The generations view job changes differently. Many Boomer workers have spent their entire career with one employer. They don’t understand why my job seeker clients need help. Why don’t they just stay in their jobs?
The world of work has changed so much. Even if someone wanted to stay with one company long term, mergers, acquisitions, and other changes prevent that. So, it’s not unusual to see someone go from job to job today in a short term. This isn’t the red flag it used to be for a hiring manager.
Could You Have Job Hopping Syndrome?
In some cases, past trauma can be an issue. If someone working in the restaurant industry encountered harsh management, they may feel triggered to quit their job when the same situation comes up again. They are good at their job, and everyone is looking for a good server. It’s an easy decision to switch jobs. But they should watch out for this pattern.
The job market is unfair with discrimination and ageism, sexism, all kinds of ableism—all the isms are there. You can’t say that staying somewhere is always the healthier choice. It may not be. A workplace can be very dysfunctional or unhealthy in some ways. Sticking it out might not be in the best interest of your mental health. In fact, some industries are brutal. Legal assistants in downtown D.C. are a good example. You hear terrible stories of what happens to them right out of college in big law firms. Journalism, where I got my start, can be a vicious field, too. I’ve been in workplaces where editors threw chairs!
My response to that kind of toxic environment: always be mindful of what a job is bringing up emotionally for you. You don’t have to be a robot going along without feelings; but if you find you leave jobs repeatedly, consider if you are in the right field!
Examine Your Choices
I recommend Hand Me Down Dreams by Mary K. Jacobsen for info on why we find ourselves in jobs that are not a good fit. Sometimes we inherit career dreams of our families and try to live them out. If we aren’t careful, we may end up in a profession that is perfectly respectful for others in our family, but it’s not for us.
You can try your very best to try to stick it out in these professions, but deep down you know it’s not for you. Maybe you try another version of it, like another law firm. Well, maybe it’s not the firm. Maybe law isn’t for you, and you are meant to be doing something else.
Want to Stop Job Hopping?
Take a look at your job opportunities for insight into your next career move. Create a decision grid, where you list your qualities and values. Check off the ones that match what you are finding at the different companies. You probably won’t find the “perfect job,” but try to get as many hits as you can. It’s a start toward greater career growth.
No matter what the results, the act of sitting down and creating the list of criteria is empowering. It’s a step that can bring clarity. It allows you to say, “No more of this.” And at least you are not procrastinating on your search!
Do a work history review. You should see constant evolution, but this does not always show up as linear growth. You might make lateral moves, change industries, and change careers. You’re allowed to do that at any age.
I don’t buy into the musical chairs concept that at age fifty, the music stops, and we’re all stuck in our chairs. If we live to eighty and want to work for the rest of our years, then why not change careers at fifty, sixty, or even eighty?
Explaining What Happened
If you are someone who stays at jobs a long time, will that you get farther in your career? And is the opposite true? Too many job changes can have an impact on us, and those who support us. Our network of friends and family can be a good mirror when our tendency to leave jobs is having a bad effect.
Some people who are older than us might have less job hopping. Some people who are younger might have more. But if you can stick out jobs for at least a year, you’re better off. If not, you’re going to have some explaining to do. And it’s okay to have explaining to do, but what’s your explanation?
There are personal reasons: we’re mad at our boss, and we quit. We make that decision on our own.
Then there are factors outside of our control. We are fired, meaning the termination is caused by something we do. These situations happen, sometimes through no fault of our own. They can even happen repeatedly! That’s tough to come back from.
Or we get laid off, meaning the employer is responsible. A merger and acquisition situation might cause you to be let go because you’re redundant. The firm you’re merging with has a version of you in it. That’s not your fault!
Or technology can cause your job to be automated. Again, not your fault.
Beware the Quick Job Search!
While waiting, some seekers pick up short-term employment or term jobs to get their foot in the door. For example, software developers pick up a job from a job board. They leave when the project is finished, or they get hired away before the term is up. It’s not uncommon. It doesn’t reflect poorly on them.
But sometimes we are too eager to end our search. We don’t ask for the money we deserve. We settle. That’s too bad! Nobody wins if you don’t negotiate for what you want. You should always shoot for the best terms. Gain negotiating skills so you don’t leave behind a lot of money and benefits. Learn to work them into the deal.
It’s OK if you do settle. Maybe this is just one step of many. But always keep your preferences in mind. If you want longer term work, or to make more money, go for it.
The Final Word
Whatever you do, keep your network in mind. That’s your stability in this world. Some people think networking is a dirty word, but it’s a great backup plan. The value of network is that it covers your contingencies. There’s a lot of value in that!