Make life more stable with more frequent job changes

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It used to be that finding a good paying career was the path to adult-life stability. Those days are over. What we think of as stability has to change, and how we get to that stability has to change.

Here’s a summary of the new employee of today’s workplace: Most will change jobs every two years. Most will start their adult life by moving back in with their parents. Most say that money is not their number one concern in evaluating a job.

You think it’s a recipe for instability, right? But what else is there to do? Work at IBM until you get a gold watch? There are no more jobs like that – companies are under too much pressure to be lean and flexible (read: layoffs, downsizing, reorgs), so workers have to be, too (read: constantly on the alert for new job possibilities).

In fact, stability is a big goal for new workers today, precisely because the old paths to stability don’t necessarily work.

For example, staying in one job forever is today’s recipe for career suicide. At the beginning of one’s career, it is nearly impossible to find something right without trying a bunch of options. After that, you will experience more personal growth from changing jobs frequently than staying in one job for extended periods of time. And if you change jobs frequently you build an adaptable skill set and a wide network which are the keys to being able to find a job whenever you need to.

Another example of the fact that common paths to stability no longer work: Professional degrees used to be viewed as a safe path, but now they box you into uncomfortable spots. PhD’s are having lots of trouble finding work due to the documented glut of qualified candidates, and the MBA is not a huge help to your career unless you go to a top-ten school. Doctors are having a hard time working a schedule that accommodates kids and pay back school loans, which is creating a surge in interest in the field of opthalmology – probably not what your parents had in mind when they were encouraging medical school.

The lack of stability is affecting people across the board: “All well-educated workers, even those at the top, are at much greater risk of economic reversals than they used to be,” wrote Jacob Hacker, professor of political science at Yale.

Finally, tried-and-true paths to financial stability are no longer reliable either. This is the first generation that will not do better financially than their parents. Anya Kamenetz describes in her book, Generation Debt, that young people today are in a much worse financial situation than their parents were, so the expectations for stability have to change. This financial situation is due to increasing college costs and decreasing parental ability to foot the bill. And real salaries are decreasing for entry level jobs. So new workers start life with more debt and less ability to pay it than their parents’ generation.

So it’s not surprising that the new vision of stability is not a house, two kids and pension. Most young people are priced out of housing markets in the cities they want to live in, like Boston. San Francisco and New York are seeing an increase in one-child families because people can’t afford two, and there are no more pensions. Period. The goals are more fluid – and they do not focus on old tropes of financial success like a house and a 401K.

Key values today are time and relationships. Stability means knowing you can get yourself work that is fun and accommodates those values. The stable people are those who can manage to consistently get work they enjoy that pays their bills.

It used to be that you worked really hard and paid your dues so you could retire rich and do what you love. But we know now that most people don’t really retire, so paying dues in order to get that is nonsense. Stability is knowing you have a life where you can do what you love, during your whole life, not just at the end.

The new way to find a good job – one that creates this stability — is to change jobs. A lot. And to keep an open mind about what a job really is, because what it is not is a lifelong commitment to one company.

Here are ways to use frequent job changes to create stability in your life:

1. Build up a strong skill set quickly.
Go to a job to work on a great project, and leave when your learning curve flattens out. The faster you build up your skills to create an expertise, the faster you will be able to set yourself apart from everyone else, and find good jobs quickly.

2. Get good at making transitions.
There are moments in a person’s life that typically throw everything out of whack because you can’t continue working in your job. Sickness, relocation, unexpected wrenches in one’s plan. When you are used to changing jobs, and you have taught yourself to deal with work transitions, then when your personal life requires huge transition, your work can accommodate that instead of get in the way. Changing jobs will be easy.

3. Make the most of the in-between-jobs time.
You can use job changes to make transition less risky. It’s very hard to know if you’ll like something until you try it. If you have been in corporate marketing for ten years and you want to try entrepreneurship, that feels like a big risk. But if you think you might like to start your own business but you’re not sure, taking a pause in between jobs to try this new business isn’t such a risky move at all.

4. Get out of paying your dues.
The idea of paying dues worked fine when there was actually payoff (think: Retirement communities in Florida funded by pensions.) But today paying dues doesn’t have nearly the payoff it used to, and in fact, creates instability by creating unreasonable expectations for a job you become overly invested in. So get out of paying dues by changing jobs frequently. Laura Vanderkam, workplace reporter for USA Today, wrote a book called Grindhopping about how to hop from job to job as a way to avoid paying your dues.

5. Keep your finances in order.
As long as you keep your overhead down, so that you don’t need a salary that requires 100-hour work weeks, then job hopping is actually a way to ensure financial stability. You know you are not going to stay at a job forever, and you don’t know when it will end. But you will always able to get work when your needs or your company’s needs change if you are good at changing jobs. This won’t be true, however, if you are a financial mess and have enormous overhead.

