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Feel Guilty About Job Hopping?


Why "Job Hopping" Works

If you consider yourself a millennial, then you probably know someone who's a job hopper. You’ve probably even seen it all over your Facebook Newsfeed. I know I have. Here’s a quick story: Not too long about, a good friend of mine posted a celebratory FB status update about her new job. It garnered hundreds of likes and congratulatory notes. Then after just after two years, she posted another career update –a new job! It garnered hundreds of likes all over again. So I wondered: What are the chances that my friend will switch to a new job again in the near future?

Apparently, the chances of this happening are sky-high. According to the 2012 PayScale report, “job hopping” seems to be the new normal for Millennials, with the typical millennial employee switching jobs every 2 to 3 years. That’s an average of 4 to 5 jobs every 10 years.

There are many reasons why people switch jobs. Perhaps you’re going through significant personal, social, or financial concerns. But assuming you have a decent job situation and your salary is not a life-threatening problem, why would you want to leave? As it turns out, nearly half of the world’s population is unhappy with their jobs, with Millenialls citing “personal growth and advancement” as the main factor for their unhappiness and desire to switch jobs.

Job-hopping can be a powerful source of anxiety for many people because it is often seen as a symptom of career confusion or a fickle mind. For example, if you are convinced that a career in marketing is perfect for you only to discover few years in that you absolutely hate it, then you’re likely to see it as a setback. You are probably going to feel lost, confused, and terribly concerned about this mistake. But really, this may not be your fault all. It's more likely that you are simply changing or growing as a person, and that your job is failing to change and grow with you.

This departs significantly from the popular opinion that sees career choice as an absolute decision that involves years of figuring out what career is “right” for you and sticking to it for the rest of your professional life. I strongly disagree with this popular definition because it assumes that either a) you and your job are both static and unchanging, or b) you and job are both growing and changing in exactly the same way. But this is hardly ever the case.

In my opinion, instead of seeing career choice as an absolute decision to be made, I argue that it should be seen as an ever-evolving process that involves finding the career that fits you “right now” – relative to who you are today and how you come to view and understand yourself. 

Donald Super, a famous Career Developmental Theorist, explains this ever so eloquently: According to him, your career choice should be an implementation of your self-concept. What does this mean? In psychology, self-concept refers to the collection of beliefs and images you have about yourself. It consists of both objective and subjective parts. Objective views include measureable traits such as your skills, goals, and interests. Subjective views include more abstract concepts such as your purpose or meaning. All these views, together, make up your self-concept.

That said, implementing your self-concept means that your job should continuously be an accurate reflection how you see yourself as a person. This means that, as much as possible, your career should be a tangible representation of how you view yourself. This makes sense as people tend to choose jobs that they identify with. But what people often forget is that individuals learn new things about themselves every day. Compare yourself today with how you were this time last year. It is likely that you developed new skills, abilities, and interests along the way, right?

Since you are constantly learning new things about yourself, it stands to reason then that your self-concept is evolving too. And if your self-concept is evolving, then it is reasonable to expect that the job you signed up for 2-3 years ago may no longer be an adequate reflection of yourself today. If this is the case, then hopping to a new job can benefit both you and your employer. Not only will it allow you to find a job that better reflects your evolving self-concept, but it will also allow your employer to hire a person who better reflects their company's values. Both sides win.

That said, job-hopping itself is not inherently bad, nor is it always a symptom of a confused or fickle mind. In many cases, it can simply be a symptom of growth - a natural part of your personal and professional development. So yes, job hopping can sometimes foster career growth!

However, a strong word of caution: I am not saying job-hopping is the solution to all your career woes, or even that you should job-hop every single time you’re unhappy at work. Not at all. A job switch is only one potential solution to a perceived mismatch between you and your career. What's the other solution? Find a job that is flexible enough to change and evolve in the same way that you are. Whether you ask your boss for a new role at work or you actively carve out new responsibilities for yourself, the point is to make a conscious effort to ask yourself who you are and if your job is reflecting that identity– and if it’s not, to actively find a way so that it does.

Here are my parting words to those out there who are considering hopping to a new job. Before the jump,  ask yourself the following questions:

1. Who I am right now? Has my self-concept changed? If so, how?

Think about your self-concept today. Remember that it includes both objective and subjective parts. Has it changed significantly over time? If so, what exactly has changed and why?

2. Is my job still an accurate representation of my self-concept? Did my work adapt?

Self-concepts evolve over time. Given who you are right now, do you feel that your job and the work that you do is still an accurate reflection of how you see yourself today?

3. What can I actively do to ensure that my job accurately represents my self-concept?

Again, the goal is to ensure that your job is an implementation of your self-concept. If it no longer is, I would suggest the following. First, talk to your boss about moving to a new role within the company. If that doesn’t work, then consider crafting new projects and responsibilities in your current job that better reflect your self-concept. Now if that still doesn’t work, then maybe, just maybe, it’s time to consider hopping away.