"How do you cope with being a job-hopper?"

February 21, 2002

* Editor's note: I am posting this since this is a common problem for many "targets." What you think about the solutions is a different story.

Get thee to a shrink

Apparently, the job-hopping is caused by a mismatch between the nature of the job and the employee's personal traits.

Very often, interviewees strive for prestigious positions, e.g. in finance or conslting, not realizing that these jobs are not made for them. After the initial period of elation and enthusiasm come disappointment and psychological discomfort. So, the company is not for me... Let's go for another company which will probably be a better fit! And a new cycle begins.

To untie this vicious circle, we have to understand our own true features and pre-dispositions, strengths and weaknesses that altogehter form our Character. It is amazing to find out so many people who know literally everything about their job, but fail to know their temperament or accents of character. As a result, we see introverts working at Customer Sales and cholerics doing accounting. [Editor's note: meaning hot-tempered and easily disturbed. Not the guy you want to be going over your tax returns.]

Obviously, the fit of the character with the nature of the job is prime factor in career planning. However, we are too subjective when evaluating ourselves, and understanding our genuine "selves" generally has to involve professional assistance from outside. That's the point where a psychologist is likely to help enormously. Their services are not cheap, but that's an investment in yourself that will pay back generously in both professional and private lives.

Justify your job-hopping self

Job hopping is one of those challenges that can plague anyone unlucky enough to fall victim to a layoff, a downsizing or any of the other misfortunes life may throw one's direction.

A pattern of what appears to be job-hopping can also develop on a resume if a professional chooses to pursue an occupation that offers only a limited number of positions within any single organization. Advertising, marketing, Public Relations and legal counsel are some of the professional positions requiring special preparation and prestigious, above average
compensation but limited vertical career advancement.

Professional specialists will typically spend from four to seven years with an organization before accepting another position that qualifies as career advancement in terms of increased
budget responsibility, staff supervision, creativity, position title, compensation package and other considerations.

In the 80's it was common to encounter Human Resources managers that defined the professional specialists non-traditional career advancement ladder as job hopping. Fortunately, the merge-and-purge '90s as well as a greater understanding of normal career paths has dramatically reduced the incidence of HR staffers stuck in a "one company--one career," mentality.

What does seem to be important today when interviewing for a position is a logical progression from one position to the next, as well as a consistent work history. If an interviewee can justify the choices they've made while providing verifiable references;
today's job market seems willing to tolerate a non-traditional approach to career advancement for those professionals with limited opportunities within an organization.

The roller coaster path to entrepreneurship

I have an answer to the question of what's the best way to explain away job-hopping. I used it myself, and it worked.

After getting my Masters degree, I was first an elementary school teacher (worked at three different schools in three different counties (two different states) in three consecutive years) and then I moved to Manhattan where I had three different positions in one real estate company. I then moved, two years later to Florida, where I had a very hard time finding challenging work that would pay decent money. I worked at five different jobs my first year in Florida, and was unhappy and unmotivated with all of them (I resigned from all of these positions, but on very good terms--the employers felt I was overqualified anyway). My professional life and resume were becoming a mess, and all the education, time and money I had invested in my "career" was flying out the window. I decided to form my own corporation (only cost about 250$--P.S. you can save money and just form a sole proprietorship) and I obtained letters of reference from all my previous employers. I then created a resume that referenced 1) elementary school teacher ; 2) real estate and marketing; and 3) my corporation --labelling me as a consultant, and focusing on sales and marketing. I put functions of the 5 different Florida jobs all under that heading. My resume said references upon request, but I supplied the interviewer with the letters of reference on the spot, symbolizing the success of my work on these various "projects" as a consultant.

I was asked by my next three employers (within the next three years) about my work within the corporation, and I would describe the various duties I performed at each of the jobs. Supplying them with the reference letters kept them from contacting the 5 little jobs. They would call the Manhattan real estate contact, and that boss gave a great reference. It is important to note--I DID NOT EVER LIE!!!!! I told the truth about what I did, and when, about how I got paid, and why I left each project. I just knew that in order to get my foot in the door, an employer did not want to see 11 different jobs in four different cities in only 5 years!!! I started my resume with "accomplishments", and I bullet-pointed my best achievements within various positions. The employers would ask me about the accomplishments, have me clarify the functions of work I did "as a consultant", read the reference letters, and then get into what I could do for them.

Two of the opportunities made available to me exposed me to the world of recruiting, and I became very successful in two different industries, earning a six-figure income in sales.
However, the business world can be, as we all know, very unfair--one boss wanted to sleep with me(or he wouldn't pay me my money) and the other boss spent the money I earned for him in strip clubs (so he couldn't pay me), so two more times I was forced to resign and revamp my resume, now looking even worse, with three jobs even following the corporation.

How did it all turn out? After the last job flop, I started my own recruiting company, and I now I work with, create, and edit resumes every day. I am successful, and I pay myself as well as the independent contractors who work for me (whose resumes, by the way, look like what mine would REALLY be, without the corporation). Good luck to everyone out there--the lesson I've learned is: if you focus on what you can do, and how you can be valuable to the employer AND if you stay away from explaining the rollercoaster that brought you to their door, you will find that employers are very interested in all you have to offer.

A politic answer

"I'm an Executive Secretary with 15 years of experience in government contracting, entailing progressively increasing responsibilities in each branch of government contract work. I was based in Washington DC for 12 of those 15 years and enjoyed the learning experiences and meeting the large number of individuals that three presidential administrative turnovers would allow me.

Government contract work can be short- or long-term depending on its content. One would have to be open to serious cross-training with the ability to move quickly from one team of individuals to the next as well as one assignment to the next, based on the demand for a sharp skillbase.

I am blessed to have achieved such a skillbase and believe my abilities are in keeping with your company's past achievements and future goals."

Well, we hope you found some answers that work for you, all you job-hoppers out there. Remember, we always like your questions here at Vault.


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