In the six years since I graduated from college, I’ve held four jobs—a fact which technically makes me a job hopper. (For the record, it’s also expanded my network and padded my wallet... but more on that later.)
“Job hopper” is a term often synonymous with millennials, along with other flattering descriptors like entitled. It’s a jab at our generation meant to indicate that we won’t settle in with a company that doesn’t recognize us as the superstars we surely are—rather than grinding it out till 65, when we get a nice cake in the breakroom celebrating retirement.
It’s true that we’re a generation that moves around more often—a 2016 Jobvite survey found that 18 percent of Americans change jobs every one to three years, compared to 42 percent of 18 to 29 year olds—but it’s not because we don’t want to pay our dues.
The business world has changed, too. Companies certainly don’t have loyalty to employees, as evidenced by massive layoffs, shrinking compensation packages and the rarity of pensions. This has contributed to an environment where, to get what we really want, we can no longer afford to be “company men” (or women).
For some of us, myself included, job hopping is a side effect of trying to find work we’re passionate about. (Hey, if we’re going to be working longer, we might as well enjoy it.) After my first job—a one-year program where I was a page for “The Late Show with David Letterman”—ended, I stumbled into a PR job because I knew a guy who worked at a company with an opening. It only took eight months to know this wasn’t a great long-term fit. Not only did I not feel intellectually stimulated, but the pay was (extremely) low compared to the hours.
So I hopped. I networked my way into a job as the communications manager for a startup, where I stayed for two years before deciding to try self-employment, which I really enjoy. (A full 62 percent of millennials have similar entrepreneurial ambitions.)
But job hopping didn’t just help me find interesting work. It also sharpened different skills and significantly increased my income. Considering young workers are earning $10,000 less than they did in 1989, this is perhaps the biggest motivator for us “hoppers.” From page to PR, I jumped from a $23,000 salary to $37,500. The next hop bumped me up to $50,000. (The PR company couldn’t come close to matching my $50,000 ask.) Negotiating with a new employer often yields better results than hoping for significant bumps at your current position.
Another advantage of job hopping? Career advancement opportunities we can’t always get by staying with one company. That’s how Daniel Keller, a 34-year-old CPA, ended up at his current gig. After five years in one position in Pennsylvania, he received a 50-percent raise for another gig in Buffalo. But it soon became apparent that upward mobility was incredibly regimented and time with the new company meant more than skills. He stuck it out for a few years, but ultimately left for another firm that gave him the additional responsibilities he wanted (plus a 30-percent raise).
For job hoppers who worry about discussing work history with potential employers, Steven Dibelius, a 31-year-old consultant who’s held eight jobs in 10 years, offers this advice: “Some [employers] have asked about [my job history] and how it zigs and zags through many different things,” he says. “But explaining my reasons for each change seems to help us discuss whether this prospective new job is the right fit. It spurs conversations about company culture, management style, expectations for the job and my own interests and strengths.”