Do You Look Like a Job Hopper? It Depends.
By Karla L. Miller
Special to The Washington Post
Q: I am a furloughed government contractor, currently on unpaid leave. I am tired of living with the threat of shutdowns disrupting my work. I’ve been at my current position for less than 18 months, and my job before that, my first job out of college, lasted exactly 18 months until my contract ended. I am not searching yet, but do you have any advice on how to frame why I am looking for a new job already? I don’t want to be viewed as a job hopper.
A: I think before you finish forming the words “I am a government contractor,” your interviewers will grok why you’re looking elsewhere.
But even without the current government shutdown, I doubt hiring managers would blink at seeing 18-month tenures for your first two jobs out of college. I’m sure they’ve read various surveys showing that newly minted workers tend to be short-timers; 43 percent of millennials and 61 percent of Gen Z workers expect to move on within two years, according to a survey by Deloitte. Then again, other surveys suggest that if employers invest in them, millennial workers are willing to respond in kind: 56 percent of millennials in one survey endorse staying with a company for more than 20 years, and 44 percent of millennial leaders intend to stay for more than 15 -- as long as their employer offers development opportunities.
At any rate, what matters more than the time you spent on these steppingstones is the narrative bridge you build from them -- the story of how these jobs made you just the person to fit this employer’s needs.
So start drafting that narrative now. No time like the furloughed present.
Q: I came across your previous column on a job-hopping husband (Sept. 24, 2017). My husband is an experienced home remodeler/construction worker with 15-plus years under his belt. He changes jobs every two or three months. To me, it’s not normal, and I am beginning to think it’s either laziness or mental illness. Please give me your honest opinion.
A: OK, well, those gigs sound less like steppingstones than pebbles.
But, as with the letter above, what’s “normal” is less relevant than what makes sense in the big picture. If he’s moving from one finished short-term project to the next, with a lot of repeat business and referrals from happy clients, that sounds reasonable. Some workers thrive on constant variety, and that’s fine, provided they can keep up the pace and follow through on delivery. If, however, he is constantly leaving half-finished projects, or if the clients are all “idiots” and the bosses are all “jerks,” or if this is a recent change, then that may be a sign of a diagnosable and treatable condition.