blog article on how to be a successful job hopper

OK – it’s time for some frightening stats! 91% of Gen Ys expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace ‘Multiple Generations @ Work’ survey. That means they are likely to have 15 – 20 jobs throughout their working lives!

More recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that not only do employees aged under 34 change jobs most frequently (an average of 1.3 years for employees aged 20 to 24 in January 2020, versus 4.9 years for those aged 35 to 44), but they’re doing so more often: median tenure has been shrinking since 2010.  

In addition, top talent is increasingly mobile; they live and work their way around the world.

It’s easy to predict where this is going. In the future we will see a huge trend towards ‘work on demand’. Just like in Hollywood, teams will come together to work on a project, they’ll work together for six to twelve months and at the end of the project, everyone will go their separate ways.

Not Just On Board but Thriving

Oddly enough, latest research points to the fact that Gen Ys relish this fancy-free career life. (I daren’t call it a path, as there’s nothing structured about it!)

Overwhelming evidence suggests that millennials tend to prefer short-term employment over long-term stability. ‘Job hopping’ is the term.

And, they’re on their own.  None of the other three generations currently in the workplace have the same enthusiasm for this career approach. In fact, to a Baby Boomer like me, all this can sound quite scary, even though I’m probably a natural risk taker.

Questions and Answers

So, what are the implications of this from an ’I’d like to sleep at night without worrying where my next pay cheque will come from’ perspective?

If you’re a frequent job hopper, you’ll need high level career skills to thrive.

Ask yourself the following questions…

1. How articulate am I?

I recently worked with a dynamic Gen Y – he was stylish, enthusiastic and SEEMED to know his stuff.  I say ’seemed’ with some element of doubt because that was not actually what he conveyed.  His ’like’ count was one in four, as in every fourth word was ’like’. 

Another repeated phrase was ’kinda’ as in ’I’m kinda interested in IT programming.’  He was 27 years old but sounded more like a naive 19 year old. 

The final issue that prevented him from sounding articulate was his extremely restricted vocabulary.  Actually, now that I come to think of it, I have no idea how extensive his vocabulary was/is.  He may have known more words than you can poke a stick at, but any listener would have no idea.

The Tip: You’ll find it much easier to hop around if you can easily and smoothly articulate your value to a prospective employer. Work on your communication skills.

2. Am I outstandingly good at selling (myself)?

If you’re applying for a role in the Visible Job Market i.e. where the job is advertised to all and sundry, job instability on your résumé could put your dream job at risk.

There is an argument that when people change jobs, they collect skills, abilities and knowledge they can use in a future role. According to Christopher Lake, assistant professor of management at the University of Alaska, ‘A worker that’s job hopped will likely have a greater wealth of experience to draw from, leading to a wider variety of jobs and companies available to them.’

OK, but good luck persuading your buyers about that! Recruiters and HR Managers are wary of résumés filled with short stints. They usually question your motivation, skill level, engagement and ability to get along with other colleagues.

They worry they’ll become the next victims of your ‘hit-and-run’ approach.  To them, losing an employee after a year means they have wasted precious time and resources on training you before that investment paid off. Plus, many recruiters may assume that you didn’t have time to learn much at your previous short stints.

The Tip: You need to be outstandingly good in all aspects of the selling process to overcome this hurdle in the Visible Job Market. Make sure you can construct powerful marketing documents (Cover LettersRésumés and LinkedIn profiles) in order to get a foot in the door.  Once you make the interview list, your ability to demonstrate persuasive interview skills will also be critical.

3. Am I brave enough to tackle the Hidden Job Market?

An often-quoted statistic is that 80% of roles are never advertised.  Without quibbling about exact numbers, you get the message that a lot goes on behind the scenes.

Attacking the Hidden Job Market is perfect for those employees who don’t fit neatly into advertised roles. It allows your buyer to evaluate you with no pressure via a casual chat. It allows you to sell transferable skills and allows them to overcome any concerns they may have about your transitory job record.

At a minimum, undertake ongoing standard networking.  You know what I mean – constantly attending functions and seminars with a view to extending your reach of contacts.

An even more useful skill to master is Job Search Networking.  Not only is it MUCH more effective, very few people are skilled or brave enough to undertake it.  So, you reap a huge benefit by having the intestinal fortitude to pick up the phone and make that ‘warm’ call.

The Tip: If you have an unconventional career path, take advantage of a powerful but unconventional job search method to uncover your next role.

4. Should I consider freelancing?

An easier option for those who want ultimate flexibility could well be to embrace freelancing.

Even as far back as 2014, according to an article in The Australian newspaper, almost one-third of the Australian workforce (about 4.1 million people) did freelance work that year and most who left traditional employment earned more than in their previous full-time role. 

These stats come from a survey commissioned by the Silicon Valley-based freelance talent marketplace Upwork. ‘On a per capita basis, Australian businesses hire more freelancers than any other developed Western economy.’ Upwork’s senior vice-president of international, Rich Pearson, told The Australian.

Kyri Theos, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific for the other major player in the space,, said that Australian freelancers earned an estimated $51 billion from freelancing in 2014 and a third expected their income to rise. 

The Tip: There are obvious benefits and drawbacks to this employment model. Perhaps start with a side gig while you’re still working. That way, you can ‘suck it and see’ and won’t burn any bridges in the regular job market.

Not such a generation gap after all

What might come as a surprise is that Baby Boomers are embracing this new job trend.  Kyri Theos reported that 33% of Australian freelancers were over 55.

The study found 72% of Australian freelancers were confident they would be able to maintain their current standard of living after retirement.  And most (89%) said they would consider freelancing after they retired to earn additional income.

So maybe Gen Y and Baby Boomers have more in common than we all think!

Final Thoughts

Ask yourself WHY you resign so quickly and so often.

Most experts agree that it is critical to continue building skills and that they are the new currency. If your aim is to build those skills, then it is perfectly fine to move around.

It’s also possible you haven’t found your niche yet. Transferring skills to new industries or new roles is one way to find out where you really belong. It’s also valid that, if you can’t build those skills in your current role or just aren’t getting paid fairly for these skills, you should look elsewhere.

However, what if you move often because you can’t seem to make it work, with problems being everyone else’s fault except your own?

Then, it’s time to dig deeper. And sooner rather than later. The further you progress in your working life with damaging thoughts/attitudes, the harder it is to change. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you. You will likely become unhappier, plus you’ll have a very difficult job persuading future employers to take you on.

Regardless of why you are job hopping, this brave new world will require a new set of job marketing skills, and a new approach. 

Are you ready?


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