 4.6 years in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A recent PayScale survey found that only 13% of millennials believe workers should stay in a job for at least five years as opposed to 41% of boomers who favored hanging on.

What makes a person a job hopper? Data from Ajilon, a career services firm, revealed that HR professionals didn’t totally agree on a definition. Some 51% believe changing jobs once a year qualifies, while 34% stretch that to every two years.

It also depends on the industry. A survey by CareerBuilder found that certain sectors were more likely to see workers move around more frequently:

  • · Information Technology–42% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • · Leisure & Hospitality–41% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • · Transportation–37% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • · Retail–36% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.
  • · Manufacturing–32% are likely to leave their jobs within 1-2 years.

While attitudes about changing jobs frequently are shifting, there are definite pros and cons to skipping around as opposed to staying put. Stay too long and you might be considered not ambitious or able to adapt to a new role. Skip out too soon and run the risk of being perceived as unable to commit and be loyal to an employer.

The Case For Leaving Your Job

More Money
If you want to earn more, it may be best to leave your current position and seek out one that will bump up your salary. The average raise last year was just 3% which outpaces inflation but doesn’t actually line your pockets.

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If you leave though, you could earn as much as 10%-20% more than you do in your current position. One estimate suggests that staying at a job for more than two years could make you earn half of what you might if you jumped ship. Just don’t forget to negotiate wisely when you do get a better offer.

Bigger, Better Network
Those who’ve been working in a variety of places are able to grow their networks without necessarily having to attend a cocktail party or send a cold email to a friend of a friend on LinkedIn. Four out of ten people found their “best” role through a personal connection.

A healthy network can be as valuable to a new employer as a skill set. It also broadens the potential pool of people who can provide you with a good reference. It helps to remember that and you can get better at it with practice.

The Case For Staying In Your Job

Negative Perception
Some employers will look at a packed resume and only see the potential for shelling out anywhere from 20% of your annual salary (if you make between $30,000 and $50,000) to 150% (for a mid-level position) as the cost to replace you when you decide to move on. And as you age, it’s less likely that an employer will overlook your lack of stability. Only 41% of employers in a recent LinkedIn survey believe it’s acceptable to change jobs frequently when you are over 30.

You Don’t Have To Face The Learning Curve
Wharton professor Matthew Bidwell notes that people hired externally might come with more education or experience than those who are promoted from within, but employers do look at the time and cost it takes to train newbies. Bidwell says external hires need about two years to get up to speed in their new jobs, which includes learning how to be effective in their new organization and build relationships.

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When factoring in the higher cost of hiring from outside the company, Bidwell says: “There is a much greater risk of being let go during those first few years, mainly because they may not develop the necessary skills and thus will not perform as well as expected. Then, too, they might decide to leave voluntarily.”

How to Make The Decision

Whether you are contemplating staying put or moving on, Ajilon put together a list of questions to ask yourself to help make a smart decision:

  1. What do you want from your career?
  2. Have you made the most of your current role?
  3. Why do you want new opportunities?
  4. Which job has the greatest long term potential?
  5. What is your industry’s norm?

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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