In today’s multi-screen, up to the minute, social, intergalactic world, the idea of staying at a company for more than 10 years might appear unrealistic or hopelessly romantic. Often our relationships, whether personal or professional, are not entered into with the notion “until death do us part” or that we’re going to be rewarded with the “luncheon and gold watch” at the end of a long and satisfying career.

Now, many people move around to multiple companies over the course of their careers. Their reasons are plentiful and their stories colorful. Some reasons are typical such as “my company moved locations” or “downsized.” More and more we hear that technology has created irrelevancies in the job market. However, there’s a bigger question that comes to mind: Is job hopping a symptom of deeper business issues? In our parents’ generation, often the corporate psychology was that the company took care of its own and trust and loyalty were valued by both boss and worker. So what’s changed? And is this new trend here to stay? I have heard plenty of reasons and excuses from people as to why they left their jobs, but rarely do I hear people leaving jobs they “love.” In fact, it’s difficult recruiting happy people because they’re too busy doing their job. Although in my opinion, happy people are the only ones worth engaging. Gratified people are loyal employees who outperform their unsatisfied peers. One of my clients, let’s call her Patricia, states, “The responsibility of attrition rests 90% with employers. How can you keep employees if you can’t do simple things, like acknowledge employee contributions?”
Recently, I recruited a sports marketing expert from an agency to the client side. His background was stellar on several levels: skills, background, great presentation, and four to five years at each of his prior positions. He also loved his job, peers, and boss. They truly valued him as a person and as a highly skilled marketer. It wasn’t easy to convince him to go on the interview, never mind to accept my client’s offer. Of course, my client knew from his resume that his past behavior demonstrated loyalty and accountability. After the interviews and a generous offer, my candidate couldn’t commit to the offer until he spoke face to face with the CEO of his company. In the end, even his CEO told him that the job offer was too good to pass up. After all, it was a big jump in responsibilities and a great career move. But you have to admire this gentleman’s sense of loyalty and commitment to his job, clients, and peers.Bouncing from company to company has a lot to do with the lack of a strong corporate culture, blended work/life philosophy, and leadership. When the CEO and leadership team are not emotionally connected to employees, people usually feel undervalued and underappreciated. Which is why, when interviewing many professionals, I get a sense that they lack emotional connection to their places of work.

When speaking with leaders from the top places to work, I hear over and over again that their turnover is basically non-existent. It’s not just the fabulous meals, gym memberships, and yes, believe it or not, nap rooms, but a strong sense of caring and purpose in which employees might think, “I matter,” “I have a purpose,” and “if I leave the company I will be missed.”

Unfortunately, most people work for paycheck companies and not for the top 1% of the best places to work. The result of not having a strong culture, leadership, and a blended work/life philosophy is job hopping, and it’s an epidemic.Furthermore, to add to the dilemma, CEOs are under an incredible amount pressure to “outperform” last year’s numbers. They tend to quickly hire and fire marketers and sellers who are expected to come up with innovative marketing and sales plans that can’t be realized. The results are poor ROI and poor employee retention. This affects entire teams and departments, because employees feel unsure of the direction of the company and their perceptions are that shareholders and investors are more important than job security.

There is an interesting paradigm shift going on today. The Baby Boomers, and Gen Yers, who are the current leaders, don’t understand what drives Millennials. Managers evaluate success by KPIs and ROIs, and the millennials care about time off, being valued, and giving to their favorite causes. Most of us are not on the same page.

Why is job hopping a problem?

Hiring managers look at a candidate’s resume as a pattern of accountability and tenure. There have been a few times in the last 20 years that lack of tenure was understood by hiring managers, considering the burst, the tragedy of 9/11, and the Great Recession. Other than these significant events in recent history, managers look negatively at someone who leaves jobs quickly. In most fields, multiple stays of two years or less will look like job hopping. Particularly for mid-level to senior jobs, most hiring managers are looking for at least a few stays of four or five years or more.

Savvy interviewers believe that the best predictor of how someone will behave in the future, is how they’ve behaved in the past. So if someone has a history of leaving jobs relatively quickly, hiring managers will assume there’s a good chance they won’t last in a new position. Since employers are generally hoping that anyone they hire will stay for at least a few years, a resume that lacks longevity is a red flag.

In fact, according to a survey last year from the recruiting software company Bullhorn, 39 percent of recruiters and hiring managers say that a history of job hopping is the single biggest obstacle for job seekers.Having one short job stint on your resume is not a concern of hiring managers, it only becomes problematic when it’s a pattern and looks like your typical behavior. Of course if you keep going to positions that aren’t for you, I would start looking introspectively at these choices and patterns. I’ve had candidates who always blame the companies and never take ownership of their failures. Your career choices and reasons for leaving will raise concerns for prospective employers.

To be clear, job hopping means that you’ve had multiple short-term stays that weren’t designed to be short-term stays. Therefore, short-term internships, temp work, contract jobs, campaign work, and anything else designed to be short-term from the start doesn’t look like job hopping. Just make sure that your resume makes it clear that these positions were designed to be short-term from the start, by noting “contract” or consulting.

Of course, there will be people who think hiring managers who are prejudiced against hoppers are being unfair, since companies are offering their employees less loyalty than ever before. A double standard does exist. Employers, leaders, and employees need to address the issues, but in reality, the companies hold the keys to your success, so think hard before leaving your current situation and taking the next “best” job because you could be judged and labeled a job hopper.
What’s the outlook for the future?

There is hope that we can change the job hopping culture. At the center of an effective work-life balance are two key everyday concepts that are relevant to each of us: daily accomplishments and satisfaction. Impressing these two concepts takes us most of the way to defining a positive blended work/life culture.
Feeling accomplished and satisfied answers the big question: Why? Why do you want a better income, a new house, the kids through college, to do a good job today, or to come to work at all? When we feel pride, satisfaction, and happiness, we enjoy a sense of wellbeing. Successful people look for these feelings and attributes all day and every day. In other words, their life during the day should be just as fulfilling as their time outside of the office with their family and friends. When leaders transform their corporate cultures and invest in their employee brands, loyalty will be the rage. And you never know, a gold watch may be in your future.