Job Hopping Can Give Your Earnings an Incredible Boost

While some surveys show that workers think job hopping is bad for your career, those who stay put often suffer stagnant wages

Jul 6, 2014 at 2:00PM

Flickr / Chris Samuel.

How long have you been with your current employer? If you said approximately 2 years, I can take an educated guess that you're most likely aged 25 to 34 years, and belong to the Millennial generation. How about if you have been in your job for a decade or more? In all probability, you are aged 55 or over.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the employment profiles of working America. And, despite the notion that Millennials change jobs most often of all, BLS reports very little difference among various age groups in regards to job tenure in almost 20 years. 

Still, older workers tend to stay on the job longer than younger ones. Although this isn't really new, either, the debate rages on: does job hopping hurt, or help career prospects?

Workers think one way, employers another
A very recent survey of American workers for Spherion Staffing Services showed that more than 60% of employees feel that moving from job to job is injurious to one's career, and that the way to increase the chances of advancement is to stick with one employer for the long term. Seventy-nine percent think that employers should actively create a specific career path for their workers.

What if employers don't show such dedication to their workers? Well, then it's OK to move on: more than half of respondents said that they would be apt to look for a new job within the next 12 months due to lack of engagement with their current position.

Even if workers think job hopping is bad for the resume, employers don't necessarily agree. A study by Careerbuilder published this past spring shows that one-third of hiring managers fully expect workers to move from job to job, and 55% admit hiring such workers. In line with the BLS research, however, age does matter. Employers are more tolerant of young job hoppers than older ones, with 41% of employers expecting more settled behavior once a worker reaches the ripe old age of 30 or so.

A big benefit of job hopping: higher pay
As it turns out, there is an enormous advantage to moving from one job to another. A recent piece in Forbes notes that changing jobs usually results in higher wages over the course of a career. With the average pay increase for 2014 estimated to be around 3%, those that move on to greener pastures will make much higher salaries over time than employees who stay put.

This thesis is supported by the recent case involving wage suppression in the technology industry, whereby tech giants had a de facto agreement to refrain from poaching each other's highly skilled employees. Thousands of software engineers sued, alleging that wages had been held low by limiting employee movements which would have enhanced their salaries. The case was recently settled out of court.

Of course, job hopping works best for those in occupations prized by employers. Still, for recent college graduates, as well as workers trained to fill in-demand middle-skill jobs, there is an important lesson here: know your value, and use it to ramp up your earnings during the early part of your career. By the time you hit your early 30s, you'll be glad you did.

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