Post-World War II, executives often worked for the same company their entire professional careers. Today’s workforce rarely does the same, with a Gallup study labeling millennials “the job-hopping generation” with a penchant for switching companies and industries for reasons including professional advancement, culture fit, and location desires. In the executive ranks, the job-hopper label applies to those who had three successive stints at different companies for periods of 24 months or less and has historically been frowned upon, as job-hoppers are viewed as unstable, problematic, only financially motivated, or unable to commit.
Despite such traditional perceptions on the minds of employers, The Wall Street Journal claims the stigma around job-hopping is starting to fade. In a July 2015 survey of 52 recruiters by the Association of Executive Search and Leaderships Consultants for The Wall Street Journal, the association found that “nearly 80% of U.S. recruiters are more willing than they were a decade ago to consider executive prospects who stay less than three years” in one job.
With such conflicting claims, it begs the question: Are attitudes toward job hopping really changing? Will job hopping hurt your career? And, if job-hopping isn’t an automatic disqualifier, should you stay or should you go?
Should you stay?
Many see job-hopping as a quick way to boost their income, as a new company will typically add significantly to your base salary compared with staying in-house and receiving periodical raises and promotions. Despite the draws of instant gratification, it’s important to remember that successful high-level career trajectories featuring frequent, short stints are the exception, not the rule. The obvious red flag? It’s rare to achieve significant results repeatedly in a short period. Innovation takes time. Developing and executing initiatives that do add value can’t be done overnight; it takes a while to turn a ship around, so how much can you actually accomplish in a short stint?
If a new executive comes in and there is growth the next quarter, are those the results of the new employee, or residual effects from the last person in that position?
In lower and mid-level positions, you may achieve quick gains, but candidates with a history of job-hopping will be looked upon with reservations once reaching the upper echelons of a company. Put yourself in the position of the employer: If you’re looking for continuity and long-term commitment to your company’s goals, why pick a serial job-hopper over a similar candidate with a history of devoting years to a company? History shows that there is more potential for increased growth and success based on performance if you stay in a position or with a company. “Job-hopping might be the sprint to $100,000,” Raines International Managing Director Josh Zigman explains, “but driving results through continuity is the journey to $1-5 million.”
Should you go?
Despite the clear benefits of remaining at your current company for longer, rather than shorter periods of time, we at Raines International know that sometimes an opportunity really is too good to pass up, even if the timing isn’t right. When asked how to market your decision to go, Zigman explains, “Job hopping isn’t necessarily a black mark on a resume, but it should be done with purpose and a goal in mind…You must be able to detail why you made the move, what it added to your development, and if you will continue to job hop or stay at your next company.” If you decide to leave your company for a better opportunity, be thoughtful about it. Every time you leave a company, you are exercising your judgment, so be prepared to rationalize and defend that judgment in the event that you are questioned about your move in the future.
When it comes to your career, the stakes are high, and every move matters. Yet, beyond each jump from company to company, industry to industry, how you perform, the deep experience you develop, and the skills you strengthen can speak louder than the dates on a resume. “Whether you stay in one place for 30 years or 30 months, the most important thing is to deliver value, develop skills, and build a diverse powerful network,” Zigman recommends. So, beyond the caveats to job hopping, we must admit that there isn’t one perfect one-size-fits-all answer for job hopping and, as with many questions, the answer lies in the middle.