Job Hopping – Good or Bad Idea?

JobHopGraphicA track record of frequent job changes in the civil engineering profession is frowned upon, there is no way around it. Some industries may allow for it and it may be deemed acceptable, but not within the civil engineering profession. There are plenty of valid reasons why people jump ship, but if you find yourself in the never ending search of greener pastures, you may want to pause and think twice. Here is why:

1. A company is going to invest a considerable amount of time and money in developing your skills, providing training, paying a good salary and providing benefits, and often awarding bonuses. When they view a resume with frequent career moves the thought that crosses their mind is “why should I invest in this person when they are only going to leave after 2-3 years?”

2. Beyond quality work, a civil engineering practice is built around quality relationships and trust. If a civil engineering consulting firm makes it a habit of hiring those with an unstable employment history clients will become frustrated. That is, they begin to build a rapport and level of trust with clients, but should those clients see a revolving door of project managers or engineers assigned to a project that raises a major red flag and they likely will begin to search for another consultant that can offer a more stable team of engineers that they can trust. I realize the revolving door can also be an issue where the employer has to take a hard look at themselves, but that’s for another blog.

3. In most cases, companies are looking to grow. They want to know that the employees they hire will be a part of that growth. Of course the employer needs to provide that opportunity and must show that career path, but if you have a habit of getting bored, or trying something new, or jumping ship for a couple grand more in salary, that will catch up and bite you in the rear in the long term.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and when we qualify candidates for our clients we analyze and discuss our candidate’s career not only from a technical skill set point of view, but from an employment chronology perspective as well. Just yesterday I spoke to a candidate who had some solid experience and a really nice project resume, but had made some frequent job changes over the course of the past 10 years. As we dove into those situations, the moves he made were valid. It was not a circumstance where he left for a more significant role each time, or left for a larger salary each time, or left because he did not get along with everyone. He was laid off twice, once because he was working in land development in the DC area when the housing bust hit, and once because he was working on a portion of the Keystone Pipeline project that came to an end.  Another move he made was because he got married and he and his wife chose to live closer to her job.

I believe that making some strategic career moves over the course of a 40+ year career is vital. It allows for advancement opportunities, it allows for a change of pace if you are stuck in a rut, and it allows for exposure to some new and exciting ideas and people. But my advice is to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN with your current employer. Work hard, be innovative, don’t be afraid to fail, and communicate effectively with your boss. When you have done your best and are no longer able to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN, then you should consider greener pastures.

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