Ask The Experts: Will Job Hopping Ruin My Chances Of Finding Future Employment?

Worried that your movement will cost you your dream job?

When I was in my Leaving Certificate year my hair was literally (and I mean literally) falling out over the stress of exams and the looming deadline of my CAO application. ‘What kind of career path should I take?’ I’d ask my 18-year-old self who could hardly remember on the best of days to brush her own teeth or pack her school lunch let alone map out her future for the next 50 odd years.

I, like most students, had the fear instilled in me that if I didn’t do good in my exams or if I didn’t know what I wanted to do come the month of May, it would dictate the rest of my future. Like, it’s no wonder I was finding strands of my hair all over the shop. I was petrified. I loved writing and creative arts, but I was told there were no jobs in those fields. ‘Food science, that’s what you should do,’ my doting and equally worried father would suggest. ‘I hear there’s good jobs for life in food science,’ he’d add. If you can picture the scene, I’m standing there, just about legal to purchase my own drink at a bar, Googling ‘jobs for life’ and spiralling down a hole of utmost fear. Thinking back, Jesus, god love her.

Because what even is a job for life these days? It sounds secure and comfortable and to be honest, pretty unimaginable – since that’s exactly what it is for most of us millennials. ‘I don’t think they exist anymore,’ explains Pauline Harley, career coach and executive career change consultant. ‘Unless you’re completely, passionately and purposely doing what you love, I don’t think jobs for life exist. I work for myself and sometimes I could say that’s my ‘job for life’ because it fits my lifestyle; so I think it’s really about looking for a job fit for your lifestyle rather than a job for life.” Continuing, Pauline notes that when it comes to finding a job that feels right for who you are and your skillset, it’s not always down to pot luck or being extremely clued in with your passions from the get-go, sometimes it’s because of good ol’ trial and error, moving from job to job. ‘It often involves going through a number of careers to find that one for your lifestyle and to be passionately purposeful. And I must commend younger people in that regard because they are willing to go in multiple directions with context of knowing why it’s important to them,’ Pauline adds.

But of course, like everything in life, one fear is replaced with the next and although our teenage dreams of a comfortable, sturdy, and pensionable job for life have been well and truly chucked out the window, chasing that ‘job for your lifestyle’ dragon can cause a lot of fears too. As most of you will know, one of the main worries being will I even seem attractive to a potential employer if I’m constantly hopping from one job to the next in search of that joie de vivre? ‘I would certainly consider myself a serial job hopper,’ explains 29-year-old Mollie from Dublin. ‘I’m currently in my fifth job with a fifth company in just over three years. I keep moving for a number of reasons, the main two being that my contract either runs up or I’ve a sheer lack of love for what I’m doing and I’m still looking for the right click. At the beginning, the jobs are usually grand, but when I’m over six months into the gig and it doesn’t feeling fulfilling, I get those nighttime pangs of dread wondering if I’ll be married with kids and still on a quest to find what I love. In and out of jobs but this time, with bigger bills to pay, a shopping list that’s over my usual pot of beans and potato waffles budget and employers turning me down for the job that could finally be ‘the one’ because they see my CV history and realise I’m fond of sprinting.”

Yes, it’s a big fear that many of us face, it’s the confessions of a job hopper that fill us with worry and dread. Be it the quest for the dream job, the hunt for employment again after living overseas, or the hope of finding something more challenging and stimulating on an intellectual level, whatever the case may be it applies to us all in some capacity at some stage in life. But here to shed some guidance and ease, Pauline notes that your past shouldn’t affect your future once you have reason for your movement and enough confidence to back yourself and drive forwards. ‘Can you tell the story behind your job hopping in the professional narrative in your CV? Obviously there are situations where it’s acceptable especially in this climate when people are getting made redundant but job hopping is very perceptive and you must first ask yourself why you’re doing it and what are the core professional values around it,” adds Pauline. Explaining that it’s important to sit yourself down and look at your why, she believes that this can help you see more clearly and especially help you figure out if you might need help from a career coach. Is it for money? For a new title or role? Or is it because you’re bored all the time? “If you’re constantly jumping because you’re bored then that’s a bigger issue to address,” adds Pauline. “You’re not honouring your creative self and you’re just not stimulating yourself enough in your roles. That’s when career coaching might come into play because you can sit down and find your why and the emotional context within that.”

Because let’s face it, although we’d all like to say we’ll give a job the whole two years before moving on to the next, that isn’t always realistic for a number of different factors that can affect everyone individually. And when it comes to being worried about how your job hopping may look, just remember that it’s not worth staying in a job that feels like a prison sentence simply so you can do your time. ‘Before you leave your job, if it’s possible, try to negotiate first. Talk it out with someone you trust in management and explain how you’re feeling in your current role. If you do that and you’ve the courage to do that and they’re still not playing ball then you’ve got your final answer to go,” notes Pauline.

“A good manager will tell you if they can’t help you and that maybe you should look elsewhere, then at least you’ll have had that conversation and you’ll get more evidence to support your jump.” Adding some final words of wisdom for when it comes to finding the next job that looks like a good fit and could potentially be one you love, Pauline recommends instead of just looking at a job by saying “what can I bring to the table” where you can potentially oversell yourself and miss the mark that it might not be the best fit, make sure you flip the question too and also ask yourself “how is this organisation selling what they have to me? Now, there’s got to be compromise but if there’s too much of a gap in between those answers then there’s usually a disconnect,” Pauline continues. Remembering that above all it’s important to stay true to your core values when searching for new employment, if you vet the next job enough by asking yourself these questions then there’s a higher chance you’ll end up liking it more, staying in it for longer and breaking that pattern of constant movement. Good luck!

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