At the stroke of midnight tonight, I will be another year older. Like many who face checking a different age group on a survey form, I’ve been reflecting on my life and career thus far. And you know what I realized? I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. That’s right, I’ve been apart of the American workforce for 20 years.
Now, there’s nothing particularly impressive about that. I grew up in a culture where many teenagers are taught that the best way to appreciate the value of a dollar is to earn it through work in addition to pursuing an education. I’m simply one of millions who’ve had the same experience.
But of those millions, how many are told that their experience is too much experience? How many jobs are too many?
Over the past 20 years, I’ve held many forms of employ-
ment for companies of various sizes. I’ve worked for a theater company with less than 10 employees and I’ve worked for an international pharmaceutical behemoth where the employee count hovers above 40,000. I’ve collected paychecks working freelance and staff, part-time and full-time, service industry and white collar. I’ve waited tables, delivered newspapers, edited magazines, managed offices, and even sold books in the world’s most adorable bookstore.
Although some of those jobs weren’t the best, I walked away from them not feeling an ounce of regret. The skills I garnered from those employers are invaluable and the connections I made inspire stories, ideas and perspectives that I might not ever have developed without that experience.
So why do prospective companies view a CV with more than three employers over the last 10 years as a black mark in today’s workplace? I haven’t run into this bias as a freelancer, but as a continuing member of the workforce who may easily take up shop in a cubicle or bullpen collecting a biweekly paycheck and health benefits, I still occasionally encounter this attitude in the corporate world.
Freelancers rarely hear objections about the number of employers or clients they’ve had in the past. As a matter of fact, a freelancer with a sizable client list is often regarded as an experienced veteran who doesn’t balk when faced with a new challenge or “has been there and done that.” Despite the lack of job security, their ability to be flexible, creative and hardworking while serving businesses with a variety of needs isn’t seen as a disadvantage. So why don’t corporations share this perspective?
I’ve interviewed with companies where I’ve been told my resume is one employer away from having “too many jobs.” In the corporate world, my experience with multiple businesses of various sizes, locations and industry focus is seen as sign that I’m a “job hopper” or a candidate who “lacks commitment.” Nevermind that my skill set and job functions for those positions all pertain to the same profession: writing and editing.
Some would be quick to say it’s a generational thing, but I’m not entirely convinced. Surely, most HR professionals and hiring managers are aware that the days of working at one or two employers from graduation to retirement are gone. At least for those born and raised after 1975. Companies no longer have a sense of loyalty to their employees and many worker bees move on to other positions in order to stay afloat or simply grow in their careers. I think it’s unfortunate that some businesses view that as a liability, because candidates who see their careers as a personal investment are the ones who will likely work the hardest, stay on top of industry news and development, and learn interesting and viable ways to increase their contribution to the overall product or service.
We’re not slackers just drifting along listlessly waiting for our ship to come in. And interestingly, I believe this is why so many members of Generation Y are prone to entrepreneurship or developing a freelance enterprise as a part-time venture while working a traditional 9-to-5. With the exception of a few startups, many companies aren’t utilizing the potential of their workforce effectively and it shows. It shows not only in the form of layoffs, downsizing and the curtailing of benefits and bonuses. It shows every time someone tells a perspective candidate that their resume has too many jobs.
Enterprises would do better to harness their employees’ experiences and mine their perspectives for ways to effectively contribute to a company’s growth and longevity. Treating a candidate with more than three employers over the last decade as if they’re a liability is short-sighted and a sign that perhaps you and your company lack the ability to adapt in the constantly changing world of business.
Is the “job hopper” accusation valid or do you find that most
corporations’ perspectives have shifted away from this attitude?
Should Generations X and Y simply adjust their
attitudes to the way of the corporate world?