The best financial security today is to have great job hunting skills that never stop. Go to the best job, do it until you find another best job. This is the kind of person who will always be able to get money when they need it.

And don’t let people tell you that job hoppers will get penalized in the marketplace. Generation Y is job hopping every other year, and they are in incredible demand throughout the workplace. Demographics are shifting, and forcing hiring practices to shift as well. Take advantage of this. Create a stable life by getting good at changing jobs.

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  1. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    Penelope, apparently we will have project oriented jobs in the future and move from gig to gig on a regular basis. But I can tell you that, as of today, every recruiter I know has a bias against people who stay too long and people who don’t stay long enough.

    3 years is a minimum. 7 years is a max. 5 is ideal.

    But you know I like your style and this is a good one to get another 800+ comments.

    * * * * * *
    I’m happy to see this is the first comment so that we can address this issue right off the bat.

    The last link in this post is to one of 100 articles on how generation Y is in the driver’s seat when it comes to hiring. Young people are in too high demand for recruiters to dictate rules of engagement. And this is changing workplace rules for everyone.When recruiters say 3yrs minimum, etc., it’s all realative to what the candidate brings to the table.

    There are no hard and fast rules for recruiting except get good candidates. You look at the candidate and decide which rules should apply. Should the no misspellings rule apply? Not necessarily for a top programer whose first language is not english. Should the three years minimum rule apply? Probably not from a second-year Goldman Sachs associate dying to get out of banking. The more stellar a history of performance the fewer rules apply. When so many people are changing jobs frequently, the rule of no job hopping will have to be applied less frequently, to everyone. There will be no other choice. So people should plan their careers accordingly.

  2. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    Penelope, I find your take on things refreshing. And you’re right: “When so many people are changing jobs frequently, the rule of no job hopping will have to be applied less frequently.”

    But we’re not there yet. I’m telling you what I experience as a recruiter here in Toronto now not ten years from now.

    Some of the recruiters I work with are real bottom line guys whose only concern is to get openings filled ASAP. But when I bring them a person who has moved around a bit I have to justify his or her moves up and down and all around the block.

    Why are they so tough? Because they believe that the client doesn’t want to hire someone who’s looks like he might soon disappear.

    If you’re going to make a statement to the contrary, I think you’ll have to back it up with real proof that what you’re saying is true here and now.

    And not merely for superstars whom companies will do anything to get but for the ordinary specialists and managers.

    There’s a chance that things are different south of the 49th parallel. But I doubt it. Regards.

  3. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Penelope, love the post. I get that job hopping when you’re younger is smart. But what about when you’re older? Is the expectation that younger workers will sample a smorgasborg of options, and then pick one? or can the hopping continue indefinately since, as you point out, there’s no golden watch or fat pension reward down the line.

    I also concur with Recruiting Animal’s comments, though with a different slant. Given the cost of jobhoppers to an organization’s bottom line, of course some corporations aren’t interested. Maybe the trick is to make recruiting and maintaining talent within an organization cheaper. : )

  4. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I love this post and I find it refreshing, probably because I am a job-hopper myself. Although for years I was hopping because I couldn’t seem to find the right job, I’ve finally ‘settled’ into freelance work that pretty much guarantees I’ll be hopping forever. Since my skills seem to be in demand, I’m much less worried about my future than I was when I had traditional jobs.

    Since you talk about finances, as well as making the most out of in-between times, I will admit that this is my biggest challenge. Although I’m no longer as worried about being able to support myself, I am never 100% sure about whether I’ll be working continuously. Sometimes when I’m not working, I get so worried about the future, that I don’t spend any money to take advantage of my free time. I know I’m not the first freelancer to deal with this, and that there are plenty of plans out there about how to calculate an annual budget for fluctuating income, but so far nothing I’ve read seems to fit my situation very well. So I’m wondering, if this is the new model for work– on again, off again– is there also a new model for personal finances?

    • antoine jerell
      antoine jerell says:

      The best strategy I have come across for obtaining a security in finances is one that is not taught in the school systems. I think it is a shame it isn’t a focus.
      But simply put, “residual income” or as I like to call it “resinco”. This is what “trust fund babies” receive which allows them to have money month after month. The best ways I’ve seen to acquire this type of ongoing income is through real estate and network marketing opportunities. There are of course many other ways to achieve resinco but those are the two I am most familiar with.
      People should be taught more about this type of financial strategy.

  5. Naomi R.
    Naomi R. says:

    Penelope, I absolutely agree with you. I am considered a job hopper, averaging 2-3 years with my last 4 positions since graduating college for reasons ranging from skill set bore-out, searching for the right career for me with a liberal arts degree to relocation with my husband.

