Corporate America long ago left behind the era of the gold watch. Once proud to work entire careers with a single company, employees are no longer incentivized or motivated to stay in one place in most of the ways they were in generations past. One remnant of that time, however, seemed to persist longer than others: wariness over worker “job hopping.”
The tendency for workers to change employment every year or two has indeed become a more widespread phenomenon across the job market. But the nature of the employer-worker relationship has changed dramatically over the years, and of course not all employee movement can be attributed to wanderlust or ladder climbing. Has this influenced current views? Are so-called job hoppers, once red-flagged by employers, regarded differently today?
In years past, a job hopper was believed to be a flight risk – a person who lacked company loyalty, who chased salary, whose performance issues led to frequent moves, or perhaps all of the above. Even an attractive candidate with a history of frequent job moves could give a hiring manager pause: Would this candidate jump at the first better, or more lucrative, offer that comes their way? Would they be too focused on determining their next landing spot to give their best effort in the position being offered? Would the investment in screening, onboarding and training this employee be wasted if they aren’t motivated to stick around for the long term?
These were all valid concerns for employers – and, to some extent, remain so. But with the rise of the gig economy, more businesses find themselves in need of contract, temporary or seasonal workers, and over time the workforce has responded by becoming more flexible, more nimble in order to find suitable employment. When considering the modern incidence of “job hopping,” it’s important to note that those doing the hiring have strayed from the old corporate conventions as much, and perhaps more than, those being hired.
And that’s just fine, so long as both sides are benefitting – a case of all boats being lifted by a rising tide. We’ve witnessed an example of this in real time: Most businesses were put out by the COVID-19 shutdown, leading to halts in operations, guarded consumer spending and depressed markets. The effects, devastating as they were, could have been worse. But the moment forced many companies to rethink traditional mindsets and explore new career models and employment arrangements. Not only did “work from home” become an acceptable option in spaces where it once was considered unthinkable, but also more businesses realized the need to build a flexible workforce. Companies got back to business. More workers went back to earning – and sooner.
More than ever, companies are beginning to view employment opportunities on a reduced time-to-value scale. The long-term, unpredictable nature of the pandemic has prompted many businesses to pursue more time-boxed employment arrangements that they can directly correlate to increased revenue, cost savings and improved risk mitigations.
Workers will require a similarly deft approach: In order to market themselves, employees should look over their slate of experience and, for each position, lead with value and closely trail with risk avoidance. Be prepared to highlight tangible value contributed to past employers, while subtly and tactfully addressing any concerns an employer may raise around their departure from a given company. (Example: “As my final contribution, I groomed a successor who seamlessly transitioned into my role and made an immediate impact.”)
With these developments, the stigma around job fluidity is gradually dissipating. As the uptick in shorter-tenure job arrangements continues through the pandemic, the re-balancing of short- versus long-term job profiles can be expected to bring about a lasting transformation. Increasingly, employee movement will be viewed as the literal cost of doing business. It will be up to both workers and employers to find the benefits of a new era that is dictating a different demand curve – one that not only accepts job hopping, but caters to it.
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