The days of sticking with a single organization for 35-plus years are long gone, especially in the rapidly changing world of tech. With so much job-hopping taking place, this leads to an important question. Is job-hopping a good move for your IT career?
If you’ve been active in your tech career for any length of time, you’ve likely experienced how the IT community at-large is collaborative and close-knit. You tend to see the same people at conferences, local meet-ups, and on the forums.
This close-knit community can be great for your career because it leads to many career opportunities.
Plus, with the ever-increasing popularity of working remotely, you're no longer restricted to positions in your local market.
Finding, hiring, and retaining top tech talent is difficult for most companies because there's always the allure of another offer or opportunity down the road (or on the other side of the globe working remotely). Yet, the companies who adapt their mindsets to realize that if you can lose your top talent to companies across the world, you can also hire top talent around the world. It’s all a matter of how you look at things in a positive light.
But, I digress. We’re not going to talk about the challenges or strategies around hiring top talent today. Instead, we’re going to talk about whether job-hopping is good or bad for your tech career.
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Understand That Companies Invest In You Personally
When a company offers you a full-time position, they are making a commitment to invest in your future. It’s not cheap for a company to hire you full-time.
Even though contract rates can be higher than full-time rates when looking at salary alone, contractors are still often cheaper than the overall investment in a full-time team member.
The reason this is important to realize is because job-hopping on a frequent basis takes the investment from the company, and can make it a one-sided transaction—in your favor. Again, this really depends on the length of time you stick with your job. It’s not all about your salary or benefits. You have to remember that there is a certain ramp-up period where you are trained and learn the various systems you’ll be working on.
When you leave a company after this training, the company now has to train someone else. When a company does this over-and-over again, it can be expensive.
Is Job-Hopping Okay?
When I look at a resume and see someone moving from Company A to Company B to Company C to Company D—all full-time positions within a four year timeframe—I see this as a negative.
Job-hopping for career advancement is one thing, but being confused in your career and showing little organizational commitment is another thing.
I know many companies overlook this, they just want the best talent possible. So, job-hopping with this much frequency won’t always impact your ability to be hired, but it does show a lack of commitment and certainty.
If I’m hiring someone for a position, I want to know that they will be committed. I want a team member who I can invest in and help grow. And, when it looks like you leave your job every 1.5 years, then it’s only natural to assume you’ll leave my company in 1.5 years.
So, when is it okay to change jobs?
As you progress in your career, making a transition from Company A to Company B is perfectly acceptable and understandable. You won’t always have the career advancement opportunities within Company A, so looking elsewhere may make sense for your personal growth.
Or, if Company B has an opportunity for you to work on a specific technology that you can’t work on at Company A, then this would be another good reason to make a move.
Job-Hopping To Make More Money
One of the many reasons people job hop is to take a position with more money at another company. So, if you’re motivated by salary (which to a certain degree makes sense because financial security is important for your future) will job-hopping help you increase your compensation more quickly than sticking with a single company?
Quite simply, I’d say yes.
When you move from one company to another, you almost always will receive a pay bump. And, the frequency and amount of this increase tends to be higher than if you stick with a single company.
With this said, you must realize that jumping around between companies may make it harder to get hired at some point in the future.
One other thing to think about with job hopping…
Money is important, yet you need to think about other tangibles and intangibles with each new position you’re looking to accept.
- What’s the company culture like?
- Will your manager encourage and support your growth?
- Does the company support the same social causes as you support?
And, if money is your only motivator to look for a new job, have you tried asking your current employer for a raise or promotion? If not, honestly ask yourself if you’re deserving of a promotion or pay raise.
As many people before me have said, you don’t ask for more money or a promotion and then only after that do more and better work. You do better work first, and then ask for a promotion and raise.
What's The Right Frequency To Make A Job Change?
Honestly, there really isn’t an official range of time that is universally seen as acceptable. You need to focus on your own personal career growth while also staying cognizant of whether you’re making changes too frequently.
And, don’t forget, you can always make a job change within the same company, and this won’t be viewed in the same (potentially negative) light as switching to a new position outside of your organization.
Consider Being A Contractor
If you really want to be exposed to a lot of different companies and different technologies, then being a contractor may be your best bet.
You can accept contracts for various lengths of time (i.e. 6-months, 12-months, 18-months, etc.), and there is a known end date—if not extended. It’s important to note that contracts can be ended early in most cases though, so there is a definite risk when contracting.
Although it can feel great to get a full-time job right out of college, contracting can often make more sense at this early time in your career.
One of the primary reasons to get a full-time position is for the security and benefits. Well, the current law (as of 2019 in the U.S.), states that you can be on your parents’ health insurance until the age of 26 years. So, when you graduate from school as a 22 or 23 year old, you could make a decision to build up your experience through contract work until you turn 26.
There are many people in the tech world who stay as contractors throughout their careers. It’s really a personal preference, and being a contractor can make you feel more like an entrepreneur being hired by the company to do a job. Once the job is complete, you’re then hired by another company for another job.
Plus, you can form your own official business, and run all of your contracts through the business. I’m not a tax accountant or lawyer, but there are some benefits to going this route.
One final thought on being a contractor. Don’t forget that contractors are often the first to go when a company needs to downsize. So, there is always a higher risk of being let go in a down economy.
What Happens When It Becomes A Sellers Market?
Today, it’s very hard to find great tech employees, and this makes it a buyers market. Jumping from job to job is easy to do, and can be financially advantageous.
What happens when this shifts?
What happens when it becomes a sellers market as the economy turns south or plateaus?
Imagine you are a hiring manager for a company, and you are looking to fill a position. What would you do if you were looking at two identically qualified candidates—one candidate showed more commitment to their previous employers while the other changed jobs every 18 months?
Which candidate would you hire?
This is something you need to keep in mind.
Just because it’s easy to switch tech jobs frequently right now, will it always be this way? And, could it potentially come back to bite you in the butt later on?
The Bottom Line
Frequently changing jobs will most certainly increase your salary in the short-term (and even over the long-term); however, it can also be a risky proposition as it’ll lead companies to question your commitment.
Your primary focus needs to be on what is best for your own personal career and family. Your secondary focus can then be on what is best for the company in which you’re employed.
With this said, you can’t think short-term.
You must play out each decision and understand how it could either help or harm your future employability.
And, if you really want to try new things on a frequent basis or you want to become an expert in a certain technology, consider becoming a contractor.
Job hopping as a contractor is more understandable, and it takes less investment for companies to hire you. But, don’t forget about the risks associated with being a contractor.
Ryan has been heavily involved in the world of Information Technology and entrepreneurship since the early 2000s. From small business consulting to Fortune 500 IT leadership, Ryan has a wide array of tech industry knowledge. Ryan has his BBA and MBA from the University of Iowa. Connect with Ryan on Twitter or Instagram.