Real Talk: To Job-Hop Or Not?

Recently I’ve seen a ton of people sharing a provocative Forbes article whose title just about sums it up: “Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less.” The reasoning? The recession has hit routine pay raises for legacy employees across the board, whereas there are still major incentives to get hired elsewhere. Plenty of people I know have been posting this link across Twitter and Facebook and wondering whether there’s credence to it, and if so, what it means for themselves and the people they hire.


Judging by what I’ve seen from my entrepreneur friends, rampant job-hopping is happening more than it used to even just a few years ago, and even in industries that are growing rather than battered by the recession. One woman I know says she’s been seeing resume after resume with listings of a half-dozen jobs where the applicant spent a year or less. Is this indicative of a flaky employee (or an incompetent one, or one who clashes with management) or is it someone who’s making savvy, calculated moves?

Things have definitely changed. My parents were used to jobs where they could stay for a decade-plus, but they were in law and academia -- two fields where staying in the same place for a long time can make a big difference in terms of credibility. But that’s not always the case in some of the sectors that are on the rise both in terms of visibility and hiring power these days. In the tech and media industries in particular, there’s a weird dichotomy between the wide availability of “lateral moves” within a company and the general thinking that if you want to make a big jump in seniority or salary, you’ve got to jump employers as well. (For what it’s worth, this has been true of the ad agency world for decades.) You’re also dealing with a lot of upstart companies where an otherwise routine change in management or strategy can dramatically transform the entire culture of the company.

As long as this is the case in the business world (and it may not necessarily be) I expect we’ll see a few things done differently. The standard resume frequently doesn’t tell the whole story, and prospective employers have to 1) spend quite a bit more time interviewing prospective candidates and talking to their references, and 2) take a real interest in their personalities, not just what’s on paper.

When I interviewed for a job at Google, I spent four hours in a series of six straight interviews that exhausted me so much I promptly passed out asleep in my rental car afterward without even leaving the parking lot of the building on the Mountain View campus (true story). I was also somewhat shocked that in one of them -- the one with the most senior employee to interview me -- more questions were asked about the marathon I’d just run than my entire employment history. At that point in my career, there was a single full-time job on my resume where I’d spent five years. Google’s HR team and my interviewers understood that no matter what, that resume wouldn’t be telling the full story. The company gets it when it comes to the realities of 21st-century employment.

I spent two years at Google, realized the company had grown so large that upward mobility was frustratingly tough (and that the company was so big at that point that, as I’ve said before, creating an emotional connection to your work there was getting much harder), and left for the start-up world. But I loved my time there, exited on a positive note, and my colleagues and managers told me on my last day that the company loves it when “alumni” return, as though they realize that spending time elsewhere for a few years can turn decent employees of the present (well, I hope I was decent) into better employees of the future.

Like I said, Google’s a company that gets it. At least on that note.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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