Has Job Hopping Really Become a Trend?

John Krautzel
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Until recent years, accepting a job was like making an unofficial agreement to stick with an employer through thick and thin, dutifully climbing up the ladder. Now, millennial workers are abandoning traditional career paths and spending less time with one company, chipping away at the long-standing stigma associated with job hopping. Linear work histories are no longer the norm, making it essential for employers to weigh the benefits of hiring professionals with diverse backgrounds.

Millennials face constant media criticism for disloyal job hopping, which many employers attribute to a collective sense of entitlement. In a 2016 Gallup report, 60 percent of respondents born between 1980 and 1996 stated that they were open to new job opportunities, compared to 45 percent of nonmillennial workers. Roughly 36 percent of millennials planned to look for a job with a different employer within one year, compared to 21 percent of nonmillennials.

Understandably, companies want a return on investment to make up for costly recruitment cycles and training, but they fall short of those goals when employees leave before making valuable contributions to the organization. In fact, Gallup estimates that millennial turnover in the United States carries an annual economic cost of $30.5 billion. To make matters worse, many employers automatically blame workers for job hopping, rather than evaluating organizational sources of poor employee retention.

The job-hopping trend isn't just about opportunism. Millennials entered the job market during economic downturn, forcing promising workers into unemployment or positions outside their target fields. Out of necessity, many young employees accept the highest-paying jobs they can find and move on when they have opportunities to pursue more compatible work, even when it involves a pay cut. For others, job hopping is a way to develop a meaningful career path by exploring a variety of roles and cultural environments. After growing up with dissatisfied baby boomer parents, many millennials reject the idea of devoting years or decades to one employer without gaining any personal sense of fulfillment.

Regardless of the initial motivation for switching jobs, low engagement is one of the most common reasons for recurrent job hopping. Many employers resist change and cling to rigid, outdated business models that neglect talent management and prevent workers from taking ownership of their roles. Unlike their predecessors, millennials have higher expectations for company culture, and they move on when employers lack strong onboarding strategies, such as mentoring and progress markers.

The negative connotations of job hopping are losing prevalence, making employers less likely to toss an erratic resume on sight. In a 2014 CareerBuilder survey of 2,138 human resources professionals, 32 percent of respondents said they expect workers to job-hop, and 45 percent don't expect recent graduates to work for an organization for more than two years. However, employers are less forgiving of inconsistency in workers over age 30, preferring employees who used their job-hopping years to refine their career goals.

Despite a growing trend, job hopping can still disadvantage job seekers if they fail to provide a clear picture of their career progress. Employers are attracted to candidates who are qualified, trustworthy and dedicated, so job hoppers should emphasize the vast experience, skills and relationships they've gained from strategic career moves.

Photo courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Giselle M thanks for your comments. So very true. I used temp jobs as a stepping stone on several positions and ended up with great permanent positions.

  • Giselle M.
    Giselle M.

    Plus back in the 80s a temp job was often a stepping stone to a permanent job.

  • Giselle M.
    Giselle M.

    Back in the 80s when I was a temp, people would ask me if I found a permanent job yet. So for me, it wasn't all that common back then.

  • Michael S.
    Michael S.

    "Until recent years, accepting a job was like making an unofficial agreement to stick with an employer through thick and thin, dutifully climbing up the ladder. " is not correct because job-hopping has been common in the computer industry since at the least the 1980's. I personally only know one person who has stayed in a software development position more than 10 years.

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