It used to be that someone who worked at a company for a year or two would have signaled red flags as a risky hire. Today, it’s more common for professionals to change jobs — even careers — more frequently. But this isn’t something new. It’s been heading this direction since the 1940s when a gold watch marked a 30-year employee’s send-off into retirement.
While more people are changing jobs at a faster rate, there’s a lingering stigma tied to those with lengthy resumes that hasn’t caught up with the times. Just ask the Millennials who are told that making frequent job changes signals character flaws.
How do you overcome general presumption and use your moves as an advantage? Think of your skill set in broader terms and promote your professional attributes. (Click here to tweet these strategies.)
Strategy 1. Promote your character
The workforce is at a point where the growing skills gap has resulted in unfilled jobs, which affects the way organizations find talent. Many companies are expanding candidate criteria beyond the traditional job description to those who have strong core attributes; they then work to train them on the job for specific roles.
As a result, personal character and the capacity to learn are becoming hiring attributes.
Forbes contributor Mike Myatt thinks this is a good approach for companies. He writes that a “values-based approach to hiring increases performance, enhances collaboration, reduces turnover, improves morale, and creates a stable culture.” He continues:
…if you can’t trust someone to do the right thing, it doesn’t matter how likable, passionate or talented they are. You can teach many things, but altering the hardwiring of an adult’s character is best left to a therapist or the clergy — not an employer.
There’s no shortage of conversation around leveraging soft skills, but when put into practice, it’s not as common as you think. Think about your skill set — both soft and technical. Instead of sharing your experience of X, Y and Z, tell the interviewer how, by using X, Y and Z, you were able to solve a specific problem.
Then tie that back to the lessons learned and how you’ll apply it to the role you’re interviewing for. The goal for a hiring manager is to sign on a great employee, rather than just a great job applicant on paper.
Strategy 2. Try different “career trails”
In a recent CareerBuilder survey on job-hopping statistics, Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s vice president of HR says: “More workers are pursuing opportunities with various companies to expose themselves to a wider range of experiences, build their skill sets, or take a step up the ladder in pay or title.”
Exposing yourself to a wider range of experiences is a personal selling opportunity — and companies are buying into it. To capitalize on this when searching out a new job, reflect on your work experience to determine other industries where that experience applies.
The trade industries are hiring, and these jobs are sophisticated and specialized. They offer excellent pay, professional growth and job security. And like any company, they have sales, marketing, logistics, finance and other business functions.
If you can’t land a permanent job, think about signing on with a staffing company for contract-to-hire assignments. This sets up “career trails” that’ll help you assess your desired career path while gaining experience and avoiding a resume gap.
Another benefit of working through a staffing company on multiple assignments is the ability to try various jobs and companies without appearing to job hop.
With some companies more willing to hire someone with fewer years of experience under the condition they can illustrate specific qualities, the playing field has been leveled — offering non-industry veterans a chance to compete.
It’s still not ideal to job hop for no reason. But if you can come to the interview prepared to engage in a dialogue about the reasons for the moves and how your experiences have positively influenced your business competencies, it’ll be an asset to your portfolio of work.
Dan Campbell is founder/CEO of Hire Dynamics and 2014 Chairman of the American Staffing Association. Hire Dynamics is an industry leading staffing provider that has been recognized as a “Best Places to Work,” “Best Staffing Firm to Work For,” and on the Inc. Magazine 500|5000 list, among others. @HireDynamics