Job Rabbits

We live in a world where most of us will have 3 to 5 careers (not jobs, careers) in our lifetimes. A disturbing side effect of that trend is the number of candidates we see who’ve had a half dozen different positions by their mid-20s. This kind of job hopping will catch up with you and harm your career. Why?

When you reach the stage of the hiring process where you’ve satisfied the recruiters and are actually interviewing with the hiring firm, you’re walking onstage in the final act of a long, time-consuming and expensive production. The company has a large investment in filling the position, and the last thing they want is someone who’ll be firing off new resumes before the ink is dry on their business cards.

If we see a resume where someone has had their first few post-graduation jobs each last two or more years, that’s solid career management by today’s standards. If there’s a story to tell and a good reason for each move, few companies will protest the candidate who’s held 3 or 4 positions of increasing responsibility by their early 30s. A start in inside sales, moving to outside sales, moving to outside sales at a larger firm … that’s a logical progression.

In contrast, inside sales to inside sales to inside sales, changing every year to year and a half, for a small increase each time … a series of parallel moves shows both a lack of career progression and a lack of loyalty. In short, a Job Rabbit. The resume of the 26-year-old who’s in his or her fifth position since graduation may as well have the international “no” symbol stamped on it. Why would a company invest their time and money training someone with their eye already on the exit?

There are legitimate reasons to move laterally. You may have landed at a firm with an unhealthy working environment or wound up in the clutches of a bad manager. It happens, and a sideways move in those circumstances is easily explained. Three or four sideways moves, not so much.

So think carefully before you accept that next position. Make sure it’s the next logical step in the ever-improving story of you.