    We are relocating now and although most job postings ask for 1-3 years experience in my field (Senior Buyer) with documented major accomplishments I have had few responses.

    I have now secured a third interview with a company where the division manager stated during the first interview that I only had one thing going against me— All of the jobs that I’ve had!! Of course I skillfully explained my past but it showed me that most gold-watch-lifers (he has been with this company for 20 years) see short-timers as a liability.

    • Gerald Hodges
      Gerald Hodges says:

      It has nothing to do with being a “gold-watch lifer.”  It has to do with the fact that it costs a bloody fortune to hire and train workers.  Aside from actual wages paid, employee turnover is the most costly part of human resources management.  Why should I invest in you if you’re not going to invest in me?

      • Corey
        Corey says:

        That’s why the HR department needs to be better at employee engagement.

        When a firm shows no interest in fostering the career of an employee, and wishes to invest as little as possible, the employee will treat the company the same way, and will leave at the first sign of a better position elsewhere.

        Does it cost a buttload to recruit? Yep. But, it doesn’t stop there: You need to work better at retention.

  6. Don
    Don says:

    I have been in Public Service, larger municipality and state government positions, all of my life and have found it to be very rewarding. There were many internal job/position reassignments along the way over 30+ years.

    My son, only child, will be attending an expensive out-of-state college in the Fall 2007 term. I encourage him to seek Federal (DOD) work positons and train toward that goal. He could pursue other avenues, but I believe the benefits of this type of work would be more rewarding, especially in the field of Science/Engineering. This work would probably involve much longer tenured jobs and especially for ME and PhD applicants. I believe the benefits would be greater than if he hopped around.

    Have you read “The Why Cafe'”, John P. Strelecky? A story about finding your “Purpose For Existing” (PFE) and seeking your own satisfaction with your life and decisions.

  7. Erik
    Erik says:

    Don – I don’t understand why you’re suggesting a book about finding your “purpose for existing” in the same comment that you claim to be encouraging your son to do what his dad did rather than figure out what he wants to do himself. I think you should be recommending books like that to your teenage son rather than Penelope!

  8. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Good article, but we have a ways to go before your philosophy is realized. I do agree that people should worry less about the length of their stay with a company and proactively seek other opportunities as a means to progress their careers. In my experience, I can tell you I have seen a change in the perceptions towards those candidates that change jobs every 2-3 years, but most hiring managers I have dealt with are quick to question those that “hop” jobs.

    Personally, I believe this has a lot to do with the demographics of the hiring manager(s). In other words, the baby boomer generation appears less likely to adopt your philosophy while the X and Y generations appear more comfortable with switching jobs more frequently. As the retiring of baby boomers accelerates, I believe your philosophy on changing jobs more frequently will be adopted and accepted as a common practice.

    In my 12 years of recruiting experience, I have always been more concerned with why someone chose to leave an organization than how often they changed positions. I do not think anyone will criticize someone for changing positions if it helps advance their career. Then again, I’ve been wrong before. :)

    * * * * * *

    Jeff, great analysis. Thanks. I think you’re right that the shift will happen in hiring as baby boomers shift out of the workplace. I like to think, though, that the sheer demographic power of Gen Y will force hiring practices to shift faster. Maybe wishful thinking. Maybe this is just a wakeup call to human resource executives that they are holding things up with their antiquated hiring practices…


  9. Steve
    Steve says:

    Penelope – Your comments are always thought provoking, but I have to question your assertion that “Generation Y workers are in incredible demand throughout the workplace.”

    I work for a very large technical company, and serve on the job placement committee for a local professional society. I have not observed that employers are particularly looking for Generation Y workers.

    What I have observed is that employers are seeking highly skilled technical workers. As it so happens, many of those workers come from Gen Y, but I have never encountered an employer who specifically preferred a Gen Y just because they were Gen Y. But you have to separate the generation from the skill set.

    * * * * * *

    Steve – It’s not that employers prefer gen Y because they are gen Y per se. It’s that there are more jobs for people with not a lot of experience than there are people to fill them. Additionally, gen Y has already made it’s mark on the workplace by being stellar entrepreneurs, which means even fewer of them are in the workforce at any one time.

    The Fortune 500 spends tons of money each year trying to figure out how to recruit and retain gen Y because the market for young people is so competitive.


  10. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    One final benefit of job-hopping that bears mentioning:

    Job-hopping helps to build your network of contacts (assuming that you don’t burn your bridges every time that you leave).

    While it’s possible to network effectively with non-co-workers, the fact is that co-workers who enjoyed working with you are likely to provide strong job leads in the future.

