Why is job hopping still frowned upon by employers? More importantly, are we all missing a trick here – and is the tide already beginning to turn?
The traditional ‘job for life’ has increasingly felt like a thing of the past as younger generations choose to keep their options open, and millions of workers have adapted their career strategies accordingly.
It is now not uncommon for us all to change jobs, companies and even industries several times over the course of our working lives. Such a flexible approach has many supporters thanks to the career progression and personal development opportunities it offers.
Yet the more recent phenomenon – the serial short-term employee or job hopper – still holds a certain stigma for some employers.
On an emotional and financial level, this view is perhaps understandable. Few bosses like to see their company relegated to a mere stepping stone on the career path of an ambitious young employee, while staff who then disappear too quickly can result in investment that the company never recovers.
The job hopping jinx
Recent research conducted by Indeed shows that a third of employers (32%) think job hopping is a negative trend and have always done so, with almost the same proportion (31%) believing that short-term workers actually harm their company.
This perception does appear to be evidence-based. More than half of employers (55%) have hired a known job hopper in the past and the majority (59%) regret having done so.
This results in a predominantly anti-job hopping attitude among employers, with three quarters (77%) revealing they have chosen not to interview candidates based on their job history ringing alarm bells by skewing too heavily to short-term jobs.
There are certainly valid reasons for these views. However, the same research highlights why they might be unsustainable for employers: 98% of Brits have changed jobs at least once within the last five years.
With almost all workers no longer subscribing to the notion of a job for life, shorter postings have become widely accepted across the board. And while employers may not all like this reality, job hopping has grown over the last generation and isn’t likely to disappear any time soon.
The times – and the staff – they are a-changin’
The UK’s current labour market, with unemployment remaining at an all-time low, has created strong conditions for job hoppers. With a shallow pool for employers to choose from, skilled employees who know their value can take advantage by moving from one job to the next.
Jobseekers find themselves in the driving seat and can shop around, capitalising on the need for capable staff and further encouraging a cycle of career climbing and short-termism.
The numbers would appear to support the perception of job hopping being a young person’s game. While just 15% of people aged over 35 think that short-term jobs can actually help their careers, more than twice as many (40%) of those under 35 are positive about the potential impact of job hopping.
The under-35s, however, are more polarised overall. Almost 60% of them view job hopping as disloyal, compared with only 37% of over-35s, while 55% of under-35s have stayed in a job longer than they wanted to for fear of being seen as a job hopper – almost double the proportion of over-35s (29%).
This hints at a generational divide in attitudes that then has a number of repercussions. The over-35s are instinctively more negative about job hopping in theory, but then relatively ambivalent about it in practice.
The under-35s – for whom short-term jobs are more of a reality – try to adopt a glass-half-full mentality about the potential benefits, but are also more attuned to the repercussions and potential negative implications – so much so that they may be willing to limit their immediate prospects by staying put longer than desired to avoid the ‘job hopper’ stigma.
It suggests a reluctance to adopt short-termism as a career choice and that, while trying to take the positives from all experiences, the rise of job hopping among younger workers is being driven more by necessity than desire, with loyalty and long-termism clearly viewed as preferential by jobseekers as much as employers.
Harnessing job hoppers’ potential
The truth is, though, that the under-35s could be correct in their more positive attitude towards job hopping and its benefits – and that employers could stand to gain by adopting this stance too.
Along with the more individual benefits of expanding one’s network and building a more impressive-looking CV, there are obvious skills to be gained from short-term postings that are readily transferable, and beneficial to both employer and job hopper.
Adding new skills, gaining the emotional intelligence to adapt to new environments and personalities, developing a broader understanding of a variety of sectors – skills pretty much every employer could benefit from.
Job hoppers can often prove to be an invigorating force for good, injecting new energy, skills and ideas into a company, and employers should have their eyes open for the hungry and capable young workers available.
Hiring job hoppers is a great opportunity for employers to get these talented people into their organisations – and then earn their trust and loyalty to develop long-term staff and move them off the job hopping rotation. Short-termism is a habit that can then look to be broken by the right environment and role, and many job hoppers will move around because they are capable, rather than because of a lack of ability.
Moreover, it is increasingly common to see job hoppers return to a company they previously worked for and found to their taste. Not too far down the line, and with an expanded skill set developed elsewhere, they could well be attracted back to an employer they like – for the long-term – rather than continue on the merry-go-round of unknown new short-term roles.
Ultimately, employers should be open-minded about the benefits of hiring job hoppers. For many job hoppers, it clearly is not necessarily a preferred career choice, and utilising their skill sets in the short-term will have an immediate impact, while offering the opportunity to identify and retain good employees in the long term.
* Censuswide surveyed 1,007 UK jobseekers and 202 UK employers on behalf of Indeed in July and August 2018.