How Many Job Changes in a Career is Normal?

For anyone with a resume filled with a slew of job titles and positions, the common question from interviewers, recruiters and hiring managers can get a bit repetitive.  “Why did you leave your last job?”  While there are plenty of great answers to help you navigate these choppy waters, there may come a point in your career when you worry about the impact of too many prior positions.  And what even counts as “too many” in today’s modern job market?

There’s a common bit of advice that states the average worker will have seven different positions over the course of their career.  Where exactly this figure originates from is a bit of a mystery and “experts” in the field of labor statistics pretty much agree that the random figure isn’t an accurate measure across the board.  Although increasingly uncommon, some workers choose a company or position and stick with it their entire careers while others flit from job to job, racking up a dozen or more changes.

According to a survey by Future Workplace 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay at a job for less than three years.  While you may be tempted to chalk this figure up to the flightiness of the younger generation, the reasoning behind modern workforce entrants expecting a shorter term is a bit more complicated than the whims of the age.  Here we delve into the why’s of the boom in short job stays and the impact numerous positions on your work history may have on your ability to score a future job.

More than a Modern Trend

The penchant for shorter stays at a given company isn’t something that has developed overnight.  Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show that in 1996, 9 percent of workers had been with their present employer for 20 years or more.  Recent figures show that number dropping drastically post-recession.  In addition, modern job seekers seem to be “trying on for size” a greater number of initial positions before settling on a long-term career or company.  

Most analysts agree that the reason for this trend has less to do with age and more to do with changes in thinking about total compensation and the overhead of a large workforce, post-recession.  With increasing costs of healthcare, the concept of pensions all but gone the way of the dinosaur, and a focus on efficiency and eliminating excess costs, many companies have tightened the purse strings when it comes to bonuses, raises, and internal promotions.  This, in turn, has led to employees having to seek different jobs with outside companies in order to get that bump in salary or responsibility.

What Can You Do to Be Prepared for Questions re Job Changes?

Given the increase in “job-hopping” employers and employees both have to get comfortable with the fact that today’s newest hire may not be the long-term solution to your employment needs.  Employers should recognize that in order to retain quality candidates they may need to make bigger strides in compensation and other methods for increasing employee satisfaction with their position.

For prospective employees, be prepared to address the why’s and how’s of numerous job moves.  While employers should be more understanding based on current trends, this won’t stop them from quizzing you if you have a history of not short-terming your prior job positions.  Be prepared with facts regarding your departure from previous positions and the characteristics you’re looking for in a long-term career.  Assurances in these areas will help your employer get comfortable that you can commit to a position, if it’s the right one.

Article Updated from the Original on January 29, 2018