    And since most people do little networking outside of the job, staying inside one organization is a perfect recipe for building your specific value to that organization while letting your general value to other organizations wither on the vine.

  11. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    This is a very interesting post, and the comments make it even more so. I definitely agree that Penelope’s prediction will be realized as more baby boomers retire and are doing less of the hiring. I just started a job where there are lots of “lifers” or company men, who are definitely still of the mindset that job hopping shows a lack of loyalty to the company, and its a small miracle they were able to overlook the several instances on my resume.
    At the same time, however, the company I work for is a trade association that represents an industry made up almost entirely of baby boomers, and company perpetuation is the almost always their #1 concern. They’re placing a lot of emphasis on attracting Gen Ys to the industry (yes, they’re targeted specifically), but I feel like there’s a disconnect between the company men who are working on this problem and the young entrepreneurs they’re trying to attract. I’m interested to see how entire industries, like this one, will have to change to accomodate this new way of thinking.

  12. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I’m surprised Penelope and no one commenting so far has mentioned the possibility of job hopping within a company.

    This has the advantage of giving you new challenges without the disadvantage on your resume of looking like a hiring liability.

    Recruiting and retention is a key challenge in many companies. To help, many offer opportunities for staff to try new roles within a company or organization.


    Another point no one has raised: Job hopping a few times in your 20s is cool, and won’t be a serious resume liability. If you’re still job hopping annually at age 35 or 40 — and are not a freelance / contractor type — I can’t see how you’re likely to be considered for good, well-paying or flexible, creative or management type positions that require multi-year commitments to projects and clients. (Yes, there will be exceptions, but most of us will not be the exception).

  13. David
    David says:

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned here – develop a clearly defined specialty to be in demand.

    As a boomer with 30 years hybrid experience in marketing communications/public relations and a job hopper for various reasons, I find team lead boxes on the org chart now being filled with specialists generally my junior in terms of overall career experience. Have I done what they do now? Yes. But I didn’t do just that, so it’s the specialist that wins the day.

    Thank goodness there are still positions that benefit from the ability to see the big picture – which specialists often can’t. It’s a good idea to avoid ‘one tool’ syndrome…if the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

  14. Jill
    Jill says:

    At 28, I’ve been with the same company (different positions) for five years…because I like it! Is this bad?

  15. Meaghan
    Meaghan says:

    Penelope, love the post. I’d like more employers think about their management practices. 100-hour work weeks, dull jobs, miserly managers, etc. do little to benefit a company or its employees.

    Perhaps, as a response to job hoppers and the high cost of retraining, companies might become more enlightened — and thus job hopping would become less prevalent with more internal opportunity, flexibility, etc.

    Gen X managers might make the workplace a very different environment, so that people aren’t staying for the gold watch, but instead staying because they are still engaged.

  16. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    Wendy, Don did mention job-hopping within the same firm for 30 years. But when a company reorganizes and kicks you out after 20 years outsiders won’t see you as a job hopper with varied experience. They’ll see an unambitious coaster who served time in a large, undemanding bureaucratic firm.

    Chris had an interesting point about dangerously narrowing the range of your experience by staying in one place so long. It’s a bit like survival of the fittest. You have to be adaptable to new situations and if you have invested too deeply in one, you’re a goner.

  17. Working Girl
    Working Girl says:

    Fascinating post.

    I was surprised to hear so many reports of stodgy employers who question frequent job changes. It makes me think they have other reasons for rejecting the applicant, reasons they don’t want to share, so they hit on “job hopping.”

    And what about the difference between moving from job to job while employed, as opposed to periods of unemployment during which the person is looking for work, trying to explain away the many jobs? I do believe employers would be far less critical of the first method. Then they could feel good about themselves for stealing away a valued worker from a rival.

    I entirely agree that we need to be responsible for our own financial futures. Counting on a pension (or, God forbid, Social Security) was never a good idea, not even in the second half of the 20th century, which people now seem to be viewing with some sort of nostalgia. The good old days were never that good, really.

    Sticking with a job you hate just for “security” is a mistake now, and was a mistake then. It’s a recipe for misery.

    In my 40 years of work experience, job hopping never hurt me. At least not that I knew of! In any case, people who would question a lot of job changes would not be the kind of people I’d want to work with/for anyway. Penelope is right in that job hopping is going to become more and more the accepted norm. Those old stodgy dinosaurs will soon die out.

  18. Dave
    Dave says:

    Great post. You get people’s attention with a controversial suggestion, then follow up with concrete steps that are actually pretty challenging to master. It’s not like you are saying people can just decide that they are perennial short timers and expect to be stable. But if you 1) get good at managing your employment and 2) get great at managing expectations, I can see how it would be more stable.

