Tech & Work

Job-hopping may be detrimental to your career

Many tech leaders job-hopped during the dot-com fervor, but this strategy has now fallen into disfavor. Find out why you should think twice before making a job move.

What would you do if another company made a mouthwatering job offer—a 25 percent salary hike, stock, deep retirement plan, bonuses, a hefty raise after one year, five weeks' vacation, and a bursting expense account? Would you take it?

It's a tough decision, as it triggers one powerful question: Is it best for your career? Just a few short years ago, job-hopping was not only encouraged by career experts but also loudly encouraged with the boon of the dot-com enterprise. Today, however, those same pundits are singing another tune, and you need to know why job-hopping isn't fashionable, or beneficial, these days.

The rise and fall of job-hopping
Whether job-hopping is viewed as a good move is directly tied to the economic forces in play. When markets are up and business is booming, it’s a great career strategy. When the economy tanks and the job market is shaky, most everyone frowns upon it, says Norman Rankis, CIO and VP of Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ.

While job-hopping was "in" from the late 1980s through the ‘90s, it was considered a black mark during the 1970s, Rankis recalls.

“If you listed several jobs on your resume, employers branded you unstable. You were not considered a team player,” he explains.

The tide turned a decade later, however, and job-hopping was not only expected but also was encouraged. Job-hoppers were considered to be assets to any company and were viewed as more experienced and market-savvy than candidates who may have held one job for several years.

Rankis recalls that time period with a bit of awe—every two to three years, he jumped when offered a better opportunity. But those opportunities stopped knocking on his door in 2001 as the economy nose-dived and many dot coms collapsed.

These days, Rankis and his tech colleagues are facing a much different career scenario.

“Job-hopping [today] is considered a sign of immaturity, pointing up a lack of career planning,” he says. “Many CIOs mistakenly think their job and status will protect them and give them the leverage to move whenever a great opportunity surfaces. But that couldn’t be further from the truth,” adds the CIO.

Rankis believes that many of today’s IT pros are leaving positions because the job isn’t what they expected—not because they're seeking "greener pastures."

“It’s because they didn’t do due diligence. They pay a hefty price for not getting a reading on the ‘metabolism’ of the company,“ he says.

More money shouldn't be a top consideration
When it comes to career moves, money must be a secondary issue, advises Rankis. The top priorities for IT leaders evaluating a possible job move should be understanding a company’s culture, gauging whether you'll be able to establish a rapport with the CEO, investigating the hiring company’s technology goals and budget, and meeting with technical staff. Rankis also points out the importance of a penchant for politics.

“An inability today to play corporate politics is enough to boot a CIO out the door,” Rankis says. “All organizations are rife with corporate politics, but it’s even more evident among a company’s top executives. CEOs don’t want free-spirited mavericks who try to change the rules and do their own thing.”

Jeff Heath, president of the Landstone Group, an executive search firm in New York City, agrees with Rankis that money should not be the top consideration for tech leaders looking to make a move.

“A couple of years ago, CIOs could take their skills and move vertically from one industry to another,” he says. “Money was no object for most employers. Most CIOs could name their price and get it.”

But those halcyon days are gone, says Heath, and job-hopping is a dangerous path to take.

“CEOs are looking for CIOs who’ll stick around, grow with a company, and establish roots. They don’t want to invest the time and money to build new relationships every couple of years.”

Think twice and then think again
No matter how enticing a job offer may be, tech leaders should think twice—and even a third time—before writing that resignation letter and cleaning out the desk. As the economy still struggles to rebound and companies slowly begin restoring shelved projects and growth plans, it’s a good time for CIOs to take stock in what they want from their next job. Take the following recommendations under advice:
  • Make strategic moves within the same industry. Any planned job change should be focused, well planned, and logical.
  • Don't burn bridges. Even if you hate everything about the job—boss, colleagues, products—try to leave on good terms by swallowing your feelings. The best scenario is one in which you resign with substantial references, and networking contacts, in hand. The bigger the job, the more important the references.
  • Give sufficient notice. If you decide to leave, give plenty of warning so the CEO and other corporate colleagues have enough time to find a replacement. Remember that diplomacy yields big rewards that can even come years later.

Have you job-hopped in the past year?
What’s the climate in your industry for tech leaders itching to jump ship? Are you mapping out a new career strategy now that job-hopping has fallen out of favor? Write and tell us about your experience.


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