Perils of job switching

With the job market picking up, it may be time to change employers. But shifting for the wrong reasons and doing it too frequently could ruin your career, says Devashish Chakravarty.

Devashish Chakravarty | Print Edition: January 2011

The job market is throbbing and the hoppers are back. During the two years of (relative) unemployment sparked by the 2008 slowdown, most people were willing to take a pay cut to hold on to a job. Now, they are being tempted to consider a new one barely three months into their present one. However, it's important to consider if job hopping is as attractive as it seems, if it's being done for the right reasons and the ways one can make it work.

Let's begin by considering the market reality. When hiring picks up pace, as is the case now, it is difficult for companies to retain talent. Thus, there is a tendency to make employment offers increasingly attractive, encouraging people to switch jobs in search of better deals.

Job portals, a booming recruitment consulting industry, and social networking have, combinedly improved access to employment opportunities. In certain spaces, frequent change of jobs is common. These include start-ups (typically sunrise industries, software) and project-based jobs, such as consulting.

Too many changes in a short period signify lack of commitment and consistency and it can become harder for you to land a good job
Some of the common reasons for switching jobs include a sizeable increase in pay, promotion, better employer, meeting of specific career goals or bailing out of a wrong job. However, these reasons are not enough. Job hopping is good for one's career when it follows a plan to acquire a set of skills and expertise that are valued in the industry. It is beneficial when the purpose is to upgrade one's responsibilities and employer in order to reach a particular position.

To an extent, job hopping does help in building a dynamic professional network, which pays dividends in the long term. Changing jobs also helps in keeping one's interest alive at the workplace. However, all this works only if you can consistently deliver high levels of performance and can show a significant contribution in each job.

Despite the advantages and the current market condition, job hopping signifies lack of commitment and consistency, and it becomes increasingly difficult for a hopper to land good jobs. So, even though it's a growing trend and employers can no longer refuse to consider candidates who have shifted frequently, such changes are very visible on a resume.

They do nothing for your chances of being considered for a job and most companies are likely to outrightly reject a job hopper's application unless he has a plausible explanation or is able to show how he can add value to the firm. To make sure job hopping does minimum damage to the resume, it is best to put in some thought on how one should present it.

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