    1) expertise – when you can carve out something you are objectively good at, it give you “liquid assets.” “He’s a database guru” is better than “We don’t know what we would do without him.” At the end of the day, no one is irreplaceable. “miracle worker” status is non-transferable.

    2) transition – after working nearly 5 years at one company, I felt like I sort of forgot about the whole dues paying, proving yourself routine. New people don’t know about the allnighters you pulled at the last job and they don’t know how great you are. Even if you’re not an arrogant bozo, it is easy to forget that you need to establish your credibility. So getting good at transition is something you need even if you don’t set out to “job hop.” Who wants to have to waste 3 months just demonstrating to people that you are not an idiot?!

    3) Taking a pause between jobs? Sorry, maybe after my kids are in college and I have a couple years salary in the bank. Taking a few weeks off with nothing lined up can easily turn into a few months or longer. People survive it, but who needs that stress!

    4) Dues paying…see above and the miracle worker fallacy. If you can transition well, you don’t need to pay dues. People who are “paying their dues” are wasting their time if they believe their willingness to do crap work that nobody else wants to do enhances their status. Of course, you shouldn’t be saying “that’s not my job” and you should be saying “what can I do to help?” but if you only feel like you are paying your dues, you may be the only one who thinks so. It’s expected. What else are you doing?

    5) Amen to finances. But don’t forget health insurance. How do you crack that nut? If you have a family, that is at least $1000/month expense you cannot afford not to have. If you own a home in an expensive area (Boston, New York, SF, etc.) figure in mortgage and all and even if you live frugally, you face at least a $5K/month subsistence expense. Add in health care and you can literally feel the burn rate. On the other hand, why is it that I felt I could only take 3 days off between jobs and yet we were somehow able to float two mortgages for 5 months?

    I’m not saying these things cannot be addressed…actually, I think they have to be addressed even if you plan to stay at your company for a long time. In that case, dealing with these challenges just liberates you to perform your job without fear of losing it.

  19. walton
    walton says:

    I find this post funny in the light of your other posts on happiness and I’m going to call you on the contradictions.

    Since $40K should be enough to deliver happiness, why focus on getting a better job? Doesn’t this encourage maximalist thinking? Once you have an acceptable job, why not focus on other aspects of your life and take career changes as they come?

    Someone who has a decent job and stays at it may end up earning half as much as someone who hops around a lot. But should it really matter?

    Of course, I’m a maximalist so I’m not interested in being happy, just successful. :)

    * * * * * *

    Job hoppers are happier doing their work because their work is more intresting and contributes more to personal growth. Job hoppers create a stability for themselves that lalmost guarantees they won’t have to worry about that $40,000. That’s why job hopping is good. The jury is still out on whether job hopping gets you more money — probably depends on the hopper.


  20. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Great idea and really an eye-opener as I am in the intersection of work and life as well. I have been working in a company for 8 years and I am thinking of changes now. This post really gives me a lot encouragement. But I still struggled how to balance the work and personal life as a mother of two small kids. Will frequent job hopping (esp. moving from one city to another city) create an instable environment for the kids? I am still kind of worried…

  21. Dimeji
    Dimeji says:

    I am a Nigerian. I have had cause to change jobs quite often. It was not the initial career plan. The initial plan was to be in a place for at least 5 years but restructurings, mergers, uncondusive working environments where your employers dont have any plans for your present and future apart from their own and market turbulences changed all that. Also, observing nasty things happening to people around and before you who tried to be loyal and long serving employees. Employers should stop complaining. you reap what you sow. Employers are never loyal so they should not expect same. Life is two ways.They do away with employees at the slightest opportuinity and they cry wolf when it is done to them. A proverb says since the hunter has learnt to shoot without missing the bird too has learnt to fly without perching. It is hard getting a moving target. It is about personal survival,development and growth.

  22. Cara
    Cara says:

    Wow! That article made so much sense to me and makes me feel so much better about being a 29 year-old about to leave my 5th job in 7 years. I thought being a job-hopper was such a character default but I’m actually just trying professions out until I find my passion in life. I agree that money is not the end-all-be-all in a great career. I quit a job where I was making $20K per month because I was far from happy. I am so glad I found your site today! Wish me luck in finding a job I love.

  23. Bunzi
    Bunzi says:

    what a flopperplonk article. This one makes no sense whatsoever. These job-hoppers are know-nothings who think they have picked up skills in their short span at given company, but all they have done is bring some excitement into the work place (no complaints there) and their lives (not my business any way), but make no mistake – they learn very little. I work with many of these job-hoppers, and you can tell based on the stupid decisions they make every day (and with a laugh!). Absolutley no idea or don’t even care about the consequences of their actions, they take no responsibility for their mess and look to take credit every chance they get (it’s hilarious when you see two job-hoppers fight for credit when someone says “good job” to the most trivial of tasks). Penelope Trunk is yet another floater, and the media is lapping up her drivel as advice.


