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How To Make Your Job Hopping Look Like An Employer’s Dream

Nearly half of employees switch jobs every one to two years. Here’s how to use a short tenure to your advantage.

How To Make Your Job Hopping Look Like An Employer’s Dream
[Photo: Flickr user The Man-Machine]

Job hopping: Whether you see it as an opportunity or a career killer, jumping from one employer to another is becoming the norm, rather than staying with one company for decades.

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That’s partly due to the rise in technology jobs, a field in which CareerBuilder found that as much as 42% of workers switch positions within 1-2 years, with other industries such as hospitality and transportation also experiencing similar turnover. It’s also because of the sheer number of millennials in the workforce. More than one-in-three American workers are millennials now, accounting for a total of 53.5 million, a number that surpasses gen-Xers for the first time since 2008.

There are several good reasons for workers to switch employers. Chief among them is a salary bump, which helps when the average yearly raise is 3%, barely outpacing inflation. Then there is the added bonus of building a network without the pain of pulling face during events and cocktail parties.

Employers who expect workers to job hop are still in the minority (32%), according to the same CareerBuilder survey. That’s no surprise considering that it’s expensive to replace talent. For lower-level workers earning between $30,000 and $50,000, businesses can shell out about 20% of the annual salary. That can rise to 150% for a mid-level manager who’s decided to move on, according to LinkedIn.

If you are a job hopper (of any age) and are now glancing nervously over a packed résumé that’s ready to be sent to a fresh batch of potential employers, fear not. In addition to offering you a fresh take on crafting a catchy cover letter, Fast Company got the skinny on spinning multiple switches to a jobseeker’s advantage from Jason Niad, managing director at Execu|Search, a recruitment firm headquartered in New York.

Watch your body language and tone of voice

You made it through the first cut and landed an interview. Now, says Niad, make sure you check how you are presenting yourself as you discuss your short tenures. “You could be saying one thing but communicating the opposite through your body language,” Niad observes.

For example, a lack of eye contact might imply dishonesty or insincerity, while crossing your arms might make you appear arrogant or defensive about your past, he says.

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Instead, Niad recommends holding eye contact in an engaged manner with the occasional break, and leaving your arms open to your sides. “You want to seem open and receptive to the conversation and your interviewer—not actively blocking them off,” he underscores. Maintaining an upbeat and positive tone of voice helps, too. Staying even in your tone throughout any interview projects confidence and sincerity,” he adds.

Talk up your skills

“Working in multiple jobs in multiple companies can be a great way to develop a wide range of both technical and soft skills,” says Niad, so make sure to emphasize this breadth of talent in both your résumé and interview.  “Be sure to show how your varying roles across different companies contributed to you as a whole and improved you as a professional,” he advises.

Showcase accomplishments

Concrete results show how your work made a positive impact. It’s one thing to put it on a résumé, but Niad says you should also be prepared to discuss examples in person. “Since one of the worries regarding job hopping is lack of loyalty to the company, this can help show that you were invested in your past employers enough to make a measurable difference,” he says.

Related: The Case For And Against Job Hopping

Play up the skill most employers seek

Emotional intelligence isn’t just a buzz word, it is widely recognized as a skill that makes for great leaders who can work well with others because they are curious and empathetic. EQ has also been proven to boost the bottom line.

The job hopper who’s been exposed to a plethora of personalities and situations has an advantage, Niad says. “It requires an emotionally intelligent person to reflect and react professionally to them.”

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Be Tactful

The hiring manager is not your BFF, and the interview is not a place to air grievances with a previous employer. “Know why you’ve made the decision to move on from your past employers, and communicate that to your interviewer should he or she ask,” says Niad. Maybe you felt those positions weren’t the right fit, or you were exploring career options. Maybe you didn’t feel there was enough opportunity for development at one of the companies. Those are all valid reasons to leave. But Niad cautions: “Make sure not to badmouth any past employers, even if you left because of a bad experience.”

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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