Ask Ramit: “What if I’m a job hopper?” video

April 10th, 2012 - 11 Comments

“What should I do if I’m a job hopper?”

This is one of the top questions I received in over 30,000 data points I collected for the Find Your Dream Job course.

In fact, I got it so many times that I decided to put together a video answering it, plus:

  • How top performers approach job hopping
  • What hiring managers think about job hoppers
  • How long you should stay at a job

Notes from the video:

  • No, employers don’t like job hoppers. But that’s only part of the story.
  • Top performers are VERY comfortable moving from one job to another every 2-3 years.
  • Positioning matters: For example, if you’ve stayed at a company for 5 years, that can actually look bad…and if you’ve only stayed at a company for a year, that can also look bad.
  • Yet you can use sophisticated positioning — which is completely ethical and accurate — to actually show why staying at a company for 1 year, or 5 years, was a terrific decision. Your answer can actually strengthen your position as a candidate
  • So if you have gaps in your job history…or you’ve hit a dead-end and want to switch your career…or if you aren’t sure what your passion is and you’ve jumped around…watch this.

For more videos from the Dream Job course — including a 21-minute live interview teardown with one DJ student who overcame a weak job history to land TWO Dream Jobs (and started a bidding war between them), sign up below.

Sign up below to watch my live interview teardown that helped one student land her Dream Job AND negotiate a huge raise.

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11 Comments

 

Comments

  1. Ramit – excellent video, excellent answer. For readers looking for an example of how this might work, my story is this: worked for about 10 years in technology for financial firms in/near Manhattan.

    I’ve had 6 jobs from 2003-2012. 3 of these jobs were exceptions to the 2-3 year rule. It was actually “the 3 year rule” when I started working in 2003. The first job was working at a small bank. I stayed there for 1 year, but accomplished a TREMENDOUS amount in that short time. After leaving and interviewing for a new job, my reason was “to pursue similar opportunities in a larger environment.”

    The 2nd job was a 3 year stint, with promotion at the 1.5 year mark. When leaving this job and interviewing, the reason for leaving was to “pursue larger opportunities of greater responsibility” that weren’t available at the specific company I worked for.

    3rd job was at Lehman Brothers for 2 years. This was during a major financial crisis and they went out of business, so there was my excuse for job searching. However, I probably would have stayed at that job much longer because they were a company that allowed top performers to move up FAST. (by the way, if you can find a company that goes out of their way to promote top performers, you are in a great spot. The DREAM JOB course is ideal for this. I haven’t taken it but the material I’ve seen is spot on)

    Next job was at a start up “running the show.” It was risky move, especially in a bad recession, but I was young and confident in my ability to rebound if something went wrong…and they went bankrupt in 6 months. When my next employer asked me about the job hopping, I had two perfectly valid explanations, AND I had BOTH supervising managers from the previous jobs as REFERENCES.

    The next job was at a large, old financial firm and was one of the worst environments I had ever been in. Left the job in 8 months. It was the first position where, literally, the environment was not conducive to great work. This job was my “bad egg.” A hiring manager will understand 1, maybe 2 “bad eggs”, or hops, as Ramit says. Hiring managers would question my resume about job hopping and I had valid explanations for all three sub 2-3 stints. When I described the job I left in 8 months, I didn’t COMPLAIN about it, I just mentioned the the corporate environment was a mismatch for my work style. I then proceeded to explain I have a very entrepreneurial work style, etc,etc, but NEVER badmouthed the last job. One thing to note: throughout my career, each job taken had been in INCREASING RESPONSIBILITY. This is another thing managers look for, and it can offset some of the “bad eggs” you might have. You must constantly be looking for ways to either “take on more” or “appear to take on more.” to build up the skills on the resume. Working SMART is your best bet. Hope this helps!

  2. As someone who does hiring in the Silicon Valley, I see job hoppers all the time.

    If the majority of your resume is less than 2 year jobs (or worse, I’ve seen people who’ve never been at a job more than 1 year) then you’re out. I won’t even consider you. Sorry, why should I hire someone who very likely won’t stay with me very long?