  24. David
    David says:

    While I won’t go so far as attacking Penelope personally, Bunzi makes some good points.

    Those committed only to ‘building their skills and moving on’ seem, to me, to be missing the point. The workplace isn’t about you. It’s about the work, the mission, the goal. If you’re with an organization that’s doing something you can’t get behind, get out. Find one that’s got a direction you can get excited about. Or, to put it another way, committment to something outside yourself.

    Is it more important than family and work/life balance, and all that stuff? No. That’s not what I’m trying to say. Just that if you’re going to go to work, then go with some desire to do it well. Bring something with you beyond your lunch in a brown sack.

  25. Carina
    Carina says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I noticed a lot of your blogs are tailored towards gen y, do you have any words of wisdom for gen x? I don’t have a MBA and I’ve been an individual contributor for my entire career. Am I doomed? Will gen y pass me up? What steps should I take now to ensure success and a leadership role in the future. BTW, I’m now in my early 30’s.

    * * * * * *

    This is a great issue you bring up. I think the key is to be careful which companies you work at. If there are boomers everywhere, and they are smug about their 900 years of experience and their spot on the hierarchy then I would stay away. There are plenty of smaller companies run by Gen X-ers or open-minded boomers that are less hierarchical and more open to new ways of doing things. This is the kind of company where a Gen-xer is least likely to get squashed between generations, I think.

    Also, though, think about starting your own company, or going to someone else’s startup. It’s a great way to be a big part of something exciting without having to deal with outdated boomers who won’t leave.


  26. David
    David says:

    Carina, consider what you want to do and develop some internal measurements of what you consider success. We babyboomers had a different measurement, which is why so many cling to our spot on the hierarchy…for us, that IS success.

    And for those of us who are now cube dwellers with no direct reports, there is a sense of loss and frustration. We went from ‘command and control’ to ‘command and cajol.’ That said, I’m making more now than I ever did as a manager with a lot less aggravation.

    The only ability to influence most of us have is based on the quality of our ideas, how we present them, and our ability to link them to the overall goals of the business.

    If you can come up with new ideas and successfully tell truth to those in power, it doesn’t matter if there are a bunch of youngsters coming up behind you. That’s the way of the world. There always will be. And sure, they can be annoying. They expect to be treated as equals, regardless of how much experience they have. Comments like ‘900 years of experience’ are something of a slap in the face, but in the end if you do the best work you know how to, it will be appreciated and rewarded. Be judged by your actions and attitude.

  27. David
    David says:

    More on ‘being open to new ideas…’

    It’s easy to see it in terms of being 30 or 50 or whatever. But that’s not a really helpful framework, if only because it doesn’t really address the issue. Consider the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory, which addresses adaption vs. innovation. It creates an an awareness of how people prefer to use their creativity as they solve problems. In brief, adaptors are creative inside the box; innovators are creative outside the box.

    From what I’ve seen, that makes a lot more difference than age. The link is to the KAI Centre…no endorsement implied, it’s just for background.

  28. John Miller
    John Miller says:


    Changing jobs every year or two is horrible! Should we all keep our possesions in backpacks? We can lead the nomadic hunter-gatherer existence from 20,000 years ago. We can also live 6 people to an apartment like our new guests from the South. Nice optimism! How can you say that the young people should embrace job hopping? That may be the depressing reality, and I truly feel sorry for the masses, believe me I do. I would advise young people to find a skill and defined career: plumber, carpenter, computer guy, auto detailer, teacher…etc. This nebulous changing jobs isn’t going to work for people, at least it never would have worked for me. Try to get into one of the last unionized jobs: plumber, cop, fireman, teacher, and you will be better off. How are you going to move and change jobs every two years with a family???? This really is a postmodern world, and it is terrible and tragic for those who have to suffer through the mindless corporate crap. This country is all about Cronyism, who you know. If you don’t have wealthy, influential friends forget business!!
    Being a policeman will be especially needed as will prison guard. Being a teacher in the innercity is like being a prison guard. It is a Brave New World! Good luck! Sugar coating the lack of stability in today’s workplace tell me that you (Penelope) are not intellectual enough to be leading this discussion. I wonder what your (real) job would be if you weren’t leading this ridiculous (crazy optimistic) worthless blog. Maybe that’s the point.

    best regards,

  29. Naomi R.
    Naomi R. says:


    You made a very good point, by stating your opinions and it may even differ from some of the counter-points here.

    But what I just don’t understand is why you would personally attack Penelope. What does that have to do with the ongoing discussion? What does that say about your own intelligence?

