How Often Should You Change Jobs?

Employees once stayed with the same jobs for decades, but today it’s more common for workers to switch jobs every few years, as they search for promotions and higher salaries.

This practice has advantages but it also has a downside. The good thing about changing jobs frequently is it gives you a chance to build your professional credentials and make more money. The problem is that you risk creating a work history that doesn’t reflect an ability to make a commitment to a single company.

“Changing jobs too often can give you the reputation of being a job-hopper,” said Steve Pritchard, human resources manager for Cuuver. “This can count against you because employers may look at your resume, see that you haven’t stayed in any job for longer than a couple of years, and decide that you won’t commit to the role you’ve applied for.”

Tiffani Murray, a career consultant, blames online technology for the current job-switching culture.

“We’re always seeking something better, easier, higher paying, or more convenient,” she said. “It’s easier to find job options than it was 20 years ago with job boards, online sites, and mobile applications. If you’re just a click away from a raise and work-from-home options, why not toss your hat in the ring? That’s the mentality of today’s workforce.”

Employers likely will have to get used to the trend. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jumping from job to job has become the norm. The bureau in 2016 reported that the average time on the job for Americans was 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years in 2014.

Millennials — those born roughly between 1980 and 1996 — are especially prone to changing jobs quickly, according to a 2016 report by the Gallup polling organization. One in five millennials it surveyed (21%) said they’d changed jobs within the past year. That was more than three times the number of non-millennials who reported the same behavior.

Darla Hornbjork, a recruiting consultant for Gray Scalable, says today’s workers are likely to have “several jobs over the course of their career and some have several careers over the course of their lives.”

“People change companies and change roles more aggressively because they can,” she added. “If career growth is a motivator and an employee doesn’t see a path in their current company, then they will move to one where there is opportunity for growth.”

Is loyalty rewarded?

Jeff Magnuson, a marketing and brand consultant, sees little loyalty between employers and their workers today.

“Employees have caught on to the fact that they’re an expense on a company’s balance sheet and when times get tough and cuts need to be made, their job could very likely be the one that gets cut,” Magnuson said. “While this may seem cold, companies are trying to turn profits and don’t exist to simply provide jobs to people.”

Twenty years ago, employers were more willing to invest in their workers, offering pensions and other benefits that gave them good reason to remain with a company, he added. Today pensions are much less common. Companies are more willing to hire outside consultants and freelancers who receive no company benefits.

Not offering pensions “sends a clear signal to employees that companies are indifferent toward their long-term affiliation with a company,” he explained. In the end, he said, today’s employers generally make the decisions that are best for their business.

It’s up to workers to decide when their loyalty to a company will be rewarded – and when they would be better off moving on, said Prichard. They also need to understand that businesses tend to make decisions that are in their own best interests.

Raises and bonuses “should be based on the quality of work they have produced during their time working there, whether that has been one year or 10,” he said.

Looking out for yourself

In today’s workplace environment, workers need to watch out for themselves. Magnuson says it’s a mistake to grow too comfortable in any job. He advises his clients to update their resumes every six months, in case the need to change jobs arises.

Career coach Sherri Edwards doesn’t expect the current pattern of workers changing jobs frequently to change.

“People change companies and change roles more aggressively because they can,” she said. “If career growth is a motivator and an employee doesn’t see a path in their current company, then they will move to one where there is opportunity for growth.”

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