Janine Wong* is a job-hopper and proud of it. “When I tell my friends or family that I’ve changed companies four times in the last eight years, they look at me strangely, like I am immature or irresponsible. Or they tell me that I need to ‘get serious’ about my career,” says the 32-year-old account director.
“But I think job-hopping is a smart move – provided you do it right. Compared with my peers who are the same age, with the same qualifications and experience, I am earning more and have a more prestigious title.”
Janine’s situation is not unusual. While there are no statistics available for Singapore, job-hopping is especially popular with Generation Y – people born in the 1980s and early 1990s – who are more concerned about seeking professional opportunities and working with new mentors than establishing themselves in one company. Job-hoppers typically change jobs every one or two years for a promotion or lateral move.
“I’m always hungry for new challenges,” adds Janine. “When I’ve gained as much training and experience as possible from one job, I move to another. I may stop job-hopping after I’ve achieved my potential and hold a more senior position. But until then, I need to keep moving and looking forward.”
IT’S NOT A BAD THING
Says Julia Ng, a professional certified coach from Executive Coach International: “Gone are the days of loyalty to one company. Employers must understand the job-hopper’s need for new and diverse experiences, and wanting to work with people they can learn from. If they stop getting this in one place, they’ll simply move on.”
According to Julia, these are some reasons for job-hopping:
This includes different industries, company cultures, people, projects, processes, knowledge and challenges. Potential hires who have worked in different environments come across as employees who can offer fresh ideas and new ways of doing things.
Being exposed to a larger network.
A job-hopper is likely to meet more professionals from different industries and build relationships with them. This raises his or her own visibility within these professional circles.
It’s an upgrade.
Moving to a new job could lead to a bigger title, salary or benefits – as long as you show you can make a difference to your new company. Employers are likely to reward employees who are quick learners, flexible and unafraid of change.
MAKE IT LOOK GOOD ON YOUR RESUME
Job-hopping has its advantages, but it’s important to do it right – you want to be seen as a resourceful candidate at your next hire, and not someone who couldn’t make her job work, for whatever reason.
How positively a potential employer sees job-hopping also depends on the industry, company, job and role you are in. For instance, a fast-growing industry like technology would probably be more accepting of job-hoppers than most others. Nevertheless, there are ways to counter the negative effects of job-hopping and make it look good on your resume.
Says Josephine Goh, a career coach from BYS Consulting: “If you job-hop a lot, you must have a good reason for doing so – that is, you changed jobs to move into a better role or acquire more experience.
“You’ll also want to make sure that you are still in your past employers’ good books, because your new or potential employer might want to do a reference check.”
If you’ve worked somewhere for less than six months, forget about including it in your resume (in fact, try not to job-hop until you’ve worked at least a year in one company). Employers do want to see some sense of loyalty and dependability before they decide to invest time and money in you. If you moved laterally within your company, combine your different jobs under the same company in your resume.
Some companies look at job-hoppers as people who are irresponsible, money-hungry, unable to work with others, difficult to satisfy or easily deterred by hard work, and who don’t have a clear career plan.
To avoid being seen in this way, remember to list all your accomplishments in your previous companies. Show how you were important to a company or how you made a difference to a project, for example, and describe any major results you achieved. Also list the new skills you gained.
If you can demonstrate all this on your resume as well as during your interview, a potential employer will have no reason to believe that you are a flaky or opportunistic person.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SETTLE DOWN?
You can’t job-hop forever, but then again, there are no real rules when it comes to changing jobs. Many job-hoppers stop looking for new opportunities when they have achieved their dream position or feel that they cannot move on or up any more because of their age and other personal circumstances. A poor economy may also hinder job-hoppers from moving around.
Any job should help you grow as a person as well as professionally, and give you opportunities to challenge yourself and develop new skills. If you don’t feel like you’re getting this, then it’s fine to look for a better company or position.
But keep in mind that an employer’s perception of a job-hopper in her 20s is very different from that of one in her 40s. In fact, most employers would expect you to be more or less specialised in your chosen field by the age of 35. They do not see the mid- to late 30s as a time to still be building crucial professional skills.
*Name has been changed.
This article was originally published in Simply Her December 2014.