Job-hoppers beware: staying in jobs for less than two years is likely to hurt your long-term career prospects.

Recruitment firm Robert Half has found nine out of 10 employers consider more than three job changes in a decade to be excessive.

Public sector employees get a little more leeway, with employers’ concerns peaking when candidates move five times or more in 10 years.

Once labelled a job-hopper, candidates have a less than 10 per cent chance of landing an interview, the research found.

While moving every two years is widely considered job-hopping, career experts say redundancies and declining employer loyalty have left more workers looking at their options.

An online survey of more than 2000 candidates by Hays found one in three Australians would leave their employer in the first two years and close to 40 per cent considered leaving every two to four years.

Lois Keay-Smith, of Career Wisdom, said being upfront about frequent job changes was important but in a world where contract work and declining loyalty were the norm, the definition of job-hopping was in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s more important to have an employee who is highly engaged and works well with the clients, than someone who has been there for many years but is now a bit bored and jaded, ” she said.

“Individual employee engagement is much more important than the number of years clocked up. Yes, recruiting and training is expensive but the cost is greater if people stay beyond what is appropriate for them.”

Career expert Kate Southam said people who consistently changed jobs every six to 12 months should seek professional advice in building their emotional intelligence.

“Manage your emotions and interacting with others in the workplace is a crucial skill, ” Ms Southam said. “Soft skills are going to set people apart when they are looking for promotions, and those who are able to negotiate challenging emotional situations will prosper.”

Ms Southam said most hiring managers considered three to five years in one job was acceptable, especially if candidates could show their career progression through every job change. But staying for too long in a job could be just as damaging, she said. People should list all of the tasks they loved doing and those they despised, and check them against their skill levels.

“If you’re in a job you’re good at, but you hate doing it, then a manager is never going to let you leave or progress, ” Ms Southam said. “But if there is a job you would love to do, which you’re not yet good at, then that could provide you with the drive and incentive you need.”

Ms Southam said workers considering a job change in the new year should take a mental holiday before re-establishing lost connections and renewing professional memberships.

“If you engage in urgent, stressful job searches without really evaluating, you’ll take that into job interviews and it will translate into desperation, ” she said.

Career coaches could help candidates who were in a rut — career tests were useful in determining a new path but candidates needed to drive the process.

Ms Keay-Smith said job-hoppers could project themselves as innovative, adaptable and quick to learn but it was important to pinpoint values, motivators, strengths and interests.

“If you keep job-hopping in the hope of jagging the one, you might be hopping a long time, ” she said. “Knowing yourself and what type of work is desired can help find fulfilling work that meets more of your preferences.”


© The West Australian

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