Monday, July 25, 2011

Job hopping

Throughout the course of my meetings with job advisers, résumé specialists, career counselors, and other professionals who are paid to help others find employment, I have learned that there is only one absolute that can be distilled from all their advice: One person's "never" is another person's "always" - and vice-versa.

How far back should you list your work experience? Only go back as far as you feel is relevant - ten years, twenty years, back to your first post-college job, whatever. OR: list every job you have ever had, no matter how minor, because if a potential employer investigates your background and finds jobs you haven't noted, they will automatically eliminate you from consideration.

Volunteer work and charitable and community activities? Yes, list them all, to show that you are willing to get involved in such things. UNLESS they involve politics. Or religious organizations. Or something stupid like blood donations - why the heck would an employer care about that?

Someone told an anecdote at a meeting I attended. A job applicant walked into a job interview carrying a briefcase. He put down the briefcase and proceeded with the interview. After a length of time had elapsed, an alarm went off inside the briefcase. "Excuse me," the man said. "That's to remind me of my next interview." Naturally, he didn't get hired. Everybody laughed.

What was the joke? Well, employers want to believe that the job you are applying for with them is the only job you are applying for. If they ask you, "Why are you applying for this job?" it would be inappropriate to say "Well, I'm out of work, and my unemployment won't last forever, and I saw your job posting, and I figured it was better than nothing." Wrong answer. You want that job more than anything else in the world; you have always wanted that job, even from your earliest days in the womb, and you would do anything - anything - to get it. At that point an alarm might ring on the interviewer's desk, reminding them that they have several dozen more applicants to work through, and thank you very much, we'll be in touch, don't call us, we're very busy.

There's a similar attitude towards what is known as "job hopping" - changing jobs frequently, moving around from employer to employer, perhaps more than once every three years. A review of my résumé would reveal that In the past twenty years I worked for four different employers in seven different positions. The truth is, three of those employers all occupied the same space and were in fact the same company - changing corporate identity once, and being purchased by another company another time. And for the most part my job changes were a series of steps up the corporate ladder, with the occasional horizontal move and then the final post-layoff move, in which I transitioned from a management position after a major reduction in force in my department to a production floor position - along with numerous other former members of management who had been affected by the latest reduction in force.

I stayed in that position for much longer than I would have liked - and left it only due to the final wave of layoffs which vastly reduced our production floor force. I stayed there for various reasons: my accumulated seniority and related benefits; the pay - which, while 1/3 less than my previous effective pay rate, could be supplemented with overtime to match or even (theoretically) exceed my previous salaried income;  and the potential for moving into a position comparable to my previous one, if such a position should ever open up.

That didn't happen. I stuck it out until the bitter end and was laid off last December, along with many of my co-workers.

Now I am seeking a job. A good job, ideally, something comparable to the one I lost in 2007, something that can make full use of my skills and talents. But if you haven't been holed up in a survivalist compound for the past few years, cut off from news of the outside world, you are probably aware of the state of the global economy, the U.S. economy, and the jobs situation. (Let's throw in the state of the housing market, too, for anyone who might be inclined to say, "Eh, just sell your house and move to somewhere where there are jobs." Sell to whom? At what price?) Good jobs are few and far between. Lousy jobs are few and far between, too, but there are more of them. And there are many qualified applicants for each job, and many who are willing to work for peanuts if it means having a job.

So job seekers are faced with the prospect of taking whatever jobs they can find. Good jobs, lousy jobs, whatever. Get something, earn an income, get insurance (yes, rest of the world, the United States of America is a backwards nation where your ability to get affordable health coverage is tied to the job you have), and as soon as a better job comes along, get the hell out. Book. Eject. Don't look back. You know they would dump your ass in a moment, so why should you feel any trepidation about leaving them?

Tut-tut, say the employment professionals. That's job-hopping. That's a no-no. A black mark on your record.

To which I say: Go to Hell. This is a buyer's market, where employers are the buyers, and job-seekers are the sellers - and the things being sold. Employers hold all the cards, and cannot envision a future where things might be different. So they demand that job seekers display monogamous loyalty to them even before any sort of hint of a commitment has been made, and they demand that employees remain indentured to them for some minimum period of time. But the first obligation, and the sole obligation of loyalty for job-seekers is to themselves. They must do the things that will benefit themselves, look out for themselves, because no other individual, group, or organization really has any reason to care about them. Job-hopping? Find the best job you can, and take it. And if a better job comes along, take that. You owe it to yourself.


hedera said...

Good luck in your search, buddy.

Michelle D said...

I'm so glad that you posted this! I agree 200% as I noted in the car ride with you yesterday.