Job hopping is good

by Koon Mei Ching

Okay, for the longest time, the words "job hopping" were whispered condescendingly down those HR hallways. Common belief - especially after the dot com bubble burst in our faces - was that it would not boost, but hurt your chances of landing a new job. Well, that time may well be up. Fortunately for us, the corporate world's restructuring in recent years has changed attitudes in favour of switching jobs. Not only has the stigma associated with job hopping disappeared, recruiters say, but executives who have recharged their careers by making logical shifts are even admired as savvy operators. And that's the key, making logical shifts.

Make your chess move
"I should have done what you did. I'm still stuck here at a Graduate position level and you're coming back as management!" That was my friend's reaction to my news that I had gotten a position back with my first employer after a four-year hiatus. It got me to thinking - Could job hopping be good for your career?

In a way, planning for your career is like a chess move. You should not just plan on your next move, but on the next four to five moves in advance. It is incredibly difficult to move to the perfect job in one step, because you likely will not get there.

I have made four career moves in my six-year career life. But each time I did, I was swimming through reams of research about the company, the industry, the management team and my own long-term goals. Today, I am more employable in the market than I would have been if I had stayed at my first job in an international giant. Why? Because I made moves where I chose progressive companies in my field of interest, joined smaller operations and took on greater responsibility in my roles. All this meant that I was able to learn more, make bigger contributions, gain skills I would not have in a more bureaucratic structure and face greater levels of challenge. For me, taking baby steps was not going to help me boost my career, so I took giant leaps.

Hit your target
Regardless of what your career line is, to make smart job hop moves, make sure you address these issues:

  • Do not just go into your next job because it pays more or allows you to leave your current miserable lot in job life. Know exactly what you intend to get out of every job change. Make an explicit analysis of how each new position will add to your skills, experience, mastery, maturity and personal satisfaction.

  • When you job hop and use that as part of your long-term career strategy, you are going to have to defend your moves at some point to new employers. Ensure that your defence will add to your value, not paint you as a fickle-minded wanderer. Fluffy answers like, "it seemed like the right thing to do at the time" won't go down well with skeptical interviewers. Make sure you can stand up for yourself and be ready to sell it.

  • Job hopping does not mean short stints only. How long should you stay in a job? As long as it takes to have learnt something and contributed to your company. Those two factors are key to ensuring that move adds value to your portfolio. Realistically, it will take at least a year to do that.

  • Job hopping can have a double-edged sword effect. You may gain something in a new position, but you may also have to give something up. For example, taking on a managerial position might make it difficult for you to go back to a core line job if you so wished. Sometimes moving upward may jeopardise your ability to return to your original career position. Make sure you are prepared for these effects before you hop.

So, yes...job hopping is good, or rather, it can be good if you know how to use it right.



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