During my 30 year career in “Corporate America”, I worked 14 years with my first employer and 16 subsequent years with 6 different employers. I increased my income and job satisfaction tremendously during the second half of my career because I changed employers proactively whenever I was able to find something better. Despite the potential for negative personal branding, job hopping was a smart strategy then and it still is today. (A future post will discuss how to avoid the stigma.)

In those days, people referred to the “unwritten contract” between employers and the vast majority of their workers. It went something like this: Work hard, do a good job, remain loyal to us and, in return, we will reward you with cost of living raises and job security. This was a pretty good trade for employees with low career aspirations and fear-driven needs for job security. In 2001, however, employers began (figuratively) round-filing such agreements.

Today, you will have to search long and hard to find an employer who still runs their business based upon the old school philosophy. Wake up call: It is past time for employees to respond to these employer changes. Whether you like it or not, job hopping is a career strategy that is here to stay. GenYers understand this because they have braved economic and employment upheavals for all of their professional careers! As I noted in Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!),

To take more control over your career while you are employed, you need to periodically ask yourself “Do I want to make a proactive career change and would this be in my best interest at this time?”

If your answer is positive to this question, then it is time to get hopping. I like to describe leaving your current gig as giving your employer the “2-week notice pink slip”. Doesn’t it sound empowering to walk into your boss’ office and let them know that you have a new job that was too good to pass up? Sit with this notion for a while… Play with it in your mind using your imagination… Feels good, huh?

But, Richard (you are now screaming at this blog post), I don’t have a better job. I would love to make more money and work for a better company that can offer me more career opportunities. That sounds like a dream.

OK — What’s stopping you?

It doesn’t have to be a dream. You can make it a reality. Studies consistently find that over 50% of American workers are not satisfied with their current employment situation. Most of these unhappy people suck it up and do nothing. Instead of being proactive job hoppers, a fair share end up becoming job losers and reactive job seekers. Others make token efforts to find a new job, like posting their resumes and submitting online job applications — which generally doesn’t work. The good news about job hopping is that (1) your personal brand is more marketable while currently employed and (2) your competition is less than you think because most employed people fail to commit serious effort toward finding a better job.

You can find the courage and effort to make a job change by coming to the conclusion that your current job is not satisfactory. You can commit the necessary effort and work hard to find something better. You can educate yourself regarding newer job search strategies and try things other than applying online, thus increasing your confidentiality and avoiding the competition of 300 other job applicants.

The goal of my book is to dispel a multitude of career myths canonized as “conventional wisdom” in the last century. I challenge you to consider this: In the 21st century, job hopping is a smart career strategy. It is not a cure-all for all people in all situations, but it IS a cure that is used far too little in today’s economy.

What do you think? Do you agree that job hopping is an underutilized career strategy? I’d love to hear your comments.


Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).