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Should we learn to love job-hoppers?

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Should we be so harsh in judging people to move from job to job? Illustration: Getty Images

At one time, it was common to stay in a job or at a company for years, decades even. Some people remained at one organisation for the entirety of their working lives, leaving only when they retired.

Things have changed, however. An increasing number of people are changing jobs every few years or even months, earning the name “job hoppers”. Millennials in particular, those born between 1980 and 1996, have a reputation for job-hopping - moving freely between different firms.

According to a Gallup report, 21% of millennials say they have changed jobs within the past year, which is more than triple the number of non-millennials who report the same. Compared to 60% of non-millennials, half of millennials strongly agree that they plan to be working at their company one year from now.

Job-hoppers often get maligned for changing jobs often, with some arguing it reflects lack of commitment, loyalty or passion. But should we be so harsh in judging people to move from job to job – and are there any benefits for employers?

Perhaps most importantly, it’s more than possible that many young people don’t actually want to change jobs often, but their current employers aren’t offering them a legitimate reason to stay. Whether it’s a higher salary, an improved workplace culture or a more fulfilling position, millennials are incentivised to take a better deal when they see one - rather than settling in one place.

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Additionally, some may find themselves forced to find a new job due to a situation outside of their control, such as redundancy.

“Totaljobs research tells us that 1 in 2 UK workers plan to change jobs over the course of the next year, so we expect to see plenty of talent taking a leap over the course of 2020. You might change jobs because you want to launch a career in another industry, you’d like to use your skills in a different role, or it might be a progression opportunity,” says Stephen Warnham, jobs expert at Totaljobs.

To some extent, it’s understandable that job-hopping is frowned upon by employers. Very few bosses want to see their firm used as a stepping stone to a better job offer and in some cases, companies may lose out financially if they invest in an employee who then disappears.

‘Better equipped’

There are also a number of benefits that come with hiring short-term staff, however. “For workers, job-hopping can mean you’re adaptable and it gives you more varied experience,” says Warnham says. “Having an insight into several different organisational structures, company cultures and management styles could mean you’re better equipped to try a new challenge or project.

“Frequent movers likely thrive off new environments, so it may be that they can hit the ground running easier and work with a new team in a relatively smooth transition.”

Having fresh faces in an organisation can also boost creativity and bring new ideas to a business, particularly if new employees have worked for various other companies. This can be a huge bonus for employers, with research suggesting companies that foster creativity are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers in revenue growth.

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Job-hopping may also boost soft skills such as communication, relationship management and networking, which are highly valued. If someone has moved from organisation to organisation, they will have also had to build new relationships and work with many different people. With this in mind, they may also have a larger network and more connections too.

So if you tend to move from job to job, what’s the best way to avoid deterring potential future employers?

“Whilst changing jobs in a short space of time could put off some employers, this potentially awkward interview question can be navigated,” Warnham says. “Highlight that you have a good and clear reason for your next move in order to settle any doubts in the minds of potential employers.

“By explaining what you learned and the skills you gained in each role, and what evidence you have to prove this, you can show you’re a strong candidate – whether you’re a ‘job hopper’ or not.”