Stop shaming job hoppers: The future of work belongs to the job hoppers

Hopping right on out of that bad job

Though Intel forecasts flat sales in 2019, people inside the company said this week’s layoffs don’t appear to be strictly a cost-cutting move. Rather, they said the cuts appeared to reflect a broad change in the way Intel is approaching its internal technical systems… Intel will now consolidate operations under a single contractor, the Indian technology giant Infosys.

Intel is laying off hundreds of their IT staff, according to the Oregonian. Unless you or a friend or family member is immediately affected, you’ve probably scrolled right past the news. That’s no shame on you; stories of layoffs are a dime a dozen in our newsfeeds. It’s easy to scroll right on past.

In March alone, EA laid off 350 people. Bed, Bath and Beyond laid off 150 workers. SAP is cutting 450 US jobs, Oracle is heading into layoffs and playing coy, but rumors are estimating it will be in the thousands. PayPal plans to cut close to 400 jobs. It was just announced that 1,500 employees are losing their jobs by September at a Fiat Chrysler plant. In Wisconsin, Shopko is laying off 1,700 people. Disney’s recent merger with Fox is generating speculation that anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 workers will be laid off.

These numbers may seem like a drop in the bucket but each of these workers has bills to pay, hopes for a better financial future, and career dreams. Worse yet, nobody teaches those who are laid off how to start over again. They’re left to fend for themselves, feeling alone, confused and betrayed by a system that still pretends employers take care of their workers.

Leaders have made it plain and clear that layoffs are the new normal. President of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Russ Hancock, shares this perspective on layoffs:

“We don’t want to minimize this for the people that are laid off, it’s this terrible upheaval in their lives… On the other hand, you have to keep this in perspective, there are 1.5 million people working in Silicon Valley and about 40 percent of those jobs, even more, are tech jobs. Tech companies are constantly upsizing, downsizing, pivoting, moving into new markets, moving out of old markets, this is actually fully to be expected.”

In the face such continued callousness from our employers why do career experts insist on telling workers not to job hop? Last month, Business Insider shared this tired career advice in a tweet claiming that “Job hopping is the biggest mistake millennials make in their career.”

The author makes a few good points in the video – especially about learning from bad work environments – but the idea that job hopping is bad is outdated. It’s career advice that’s a hold over from the Baby Boomer days when workers were taught that employers were benevolent organizations that took care of their employees.

Telling people not to job hop ignores our new career reality. Millennials – and everyone else in the workforce – know that they can be cut at any time. They know that a college degree does not protect them from layoffs, nor does it guarantee career progress.

Moreover, our new world of work doesn’t map to the old school career ladder model. Only 19% of companies have “traditional functional career models.” Our careers now incorporate freelancing, entrepreneurship, and gig work. Some choose contract work to define work on their terms, hopping to better jobs when necessary. Others have no say in whether they job hop or not because they’re caught in a cycle of temp work as employers rely on a contract workforce to keep costs down.

On top of that, the growing gig workforce is now managed by algorithms instead of humans. There’s also an increase of algorithmic surveillance in the work place, which leads to stress and burn out. It’s hard to make the case that employees should feel any sort of connection to a company that manages and evaluates by algorithms over humans.

People aren’t job hopping because they can’t find their dream job. They leave jobs because of poor management, lack of career growth, weak company culture, and overwork. They’re also drowning in student debt and making hard choices about their career.

So spare us the lecture on job hopping and developing relationships with employers. The author’s idea that our relationship with employers should be like a romantic relationship is gross. If your partner treated you bad, kept you at arms distance after a year of being together, didn’t acknowledge your worth, or told you they’d drop you because it was more cost effective for their life, all your friends would tell you to GTFO, full stop.

The idea that we should struggle along, hoping these companies will eventually show us love and keep us if we just try hard enough is a recipe for career irrelevance.

So stop blaming millennials for impatience and start blaming companies for their inability to treat workers well. With all this poor behavior on the employers part it actually looks pretty smart that employees are hopping into better jobs and leaving the crappy ones behind. We have more opportunities to learn new skills than ever before. We have more transparency about employer culture, the good and the bad, which helps us evaluate our options better than previous generations. We’re motivated by career FOMO from Instagram and we have access to niche communities that support us during career transitions like never before.

