In the ten years since I graduated from college, I held no fewer than nine jobs. Now, to be fair, some of those positions were held concurrently when I was working multiple part time jobs and at least one of those jobs only lasted 2 days, as it became clear very quickly that I was in the wrong line of work. However, there’s no getting past the fact that the longest I have ever held a position is four years and that I generally get itchy for a job change after about a year.
Contrast my attitude to that to my husband, who worked for nearly a decade at the same company and only moved because our peanut was on the way and the new company offered more work-life balance.
It used to be much more common to see workers like my husband – find a good job and stay with it for a very long time. But the new generation of employees tends to have a shorter attention span and companies no longer reward loyalty in the same way that our parents’ employers once did. Though job-hopping has plenty of downsides, there are some definite advantages to being a career butterfly:
1. Maintaining passion for your career. One of the scariest sights to me when I was teaching was seeing the veterans who were in their 35th year and who had totally given up. I did not want to do that to my students or myself. Everyone starts a new job with high hopes and optimism. But office politics, bureaucracy and tedium can really start to wear on your ability to do your job well. Making changes every few years allows you to keep your optimism and continue to do work you are proud of. Had life circumstances not taken me away from teaching, I know I would have found a different way to work with children so I didn’t burn out after a long career.
2. Establishing contacts. Provided you leave each job in a positive way, you can hold onto the contacts you made in every position. This will give you an incredible resource as you start each new job. Being able to creatively tap your contacts can often give you a leg up in a new endeavor. Just make sure you don’t burn bridges when you leave!
3. Being master of your career. One of the frustrating aspects of staying in one place is the fact that some things are entrenched — like the timing and amount of raises, the ability (or lack thereof) to move either up in the company or laterally to explore new ideas, and the ability to bring creative new solutions to problems. If you find yourself in a job that does not offer you everything you’re looking for, you’re not stuck with being unhappy at work. You have the opportunity to take control of your career and move elsewhere.
As a lifelong career butterfly, I know that job-hopping is not always beneficial. However, it is not the terrible red flag or sign of immaturity that the old way of business might have regarded it as. Changing jobs can be an opportunity for you to be an effective, creative and contented worker throughout your career too.