by Allan Hoffman
These days, no one expects you to spend your entire career at a single company. That would peg you as a throwback, especially in information technology. But job-hopping, especially if you're staying at a company for less than 18 months, may raise questions with a potential employer.
Is There a Risk in Switching Jobs Frequently?
Ten years ago, switching jobs every two years would make you a problem case. No more. Turnover is a fact of life in IT; companies try to combat it with stock options, project bonuses, and other perks. But it is still common for a company's IT department to have a turnover rate of 15 percent to 20 percent -- especially among professionals like networking gurus or Web database pros, whose skills are in high demand. For those with less valuable skills, moving from job to job poses a greater risk.
If you've stayed with two or three employers for less than a year, you'll probably have to answer questions about your job-hopping habit. The key is to be prepared and have sensible answers that are likely to neutralize the issue, or even help your case.
Money Should Not be Your Only Reason for Making a Move
Money is a motivator when switching jobs, no doubt about it, but it is rarely the sole reason for leaving one job for another. Other factors almost always come into play, from an organization's corporate culture to your desire for new challenges. If you're asked why you switched jobs, and you're able to say nothing more than "the money was better," you may be asking for trouble. You're essentially saying that you'll only be around until a better offer comes along. No matter how desperate a hiring manager is for your skills, an answer like that is not what he or she wants to hear.
Explain Your Job-hopping in Terms of Career Goals
If your job-hopping indicates steady career advance, or a series of increasingly challenging assignments, you may be able to turn it into an asset. If you left one job for a promotion, or a position with greater responsibilities, emphasise that aspect of the transition and how it has provided you with more experience and skills.
A Straightforward Answer Is Often Best
Recent university grads occasionally worry about leaving a job after 10 or 12 months. Will they ever get another job? Will they be considered flaky? Sometimes things simply do not work out on a job; employers understand that. If you're moving into a different area of technology, especially if it's early in your career, an employer will appreciate your honesty in explaining that. Use the opportunity to emphasize that you're taking charge of your career and looking for new challenges.