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How job hopping can hurt your career

Job hopping can make you appear disloyal, says Dan Schawbel.

Story highlights

  • Many employees don't stay long enough at a job to gain valuable skills, says Dan Schawbel
  • Professionals should view companies as career incubators instead of time wasters
  • Believing in your company's mission and corporate culture can add longevity to a job
  • Sticking at a company for at least two years means it will be more willing to invest in you

Job hopping has become routine for professionals even in this poor economy. In fact, the average American will have about nine jobs between the ages of 18 and 32 reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employees are so focused on finding their dream job right now that they fail to realize that having multiple jobs in just a few years can actually hurt their careers. Many high-potential and ambitious employees don't stay long enough at a position to give it a chance and to gain the necessary skills and maturity required to succeed in business.

It's imperative that professionals start to view companies as career incubators instead of time wasters. Spending twenty years at a single company isn't likely these days -- nor is having a secure nine-to-five job -- but leaving a company after six months can do more harm than good.

Dan Schawbel

How to customize your career

I learned that building a career within a company can be an asset. I had three different positions at EMC Corporation within three years. I gathered new skills, expanded my network and got a better sense of the company based on my experiences. More importantly, I learned a lot about myself in the process.

If I had jumped to three different companies during that time frame, I would have had to rebuild my network, visibility and go through months of additional training for each job. It can take up to six months just to adapt to a new work environment!

    Employers want to see your progression at a company, whether it's up or across an organization. There's nothing wrong with making a lateral move into a different business function.

    If you believe in your company's mission and enjoy being around your co-workers, you will naturally stay longer. "I've always believed in longevity in a company when you work for good people and have a job that you truly believe in," says Maranda Gibson, an Account Manager with AccuConference.

    If you don't fit in your corporate culture, you may have a negative attitude, which could be hazardous to your career. It's imperative that you do your homework during the interview process before you're hired so you don't force yourself into a bad situation.

    Are CEOs: Burning bright or just burning out?

    Professionals have numerous reasons for departing a company, including corporate downsizing, insufficient career opportunities, and a desire to either get an advanced degree or switch to another field completely.

    Companies can retain employees longer by supporting their value systems, giving them meaningful work, becoming a social company and understanding generational differences. They want to know that they have a long-term career path at a company. Elcio Barcelos, a Vice President of Global Staffing at HP confirms this by saying that "companies need to be able to provide diverse career paths for individuals today."

    Although companies may need to soften their stricter policies, such as blocking social networks at work, employees need to get their attitude in check! They also need to be proactive when managing their careers by asking for challenging projects and expanding their portfolio of skills and contacts. "My advice when talking to employees is to approach your job with a good attitude and don't be afraid to take on new roles or projects," said Carlos Dominguez, a vice president in Cisco's Office of the Chairman & CEO.

    You can no longer sit back and wait for work to come to you -- you need to chase the work. Take advantage of the resources at your company so that you can have a more fulfilling experience and can leverage your skills and contacts for new roles within your company.

    Job hopping can look terrible on a resume because you appear disloyal. Employers will think that you didn't give your last job a chance and that you weren't able to acquire the necessary experience. If you move from job to job early in your career, it can leave a lasting impression.

    On the other hand, if you stick it out at a company for at least two years, management will be more willing to invest in you and you will increase your "reputation capital," as Barcelos says. You always need to evolve by learning new areas of the business and by showing your management that you have leadership potential.

    By staying longer at your job, it can differentiate you too. "There is always something refreshing about interviewing somebody who has been with a company five, eight or more years," Barcelos explains.

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