Perhaps job hopping is a good thing?


I spec­u­late that job hop­ping, if it becomes a wide­spread phe­nom­e­non, might actu­ally lead to improved busi­ness effi­ciency. In this way, the “Gen Y” job hop­ping phe­nom­e­non could ulti­mately prove beneficial.


I was dis­cussing these arti­cles today with Chris Ken­ton of Social­Rep.

Issues with Jason Calacanis’s piece

Jason’s piece seems to have a very cro­chity tone, with a lot of: “The kids these days are dri­ving soci­ety to hell in a hand­bas­ket” sort of feel. To wit:

  • “the major­ity of them seem to lack killer instinct but have excel at entitlement“
  • “It’s so obvi­ous to me why our coun­try is spi­ral­ing like a regional jet piloted by a $9 an hour, 20 year-old pilot with under 1,000 hours of flight time.“

These all sound like the sort of crit­i­cisms every older gen­er­a­tion lobs at younger ones, which make me imme­di­ately skeptical.

Obvi­ously, Jason has had neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences with employ­ees who leave after one year. I’m not say­ing these employ­ees were good. But I think he draws the wrong gen­er­al­iza­tions and I sus­pect that the trend of job hop­ping might ulti­mately lead to soci­etal and eco­nomic good.

Could Job Hop­ping be beneficial?

I think there is def­i­nitely a social shift that is occur­ring, but I think this con­cept of dis­crete “gen­er­a­tions” is a red her­ring, since the shift is occur­ring grad­u­ally, not as a step function.

Here I’m just going to spec­u­late a bit: If Jason’s pre­dic­tion is true, and ten years down the road it is not uncom­mon that most peo­ple job hop every year until they find a good rela­tion­ship, it might not be as grim as the old guard pre­dicts. In fact, it could ulti­mately have ben­e­fi­cial effects. I can under­stand how this idea is scary to con­ven­tional busi­nesses, but since I don’t have exten­sive indus­try expe­ri­ence, I have the lux­ury of hav­ing lit­tle enough bias to use my imag­i­na­tion about how this might ulti­mately be ben­e­fi­cial. :)

The real prob­lem with job hop­ping is the ini­tial expen­sive startup cost to inte­grat­ing a new employee into your orga­ni­za­tion. Job hop­ping would not really be so prob­lem­atic if busi­nesses (and new employ­ees) were set up for peo­ple to con­tribute value imme­di­ately. Per­haps employ­ers and employ­ees alike would ben­e­fit from busi­nesses restruc­tur­ing their processes to be more mod­u­lar and self-contained. This is sim­i­lar to how it seems ini­tially expen­sive to design your code so that com­po­nents are loosely cou­pled, but ulti­mately this dis­ci­pline leads to greater flex­i­bil­ity and eas­ier main­tain­abil­ity. Sim­i­larly, struc­tur­ing your orga­ni­za­tion and processes in such a way that you can eas­ily add (or remove!) tal­ent can ulti­mately lead to effi­ciency. (I make sim­i­lar com­ments about out­sourc­ing your code.)

As I said, this idea on my part is purely cre­ative spec­u­la­tion, and I can’t claim I have enough expe­ri­ence to know whether this is true or not. So when it comes to whether job hop­ping is good (as Paul Dix says) or bad (as Mark Suster and Jason Cal­ca­nis say), I have to abstain.

The idea of blind loy­alty is an arti­fact of sit­u­a­tions in which the party to which you are loyal (a large cor­po­ra­tion, an Army, etc.) is far too large to have a rela­tion­ship with you. When an actual rela­tion­ship is pos­si­ble, that is far prefer­able to some imper­sonal loyalty.

Align­ment of inter­ests and clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the best way to make any sort of rela­tion­ship work.

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    Per­haps job hop­ping is a good thing?

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    Per­haps job hop­ping is a good thing?: Com­ments:

  • hnques­tions

    Per­haps job hop­ping is a good thing?

  • Lynn Gar­cia

    I’ve found that its best to ignore 95% of what Cala­ca­nis ever writes because he’s a you-know-what.

    I think stay­ing at a job too long is a bad thing because you depend on senior­ity rather than pro­duc­tion, but to each his own.

  • Win­field

    Cala­ca­nis cedes that you shouldn’t stay at a job where you aren’t learn­ing and devel­op­ing skills. The learn­ing curve at a job is very steep and lev­els off almost com­pletely after a year or two, as Trunk argues.

    You have to choose your next career oppor­tu­nity based on how much long-term value it builds.

    There is the tan­gi­ble and con­crete value of skills and expe­ri­ence vs. the intan­gi­ble promises Cala­ca­nis makes about loy­alty, rec­om­men­da­tions, and networking.

    The broader, shal­lower net­work of ex-coworkers is more ben­e­fi­cial than one large “angel” like Cala­ca­nis swoop­ing in to advance your career in some dis­tant, imag­i­nary future. It’s clear to me which of these strate­gies deliv­ers more value over time.

  • mynext

    I per­son­ally find job hop­ping to be ben­e­fi­cial. Learnt so much see­ing dif­fer­ent com­pany cultures.

