With all the buzz about the "Gig Economy," many job seekers have begun to believe that "job hopping" is now an acceptable practice.
While the economy and employment arrangements are opening up to more freelance, contract and consultation opportunities, an employer's desire for dependable employees has not changed. Employers want to spend their labor dollars efficiently and effectively. Even before there were formal metrics for training and attrition costs, employers understood the value of a dependable employee.
In previous generations, employees started in a low-level position within a company and spent decades working their way up. Hard work and dedication lead to advancement and success...THEN...Steve Jobs started Apple in his garage and Mark Zuckerberg developed FaceBook in his dorm room. Well, it's not exactly that simple, but these and other overnight success stories have played a role in building a desire to find one's "big break" rather than a long-term employer.
The reality is that what seems like overnight success, rarely is. In nearly every case of extreme success there are years of work and failure that we don't see. The majority of millionaires and billionaires spent decades refining an idea, learning their industry and working long hours before they made it big.
Another consideration: you have to develop expertise before anyone will want to hire you as a freelancer, contractor or consultant. Most expertise is developed while working as an employee, learning through experiences, and training programs. Working for more than one employer can also provide an education about best practices and a high-level view of your industry.
If your goal is to be an entrepreneur, inventor, freelancer, contractor or consultant, you will first need to acquire knowledge and experience. The most direct and common path for knowledge acquisition is working for an employer. An employer wants to hire someone who is dependable. A common mantra in the recruiting world is “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” For this reason, many recruiters and employers make job hopping their first screen-out criteria. Eliminating “job hoppers” is an easy and appropriate way to reduce the number of resumes for review, while also reducing the chance of hiring a candidate who will cost the company time and money, with little return on the investment.
What is "job hopping?" Job hopping is frequently changing roles and/or companies. Most recruiters and employers want to see a stretch of 2 years in a role before moving on. A pattern of leaving roles more frequently than every 2 years can get you flagged as a "job hopper" and eliminate your resume from consideration.
As a resume writer, I can downplay frequent career moves and highlight the benefits of your varied experience...to a point. My creativity can only mask so much. At a certain juncture in the hiring process, the employer will likely ask you to list out your roles, dates of employment and reasons for leaving each role for at least the past 5 years (typically on an application). If you have demonstrated a pattern of job hopping during this time, been fired for cause or shown career regression, a well-designed resume won't save you.
Only YOU can BUILD your resume. Job changes (even during college) should be intentional and planned. Recruiters understand that internships will typically end after 6 months and that you may only be able to work during the summer. However, picking back up with the same employer the next summer demonstrates loyalty and quality work (since they rehired you.) After college, these attributes can be demonstrated by staying with each company for at least 2 years and in each role within that company (unless you are promoted) for at least 1 year.
The ability to make strategic, timely career moves suggests high emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ), a capacity that 71% of employers say they value more than intelligence (IQ), according to a recent CareerBuilder survey. High EQ is also associated with the ability to: stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively, show empathy, lead by example, make more thoughtful decisions, learn from mistakes and listen well. High EQ is what TOP employers are searching for and measuring for in their screening processes. You can demonstrate this desirable attribute through your resume and the employment choices you have made.
My advice to job seekers is this...put the time in, do the work, glean as much as you can from each employer, role and experience and you will set yourself up for a great career in which you can decide whether to continue on an employment or a contractor path. Build your resume and your career the "old school" way and you will have more "new school" options!