Tony Adam

Entrepreneur, Marketer, Aspiring Polymath


Job Hopping: A resume doesn't tell the whole story

April 25, 2010 9

I’ll start by saying this, I agree with Mark Suster’s points to never hire job hoppers, but, sometimes there is more to a story than a resume holds. And, according to Jason Calacanis, I might be a Gen Y Trophy Kid, but, in my opinion, there is more to it than meets the eye in some cases. My thoughts and opinions are those of my own and I will always stand behind them, but I do apologize in advance if this post offends anyone or is in fact unhappy with the stance.

Hopping: Sometimes, there are good reasons

I’ve had a few jobs in my career, actually, I’ve had a few more jobs than I would say that I actually would have liked to have. The first company I worked at when I was real young, I was there for almost 5 years, learned a lot, earned a lot, and needed a new challenge. To be quite honest, I had to leave that company because I hit a ceiling and wanted to pursue bigger and better things. I needed to take a risk and I was young and not many jobs were being waved at a 23 year old from a small tech school with 5 years experience in technology consulting and leading sales and marketing. So, I joined one organization, that started to tank and another that inevitably was not the right fight.

Just as employers don’t see certain individuals as the right fit after a couple months, I’ve been on the flip side where I’ve noticed that it was no where near the right opportunity for me and called it a day. It goes both ways.

At a Dealmaker Media event recently about hiring, that sentiment echoed loud and clear: If someone isn’t working out, it’s time to let that person go and move on, rather than trying to make it work, because it never does.

I completely agree with that, if it’s not working out, let that person go, otherwise, you would be wasting time trying to make a bad situation work, and it NEVER does. I’ve been in that situation before and had to let people go. But, I think the one thing that we have to recognize is that it has to go both ways, employers have to be loyal to an extent and employees really need to stop hopping from jobs.

We’ve seen companies like Yahoo!, Microsoft, etc. lay off hundreds, if not thousands of workers at a time. During times like those, and watching departments get phased out, it is hard to sit there and think that you are not going to be the next one. This is especially true when see more than 10 people (or 50%) on a team cut, or even worse, everyone sitting around you get cut. It is a very depressing and lonely feeling that does not help morale when you are sitting in a cubicle farm with no one around, feeling like you are the only one on an island. It is the killer of all momentum and I’ve heard and watched people become complacent because of it.

I’m not saying either side is right or wrong during a layoff, but rather, my point is that employees now at days don’t feel as loyal to larger and “safe” organization. Especially those that are hungry and want to make an impact, it is draining and the killer of career momentum.

Looking to the future: Foresight is crucial

Having foresight is important, it is what helps people find business, job, and investment opportunities. It is what makes many of the Silicon Valley elite who they are and as successful as they are. Which is why it is unbelievably important to know when it is time to join and when it is time to leave a company.

Foresight can be clouded though when money is thrown at you and/or the opportunity of being part of a startup that sells.

It is important to know when to join a company, look to your mentors for advice, and important to see past the $$$. And yes, we all make mistakes and bad decisions sometimes, but, it’s important to learn from them.

Aside from that though, it is important to know when a job has reached a ceiling for you and there is no movement, no learning, no progression and no way to advance, at that point, there are no options BUT to pursue another opportunity. Sure, you could attempt to move around in a large organization like a Yahoo! or PayPal, I did it with PayPal. But, at the end of the day, you’re not taking leaps, your not making jumps, you’re taking baby steps horizontally.

When you stop learning and when you stop growing as an individual and professional, it is time to go, bottom line. Otherwise, you are caught being complacent for multiple years with nothing to show.

Being complacent and comfortable is what kills many people from actually making major career moves. I’ve talked to many former colleagues that were laser locked on the fact that they had a stable job of 3-4 years, only to get lost in the mix, be cut during a round of layoffs or be looked past during a promotion. The end up being left laid off or quitting after some time with a proprietary skill set and/or lack of knowledge of new technology, leaving them in a dead end.

Staying Power: I get it.

The one thing that I completely get and understand is the thought of staying power. I will end it on this because it is something that I feel is extremely important. There are many reasons to leave an organization. I’ve mentioned them all above. I have left organization for fear of losing a job and being left with nothing and left because I was at my ceiling. But, what I have never done, is leave an organization for the sole reason that I was going to make more money. I’ve taken 2 pay cuts in my career because of my thirst for knowledge and I would take another in the distant future for a great opportunity of a startup of my own. But, it is important not to make dollars the only decision to moving on to a new opportunity, because that is where you get caught job hopping too much to make a quick buck. It is not a long term strategy. Leaving a job for a better opportunity to learn more, obtain more visibility, and long term career growth is understandable, and, if you are going to get a big salary jump doing so, more power to you. But, don’t make that your soul reason, ever.