    I was reading along and understand everything you have to say about the job-hoppers, but Penelope’s article made a good point (at least to open up the forum for discussions), and I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s opinions and experiences.

    Haven’t you heard the adage “Don’t shoot the messenger”?

  30. Peruasion
    Peruasion says:

    I maintain three primary businesses and a few ever changeing sidelines I tell you this: it helps to keep finding new endeavors.

    Sticking with one skillset stagnates the mind. You get bored. You lose the edge.

    Corporatewise, it then makes sense to juggle different careers. If simultaneous is not possible, then do so every ten years.

    This helps you grow as a person.

  31. ruben deprez
    ruben deprez says:

    so clear,

    my jobhopping has to do with something else too. I pinpointed a very high dream, and i’m working my way to it. I think this is essential to make the jobhopping make sence. To me it seems ships with no goal allways have the wind blowing from the wrong side.
    if you have a dream or strong goal , every decision makes more sence .

    in Belgium (where i live )job-hopping is considered bad,
    this is the feeling i get whenever i decide to change my job because i feel i get the information and skills i needed to move on.

    the way penelope explains the subject is as clear as fresh spring water.

    i guess the people who oppose the idea of jobhopping didn’t get the idea that there is no more golden parachute. ( in belgium at 65! )
    It’s like the babyboom generation is deaf or in denial on this subject.
    why would someone work hard and be a yes-saying guy to get some cash at 65 ?
    first you don’t need the cash at 65 because the children can take care of themselves by then and by 65 you might not even make it.

    ps you americans really make a lot of sence!

  32. Mark Mailer
    Mark Mailer says:

    I love this post, I have been in state government positions some years ago, but I didnt get rewarding in this field. Sometimes I get worried about the future and becouse i didn't spend my money to take advantage of my free time. Now i’m freelancer and i can control my time and lifestyle. While my skills in demand i dont worry about my feature.

  33. Philippine Jobs
    Philippine Jobs says:

    I frequently suggest to my clients that wholistic growth is correlated to job shifting every 6 to 10 years. Doing the same thing for extended periods- even if you’ve already reached AVP or VP level- can dull the mind.

    Don’t worry about core competency when shifting. You’ll develop new ones on the job!

  34. SEO Specialists
    SEO Specialists says:

    I thought of something better- instead of shifting jobs or jumping careers, why not take the entrepreneural route? Think of the benefits: you control your time and all profits are yours to maximize.

    As an employee, your income is an expense being minimized by the company

  35. Ruby
    Ruby says:

    Thank you, Penelope, for a refreshing outlook on job hopping. There are always positives and negatives to our decisions (or decisions made for us by others)concerning employment. It’s easy, I guess, for some to become offensive because they may have been “blessed” or “committed” to stay with one employer and feel the need to defend their position. For those people: think about what if you wore the “job hopping” shoes…possibly having multiple jobs due to reorganizations, takeovers, bullying bosses, unethical situations, risks of comprising values, and so on…

    As this article has pointed out when clicking on the words in red “Key values today are time and relationships” and read “How to reach the new American dream” surely outlines some of today’s dilemmas. As a job hopper myself (due to uncontrollable circumstances)it is aggravating to be looked upon as irresponsible, etc. because of choices and challenges. Most of us with families and responsibilities don’t job hop for the sheer and simple thought of adventure. Although, if someone wants more than what one job has to offer, wanting to enjoy how they spend most of their waking hours doing – why not look at job hopping as an adventure while gaining valuable experience?

    I know that’s how I would want to remember my life – I would say “I learned a lot, gained multitudes of friends, and boy, what an adventure along the way!”

  36. J. Jeffryes
    J. Jeffryes says:

    I think it depends a great deal on your skills and the market you’re in.

    I’m a pretty good designer, and I specialize in web work, which has made it very easy to hop around in the local market. I’ve never worked at a single place longer than a year and a half, and no one’s so much as blinked at that when I’ve interviewed. I’m now making more than twice what I was ten years ago, thanks to significant raises each time I changed jobs.

    But if I had a less in-demand or less specialized skillset, hopping around would be much more difficult. I talk to a lot of other designers and programmers, and only a few at the very top can do well with constant hopping. The less in-demand you are, the less hopping you can do, until you get to the bottom, the people with completely generic skills or low ambition. For them, finding a decent job and holding on to it with all their might is probably the best strategy.

    I would amend your article with that bit of market logic. Know how valuable you are before you decide how much you can hop!

  37. peter
    peter says:

    Job hopping. Yes, well I enjoyed the article because it sort of gave me a bit of hope or validation because I’ve done a lot of it. But I’m single without debt so I can afford to to this.

    Let’s face it, everyone needs hope and clarity and a bit of help along the way…..let’s start by throwing our TVs out the window. Cheers.

