In the last few years of my banking career I had built up a pockmarked resume full of year long to 18 month long "stints." A credit analyst position there. A senior analyst position there. Even managed to make it to assistant vice president (which was a euphemism they used to low ball me on salary). Regardless, the reason for the brevity of the stints was obvious - the banking industry was failing, it was corrupt, and it was dysfunctional.
Of course, the HR and hiring managers interviewing me didn't see it that way. They, naturally, thought there was something wrong with me. And thus, I was asked during pretty much every interview in the last 5 years of my banking career,
"I see a lot of short stays...lot of job hopping. Any reason?"
And by this time I was blunt and too damn tired to lie,
"Yeah, you're industry is screwed up, dysfunctional and losing money. Did you want me to have a long term, loyal stint at banks that were losing money?"
Ironically, this actually landed me several gigs, but the lesson to take away from this little experience of mine is one of "job hopping."
"Job hopping" is usually viewed in a shameful manner by our elders in corporate America. It shows you're not loyal, you're not serious, you aren't reliable, etc. etc.
Of course, this is BS.
The truth is job hoppers are people with two things:
2. Self respect
The primary reason I didn't last longer than 18 months at any one employer was I had dance classes and online classes on the side. And anytime a boss got lippy, got an attitude, or started asking me to do immoral or impossible things, I'd tell them to go to hell. I didn't need the job, and the hell if I was going to suffer 8 hours a day under a sadistic environment, serving a boss who was delusional, even sadistic him/herself.
I also had self-respect.
Understand the labor market is so flooded with overqualified and overeducated candidates that they are no longer hiring people based on competency or ability. They are so flooded with candidates they can be supremely picky and finicky, making their hiring decisions based on ever-increasingly petty criteria. Because of this the employment environment has become mentally abusive. You need to network, you need to kiss ass, you need to play corporate politics, you need to be a mind reader. Oh, and by the way, you need to do your job too.
The baby boomer generation currently in charge of corporate America are fully aware of this and is why you deal with power hungry, petty, and incompetent bosses. They know you're desperate, they know you have student loans, and they are going to eek every non-financial benefit they can out of you, part of which is deriving a sick and twisted psychological benefit of watching you squirm and just through hoops. Thus the lack of clear, concise leadership. The lack of training ("you have to hit the ground running!"). The petty office political games you get to play. Their demands of having access to your private life (facebook passwords). False and misleading job descriptions. And YOU have to figure out what they want because they "just don't have the time to hold your hand." And if you don't, "well then I guess you're just not a team player."
Thus, along this line, they loooove to play the "you're not a serious adult" card when they see a job hopper. When in reality it's just a young man or woman who has figured out the game and will not tolerate any kind of abuse or corporate BS antics. In short, job hoppers scare them and there really is no shame in being one.
However, eliminating the shame old timers try to foist on job hoppers does not solve the problem job hoppers face - primarily employment.
Even without crushing student loans, mortgages or other debts, you still need to put food on the table, you still have expenses. You still need to work because you still need money. Not to mention it is the world's largest pain in the ass to constantly be applying for jobs. So invariably you would WANT to find a good job and settle down. So how do you find a good, quality, reliable job if your a job hopper?
The solution is ironic, but very simple:
Keep job hopping.
Understand the way jobs and careers are sold to young people today is like that of arranged marriages. You find a job and even if it isn't a perfect fit, heck, outright abusive, you still try your best to make it work. You "must be loyal." You must "give 110%." You must "be a team player." And if you're not, you're a failure.
However, this "arranged marriage model" is wrong. Finding a job and a quality employer should be like dating. You date as many people as possible, with absolutely no intention of committing, until you find a quality courtee worthy of your commitment and effort. You'd be INSANE and STUPID to try to SERIOUSLY DATE EVERY GIRL/GUY you ever dated, so why are you trying to SERIOUSLY DATE every job you have? Forget what the old timers say or try to shame you about "job hopping." SMART people who want to find the ideal job DON'T WASTE THEIR TIME at jobs they don't like. They find out (much like dating) the flaws of their employer.
You name it, just like girls in their young 20's, employers are rife with tons of deal-breakers, problems, baggage, and damaged goods that should deny them your labor and loyalty. And just like it's bad for your health to stay in a bad/abusive relationship so too is it bad for you to stay with an equally bad/abusive employer.
Of course, this solution is not a quick one. I wish I had an easier answer, but the labor market just doesn't work that way. Just like dating, you are going to have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that employer prince. And it may take DECADES of job hopping to find that right one.
But think of the alternative.
Forcing yourself to slave away at a job you hate, working for a boss you want to murder, all while having your brain rot, just so you can be considered "loyal" and get a pension.
Job hopping and all the faux shame that comes with it, might suck, but in the end you will be one of the very few who finds a job they truly love.
Enjoy the decline!
Cappy, this one really hits a chord with me. I completely agree that job hopping is a sign of strength, not weakness. I've held twice as many jobs as appear on my resume - any gigs shorter than 18 months are simply left off, and that seems to make those annoying questions disappear. By the way, I'm now 66 and very close to packing in 'full time' work, and my job hopping led to 4 VP level positions at major compensation, and one Presidency at a major ad agency ... the closest 'job' to voodoo mentalist card-trick con man I've ever had, but at enormous pay! ... go figure!
