As a young fresh face professional graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I had the goal of being hired by a big-name company, settling in, and growing my career. From a young age, my parents instilled in me that I must find a company and stick with it, just as they had done and witnessed when their own parents got a job with a company and worked there until retirement. I foolishly carried this belief with me until reality hit, and it hit hard!
Needless to say, my dream of landing a place in a big company with my focus at the time, digital media, didn’t happen. This dream failed to be realized in a large part to several factors: The Great Recession was still going strong in 2010, my lack of solid skills, and the availability of jobs in my desired profession.
Not wanting to starve or find myself homeless, I had to start realistically assessing the situation and making hard changes. I began working whatever jobs I could get, which were mostly contracted or temp positions with little possibility of being hired on full time. After these jobs ended, I found myself unemployed for weeks or months at a time until another short-term job came along.
Eventually, I switched gears and transitioned into the HR profession but the “damage (or so I thought) was done. I had numerous short term/contract positions on my resume that were inflicting with shame because I didn’t want to be perceived as a job hopper. I thought having tenure on my resume would at least prove my loyalty to employers, which at the time meant everything to me.
But that was then, and this is now.
As an HR professional who also recruits, I see many hiring managers who express their concerns about so-called job hoppers and how they actively try to avoid them. Their reasons are all the same, they fear disloyalty from an employee if she/he has less than the desired amount.
The problem with this line of thinking is that is narrow-minded and grossly outdated. You can’t determine a person’s loyalty by simply looking at their resume without taking their situation into context. For example, I worked plenty of short-term positions that ended for reasons beyond my control, left bad jobs, and was even laid off TWICE. The reality is that life happens and situations change. In response, employees must use the best information and resources they have at the time in order to make the best decision. I can’t fault them for that, at least before I know their story.
Not to mention, there are benefits to candidates having experience with multiple positions and industries. I worked in banking, customer service, communications, and the non-profit sector before moving into HR. All those experiences and skills shaped me into the professional I am today. When in interviews, I proudly talk about my background and how I can leverage these skills to make a difference in the workplace.
Also, we can’t talk about employee loyalty (and I really don’t agree with this concept) before we start talking about employer loyalty. I’ve said this numerous times, America’s right to work laws make the concept of employer loyalty a total joke! If you don’t believe me then ask someone who survived the Great Recession of 2008 on their views regarding company loyalty. Given the general instability of the job market especially now during this pandemic, job hopping is the result of economic factors as much as it is about ‘loyalty.’
Here’s my advice:
To “Job Hoppers”- Your experiences and skills are valuable, so own them. Stop downplaying your past work just because you only stayed at a job for a year or less. If asked, tell the truth but don’t dwell on it.
Stop equating loyalty with the length of employment, especially if you can’t promise anyone a job for any length of time yourself. Not to mention how can performance be determined months or years worked anyways?
All I care about when I interview a candidate is if they are qualified, genuinely interested, and if they can bring anything new to the role.
Anything else is asking for too much.