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Could We Eliminate The Job Hopping Stigma?

Adrian Dixon

February 25, 2020

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Is job hopping necessarily a bad thing?

As we get better at using technology to augment the recruiting process, we also need to take some of the preconceived notions of recruitment and remove them from how we think and how we design our programs — i.e. what inputs our artificial intelligence programming is even looking for in prospective candidates. One of those preconceived notions is the idea that someone who “job-hops” is a bad choice, or a chaotic one. There is some nuance to this discussion, yes — some people who job-hop are less-stable employees. That’s true. But there are other factors to take into account.

The New Face of Job-Hopping

Before we get into this, lets realize a couple of factors:

When you put those three things together, here’s what you come to:

  • Different type of workforce
  • But, they’re largely broke

And that brings us to how we can shift job-hopping to a positive thing:

There are a lot of arguments for jumping ship every few years. The economy isn’t what it used to be—and never will be again. Workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50% less, and job hoppers are believed to have a higher learning curve, be higher performers, and even to be more loyal, because they care about making a good impression in the short amount of time they know they’ll stay with each employer.

Conclusion: you can make more money as a job-hopper, often. That’s good as you progress through life and have additional responsibilities (home, family, etc.) And we have research here showing that job-hoppers can also be higher performers and, perhaps paradoxically, be more loyal too! All these are great things for an employer.

Job-Hopping and Learning Curves

Now, there’s also this:

“I think that the most important, critical change in people’s mental outlook is to view employees as smart contributors from the beginning,” advises McCord, who now coaches and advises companies and entrepreneurs on culture and leadership.

That’s Patty McCord, former chief talent officer (head of HR) for Netflix, an innovative company. She also said this:

“If we changed our perspective and said, ‘Everyone here wants to come in, do a great job, and contribute,’ then they either fit or they don’t,” she adds. “You build skills faster when changing companies because of the learning curve.”

So here’s the shift we’re discussing:

  • Old Model: Stay at a place 15+ years. Become a trusted individual contributor/manager steeped in the knowledge of that organization.
  • New Model: Jump every three years, ‘hit the ground running,’ build skills, contribute, leave for something else

Job-Hopping and Productivity

There are a few more pieces to this puzzle, starting here:

People used to think that the longer you kept an employee, the more worth they are to you, because you train them and they get used to their job and then they do it. But, in fact, an employee who stays on the job and isn’t learning at a really high rate is not as engaged, so they’re not doing as good work. So it turns out, the employee who stays longest, you get the least work out of, and the employees that job hunt are the most receptive of becoming extremely useful, very fast.

This seems logical. If an employee is moving a bunch and trying to make an impact at each place, those are steep learning curves predicated on doing good work and proving yourself. If you’re at a place 10 years, you run the risk of (a) homophily and (b) becoming actively disengaged.

That said, this is all “you run the risk…” stuff. Plenty of people work at a place 20 years and love every day, and plenty of people job-hop and despise it. These are constructs; every individual is different in terms of their needs and wants out of work.

Job-Hopping and Purpose

If you want to see a cool video about why purpose matters (especially at work), watch this from Stanford Business School and Jennifer Aaker:


So now we’re at a place where we’ve somewhat established that:

  • Job-hopping can lead to more learning, and faster
  • Job-hopping can create a world where people want to make an impact quickly
  • Job-hopping can help with your personal bottom line (salary)

Wouldn’t it make sense to periodically take a risk on perceived job-hopper candidates, then?