A fine post as always Captain. I remember beating myself up because I couldn't find a job worth keeping as a young man...and my asshole in-laws and baby boomer parents did too! They thought I should be pleased as punch to work 70 hours a week doing jobs they wouldn't touch - to make peanuts. F*** them.
The revolving door is a HUGE problem in industry today. Industy and corporations are chock full of de-humanizing jobs where they don't give a hoot about the people that fill them: you're sole worth to them is in how long they can use you and abuse you, and when you either burn out or quit, they parachute in another poor slob.
Understand that western industrial and corporate culture is terminally mentally ill. Diversity trumps productivity which makes life even tougher on young men. When this disease runs its course, cities like Detroit happen. They may be the first, but they won't be the last. Look for the dominoes to start tumbling faster soon. This monkey show will only end one way boys...and when it does, there will be some tough times...but things WILL get better.
I fully agree, and I'm in my 50's. Ask some of the folks in Detroit how that pension thing is working out.
People need to wake up and realize that there is a very high probability of having NO safety net other than the one you create for yourself. I've planned for that for the past 30+ years, it's the only prudent thing to do.
Loyalty is a two-way street. Very few employers believe in practicing it, but very many try to demand it.
Sorry guys...doesn't work like that.
In 20 years to date of my career, I've had exactly two employers that earned loyalty. One, I stayed at for five years and only left because I was moving out of state...and the other, I'm at right now, and will probably stay for quite a while. There were a _lot_ of resume lines in between.
Some of those jobs in the interim really sucked. Some of them were actually OK most of the time. But none were the sort to which I felt any commitment at all, beyond whatever project I was working on at the moment.
I've always considered Corporate culture a blight on humanity and a sociopath's wet dream.
The job news and advice is at least 20 years out of date.
I fear for America.
If there's a Top Shelf II, this should definitely be in it (along with the security guard article).
I agree with the post but feel compelled to post a semi-counterexample.
Mainly because that counterexample includes the line: "To me, however, a programmer is who I'm looking for, while a resume full of revenue increases and cost reductions sounds like an "anomalously high-cost parasite who types some mumbo-jumbo into Excel and PowerPoint, claiming credit for others' work".
Had a government job I got with a mixture of connections and my soft science degree. Sequester hit, despite quality performance in something that I believe gives the taxpayer value for money, I was out the doors with 48hrs notice.
No job will ever be able to count on me staying 'for the long haul' again.
I agree. I've job-hopped quite a bit, and it's always been to my advantage. At my age, 50, I'm starting to see ageism set in. So I'm bringing that aspect of my career to an end. 3 year, on average, stints are not going to help me now.
Which is odd, because if correlation is causation (I know it isn't), my track record is fantastic. Companies I'm with thrive, and struggle after I leave. My rule? Simplify and be transparent. Lots of people hate simplification because it doesn't justify their existence and many people hate transparency because they like being corrupt.
One thing I will take issue with is your claim of overqualified and overeducated candidates in the market. I've yet to see these people. Yes, many have worked in my industry and yes many have college and graduate degrees. But few are actually qualified and even fewer are educated.
Having a broad understanding of life is more useful than knowing 1+5 is 6. You can use experience to come up with new ways to look at, or do, things. I believe in cross-pollination, and it works in many cases.
Hell, my company DEMANDS I hire college grads. Except they do a job High School grads could do, and they do it for more and expect more. Why am I not getting the raise I want or the promotion I want? Treat me better! Blah, blah, blah.
High Schoolers will work for less, are motivated, and are willing to learn. What value does a college degree bring? None at all.
BTW, one note on simplicity. People tend to hate it because if it's not complex, something must be wrong. Sadly, all you do with complexity is create more work and get the same, or less, in return. It's called Pareto Optimality, folks, learn it.
Thanks captain! Just found your blog through some other blogs I've frequented.
So pleased to read this one! My parents (and most of the older crowd) live with a kind of fear that motivates them to "stick it out"...
My mom was always the worst...panicking and freaking out if she found out I left another job before a year was through...she stayed with her company as a social worker for 20 years and just got canned 2 years before earning her pension... I've heard of similar things happening to other boomers... So much for loyalty...
You are spot on in describing how the IT world works... I tend to hop when possible but lately I have not had the choice, I have become unemployed through no real fault of my own 3 times in the last 15 months.
Quartermain I love your quote!!
"I've always considered Corporate culture a blight on humanity and a sociopath's wet dream"
Job hopper over here too! My average is 18 months. If I get comfortable I get scared.
Or, why job hopping is bad.
Soon to follow.
Id like to meet you. And to think I've been feeling like I'm right about my decisions but being made to feel wrong by eeveryone else in my family that is so old fashioned. I believe it's extremely smart to search until your comfortable. Who cares???!!! When I do find that spot I'm staying there and I'll be the best employee you have.
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