Career hopping is becoming more common

by Lisa Gardner

It’s common knowledge that remaining at a company for more than three years is detrimental to one’s career development. Right? This certainly wasn’t something I absorbed while attending career seminars and résumé-building workshops as a student four years ago. I would have remembered if the ubiquitous “Career Counsellor” suggested the inclusion of “Have changed careers three times since graduation” as an impressive highlight on my cover letter.

“There is a current belief that if one stays at a company too long, meaning three years or longer, the less trainable and sought after they become to other companies. It’s a way to ensure you remain hirable and keep your options open,” says Ryan Barker, HR manager for a large IT sales company who believes that this mentality, although very real, is only a symptom of a larger more complex issue – this generation’s search for perfection.

According to Richard Florida, author of the book, The Rise of the Creative Class, the shift from employee longevity may be in part due to the rise of human creativity and the enhanced value placed on its cultivation. Others theorize that a loyalty shift occurred in the late early 1990s when massive layoffs became commonplace and has spurred the message that no one is indispensable.

Whether it is societal pressures, historical practices or cultural evolution, ‘career hopping’ is increasingly becoming common practice in our society.

Kwantlen University College’s Counselling and Advising Services department has published common myths that may hinder job fulfillment:

  • Time is running out and I need to make a final career decision now.
  • There’s only one right career that exists for me.
  • If I have to change my career, I’m a failure.

As a former IT recruiter then turned sales rep and now a marketing/HR person, I can relate to the first myth. I felt a lot of pressure to just get hired and begin a career. I didn’t put as much thought into mapping out a career path as I should have and thus, I found myself in an industry and job that I loathed.

“I hated the idea of being stuck in a dead-end, go nowhere job,” says Jeremy Johnston, a travel agent, who says that he too felt the pressure to rush into a position and after four years just recently made a career move.

Amelia Tsang worked at a major hardware corporation for nearly four years before making the decision to leave and pursue real estate. Tsang explains that the incentives were excellent and the possibility of growth exceptional. However, despite the perks, she says she still wasn’t happy and resisted leaving her company because she felt, believing Kwantlen University College’s second myth, there was only one route for her.

“I really didn’t think too much about what I wanted to do or be. I had imagined climbing the corporate ladder or creating my own empire and once I formulated that plan, I felt there was no other way for me to go,” says Tsang, who adds, “it was a bold move to quit but I’m glad I did.”

When Phil McIntyre started his first job following graduation at a leading national bank, he was excited and hopeful. He had planned for a career in the financial services and had visions of growing and developing within the organization.

“When I began to feel dissatisfied, I accepted and justified it as just a process I had to go through in order to succeed. If I quit, then I quit on my dreams, that’s what I thought,” says McIntyre who recently went back to school for Web development.”

Although it would seem that the days where one would choose a company following graduation and remain with them for the duration of their working years are in the past, there are some companies experiencing very little turnover.

“People don’t leave where I work (or at least not by choice). I work for a fairly small company (65 people) where you can walk into the president’s and CEO’s offices and talk to them about ideas, problems, etc.,” says Mike Parkhill, who currently works in IT.

“They also try to take care of their employees. For example, one of the women here had a son diagnosed with diabetes back in June she was able to take the summer off so that they could get adjusted to a life of sugar counts and insulin injections,” explains Parkhill.

Perhaps it isn’t being in the workforce at all that makes you happy. Mary Newman found that after three years of working in large corporations she preferred to stay home.

“I was never really career-minded and realized in my heart that I wanted to stay home and support my husband and raise kids once they came,” she says.

Which takes us back to the question “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I’m not sure if where I am is where I’m going to remain until retirement. What have been crucial to my career development are ensuring that I am consistently learning, feeling comfortable in my work environment, and understanding that I’m not trapped or stuck where I am. Now more than ever there are options and there are resources. Whether you are someone who is taking the plunge into the workforce for the first time or a veteran looking to follow an old dream, it seems inevitable that choosing to change careers midstream will endure and rise as tools such as Internet job sites, career consultants and government resources continue to nurture the phenomenon.

Modified on April 23, 2009