Is Job Hopping an Effective Career Advancement Strategy?

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Three years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many employees opted to change careers, companies or work arrangements in “The Great Resignation,”  a tight market has caused this movement to slow. 

Still, “job hopping”– frequently changing jobs, typically within a short period of time – though less common, has remained a popular method of career advancement. 

Job hopping can be common in the biotech industry, as it is a rapidly evolving field with many opportunities for growth and advancement. In biotech, job hopping may be seen as a way to gain experience in different areas of the industry, such as research and development, clinical trials, regulatory affairs or business development.

Greg Clouse, recruitment manager at BioSpace, said the term job hopping is likely outdated.

“Most people change jobs to advance themselves,” Clouse told BioSpace. “If their current employer doesn't have that opportunity, doesn't recognize the talent or it's just a bad culture fit, people are more accepting that a change needs to be made."

He added that in an ever-changing economy, job hopping is, sometimes, an employee's only choice. 

"Acquisitions, companies failing or downsizing and other adverse economic conditions can force your hand," Clouse said. "The days of working somewhere for the rest of your career are probably over.”

Startups, in particular, may have high turnover rates as they evolve and adapt to changes in the market, funding and research priorities. This can create opportunities for employees to gain experience quickly and take on new roles, but it can also make it difficult for companies to retain talent.

There are benefits to job hopping. It can help employees gain a wider range of skills and experiences, build a larger network of professional contacts and earn higher salaries.

“People want new challenges, and the technology [in the life sciences] is constantly moving forward,” Clouse said. “Combine that with the ‘start-up’ nature of a lot of the employers in the field, and you have a recipe for continual movement.”

However, frequent job hopping can also have negative consequences, such as a lack of stability and difficulty in building deep expertise in a specific area of the field.

Employers may also view job hoppers as less committed to their company or their work, which can make it more difficult to land desirable positions.

Job hopping can be problematic for a few reasons:

  • Lack of commitment: Employers may see job hoppers as lacking in commitment to a company, its values and its long-term goals. If a candidate frequently changes jobs, it may indicate that they are more interested in personal gain than in investing time and effort in a company's success.
  • Lack of loyalty: Employers may view job hoppers as disloyal, particularly if they leave a company after a short time. Employers invest significant resources in hiring and training employees and job hoppers who leave soon after being hired may be seen as a waste of those resources.
  • Lack of stability: Job hopping can also signal a lack of stability, which can concern employers. If an employee is frequently changing jobs, it may indicate that they have difficulty adjusting to new environments or that they are not committed to a particular career path.
  • Difficulty in building skills and experience: Job hopping can make it difficult for employees to build skills and experience in a particular field or industry. This can limit opportunities for career advancement, as employees may not have the depth of experience and knowledge that employers are looking for.

For Clouse, it’s a candidate’s pattern of employment that’s the most important factor to consider as a recruiter.

He said if a resume displays quick, frequent movement, he typically assumes the person was working as a contractor, but he emphasized the only way to really know the reason for their job hopping is to speak to the candidate. 

“All I am really watching for is a pattern and how quick the changes are,” he said. "For someone to change jobs every two to three years–which would have been ridiculous a decade ago–that doesn't even worry me very much right now. 

“If it is quick and frequent movement, I usually assume the person was contracting. The only sure way to assess that is to talk to them and find out why they were on the move so often.

If a potential employee has moved around a lot, they should be prepared to explain why. So long as a candidate can show an ascension, it’s less likely to be problematic.

"I look at the direction of their career," he said. “If they aren't advancing in title or the nature of their work, that's probably a concern.”

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