R.I.P to conventional work arrangements & the rise of the serial job hopper

Guest Column by Nicole Raphael, MA

Company loyalty is dead.   Exemplary employees used to be deeply committed “lifers” who were industry specialized and stayed put through thick and thin.   While there are still plenty of loyal employees who are married to organizations until death, or retirement, do them part, there is a new breed of professionals that neither expects nor desires to settle down with one employer for the long-haul.   This trend is being driven by millennials, the generation that ranges from recent college graduates to workers who are under 35, and for these professionals, tackling a successful project and then moving on seems to be a more sensible option than languishing away in a single organization or industry for their entire career.  Besides, this group of trendsetting employees has noticed that the economy can no longer bear to offer traditional long-term employment contracts, or in many cases, provide stable, full-time employment at all. 

In the new job market, serial job changing is the norm.   The average Millennial will have three different careers, change organizations every 18 months, and will have more than eight jobs by the time they are 32.  This could be the beginning of a big shift in how organizations attract talent and Millennials could be a generation of professionals who are largely employed to work on a contract or project basis; they will be asked to be loyal to the project, not the company.

It’s not a novel concept to rely on an army of highly-qualified contract workers.   In some industries, such as technology, contract work is a labor-pool mainstay.  This model could be of great benefit to a wider array of industries and professions.  Think about it.  It’s a useful adaptation to be ABLE to change jobs and even careers to meet the needs of an ever changing economy.   Millennials are demonstrating this value by being a more flexible workforce than our parents’ generation.  They are able to do more with less, reinvent themselves and quickly add value to teams.   Additionally, armed with degrees and a wealth of experience, these employees are some of the most skilled, effective and ambitious candidates on the market.  The come, they conquer, and they move on.

However, in the familiar landscape of layoffs, unemployment, and underemployment, there seems to be little tolerance for the consequences of the rapidly evolving job market.  One major impact, and indeed a sign of changing times, is an increasingly mobile workforce, with patchwork resumes that tell the story of a host of false-starts, learning experiences, layoffs and capitalized opportunities.  Yet, hiring managers have a tendency to label these qualified frequent job changers as flaky, disloyal or ineffective.   While these negative attributes may have been the case in the past, for Millenials change, in life and work, is the cultural imperative.

How do you know if you are a part of the “professional contractor” trend?  Does your resume look like a hopscotch board?  Do you stumble when it comes to the questions about why you job hopped (I came, I conquered, and I moved on is not a great reply)?  Do you have a difficult time selling yourself and making sense of your unique story?  If you answered yes to the questions above then you are likely a part of this trendsetting group.   Again, I think that frequent job changing is the new reality.  It’s a trend that is here to stay.   However, many HR professionals and hiring managers tend to screen out job-hopper, regardless of their tremendous skills. This is a potential barrier when it comes to job hunting if you’re not adept at selling yourself effectively.

The job-hopper stigma needs to be disbanded for professionals who are ambitious, but mobile.  In part II of this article I will discuss how to overcome job-hopper objections.

One Response to R.I.P to conventional work arrangements & the rise of the serial job hopper
  1. Kimberly
    July 13, 2012 | 10:52 pm

    Thank you, I am a great employee, and because of changing times and values, things have been tough and I have had to job hop, but I tell you what because of that I have tremendous skills and adaptablity then I would have if I had not. But you are right hiring managers and HR employees do weed us out, to bad because they have no idea what they are missing out on.

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