It was once the case that job-hopping was seen as a bad thing. After all, if an employer is going to invest in your training and development, they want some return on that investment. That typically means a certain amount of time to grow with the company. A job-hopping past, therefore, could serve as a warning.
But things have changed in recent years. It’s become much more common to move from employer to employer. That pattern can actually benefit you as an employee, as long as you use each of those opportunities to their full potential. In the end, it’s usually a good idea to stick to a job that’s a good fit — and know how to sell your experience regardless of tenure.
What’s the Average Job Tenure?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median job tenure is 4.2 years. That hides a more telling figure: for workers aged 55 to 64 it’s 10.1 years, compared to just 2.8 years for those aged 25 to 34. Fifty-seven percent of those 60 to 64 had been with their current employer for 10 or more years in January 2018, compared to just 12 percent of those aged 30 to 34.
That indicates a generational shift. It is no longer the norm to spend decades at a company. On the flipside, it’s not necessarily the best look to have had short stint after short stint — especially when those former employers hired you for a long-term position and were making a bet you would stick around.
What Do Employers Look For?
Executive recruiters have stated that they want their new employees to be with them for at least one year. That’s because it will take a new hire several months to become immersed in the job and bring value back to the company. In addition, the hiring process is expensive — not just in recruitment costs but energy expended by the company.
The relevance of your job tenure history depends on the circumstances. The job you’re applying for matters. A history of movement between employers may be fine for a junior level position, but it’s less common for executive roles. The greater the amount of responsibility, the more the employer wants to see stability, reliability, and a clear path to return on investment. On the other hand, some industries regularly compete for quality talent. In these areas, moving around might be common and acceptable.
How Do You Structure Your Resume?
As a job seeker, it’s always smart to highlight your strengths on a resume, and there’s always an upside to your employment journey. Regardless of your age, industry, or employment history, you can draw attention to your assets. Sometimes this means dispelling the myths of whatever category you fall into, whether you’ve stayed put at a company, or sampled job offerings from several employers.
How to Leverage Stability
There’s good and bad to stability: a company may feel safe investing in you because you are less likely to bolt for a new opportunity. There’s a lot to be said for loyalty and reliability. However, there are real concerns. A recruiter may fear your skills are out of date, that you’re lacking ambition, you can’t handle increasing responsibility, or that you are not committed to innovation.
Turn these perceptions around by structuring your resume to highlight how you’ve grown over time:
- List new and ongoing skills training in a “professional development” section
- Identify projects you have initiated and spearheaded through to completion
- List positions separately and identify increasing levels of responsibility. Use words like “promoted” and “advanced”
- Emphasize the diversity of your skill set in “resume highlights” and “accomplishments” sections
- Remove irrelevant or outdated skills and achievements
This way, you’ll demonstrate that you have a long history at another company, but you also have the energy and drive to bring something new to a prospective employer.
How to Leverage Diverse Employment History
There are good reasons to move from one job to another, but too much movement may lead a new employer to fear you are hard to work with or won’t stick with the company through difficult times. They may also balk at the idea of investing in your training and support, especially if they feel you may just go on to the next opportunity as soon as it arises.
You can alleviate some of these concerns by highlighting the reasons why you’ve chosen to investigate several past job opportunities:
- Identify specific new skills you gained from each employer, in particular revolutionary technology
- List any new challenges you took on by moving to a new role
- Discuss, in a cover letter or job summary, legitimate reasons for moving on. These include lack of advancement opportunities, change of geographic location, and involuntary layoff.
As someone who’s experienced a great deal of career transition, there are ways to proactively address your employment history. Use your cover letter to full advantage. Describe your job history in positive terms. Talk about what you brought to each organization. If there is a legitimate reason you left a previous job after a short tenure, state it.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
There are common attributes most employers look for in a new hire, like potential for reliability and loyalty. But every job hunt, and every employer, is unique. Some companies value someone who has experienced a variety of different work environments, even for short periods of time. The key is for you to highlight your personal strengths and show your new employer how your journey so far is going to benefit them.
Need more help making your resume stand out? Meet with an executive career coach!