    If you have a big gap on your resume, please explain it. If you got to me through some recruiter or a personal contact. Have them explain a big gap. Taking four years off to raise your child is awesome and I have no problem with it. Having an unexplained four year gap in your resume is less awesome. Don’t make me come up with an explanation to an obvious hole in your resume because I won’t. I’ll just rule you out.

    In fact, put the explanation on your resume. I recently saw one resume that had a three year span in which the candidate traveled the world after making some money on a previous start up. That’s great. Love that kind of employee. He’s driven to make us succeed because he wants another three year vacation!

    Otherwise, don’t even worry about a one or two job gaps or short duration jobs. If the rest of the resume is strong, I won’t care.

  3. It can absolutely work to your advantage:
    My career includes leaving and returning to one particular company twice. It includes a matrix of full-time and part-time jobs in software engineering, ballroom dancing, and sales management. It makes me stand out, and all but guarantees more of a hiring manager’s time than most.

    (That said, only my first job out of college came from a submitted resume – everything else came through my network, just like Ramit advises.)

    It comes down to this:
    You had reasons to hop. If you let yourself feel guilty, you’re going to focus on the bad reasons, and it’s going to be hard to avoid talking about them, and you’ll end up making excuses. Don’t feel guilty. Think of each hop as the best possible decision you could have made, and talk about it in those terms. Even if your reasons aren’t stellar, you’ll at least be enthusiastic rather than bitchy, whiny, or apologetic. You tell me which of those is a competence trigger.

  4. I was at my first job for almost 4 years until I was laid off. After a month of unemployment, I joined a Big 4 accounting firm where I only stayed for about 7 months. I left because of several factors: pay, project, and mind-numbing/mundane work that didn’t stimulate my mind. I’m currently on my third job that I started in February of this year. I love it here. The work is great and I’m always learning something new everyday. However, since last year, I have been planning on moving to the bay area. I currently reside in the Washington DC area. I don’t want to wait it out another year before I move. Compared to my previous years in the area, i feel like the time is right. Does this look bad? 1st job – 4 years, 2nd job 7 months, 3rd job – 6 months. I mean, I would definitely stay at this job if I wanted to be in the area, but I’m seriously ready to move out to the west coast. Any advice?

    • John, I know how it feels to be in your situation. I understand you are itching to go move to the place where you want to be. However, I suggest that you stay in your job at least 6 more months. Please bear in mind that you came from a 7-month old job and a 6-month old job after it will not look good on your resume, unless you will be able to find a job before moving to the Bay Area. just my 2 cents.

  5. Great video, surprising about the 2-3 years timeframe but otherwise more or less what you’d expect.

    I’m just wondering if that also applies to ‘temporary’ jobs – The kind where you’re signed on for a specific period of time (with occasional interviews held to see if you get offered a more permanent position) after which you’re let go. They’re not dream job material by any stretch of the imagination; stuff you do to pay the bills while you’re doing your research on other positions.

    Is it still looked on really dimly if you’re there for the length of the contract each time, but the contract itself only lasts a few months?

    • If the contract was *renewed*, that’s excellent. I note renewals in the contracting phase of my CV. (Now working an excellent day job.)

      (Also applies to banks and mortgages, btw – my account manager told me that renewed contracts were the thing they looked for in a contractor who’s trying to get a mortgage.)

    • David; Nice to know about renewals, and thanks for responding.

      I didn’t get mine though. I was a top performer (by a lot, I have the team figures to back that up) but I had a nightmare at the interview; they were basing who got the positions on the interviews and application only. Just wondering quite how bad that looks, I’m assuming fairly!

  6. Ramit, Great video but what’s with the 60′s era buffer music. Didn’t know if I was going to see an info-vid or a rerun of The Dating Game.You’re way too hip to be using “dated” music like that. G.

  7. There’s a fine line between Job hopping and improving yourself by regularly changing jobs. Where do you draw the line?

  8. I stopped the video at 1:23, rolled my eyes and literally walked away. Anyone who calls a contract worker a “low competence” person is obviously living in some kind of bubble. Every job I get is contract/consulting, and none last longer than a year. All your rules are worthless to me.