When you are young and talented, jobs come at you constantly. Recruiters constantly hound you, startups want your talent, and people can sense a hunger for growth. Bigger companies will throw tons of money at talented individuals to fill gaps and even help lead teams. The important thing is not to let this blur your long term vision and hurt your career growth. Think about 10 years down the line or even 20 and how that opportunity will play a roll in your overall career.

The Story: A Resume can’t speak to you

There are definitely situations where recommendations are taken into account and track record. Many times the personal story is already known by the hiring manager or startup CEO. But, I can tell you that there are definitely a few diamonds in the rough when it comes to talented individuals who have changed a few jobs before the age of thirty, or even after. If your gut says no, then stick to it. But, it might be worth a phone screen sometimes, you might learn something you didn’t know. Or better yet, find something unexpected out in a story that a resume just doesn’t tell.

Please follow me on twitter to keep the conversation going.

What do you think about job hoppers? What is your story with hiring a job hopper or being one? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

There are 9 comments

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tony Adam, Jason Lankow, Laurie Percival, Alex Miller, Ken Yeung and others. Ken Yeung said: RT @tonyadam: My thoughts on the hot topic – Job Hopping: A resume doesn't tell the whole story – http://bit.ly/ci4jIU […]

  • gearheadgal says:

    On the flip side, I get suspicious of folks who have never experienced more than a single corporation's view of leadership, organization, process, and operations. Those folks often support the politics necessary to succeed in an organization that makes it difficult to encourage diversity of thought.

  • Mark Suster says:

    Great post, Tony. We're in agreement. I think there are times to leave your job and move on. You've already proven you have staying power by staying almost 5 years in one job. Some of the language in my original post was too inflammatory. But my main point is that a person in their early 30's who has never demonstrated the ability to stay at any employer longer than 18 months is unlikely to stay with you for longer than 18 months. So why bother hiring them in the first place? That's all.

    • tonyadam says:

      Completely on the same page and I totally get your points! I wasn't trying to emphasize my story and I genuinely hope it didn't come off that I was! Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  • Jason says:

    Let's face it…there are no perfect employees. Employers want someone eager to do the job they're offered, exceptionally qualified for the role (without being overqualified), and so loyal that they'll only leave when fired/laid off. I can't believe how often as a gen y-er companies specifically pressuring me to say I'll stick around for x amount of time. It seems like the concept of "employment at will" is treated like it's supposed to be a one way street.

    The bottom line: Keep challenging your employees, give them interesting things to do and have an enjoyable work environment and there won't be a good reason for them to leave, regardless of what they planned before joining the company.

    • tonyadam says:

      Jason, I completely agree, there was definitely one instance where if I was challenged more and given an opportunity to grow, I would have stayed for the long haul, but, that was not possible, and now, that entire team was phased out.

  • Apreche says:

    When I was young, as in high school, I looked down on people who switched jobs often. I thought, why can't they just stay put? It seems like a person who switched jobs often was either irresponsible, indecisive, or maybe they just got fired often due to incompetence. Here I am, not even 30 yet, and on my fourth tech job. Yet, I am sure you will agree that I am not irresponsible, indecisive, or incompetent. Here's my deal.

    The first job was a co-op. That means it was a paid internship while I was still in college, and was a graduation requirement. Yet, it was absolutely a real job. I left it because it was never meant to be permanent.

    The second job was my first job after graduation. It was a PHP job. I did one project, very successfully. After that, they transferred me to an office in the middle of nowhere, alone. They also gave me no more assignments, and never checked up on me. But they didn't fire me. When I left they actually seemed like they cared and didn't want me to go. Nice people, weird situation.

    Third job was great. Small place owned by four guys. Always knew they were trying to sell, After about two years there, they succeeded. They promised nothing would change. Nothing did change, until the economy collapsed. Then, they slowly disintegrated us. I was one of the last to get canned. Was already looking for a new job by that point.

    Fourth job is the one I'm at now. I've been there almost a year. No signs of any weirdness, yet. Things are looking up.

    If someone's resume makes them appear to be a job-hopper, but they otherwise appear to be a good candidate, at least talk to them on the phone for five minutes. Sure, some people probably are no good, but others, like myself, just have weird situations that you won't see just looking at a resume.

  • steve says:

    I like that you have brought gut feeling into the debate. Sometimes you can tell when someone isn’t the right fit.

    I remember interviewing for a company that wasn’t the right fit for me and could tell by the interviewer I wasn’t the right fit for them. We both cut our losses pretty quick and I wished them luck in finding the right person

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