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The When and How of Changing Jobs

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Job-hopping is becoming more and more common. Here’s how to do it well.

In previous generations, it was common for employees to stay with the same organization for decades. But that is no longer the case today.

A recent LinkedIn study found that millennials, on average, change jobs four times before the age of 32. In Africa, as many as 80% of employed job seekers intend to leave their job within the next year, according to a survey by BrighterMonday and Trends & Insights for Africa. Only 5% plan to stay beyond a year.

The reduced loyalty, however, goes both ways. Employers today are far less willing to promise job security to their workers, choosing instead to tie employee tenure with job performance or to hire freelance contractors. Africa already has more than 10% of the world’s freelancers.

But job security still matters to today’s workers, even millennials. A global survey by employee benefits consultant Towers Watson found that job security is a top concern for workers considering a job offer, second only to salary. Job security was rated as more important than career advancement, challenging work, or the organization’s reputation as a good employer.

Having come of age during the global recession, millennials and their younger counterparts want a steady paycheck. But, according to a report from Manpower, the world’s third largest staffing firm, millennials also expect to change jobs regularly. Their job security comes from the ongoing development of their skills, which allows them to remain competitive in the job market. 90% see lifelong learning as an integral part of their career path.

Some employers appreciate this approach. When these businesses are evaluating job candidates, “different positions and capabilities are preferred as they are seen to bring a broader set of skills and are also viewed to be less change resistant,” reported Business Daily earlier this year. Professionals who change jobs regularly are perceived as being more ambitious and more adaptable.

But frequent job changes can also impact an individual’s ability to land a position. Employee turnover is a major cost for businesses, so hiring managers may be less inclined to hire someone who is a habitual job-hopper.

As recruiters, we at Kenyans Come Home often focus on why a candidate changes jobs and how often they do so. Having a career spanning several industries and roles can equip a candidate with diverse experience, broader exposure, wider networks, varied skillsets, and proven adaptability.

However, too many job changes can also raise red flags and questions around the candidate’s loyalty, judgment, relationships at work, and ability to work through challenges rather than just jumping ship. Employers want to see someone that has driven change, growth, and/or impact within a business, and more importantly has driven that to completion. 

General consensus among HR professionals is that employees should try to stay in a position for at least two years, with no more than two 2-year stints in their career. Sometimes, though, moving jobs may be the only option if someone’s career isn’t advancing within a business.

Changing jobs is becoming more common and, to some extent, more necessary for professionals who want to advance their careers. We encourage candidates to make these transitions thoughtfully and strategically. And when the right time comes for you to find a new job, we are here to help.