Job hopping has gotten a PR overhaul and it’s a good thing, too. I recently watched Kris Dunn and Laurie Ruettimann present about the “9 Faces of HR” at a SHRM event in Illinois. It was an interesting and eye opening presentation and one of the things that stuck out specifically was that both presenters, both under the age of 40, were in the top third of the grid (really the top spot since one of the spots didn’t actually exist).
If that’s true, I can actively point to one thing: the positive outcomes of job hopping (although perhaps high potential, high performing people are job hoppers by nature). After all, most people in the audience were told they were on the bottom two rungs of the grid (or lattice) despite being of similar age to the presenters; the difference, to my uneducated eyes, was job hopping.
Both presenters had been self-employed or at current and former jobs for a maximum of three years and did lots of “side jobs” like speaking, blogging, project work that made them more employable AND more visible.
Job hopping used to be the thing of recruiting nightmares; and then 2008 happened, and those who had job hopped ended up in a far better place than so-called passive candidates who’d been at the same job for decades and then got inevitably chopped in a nasty layoff storm. While some areas of the country fared better than others, for most, it wasn’t pretty.
“Some companies may still be suspicious of anyone with too many short stints of a year or less,” said Tracy Cashman of WinterWyman, last year in Fortune. “But I would say more employers are reluctant to hire people who have been at one place for several years, or for their whole work history. Interviewers may feel that those people are not ambitious enough, or are so ingrained in a particular culture or way of thinking that they won’t be able to adapt to a new environment.”
Except for a small group of people (of which I am one) who moved from job to job, increasing my salary and title each time, gaining experience, learning new skills and making strong connections before leaving that particular gig. And that’s what it was to me (and I suspect to some of these others as well)—a place to invest every little bit of me and then move on when it was no longer valuable to either party.
I modeled my career after several in my circle but mostly a young woman I still admire—she not only taught me to leave if I wasn’t happy but showed me that leaving didn’t have to be the professional equivalent of a scarlet letter. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of years that U.S. workers have been with their current employer is 4.6. Young employees (ages 20 to 34) boast only half that (2.3 years). It’s not weird, it’s normal!
With the workforce headed to a contingent state in 2020, it’s time to consider whether job hopping, rather than being a sign of disloyalty or shallow experience, is more of a working evolution, a prescient move on the part of younger (not just Gen Y, thank you very much) folks who began to unconsciously see the writing on the wall. Job hopping sets the stage for fast onboarding, transferable skills, and project work in a freelance economy.
The term lattice is not my own, it comes from a book written by Joanne Cleaver called “The Career Lattice.” It’s a play on the typical career LADDER, which simply goes up and never moves across. Now whether you do this sort of cross hopping internally—at a large company, wherein you move from group to group—or externally, earning yourself the “job hopper” moniker, is irrelevant. Achieving the skills necessary to move at the next speed of work is more important than ever.