It’s a rare occurrence these days for someone to say I want be an “XYZ”, obtain their qualifications, land a job and end up staying in that position for years on end.
It is estimated that we will have approximately 14 jobs in our lifetime which over a 40-year career means you will probably change jobs every 2.5 to 3 years. The days of finding a job and enjoying a 20-year career with one employer are gone. Our parents and grandparents may have worked in this way but it’s no longer the case for us.
Why do people change jobs?
There are many reasons people change jobs – to expand their skills and knowledge, try a new sector, gain a promotion or enter an entirely different career. In fact, few people’s careers follow a straight line. There are twists and turns in the road. I find it really interesting to ask people how they came to be in their current role. The majority will say “Oh I never planned to take this path”. Opportunities present themselves along the way and this can actually be a great thing for your career.
Another reason people change jobs is for a salary increase. It’s not uncommon for people to gain significant increases in salary by moving to another company, much more than they would gain staying with the same employer.
Going after a particular project is yet another reason people seek out opportunities with different employers. Perhaps a company has secured a major contract you’d love to be part of; maybe they are at the cutting edge of their industry and you want to ride that wave. There are lots of reasons for seeking a new role: it doesn’t always mean that you tired of the company or position you held.
Whatever the circumstances, it’s quite common for people to move jobs every 2–3 years. There is no stigma attached to this as long as your résumé shows progression and skills gained along the way. The key is selling the movement to employers, an area where many jobseekers fall short.
For example, if you changed roles so you could step into a supervisory position – sell this to employers. Tell them about the type and number of staff you supervised, the new skills you developed and how you honed your existing skills. If you took a role in a company because they were working on a project you wanted to be part of, then highlight this. Speak about the project, your reasons for wanting the experience, and what you gained from it. Don’t make the mistake of leaving it for an employer to assume the reasons you sought a new role.
When do job changes become a problem?
If you frequently change jobs, and by frequent I mean less than 12 months in a role, you look unstable.
People who stay in the same role, at a similar level but change company frequently look as though they have issues. Take for example a hairdresser who came to me last year, frustrated the she couldn’t get a job. She had left her last employer as soon as she had completed 12 months, took her annual leave and went to Bali — as she had done for the previous four years. She was then distraught because she couldn’t get an interview. She never got promoted, each change was simply that — a change of employer. On paper, she looked as though she had trouble staying long term in any role, or perhaps had issues working with others.
Another area of concern for employers is if you move through various types of roles. For instance if you commenced your career as an administration assistant, then went into a call centre role, followed by a stint in the hospitality industry, then became a personal trainer and finally decided to return to the office environment in an administrative capacity, you will have a red flashing “Beware” sign on your résumé. Employers look at that kind of movement and understandably form the opinion that you have no idea what you want to do and won’t stay with them for long either.
If you are a contractor and move through various projects and assignments, this is entirely different. Where it becomes a problem is if you don’t explain your movement in your résumé. I’ll never forget a guy I helped last year who had 15 jobs in 3 years and wasn’t getting interviews. After looking at his résumé it was easy to see why. He didn’t include the word ‘Contractor’ anywhere in his résumé and even failed to include the names of projects he had worked on – all of which would have been easily recognisable to employers because they were major projects. It is expected that a contractor will show a higher level of movement of their résumé and is not a negative at all.
Sometimes the path we’ve taken doesn’t work. Many people have been enticed by a position – whether it’s the industry, benefits, perks or the role itself that appeals to you, you take the leap only to find in a few months that it really isn’t what you envisaged and not where you want to stay. In these cases it is advisable to leave sooner rather than later, particularly if returning to your original career. It is relatively easy to explain to prospective employers that you tried something new, discovered it wasn’t for you and have a renewed commitment to your chosen field. If you did this two or three times though, it would become a problem because you look flighty.
How should I present frequent job changes on a résumé?
The decision to hire someone is not easy for employers. They invest a great deal of time and effort into training someone and/or waiting a few months until you settle into the role. When you leave after a few months, it costs them more money to replace you. If an employer is presented with two candidates offering similar levels of experience, qualifications and value, and one of them has consistently changed jobs, then the more stable of the two will likely be offered the role.
So how do you overcome a background of frequent job changes? By focusing on the positive aspects – what did you learn, what skills did you gain, how did you improve? Once you’ve determined the benefits, present them in a manner that the employer can see adds value to their organisation.
Having held different roles means you’ve honed your skills in different settings and added to your skills set along the way. This is a great selling point. The problem however, occurs when people don’t sell the positive aspects of job change in their résumés.
Your résumé needs to a show a history of progression, growth and new, improved skills. Before you make a move, think about your current role and ask yourself if it really is time – can you sell the move in your résumé or should you hang in a little longer?
© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant
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