How to Think When Considering a Job-hop|
My first job offer said it all: A bonus for staying for two years; and even more for staying three. I was happy to have a job. They saw a Gen Y 20-something groomed by a generation of job-hoppers.
Call it what you will-job-hopping, job-surfing, job-shopping, churning-it was the standard in the early 2000s.
But we have to wonder: Is job-hopping in a recession a good idea? Is it still de rigueur to climb the ladder laterally, sacrificing company loyalty and incurring a high amount of risk?
Leap of faith
“It can work both ways, explains career expert Laura Vanderkam, author of 2007′s Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career Without Paying Your Dues. “If you have a good job, you might ‘burrow in.’ But many people haven’t reached that point of having a good job, so they’re going to be less loyal.”
Despite suggestions that workers are sitting tight in favor of stability, early strategic job-hopping can help you get ahead. A 2008 study in the American Sociological Review found that the benefits of job-hopping are found in the early days of one’s career.
“If you’re in a stable, good job, you’re probably going to stick with it now,” Vanderkam agrees. “There’s less risk. But how many people in Gen Y have that job right now?”
Apparently, only the lucky ones. A 2011 article from the American Sociological Association stated that young workers with educational aspirations, career goal certainty, and job search activities during the transition to employment between 18 and 30 were more likely to be currently employed and to have higher wages. In other words, indecision and aimless job-hopping translate into less success in weathering economic turmoil.
Putting an eye to the history of job-hopping, the data can be a mine field to extrapolate meaningful data without committing logical fallacies and overlooking nuances of the business cycle. UC Berkeley’s Daniel Gross observes this in the comparison of three studies on the history of job tenure in the United States. He suggests, as does UCLA’s Sanford Jacoby in a 1984 paper on the same subject, that the passage of NIRA in 1933 and FLSA in 1938 and the establishment of the NRLB in 1934 brought new, lasting worker protections to the work force and therefore altered the tenure profile of the average American worker forever. Sanford Jacoby also points out in Modern Manors: Welfare Capitalism Since the New Deal that before the Great Depression, a firm that could keep a worker on for 5 years was rare. And for women, he says, even as late as the ’50s, tenure of a decade was exceedingly rare.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2010 the median tenure of women 25 to 34 was just three years. This isn’t significantly different than it was in 1983. But according to a recent report from Millennial Branding, which studies Facebook statistics, the average tenure for Gen Y (18-29) is just over two years.
A number of factors are to blame. Nearly 50 percent of the 10,000 subjects in 2007 study from MonsterTrak.com and Michigan State University held moderate to high superiority beliefs about themselves-which encouraged an attitude that avoided compromise in the search for the “ideal career.” Interestingly, women scored lower on the perceived superiority scale, which might explain why they are less likely to job-hop once they reach their 30s (see stats, below).
Women also might be less motivated by money. “We tend not to judge women as much solely on the basis of what they earn,” Vanderkam says. “Men, rightly or wrongly, feel that a big junk of what they will be judged on is how much money they bring in. Those are very old ideas, but hard to move beyond.”
Or women might just be more risk-averse.
“Steady work is steady work,” says 28-year hairstylist Erin Anding, who has been at the same employer for 6.5 years. “Plus, I like my clients.”
The study also reiterated the findings that those with high career plan development, who were motivated and directed, were less intent on job-surfing and more eagerly sought by employers. In other words, if you have specific career goals, target the job you want and keep the jumping vertical.
“If you are motivated by people higher up, if you have good mentors, that’s a good sign to stay where you are,” Vanderkam says. “But if you find yourself feeling on Sunday that you really wish you didn’t have to go to work on Monday, then you should put that effort into working your network.”
Look before you leap
No one could be blamed for staying in a secure job. But the smart job-hopper would be wise to keep their eyes-and their options-open.
“Just because you’re looking doesn’t mean you’ll actually leave,” Vanderkam says. “It will give you a sense of what is available and what your skills are worth on the job market. If could even lead to getting a better deal at your current employer.”
Vanderkam also stresses a major factor in deciding when to leave. “A key question is whether you feel like you’re still growing and learning in your current job-that’s a good sign you should stay,” she says.
And make sure you’re not burning bridges. “If you quit after three months, that’s not the best plan,” Vanderkam says. “But if you put in a good solid effort at a place for two years, I do not see that working against you.”
Plus, you might return to the company, but on a higher ladder rung.
“Moving to another company is a way to show you are more valuable, even if you come back to a place you were working before,” Vanderkam explains. “It would have been much harder to move internally.”
Experts and smart job-hoppers seem to agree that any job change be smart, rather than just a hopeful reliance that the grass is greener on the other side. Otherwise, as Anding puts it, “There may be no grass at all!”
“Job-hop with a purpose. Know what you want to do with your life, and get closer to that,” Vanderkam advises. “No job is going to be perfect, especially at 24, but you want each job to get you closer.”