A generation ago, it was common for employees to stay with one single employer for their entire career. Today, the average person’s career path will take a number of twists and turns throughout their lives and will often see the person working for several different organizations. As millions of millennials enter the job market, the concept of staying with one organization until retirement has been completely upended: today’s young professionals can sometimes change jobs as often as every two or three years. It’s a phenomenon that some have labeled job hopping.
Job hopping, or the practice of frequently changing one’s job, can present a major challenge for companies that do not have the resources to be continually recruiting and integrating new talent. But like it or not, some studies suggest that job hopping is on the rise: a 2016 study conducted by LinkedIn in the U.S. concluded that over the last 20 years, the average number of companies that an employee worked for in the five years following graduation has nearly doubled; today, a recent graduate changes jobs an average of three times in the five years after they finish school.
This change has come about for several reasons, one of which is that young workers understand that by being willing to change employers more frequently, they may be able to grow their professional experience – and their salary – more rapidly than they could by working their way up the ladder at one organization. Workers who possess sought-after skills and live in an urban area also often enjoy a multitude of choices when it comes time to decide which organization they want to work with.
The benefits of job hopping for employees
While job hopping can be detrimental for businesses that don’t have the resources to quickly replace departing talent, it can be very beneficial for the employee, particularly in terms of compensation. Job hopping can help employees achieve:
- A rapid rise in their annual salary. An employee can increase their salary as much as 25 percent by changing jobs, while the typical pay increase of a salaried employee who stays with one employer is 2.5 percent per year.
- The development of skills and experience. By working with several organizations for relatively short periods of time at each, workers can quickly develop skills and experience that will serve them well in their careers. Some believe that an employee will absorb the majority of what they will learn at an organization within the first two or three years, and that many employees experience a sort of stagnation in subsequent years, unless they change departments or are given new responsibilities.
- A strong negotiating position. Depending on the sector they work in and how many jobs are available at a given time, young workers can possess a significant advantage over previous generations when it comes to negotiating the terms of a job. Employers want to attract top talent and today’s younger workers are often interested in factors outside of salary – such as additional vacation time, the ability to work remotely, and the reimbursement of costs related to travel or training – when considering which employer is right for them.
- An impressive CV. If one employee has spent several years at a single organization, and another has worked at several companies during the same time period, a recruiter comparing their CVs may find the CV of the job hopper to be more compelling, if only because having experience in different working environments can indicate a greater breadth of knowledge. That being said, some employers see job hopping as a red flag and may reject such candidates for their history of switching jobs at the first opportunity. Many employers are looking for employees who will be loyal to the organization and take advantage of the possibility of advancement rather than look for opportunities elsewhere.
- A large network of contacts. Clearly, the more employers an employee has worked with, the greater their network of professional contacts. Previous colleagues, bosses and business partners can be very helpful when it comes to future job searches or arranging social events.
- A sense of challenge and adventure. Many young people long to experience new things, embark on adventures and challenge themselves, all of which can help to combat the sense of monotony that can set in quickly when working a 9-to-5 job. Changing jobs regularly keeps one’s professional life fresh with a sense of adventure and possibility, and can ward off the stagnation and de-motivation that often accompanies working in one place for a long time.
Advantages for employers
While a history of job hopping by a candidate is viewed by some employers as a red flag, some organizations see potential advantages in hiring someone who has worked short stints at several companies. These advantages can include:
- Having an employee who is 100 percent engaged. One reason why an employer may want to hire a job hopper is the belief that such a person will remain 100 percent engaged in their job for the duration of their time with the company. In some cases, people who stay at an organization for more than five years can lose motivation, which can in turn lead to lower productivity. Conversely, an employee who has just been hired may be more likely to give their all to the position in order to demonstrate their abilities. The thinking goes that a job hopper, once they begin to lose their interest in the position, will begin to look for another job, allowing the employer to hire another job hopper who will be 100 percent engaged.
- Learning about competitors. Depending on the industry they are in, a company may be very enthusiastic about hiring a job hopper if the person has worked at some of the hiring firm’s competitors. This is especially true in industries where advancements in technology force companies to continually adapt to the ever-changing market.
- Having an employee with a diverse range of skills. Generally, people who have held a variety of jobs have also developed a diverse range of skills, and tend to adapt well to new situations and challenges. These polymaths are better equipped to handle complex technical or strategic problems, thanks to their diversity of experience.
- Easier recruiting. Thanks to the rise of digital platforms such as LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever for employers to reach out directly to potential candidates. For recruiters, it’s reasonable to expect that job hoppers will be more receptive to direct interview offers than employees who have been with a single employer for a long period of time.
- Employees with a higher tolerance for risk. In general, employees that change jobs frequently don’t project themselves into the future of any particular organization. They understand that their time with an employer is temporary, and will last no longer than a few years. This attitude has drawbacks for employees and employers alike, but it does offer one particular advantage to the employer: these types of employees have a higher tolerance for risk, which can foster innovation and ‘outside the box’ thinking that can have a positive impact on an organization’s performance.
- Fresh ideas. This can vary from sector to sector, but for employers one of the benefits of welcoming new employees every few years is the fresh approach brought by newcomers. No employer wants their employees to be creatively stagnant.
Job hopping has both advantages and disadvantages for employers and employees, but neither workers nor employers should ignore this trend. All signs indicate that job hopping will only become more common in the future, so employers and human resources specialists should welcome the job hopper with open arms and guide them toward their next achievement.