Don't let your job-hopping status stress you out.
There was a time when young adults would get out of school and land their first big job — and 20 years later, they'd probably still be with that same company.
Well, that's not the case anymore, especially in a volatile job market. While moving from one job or company to another is very common now, if it happens too frequently, it can still paint you as a job-hopper.
“Job hopping is typically defined as working in a string of jobs for less than two years each,” said Amanda Augustine. “One of the biggest job-hopping myths is that all job-hopping is bad or created equal.”
There are some excellent reasons why job-hopping can be not only acceptable, but a good thing. The first step is to look past the stigma.
When is job-hopping okay?
According to Augustine, there are two main criteria to consider when looking at someone whose resume contains several job moves: the stage of their career and the occupational field.
It's expected that young professionals will go through many changes during the early stages of their careers as they try to gain different experiences and find the right path for their long-term success and happiness. However, too much movement later on in a career can be read as a sign of instability. In other words, it's okay to hop around a bit as you try to find your career path, but eventually, you're expected to settle in a bit more.
The other primary consideration when it comes to job-hopping is your field of work; it is simply expected in some occupations.
“Professionals who gravitate toward work at startup companies, where there are no guarantees of stability, are expected to have a few job hops in their professional record. And, recruiters often question professionals who work in advertising and do not switch clients or companies every few years, as there's a concern they'll lose their edge. On the other hand, employers consider job-hopping among sales professionals to be a big red flag, as it's assumed the sales professional was unable to meet quota,” says Augustine.
It's essential to consider these things if you're contemplating making a move. Is it in your best interest, or are you better off sitting tight in your current role for a little longer?
How to land a new job if you've been job-hopping
Okay, so you feel like you fit the criteria to be labeled a job-hopper. Chances are, it's not all your fault. Still, having a resume filled with short-term roles can make it hard to land that dream job you really want. Here are a few ways you can put your best foot forward and convince the hiring manager to look past those short stops on your career path.
Optimize your resume
The first step to explaining your frequent job changes is by not drawing attention to them in the first place. Most resumes list experience, education, and achievements chronologically, placing the most recent qualifications first.
While this is the best format for most job seekers, listing your vast experience may kill your chances for an interview. Instead, showcase your skills, achievements, and abilities.
Include a career summary and areas of expertise, which shows hiring managers and recruiters that you know your stuff and mean business. Career summaries should be written in paragraph or bulleted form, which includes between five to 10 sentences and focuses on your top abilities. Areas of expertise are top skills (nine to twelve), formatted within a table (without borders) and bulleted. Tailor the summary and areas of expertise to each specific job description.
Reformat your resume to emphasize your achievements
The next step is organizing your experience and achievements on your resume. You can do it in one of two formats — grouping positions and descriptions according to skill sets or creating critical skills assessments for each job at the bottom.
For example, marketing and digital communications experts use the first technique to divide their experience into three categories: advertising, marketing, and digital communication. They then list the appropriate positions, descriptions, and notable achievements under each section.
On the other hand, you can create a critical skills assessment for positions that have similar descriptions, deleting repetitive information and rewriting them using action verbs.
Then, format the list into bullets, with each list having no more than six bulleted sentences. Reduce the bullets by creating more than one list and diving into subcategories, similar to the previous template.
Be optimistic, but honest
Drawing their attention to your abilities rather than the multiple job positions in your work history isn't the same as lying or hiding information — never lie or hide information from potential employers. They will learn the truth sooner rather than later.
Instead, prepare yourself for the inevitable. Once you're in the interview, someone will ask why you've been changing jobs frequently within a short period of time. You might be asked this question as well: “Did you like your last job?”
The only way to answer these questions is with absolute honesty – and tact. Be transparent, and explain that the company downsized, went out of business, or moved out of town. These are the most straightforward scenarios to explain.
If you were the catalyst, explain why you left the job. You can say something like, “I felt my skills and abilities weren't utilized to their furthest extent.”, or you can explain that the positions weren't the best fit. Don't be defensive about changing jobs too often or try to place blame. Instead, just explain the facts honestly, accurately, and without bias.
Highlight your professional development and skills
Explaining your reasons for leaving a job is a great start, but don't stop at the explanation. Instead, steer the conversation towards your abilities. For example, if you're explaining how you felt your skills weren't utilized, start describing those skills and achievements as well. For example, you can say:
“I felt my skills and abilities weren't utilized to their fullest extent. Recently, I took a five-week seminar on social media marketing and analytics, which taught me how to design online campaigns and determine their effects on sales.”
This also is a perfect opportunity to list new skills and abilities learned from working with these different companies. Choose one or two projects you successfully completed and describe the contributions you made and what you achieved.
Don't just pat yourself on the back; show the hiring manager what you did for the company and the value you bring to their business.
Assure them you're there to stay
Job-hopping concerns hiring managers because they then worry that you aren't willing to commit. They automatically assume you will leave this job, making them repeat the hiring process again.
This is where you assure them you are committed to staying with the role and the company: “I am looking for long-term employment and think your company is a good fit because…” Of course, you need to be honest here — don't say it if you don't mean it.
If the hiring manager is still hesitant because of your frequent job changes, it's time to prove your worth. Come prepared with a list of references who will vouch for your commitments, asking former supervisors to write letters of recommendation.
What to do when it's just not working
If you're still getting passed up again and again for good jobs and you're sure that it's because of your job-hopper status, don't stress — this isn't the end of the game. You may lose a few battles due to frequent job changes, but the war isn't lost.
If you cannot find an employer to offer stable employment, there are still a few options to build your reputation and improve your marketability. Check out local talent scouts or staffing agencies.
Yes, we know — temp agencies may not offer your dream job. But they do pay the bills. Staffing agencies often provide steady work at local companies.
There are three main benefits to temp work:
You can work for several employers, but only have to place one company on your resume. This reduces the “job-hopping” stigma.
The most important benefit is networking. Some job seekers report finding their dream job by networking at their temp roles.
Regardless of your work history, you can still land the jobs of your dream; you just need to know how to market yourself correctly.
Not sure if your resume is still painting you as a job hopper? Let our expert writers help you out.
This article was updated in August 2020 by Tyler Omoth.