One of the important questions a professional, no matter at which stage he or she is, is sure to encounter is this: Is there an ‘ideal’ frequency for a job change? This is a little like asking if there is a formula for happiness. Most people will say that there isn’t; if there is one, it has to be purely personal.
However, there are trends that some people’s careers follow. These trends are generally accepted as being normal. What is normal in terms of the frequency of job change and what is not depends on a number of factors. The important ones among these are the stage of one’s career and the health of the economy as a whole or the particular industry.
At the start of the career
It is generally apt and justifiable for a candidate to have hopped jobs at a pretty high frequency early on in her career. This is because she would have tried out a few options before settling in on the most suitable job. Here too, it is justifiable to have hopped from one organization to another once every two or three years. To say that a person was trying out options once every couple of months makes no sense. Moreover, a high number of companies every few months doesn’t speak very well of the employee’s loyalty. Any HR who interviews such a candidate would be naturally inclined to ask if she would not do the same here, too. Likewise, if you stuck around for a decade or so in your first organizations, you are likely to give the impression that you were too smug and not willing to take chances.
At the later stage of the career
Once a person has a clear idea of what is to be done ahead of her career and knows what the road ahead is going to be like; it is expected that she would put in at least half a decade in a good organization. Again, there is no hard and fast rule, because it is always possible that you got the right opportunities at different frequencies. Yet, one aspect most HR professionals look for in an experienced person is when there are a few long associations with a few companies for most points of time, and only a few short ones. This may call for some explanation. Is it that you were fired? Is it that there was an internal problem in that particular organization? Or is it that there was a misfit between your personality and the organization’s culture? Whatever the reason, such a situation has to be properly explained.
Economy or industry related
It is also possible that a particular industry may have an acceptable level of hopping, or this trend could get nipped during recessionary times, when you would either hop too many jobs or would stick for longer than normal in one. These factors have to be clearly said when facing an interview.
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