People are on the move these days.
Maybe they’re changing jobs because of a physical move – for work, for a spouse’s job, to be closer to aging parents, or just for new scenery. Maybe they got laid off. Maybe they’re just looking for a new challenge. Whatever the reason, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that the average worker stays at the same job for only 4.6 years.
The job hopping trend is growing, as younger workers tend to change jobs even more frequently than the overall average (they’re median tenure is 3.2 years).
Whether you view job hopping as the plight of the workplace or an exciting trend, it seems like the days of 50-year careers with the same organization are waning – at least for now. The current climate of layoffs and downsizing has created a generation of workers who are building loyalty to their careers, rather than loyalty to an employer.
The benefits of job hopping
Let’s face it – very few of us have got the whole “What do you want to do with your life?” figured out by the time we graduate college. For those whose goal is to find a career that suits their skills and passions, a little real world experience on the job can help them figure out what they want to do.
Job-hopping can help you continue to hone and develop skills – both technical ones and the soft skills that come from working in many different office cultures, and under multiple management styles.
The red flags
It’s become acceptable for employees to move around a little to find their bearings, but the resume of a 35-year-old who’s never spent more than 18 months in the same position will probably raise red flags with HR.
When you’re considering a move, be sure to examine your motives. Weigh the potential opportunities, salary increases, and work culture change against the potential negative drawbacks of being perceived as capricious. Consider looking for a new position within your organization rather than jumping ship entirely – it looks better on a resume, and might still scratch that itch you’ve been feeling to move on.
When explaining your job history to a potential employer, be careful in explaining why you’ve held so many positions. It’s one thing if you’re looking for new challenges or ways to develop your career, but if your potential employer gets the impression that you moved on because the job was too hard, you got bored, or you didn’t get along with your coworkers, they may be wary of hiring you.
Moving within the government
According to the BLS study, employees are more likely to stick around in the public sector. Federal government employees have a median tenure of 9.5 years. (The local and state government boast tenures of 8.1 years and 6.4 years, respectively.) But those numbers still mean that people are changing jobs multiple times over their careers.
Transfers between government agencies are possible to positions of the same, higher, or lower grade levels, according to the Office of Personnel Management, and generally come about as a result of the employee applying to an open position. Many of the positions on USAJOBS are only available to current federal employees – click the “Federal Employees” radio button to limit your search to those.
Lateral reassignments within the same agency are another good way to change roles. If you find an opening within your same occupational series, it may be considered a non-competitive transfer – though if it’s under a different occupational series you would have to apply and compete for the position. Be sure to check with your organization’s HR department to get the specifics of making a lateral move.
Considering a move? Check out this blog post: 4 Tips on Changing Your Government Job.
Putting a positive spin on job hopping
What story does your resume tell?
When an interviewer looks at your resume, will they see a collection of random short-term jobs? Or is your resume a solid list of career moves that build on each other, demonstrating your wide range of experiences, ambition, and broad skill set?
Structure your resume in such a way as to highlight how each position expanded on the last, building up your experience and skills in a way that looks strategic and beneficial to your employer rather than random and flighty. Highlight your successes in each position – make sure your resume shows that although you didn’t spend much time in one position, you’ve made substantial contributions everywhere you worked.