Do Job Hoppers Make the Best Employees?

Is she checking the want ads again?

[tweetmeme]I was rather shocked the other day to receive my daily BNET newsletter carrying an article by Penelope Trunk entitled “Why Job Hoppers Make the Best Employees.”  As of this writing the article had generated 127 comments ranging from huzzas to hisses.  I didn’t comment but belong to the latter category.  Here are her five points, which she describes in more detail in her article

  1. Job hoppers have more intellectually rewarding careers
  2. Job hoppers have more stable careers
  3. Job hoppers are higher performers
  4. Job hoppers are more loyal
  5. Job hoppers are more emotionally mature

To summarize her thesis, because they change jobs so frequently, job hoppers are challenged to a new learning curve at each company where they work and it makes her certain that job hoppers “know more.”  People who work for lots of companies have a larger network than people who stay in one place for long periods of time, which is why she’s convinced that “job-hopping creates stability.”  Are you getting the message, or are your eyebrows beginning to arch?

According to Ms. Trunk,  “job hoppers are always looking to do really well at work, if for no other reason than it helps them get their next job.”  In other words it looks good on their resume. This seems like a new high (low?) in cynical thinking.   Also, she states, “job hoppers want to bond with their co-workers so they can all help each other get jobs later on.”  This is after her point number 4, that job hoppers are more loyal.  Huh?

And, finally, job hoppers are more emotionally mature, because they know when to quit – even if it’s after only two weeks in a job they hate.  OK, a little bit of truth to that, the part about quitting as soon as you know you’re a square peg in a round hole.

Not Everyone Likes Job Hopping

But I’ve re-read the article a couple of more times and no where do I see anything that says many people don’t like job hopping. They don’t job hop over any burning desire to leave their companies for new and exciting adventures.  They leave because they were fired or laid off.  I wonder if she spoke to any people on the unemployment lines in her town to see how happy they were to be moving on to their next company – if they ever find a job.

Job-hopping can be emotionally wrenching.  Even if you leave your former employer voluntarily, you can’t be sure the next job will be stimulating, energizing and filled with learning opportunities.  It could just be another dud.  Then what; start the search all over again?  Think this is easy?

And who are the people hiring these go-getters who can’t wait to jump to their next jobs?  Why, they are the grey beards, the “lifers” who have risen to positions of authority where they get to say who gets hired and who gets fired.  And, as she points out, a lot of them are old guard and are suspicious of someone who’s had five jobs in five years.

Many companies engage their employees

The idea that you can become stale at a company after two years isn’t a universal truth.  Many companies purposely rotate their employees through different departments to enhance their learning and to keep them engaged and energized about the company.  They are the company’s future.  My brother was a 34-year “lifer” at the company he retired from and he loved every minute he was there.  He rose through the ranks from junior accountant to CFO.  What’s so bad about that?   Why is it laughable to have a retirement party for someone and give him a gold watch?

I’m a person who has made a lot of moves, not all entirely because I wanted to.  I’m in an industry – marketing and communications – that is known for volatility.  I learned how to move on, but the idea that I was planning my escape the minute I sat down at my new desk never occurred to me.  For me, at least, it wasn’t possible to give everything I had to my company if my eye was always on the want ads.

Here is my advice to people starting out:  delete the words “job hopper” from your vocabulary.  It’s toxic to most employers.  Sure, have a plan for your career, but be prepared for course corrections.  Have you noticed how everything seems to change by the minute?  Remember My Space?  Or Gateway computers?  Or Netscape?  They were the rage for about five minutes and faded.  Be happy if you’re in a company that recognizes and rewards you and is willing to invest in your future there.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity for learning and bonding and advancement right where you are.

Staying someplace for 20 years means you’ll be calling the shots one day.

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  1. I’m on the same page as you! I can’t imagine how a job-hopper could develop skills or make meaningful contributions by repeatedly hopping from job to job. (It’s also amazing how many comments that article generated.)

  2. Having been employed by one company for 15 years, it was wrenching to leave when I relocated. Perhaps I was unusually fortunate, but my job in communications allowed me to work directly with C-levels in a Fortune 1000 company. Having the exposure, I was able to propose “special assignments” in areas that I identified as needing attention. My tenure itself, I believe, was a symbol of loyalty and appreciated by my superiors. Again, my situation may have been unique, but once my work ethic and outcomes were established, I felt free to propose many new ideas — “Lunch with the Boss” for example, when 10 randomly selected employees were treated to lunch with the COO and free to discuss whatever was on their minds. This became a bi-weekly event. May sound trivial, but feedback was positive from both sides, and the CEO asked me to organize similar lunches for him after a couple of months. Part of the idea was to generate commitment to the company from employees who had supremely transferable skills. Simply, they felt they were being heard.

  3. Jeannette,

    Thanks for posting this. It’s so funny to see this as an issue (let alone a conviction held by some) when just a few short years ago studies out involving the cost to train a new employee had everyone focused on retention (and hiring decisions that favored one who demonstrated likely longevity). To me, job hopping is often a signal that someone can’t get along (with others, responsiblities, structure, etc.). I’ve seen the downside of “lifers” hanging out only for a pension, but with today’s apparent work ethic, finding someone who will actually show up every day seems to be a score. It’s frightening.

  4. I read this posting with much interest as someone who has been a job hopper. I never intended to be a job hopper – and am not even certain that I actually like it – but it seems to have just worked out that way. Initially, when I graduated from college, I didn’t want to settle down immediately in a job because I was not sure what I wanted to do so I temped for a year and that was one of the most career-valuable years ever. Even as a temp, I contributed significantly to the companies I was temping with. From there, I moved on to jobs in companies I would have liked to stay with but when those companies offer nothing in return for my loyalty or contributions it is definitely time to move on. I don’t need to stay as an “assistant” forever. Did I mention my loyalty? Yes, even with not staying with these companies for very long, you can still be loyal to a company.

    I have to preface my next set of comments, because I have worked in an industry with “lifers” and I LOVED them…and wanted to become one of them but with no opportunity for merit-based advancement it becomes difficult to endorse staying in a job “for life”. These comments are generalizations and are my observations.

    “Lifers” may only be loyal to their long histories, impending retirements and pensions. This in no way implies that “lifers” are not loyal to their companies, but the closer you get to retirement with the same company, the less it has to do with loyalty to the company.

    I have been asked how I ended up job hopping and it was never on purpose, but I am not going to stay in a job that offers little or no opportunity for advancement or opportunity to learn new skills and to flex those skills.

    As a job hopper, I have developed a broad range of skills that enable me to engage successfully in any new challenge, and working with a wide variety of personality types. I am not uncomfortable with change.

    I don’t much care for job hopping but I will not stay in a job that is unfulfilling.