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Is Job Hopping Now a Virtue?
In most industries, the "career employee" is a thing of the past. With today's employment environment of mergers, downsizing, and other upheavals, it is increasingly rare for people to spend more than five to ten years with a given employer. In addition to having to change jobs, many people are switching on their own in search of better opportunities, due in part to easier and better availability of employment opportunity information and growing acceptance of shorter term employees.

Less noticed is another trend that appears to be growing in today's job market. Traditionally, stability in employment was taken as a virtue. A person who remained at the same company for a number of years was valued as loyal, trustworthy, and reliable: someone for the present company to groom and retain and a "good catch" for another company that sought to hire this person away. By contrast, someone who regularly changed companies every few years (a "job hopper") was somewhat suspect. Potential employers would think twice about taking on such persons -- they were fearful that job hoppers would soon leave for greener pastures and take with them the company's investment in training and perhaps company secrets as well.

Today, however, many companies -- particularly in dynamic industries -- are now treating long-term, loyal employees (what few are left, that is) as if there were something wrong with them. Now the thinking is that people who stay in one place for an extended period lack energy, ambition, and perhaps marketable skills as well. Otherwise, this line of reasoning goes, they would have taken better-paying, more responsible jobs elsewhere. Furthermore, job hoppers have had exposure to different strategies, challenges, and working environments. They are often looked upon as bringing fresh thinking and new skills to an organization -- to have the ability to "shake things up." Finally, company managers look at long-term employees as more problematic: they are expensive to retrain and harder to let go when the company employee skill needs change again.

When long-term employees find themselves out of work due to layoffs, they may have some difficulty getting hired elsewhere because of this mindset among employers. So, in today's topsy-turvy employment world, it actually may be a high-risk strategy to stick with one employer for a long time, even if you have that opportunity. Keep close tabs on developments in your company, industry, job category, or profession to assess whether this attitude towards long-term employees is setting in.
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