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IT career tips to avoid the job hopper label

Rich Hein | April 3, 2013
Is being considered a job hopper the kiss of death for job seekers or is it the new norm? It all depends on the underlying reasons and how it's presented.

Times have changed in the IT job market. It used to be that being labeled a "job hopper" could have serious effect on your career potential, but in today's economy with corporate downsizings, big business bankruptcies and startup failures even some of the best employees have had the rug pulled out from under them. And it's not unusual for it to happen more than once to good IT workers.

Gone are the days where you work for one employer for an entire career. "You rarely have guys on your programming team with 5-plus years with the company and it's becoming less and less. People are moving around and it's not necessarily frowned upon anymore," says Iman Jalali, president of TrainSignal.

"If you are fortunate enough to move often but not too often, you probably can point to experience in a number of different industries and exposure to a variety of challenges, which can lead companies to believe you are flexible and a quick learner," says Tracy Cashman, partner and general manager in the IT division of staffing agency Winter, Wyman.

That said, some companies are still suspicious of people who have too many stints of one year or shorter. They either feel that the prospective employee gets bored easily or perhaps they get laid off frequently because they are not a top-tier employee. Others still, wonder if the prospective employee has more of a contractor mentality.

However, Cashman says that in her experience more companies are reluctant to hire people who have been at one place for several years for their whole career. "Companies may feel that those people are not motivated enough in their career progression or are so ingrained in a particular culture or way of thinking that they won't be able to adapt to a new environment," says Cashman.

Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates says that while it is more acceptable in today's IT to have some shorter stints, it still raises concerns with some employers. "Job hopping is a red flag for employers. What type of decision did you make going into the job? Did you do your due diligence to make sure that job was the right fit? Unfortunately, a lot of job seekers, when they get an offer, are excited and they think, 'It's a job and I can do it,' but in reality they don't fit into the culture. That's many times what I see as the reason for these shorter-term employments," says Mattson.

While thoughts on the matter vary from business to business, there are things you can to mitigate the risks in your quest for employment. To help light the way, spoke to hiring managers and career coaches to help define how to best handle this delicate topic.


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