Moving jobs – how often is too often?

It’s not uncommon for younger workers to change jobs frequently in pursuit of their career goals or to better their salary. While some prospective employers see moving jobs as ambitious and go-getting, to others it sends out the wrong signals entirely. We asked recruiters and other employment experts to explain why there are these differences of opinion and what you can do about it…

Kaz Osman, Director of Findmydreamjob and an expert on the British job market, says the market is changing, with most young people not expecting to stay in a job longer than three years.

Sue Honoré is at Ashridge, one of the world’s leading business schools, which has researched this subject. She says: “If you can show that each move is a progression, then it is fine.”However, she adds: “In crude terms, employers do not want to invest in someone who does not give them a return on investment. It is not just the financial cost of hiring and training someone but also the time and effort put in…”

How often is too often?

Zoe Fowler, a Director at recruitment specialist Cordant People, says: “If, for example, you’ve had four jobs in four years, that may portray you as someone who gets restless and bored easily and that would probably make an employer cautious in interviewing or hiring you.”

Sue agrees: “Our research shows that employers accept job moves with a two-year gap, although they want good people to stay longer.”

And Kaz adds: “Changing jobs simply to earn more money is not always a good idea; the most important factor of a job is whether or not it gives you satisfaction. The best kind of change is to a job that makes you happy.”

Are some changes okay and some not?

Karen Meager is a Career Coach and works with Monkey Puzzle Training & Consultancy. She says: “Fast-moving tech industries are much more comfortable with people moving frequently, whereas industries with a longer product life cycle, like engineering, value people who stick around longer.”

Sue adds: “Changes out of your control are fine – a family house move, redundancy, on good terms with the employer, and so forth.”

James Lock, Founding Partner of Communicate Recruitment Solutions, points out: “The more junior the position, the shorter period of time needed to prove yourself in that role. Projects and objectives for junior professionals can generally be achieved in months, whereas a senior professional may need years to show the impact they have had on the business.”

Could staying in one place for too long work against you?

Sue definitely thinks it can: “You can easily become so deeply involved in the culture, routine and processes of a role that moving to a new job is really difficult.”

Kaz believes that if you show there were good reasons to stay – like promotion or new opportunities – there is no reason why staying in one job should work against you. “It shows trustworthiness and allegiance.” However, he adds that continuing to work in the same job without developing yourself or even when you’re unhappy in your work “makes a person look passive or, worse than that, lazy”.

And how should you explain frequent job changes at interview?

Sue’s advice is to be honest but think how to sell your decisions to move jobs. James agrees: “Justify why you left and demonstrate what you achieved and your interviewer will be reassured your frequent changes were not due to itchy feet or lack of commitment.”

Kaz pitches in: “If your CV is crafted properly and if you show conviction in your words, then your varied work background can be your biggest asset in an interview. Make sure to stress how each job you had, brought you one step closer to where you are today.”



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