Plus, we know what the future looks like. Millennials – and all the other generations that are paying attention – read the screaming headlines about robots coming for our jobs. With the rise of AI and automation, it’s not looking promising for the future workforce. This year the New York Times reported on Davos with a warning about how giddy executives seem at replacing workers with automation:

But in private settings, including meetings with the leaders of the many consulting and technology firms whose pop-up storefronts line the Davos Promenade, these executives tell a different story: They are racing to automate their own work forces to stay ahead of the competition, with little regard for the impact on workers.

All over the world, executives are spending billions of dollars to transform their businesses into lean, digitized, highly automated operations. They crave the fat profit margins automation can deliver, and they see A.I. as a golden ticket to savings, perhaps by letting them whittle departments with thousands of workers down to just a few dozen.

Job hopping isn’t laziness. It’s a response to an unbalanced system that demands loyalty yet offers no loyalty in return.

Given this, why do we continue to shame people for job hopping? Does it benefit an employee to stay in a job that does nothing for them or their future? If they only gain a mediocre paycheck with no chance for future opportunity or raises, no training, bad management, and/or a miserable experience, why should they stay? Telling people not to job hop benefits the companies not the employees.

When we focus on shaming job hoppers, we ignore the benefits of job hopping.

Those who change jobs are most likely to get a pay increase. Job hoppers also gain new skills, get experience collaborating with different people, and gain experience working across verticals, instead of staying put in a single vertical. They experiment more in their career, adapting to new roles and environments. These agile workers bring diverse skills and experiences to any new role. They’re also increasingly valuable to leading organizations.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Cross-Silo Leadership, the researchers explain how to build cross-disciplinary teams that increase innovation. They note that “innovation hinges more and more on interdisciplinary cooperation” and “horizontal collaboration.” Our new world of work needs cross-discipline leadership for complex problem solving. Companies that pursue “cross-boundary collaboration achieve greater customer loyalty and higher margins.”

The researchers advocate for a cross-disciplinary leadership style, where leaders reorganize their workplaces into teams that work cross-functionally. They note that “employees also need to be pushed to tap into expertise outside the company and even outside the industry.”

Translation: leaders and employees need to look beyond their teams and organizations more.

The full article is worth a read to understand just how valuable interdisciplinary thinking is in our new world of work, and how challenging it is to get leaders and employees who have been educated in silos to think interdisciplinary.

As more employers structure their organizations with a focus on cross-disciplinary teams, it’s the job hoppers who are best positioned to thrive in these teams.

The future of work belongs to the job hoppers. Think about it this way: which employee is more suited for that cross-discipline flexibility, the one that’s been in their department for five years or the job hopper that’s only been around for a year but has a history of working with different teams and in different industries? I’m putting my money on the latter.

These agile employees aren’t just well suited for the new world of work – they’re also the future leadership.

The executive or leader who refuses to look beyond their education or department for answers, will be out-skilled by those know who can build cross-disciplinary teams. From the same HBR article:

You can’t lead at the interfaces if you don’t know where they are. Yet many organizations unwittingly encourage employees to never look beyond their own immediate environment, such as their function or business unit, and as a result miss out on potential insights employees could get if they scanned more-distant networks.

We must stop shaming people for wanting better job opportunities and acting on that desire. Instead, let’s acknowledge our new career reality. Let’s teach people how to build fluid careers with many job hops and cheer them on along the way.

So, if you’re considering leaving your job because it doesn’t meet your needs: job hop your face off.

Evaluate your work situation. If it doesn’t work for you, find a better job. Find a role that works with your lifestyle. Find a company whose culture resonates with you. Find a boss who respects you. Find an organization that invests in their employees. Good companies exist.

GTFO of your crappy job regardless of how long you’ve been there. Learn how to shape your narrative for future employers. Invest in new skills.

It might take a while. But don’t hold yourself back because of an outdated notion of employer loyalty. You don’t owe bad employers anything.

P.S. If you like this advice, you’re going to really like my book.

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