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There’s No Problem with Job Hopping in IT

There’s a persistent myth that no one job hopped prior to 2010. While that’s demonstrably untrue, there are definitely more people engaging in the practice now than ever before.

An employee who moves from company to company more frequently than his or her peers is said to be a job hopper. The definition hinges on a minimum length of time at each job, the value of which seems to be constantly shifting. The industry you work in, as well as the perspective of the potential employer reviewing your resume are all part of the equation.

There’s really no problem with job hopping at any point in your career, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.

It’s Really a Generational Thing, Right?

Just a few generations ago, the length of time someone stayed with a company was viewed strictly in a “the longer the better” context. Many companies rewarded loyalty with regular pay raises, pensions and perks. Over the past few decades, however, pensions and other benefits have declined, leaving workers with less motivation to stay long-term.

A human resources manager from the 1990s may have looked at a resume with frequent job changes – say, no longer than 2-3 years at each firm – as a red flag. More recently, however, the trend to job-hop has become increasingly commonplace, with many HR professionals now accepting shorter tenures per positions as normal.

According to a survey by PayScale, 41% of baby boomers believe that workers should stay in a job for at least five years before moving on to another role. That number drops precipitously for millennials: Only 13% say that five years is a reasonable minimum.

In fact, 26% of millennials believe that workers should not be expected to stay at a job for longer than just one year. So, the age of your potential new boss, or at least the person reviewing resumes, can make a difference.

How Organizations Perceive Job-Hopping

Some industries prize longevity. A lawyer, for example, may choose to dedicate a certain number of years or try a minimum number of cases with a single firm, with the ultimate goal of a promotion to partner. A hospitality professional, however, is practically expected to move from hotel to hotel. The travel sector encourages constant movement and growth over multiple employers.

Still, companies spend a considerable amount of money and time in training new staff. You would be wise to make sure you present yourself as a good investment to a potential new employer. Each of your employment stints should result in at least one relevant achievement on your resume. Someone reviewing your qualifications will most likely see you in a better light if it seems you’ve moved on from each position only after making a tangible contribution or achieving a goal.

One of the unique aspects of being an IT pro is that your skills are transferable across a vast range of companies and industries. A developer, network administrator, or a help desk manager in the healthcare market can easily transition to a similar role in finance, aerospace, or countless other industries. It will be up to you to educate yourself on how tenure is perceived in your industry.

The IT Factor

In the IT world of ever-changing languages, platforms, and systems, no two jobs are exactly alike. Tech evolves differently in each environment, depending on the needs of the business and the managers involved in technology decisions. This leads to some very specific job requirements.

If you’ve ever looked for a SysAdmin job on Craigslist, you probably found yourself in a state of shock over the sheer quantity of qualifications desired for any given job post. Generally speaking, managers tend to include a “wish list” in their postings. While they would be thrilled to find someone with the exact set of skills and experience they need, recruiters will often choose candidates who check the most boxes on that list.

That’s where your job-hopping experience comes in. The more exposure you have to different technologies, the more desirable a candidate you could be.

Finding Your Passion

The IT landscape is vast, with hundreds of specialties to choose from. Many IT professionals start off in a help desk role, which is a great place to learn. This position helps you create a fundamental base of technology knowledge. It also helps you hone your customer service and time management skills, both of which are extremely useful in any occupation.

Early in your IT career, you might not know what you want to focus on. Feel free to transition to new roles while finding what works for you. Just don’t jump ship before you’ve learned all that you can from each position. The most valuable takeaway from a job at this point in your professional development is a constantly improving skill set.

Make the most of your time in each role. If you work closely with network engineers, systems administrators, or web developers, take the time to learn from them. If your company offers training and mentorship programs, this can be a great way to experience the day-to-day of your coworkers first-hand and decide whether or not their specialty appeals to you.

You might find that coding is a lot more fun than you expected, or that browsing Windows logs is something you definitely do not want to spend one more minute doing if you can help it. Everyone has different strengths and interests. Once you’ve identified yours, it’s perfectly acceptable to find a new position where you can grow into that field.

Making Mid-Career Changes

Once you’ve successfully acquired some expertise, you may be in the enviable position to be recruited constantly. You may be a unicorn – someone with such a specialized skill set that you are always in demand. Take advantage! If you receive offers that include wage increases, better benefits, and opportunities for growth, there’s no reason not to take the leap. Just be sure that you’re properly vetting every new company and going into negotiations fully informed.

Let’s say you’re a systems admin, and your favorite sight is a server room that looks like a cascading tangle of spaghetti hiding a disorganized and unlabeled mess of servers. You spend a year toning, tracing, replacing and managing cables. You diagram the network. You label and document the purposes of all servers and storage equipment. Once this is done, the idea of day-to-day maintenance might seem boring. If so, find a new mess to clean up!

At this point in your career, you may even find yourself with a new passion for management. Staying with a single employer long enough to move up the ladder and take on your own department could be in your best interest. But once you’ve exhausted your upward mobility, it can be a great experience to move on and manage a new team elsewhere.

Senior-Level Job Hopping

Statistically, it’s less common for senior-level IT professionals to jump around, but it does happen. And that’s okay, too. Your forte may be coming into a management position and developing a high-level strategy for your firm. Once that plan is in motion, and you’ve accumulated some great highlights and accomplishments, you may want to move on to a new challenge.

Your strength may be in mentoring and leadership. If that’s the case, you may identify a potential successor among your staff. Once you’ve developed them into the leader that you know they can be, you might opt to hand over the reins to your protégé and find a new opportunity to teach.

As a senior manager or C-level professional, your recruiters are less likely to be interested in “time served” and more intrigued by milestones and accomplishments. Your resume at this point should focus on goals achieved. Your success on the job are what will earn you that call back for an interview.

Final Thoughts

It’s okay to job hop. But that’s dependent on your skill set and passion. Everything in moderation. Keep these guidelines in mind, and you’ll be on your way to building in impressive resume and a fulfilling career.

 

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