HopThe career strategy known as “job hopping” was once frowned upon by hiring managers and recruiters everywhere, but corporate America’s restructuring has changed attitudes. Not only has the stigma associated with job hopping apparently disappeared, but derision may have morphed into a view of job hoppers as savvy careerists.

To create a strategic job-hopping plan, candidates should consider six tactics (and inherent caveats):

1. Know How Each Job Change Will Benefit You

Before making a move, have an explicit understanding of what the new position will add to your skill set, experience base, mastery, maturity, and personal satisfaction. Don’t just go with the flow.

2. Every Move Must Be Explainable after the Fact

If you job hop regularly, you need to have an explanation for each move that will be credible to future employers. Saying “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time” won’t convince even the most sympathetic interviewers. If, looking back, you’re not sure why you made a questionable job change, create a defense based on your current career plans and be prepared to sell it.

3. Job Hopping Should Be All about Learning

Numerous moves aren’t disastrous if they reflect a master plan, but frequent moves where you don’t have time to develop new skills raise red flags. Plan to remain in each job at least 18 months.

4. Your Last Job Is Who You Are to Potential Employers

Hiring managers are going to assume that your most recent job reflects what you want to do with your life. Unless you tell a different story on your resume and in interviews, others will assume that your most recent job reflects your professional identity.

5. Some Jobs Can Raise Skepticism

Be careful that an interim job doesn’t create an impression that you are no longer accepting new challenges and responsibilities. Taking on a lower-level assignment to learn new skills is fine, but be prepared to explain your rationale to prospective employers.

6. Understand Opportunity Costs

When considering a position, focus on what you may be giving up before considering what you could gain. For example, by transferring to a staff job from line management, you may jeopardize your ability to return to line management once you’ve developed new talents. Don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed into a single position.

Ultimately, you must be sure your heart is in the right place. By mapping out a strategy that adds critical skills to your portfolio with a specific goal in mind, your job-hopping adventure can eventually lead to a well-paying, fulfilling position. You should build new skills where ever you are, whenever you can — but you need to be willing to change jobs, possibly multiple times, to reach your career goals. It makes a lot of sense to think several jumps ahead before making a move.

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