For years, being a job hopper — that is, a candidate who has held a high number of jobs in a short span of time – was liable to get you dismissed as a candidate by most employers. In the old world, where the job-for-life was the norm and where contingent work really was a radical, new-age philosophy, job hopping was seen as an involuntary act, a sure sign of a candidate who was both unstable and undesirable.
Of course, there was no proof to back up this assumption: it was simply a kind of groupthink or sheep mentality. However, given the economic climate then and the overwhelming belief that job hoppers were inherently problematic candidates, one could be forgiven for coming to this conclusion.
After the Great Recession — during which 8 million Americans and nearly 3 million U.K. workers lost their jobs — the makeup of the candidate market changed forever. The candidate market received a huge injection of workers with interrupted tenures, at a time when risk-averse companies were moving away from hiring permanent staff and becoming much keener on hiring contingent workers.
Throw in the increase in entrepreneurial zeal that was also happening at the time, and you have the perfect storm. The candidate market transformed: the job-for-life became a thing of the past, and job hopping became the new normal. Job hopping was no longer the sign of a bad candidate, but a sign of the times — which means job hopping is no longer a justifiable reason in itself to reject a candidate.
Still, some employers continue to view job hoppers as inherently unstable. Unfortunately for these employers, they are not living in the real world. Job hoppers are not the problem: they are the statistical reality and the normal result of the modern corporate ecosystem.
Employers who cannot accept job hoppers as viable candidates have become the problem: they are failing to interact effectively with the candidate market as it is today; they are needlessly closing doors on potentially great candidates and narrowing their own talent pools.
The prevalence of job hopping is not likely to be a temporary phenomenon; things will not right themselves once we fully emerge from out of the turbulent wake of the Great Recession. Employers who are stubbornly holding on to the idea that job hopping is bad as they wait for the job market to return to normal are likely to be waiting a long time.
Job hopping is here to stay — especially as Gen. Y becomes the primary driver of the American workforce. Millennials have a penchant for shorter tenures. The U.S. Department of Labor found that the median job tenure of workers between 25 and 34 years old is 3.0 years — which is less than a third of the median job tenure of 55-64-year-olds. Job hopping is the reality of the modern workplace.
As well as being normal and healthy products of the modern economic ecosystem, job hoppers can potentially offer some advantages over more traditional employees. For example, a willingness to move more regularly between jobs can show that a candidate is more confident in their own abilities and that they are not afraid to take risks. Job hopping can also indicate increased adaptability, high levels of initiative, and a willingness to learn new things.
Far from being the problem, job hoppers can be the cure: they have the potential to offer more vitality and adaptability than more traditional, more static candidates. Employers who remain closed to job hoppers are not only narrowing their potential resource pools, but also missing the opportunity to strengthen their workforces by hiring more adaptable employees who are especially well-equipped to thrive in the volatile and uncertain modern business climate.
As I see it, job hoppers are no longer the problem — but employers who fail to effectively engage with this perfectly healthy segment of the modern talent market probably are.