  38. Craig Lawton
    Craig Lawton says:

    Interestingly you usually get a better pay rise when you change jobs, unless it is entry level.

    I’ve staying at the same employer, they give just above or below inflation, but when moving you can usually negotiate a jump!

  39. Sad at Work
    Sad at Work says:

    To quote Dr. Randolph Nesse, from a very interesting piece titled ‘Evolutionary Explanations for Mood and Mood Disorders’: “the life goals of ordinary people are now larger and longer in duration than they were in past generations, with required investments so huge and prolonged that failure leaves few viable alternatives”. Don’t go to graduate school…

  40. Tom findjobs
    Tom findjobs says:

    I believe that been younger it’s easy to change your job and earn more money; but after a certain age it becomes harder to do this so it depends of how old are you.

  41. guest
    guest says:

    i’m two years out of grad school, on my fourth job. here are my stats: 1st: 2 months, second: 7 months, third: two months, 4th: currently pushing 2months, but who knows where i’ll be tomorrow. is this suicide? i’m living with my parents, working for (my third) bank, but i really want to go live in east asia. maybe teach english and then move on to something else. who knows what the future holds? right now i’m really craving to learn a new language but there’re all these conventional crutches of notions of success that i’m having trouble getting rid off.

  42. Brad
    Brad says:

    These days stability is change when it comes to jobs and work. 30 years ago if you found a job straight out of university you were set for life. Now things are very different. Sometimes it is not only about changing jobs people are forced to change careers all the time. I believe that the best thing one can do is set a solid foundation that allows for change. Being adaptive and persistent are must have attributes these days.

  43. Trval
    Trval says:

    For those who are into frequent job changes, consider doing “Temp” work or temporary job work. You only work a few months to 6 or so months at a time and it is great for people who hate getting stuck on the same old boring job. The pay is surprisingly decent (you usually get paid by the hour) so it’s really good money. Not the best as a salaried job but at minimum you get enough to pay your bills and have the occasional fun.

  44. Lauren@LifeStyler
    Lauren@LifeStyler says:

    I totally agree with this story. I job hopped for the first 4 years of my career and found that I gained many more skills in much shorter amount of time than my peers. I also learned how to deal with many different types of people, as I was exposed to so many different people on so many different levels in such a relatively short amount of time.

    The other main draw to job hopping was that I was able to increase my salary pretty dramatically compared to what I would have gotten in an annual raise — typically 5K-7K with each job move.

  45. Warren
    Warren says:

    Having a strong skill set is essential if someone wishes to be able to change jobs frequently. Especially with the condition the market is in these days it is imperative that someone is irreplaceable in the eyes of the employer. Having some money saved up is also very important just in case one of the transitions doesn't necessarily work out.

  46. Erin
    Erin says:

    Early in my career I did exactly this; I moved from company to company every 3 years. I found myself in about 3 years hitting a “learning curve” plateau. For the last 5 years however, I’ve worked for one company with one promotion into a new role to support my need to continually learn more. That’s where its stopped though. I have a choice now: to continue within the company into management or move on to another company. When I look outside I’m finding I may have stayed too long.

    Part of my realization stems because of my career choice, computer technology, where your skills should be continually refreshed with the latest new thing. Big companies, like the one I’m at, don’t change their technology that quickly and so I’ve allowed my technical skills to lag while I’ve grown my more soft skills. In the long run I believe developing these softer skills will pay off for me, I recognize having a more broad business skill set is also important.

    Thanks for the “kick in the pants” post.

  47. Emily
    Emily says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! This is certainly the truth – especially for those of us in business and technology. My resume has a wake of dead, bankrupt companies on it. I used to have so much shame over this because I believed the outdated career advice others would hand me. Cheap advice is all it was. People love dispensing that. Our generation just doesn’t fit in the old paradigm and no matter how hard people want to cling to what they think they know, it just isn’t the same anymore. Looking back, if the companies I worked for hadn’t crumbled, I might have been the type to stay and become stuck and stagnant. And you know what those people are like – they get set in their ways, are less agile, don’t accept change… No company wants those types anymore. Believe me – being on the Change Management side, companies want to remove the ones blocking their ability to change and adapt. Competition is too high – you can’t have dead weight. Flexibility and adaptability is what companies want. Luckily, because I’ve had to get back up, brush myself off and move on many a time, I’ve become so much agile, polished and wellrounded career-wise and employers notice it. I also notice that with each move I make, I get more than I could ever have expected – more money, more possibilities, more good stuff so I am certainly grateful to have the confidence and assurance that I can pull off any transition and thrive. The people who can get comfortable living in discomfort are the true assets in companies. It may not be the way we want it to be, but its the way it is.

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