Lots of short-term gigs on your résumé? Here’s how to portray it as a positive.
Millennials get a bad — and unfair? — rap for being job-hoppers. But does a résumé full of quick transitions automatically land someone in the “no” pile?
Recent research by the Department of Labor shows that the newest generation to enter the workforce has actually maintained the average of holding from five to seven jobs between the ages of 18 and 24. Previous generations show that as we professionally mature, tenure increases — and all indications point toward millennials following this trend.
“The behavior has always been there, and it hasn’t changed that much between 1987 and now,” says Barbara Bidan, vice president of global talent attraction at Indeed.com, which tracks career transition data. “What has changed from one generation to the next is perception and assumption.”
Overall, job-hopping is becoming more acceptable, particularly in industries in which talent is in high demand. For example, Seattle and the Bay Area “have a large software engineering market, and that market is so hot that job tenure can be shorter than relative to other geographies,” says Bidan.
Amy Renhard, president of Seattle-based Trillium Hiring Services, agrees. “Technology is very project-based, and companies are understanding more and more that what they need isn’t always a long-term employee, but someone to come in and work on a project that has an end date,” she says. “A lot of the old concepts around what makes a good résumé are flying out the door.”
According to a 2014 CareerBuilder survey, 55 percent of employers have hired someone they would consider to be a “job-hopper.” Nearly a third (32 percent) of all employers said they have come to expect workers to job hop. However, as the employee ages, that tolerance lessens. Employers may view mid-career job-hopping as a lack of loyalty or an inability to finish things.
Show career progression
If you’re mid-career, how can you show yourself as a “good” hopper?
“Generally, job-hopping has become more mainstream; companies are now more fixated on the reasons for the transitions, and that’s how they are screening,” says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s chief human resource officer. “Look for ways to show progression. If it’s clear through the résumé or a cover letter what you learned and why you moved, you can control the conversation and keep yourself in the ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ pile.”
Tammy Perkins, chief people officer for the Seattle-based marketing technology startup Fjuri, says that job-hopping can be a positive or negative, depending on the candidate.
“Some candidates jump because they are unfocused and indecisive; others because they are ambitious and identify growth opportunities,” says Perkins. “Even if a high-potential candidate is only with your company for a few years, what they can build in that short amount of time will be worth the investment.”
If you have a hoppy résumé, distinguish yourself as a positive hopper by “focusing on the impact and success you had in each role and what you were able to accomplish while you were with the company,” Perkins says. “Optimism is a force multiplier and negativity is a deal breaker. A negative job hopper tends to have a lot of personal baggage, and speaks negatively about previous employers and teams, or they are only interested in a higher paycheck.”
Don’t delete it
It might be tempting to leave a short stint or two off your résumé, but that’s not the best approach. “I would never encourage a candidate to do that,” cautions Bidan. “If you perceive that something looks bad, it’s best to address it.
“The key is to get employers to see the job change as a positive thing. Can you articulate a benefit you gained from prior jobs? Did you gain skills and experience that another company could benefit from? And the final check is whether you left your previous employer on good terms.”
Whether you’re a millennial or further along in your career, your résumé is your story to tell. Don’t shy away from the truth, but make sure your experience tells a story of accomplishments and positive relationships to ensure your position in the “yes” pile.