Why Job Hoppers Make the Best Employees

Last Updated Jul 29, 2010 3:13 PM EDT

People in their 20s on average change jobs every 18 months. People in their 30s -- at least the ones that continue to do well in their careers -- change jobs frequently as well, although at a slower pace than the 20 somethings. So if you think job-hopping is bad, change your thinking. Job hoppers are not quitters. In fact, they make better co-workers and better employees and I bet are generally more satisfied with their work life.

Here's why:
1. Job hoppers have more intellectually rewarding careers.
In almost any job, the learning curve is very steep early on. And then it goes flat. So by the end of two years at the same job, you often have little left to learn. Which makes me wonder what people are doing to keep their brains alive if they stay at the same job for 20 years. It also makes me certain that job hoppers know more.

If you change jobs often, then you're always challenged with a lot to learn -- your learning curve stays high. This is true for office skills, and industry specific knowledge. It also applies to your emotional intelligence. The more you have to navigate corporate hierarchies and deal with office dramas, the more you learn about people and the better you will become at making people comfortable at work. And that's a great skill to have.

2. Job hoppers have more stable careers.
Corporate America doesn't provide stability for its employees. The only people who think it does are really old and completely out of touch. There are layoffs and downsizing and just-in-time hiring and contract workers -- realities that barely existed a generation ago. The stability you get in your career comes from you. If you're counting on some company to give you stability, realizing this is scary. But if you believe in yourself and your abilities and treat your career with this understanding, then it's no problem. You can create career stability -- you just have to do it on your own.

The way you do that is through networking. Because you can be sure you'll need to find many jobs in your lifetime, you want network as efficiently as you can. After all, the most efficient way to find a job is through a network. It's how most people land jobs. People who work for lots of companies have a larger network than people who stay in one place for long periods of time. Which is why job-hopping creates stability.

3. Job hoppers are higher performers.
If you know you are going to leave your job in the next year, you're going to be very conscious of your resume -- that is, what skills you're tackling, what you're achieving, whether you're becoming an expert in your field. These issues do not generally concern someone who has been in a job for five years and knows he's going to stay another five years. So job hoppers are always looking to do really well at work, if for no other reason than it helps them get their next job.

You can't job hop if don't add value each place you go. That's why job hoppers are usually overachievers on projects they are involved in; they want something good to put on their resume. So from employers' perspective, this is a good thing. Companies benefit more from having a strong performer for 18 months than a mediocre employee for 20 years. (And don't tell me people can't get up to speed fast enough to contribute. Fix that. It's an outdated model and won't attract good employees.)

4. Job hoppers are more loyal.
Loyalty is caring about the people you're with, right? Job hoppers are generally great team players because that's all they have. Job hoppers don't identify with a company's long-term performance, they identify with their work group's short-term performance. Job hoppers want their boss to adore them so they get a good reference. Job hoppers want to bond with their co-workers so they can all help each other get jobs later on. And job hoppers want to make sure everyone who comes into contact with them has a good experience with them; it's not like they have ten years on the job to fix a first impression.

This is why job hoppers care more about their co-workers and will go further to make them happy than long-term employees. And it if you think about it, this makes sense for a company, too: The company isn't hiring you with any decade-long commitment, so you would be foolish to think you have to give one.

5. Job hoppers are more emotionally mature.
It takes a good deal of self-knowledge to know what you want to do next, and to choose to go get it rather than stay someplace that for the moment seems safe. It takes commitment to personal growth to give up career complacency and embrace a challenging learning curve throughout your career -- over and over. And it's a brave person who can tell someone, "I know I've only been working here for a month, but it's not right for me, so I'm leaving."

Doubtless you'll hear that you should stick it out, show some loyalty, give it at least a year or two. But why should you take time out of your life to spend your days doing something you know is not right for you?

It is okay to quit. No career is interesting if it's not engaging and challenging, and your most important job is to find that -- over and over. Do not settle for outdated workplace models that accept complacency and downplay self-knowledge. Sure, the job market is tough nowadays - but that's no reason to settle.

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