  • Team John L

    A staffing agency I used to work for is attempt­ing to solve this prob­lem exactly. The issue we found is that even with thou­sands of inter­views worth of expe­ri­ence, it’s still rel­a­tively hard to deter­mine if some­one will make a ‘good fit’ with any par­tic­u­lar job. After all, peo­ple will lie cheat and steal to get a new job, or more com­monly, gen­uinely believe they want it until they actu­ally show up and start pro­cess­ing widgets.

    The solu­tion we found is so called ‘trial employ­ment peri­ods.’ A new employee can come on at either full pay, or reduced pay, for a period of 2 weeks or a month, after which they are either let go or given a full offer. This cuts the cost of a failed hire (per­haps 3 or 6 months worth of wages) by 50 to 90 percent.

    Seri­ously, try it. All of you. Eight hours of inter­views is far worse than eight hours of actu­ally work­ing with the guy.

  • Alex @turian chan­nels “small pieces, loosely joined” for busi­ness processes to allow for more dynamic employee integration

  • brad­ford cross

    “hop­ping would not be prob­lem­atic if busi­nesses were set up for peo­ple to con­tribute value imme­di­ately.” @turian via @emp

  • Lewis Zim­mer­man

    “hop­ping would not be prob­lem­atic if busi­nesses were set up for peo­ple to con­tribute value imme­di­ately.” /via @emp et al

  • doc_faustroll

    I like the title and con­ceit of your blog. Thanks to @bradfordcross for the tweet that got me here. I think you have some­what, to use a term I stole from Wal­ter Hopps, “watered-up” the dis­cus­sion and made it more inter­est­ing than it is as orig­i­nally framed.
    Such a dis­cus­sion is per­fectly fool­ish as you sug­gest when cast in terms of gen­er­a­tions or flouride in the water.

    The ques­tion of worker pro­duc­tiv­ity in the face of job churn is bet­ter cast, as you say, in terms of the com­pany actu­ally hav­ing their act together enough to make use of the talent.

  • msuster

    To be fair I never preached “blind loy­alty.” I said specif­i­cally that peo­ple should quit jobs where they feel their employ­ers are not treat­ing them well. My argu­ment (for which I chose inflam­ma­tory words and later apol­o­gized) is:
    - when you’re young it’s ok to try a few dif­fer­ent jobs, job func­tions and geo­gra­phies
    - there is a long-term ben­e­fit of stick­ing by at least one of the com­pa­nies longer than 2 years. my pref­er­ence is longer than 3.
    - peo­ple who go through 6 jobs in a row with each 18 months will find it increas­ingly dif­fi­cult to get the best job assign­ments because hir­ing man­agers will assume based on the pat­tern that these peo­ple aren’t likely to stay. Hir­ing is time con­sum­ing and expen­sive. So great man­agers try to hire peo­ple they think have amaz­ing skills AND are likely to stay.

    I was NEVER an apol­o­gist for bad employers.

  • Joseph Turian

    Trial employ­ment peri­ods sound good, both from an employee’s per­spec­tive and an employer’s per­spec­tive. “Try before you buy”

  • Joseph Turian

    @msuster, I hope my writ­ing didn’t imply that you sup­port “blind loy­alty”. I under­stand your posi­tion, and that you have very refined pri­ors about what you look for in com­pa­nies that you fund. It’s impor­tant for you to quickly dis­qual­ify behav­iors that you have asso­ci­ated with pre­vi­ous bad results.

    My posi­tion is that per­haps their will be a pos­i­tive soci­etal and eco­nomic shift if job-hopping becomes des­tig­ma­tized and employ­ers plan for it. I imag­ine star­tups as per­haps becom­ing more mod­u­lar orga­ni­za­tions, that can more eas­ily pro­vi­sion tal­ent (like spin­ning up a CPU in the cloud). As I said, this is purely spec­u­la­tion on my part about a poten­tial pos­i­tive out­come of the “job-hopping” movement.

  • bri­an­in­wood

    We live in a mer­ce­nary econ­omy. Why would an employee opt out of bet­ter eco­nomic poten­tial (per­sonal profit) when his employer will lay him off with­out blink­ing an eye if it adds $5 to the bot­tom line?

    All the employ­ers whin­ing about a lack of loy­alty brought it on them­selves. The at-will employee, salaried with­out over­time, dis­pos­able at the drop of a hat isn’t going to reward the uncer­tainty the sit­u­a­tion pro­vides with end­less loyalty.

    Any­body who skips out on major oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve their per­sonal prof­itabil­ity is a poor busi­nessper­son who I wouldn’t want man­ag­ing at my com­pany. Go for the best pos­si­ble return! ALWAYS! The CEO will always be more “loyal” to him­self, his lux­ury car, and his golf club mem­ber­ship than to you — why put your family’s future and your own on the line in that circumstance?

  • Seb Paquet

    In Sil­i­con Val­ley espe­cially, there’s a lot of job-hopping. I read some­where that it boosted the whole local tech­nol­ogy ecosys­tem because knowl­edge gets spread around faster that way.

  • Spencer Tip­ping

    I sup­pose it could be viewed as “employee arbi­trage” — as the over­head involved in switch­ing jobs decreases, employ­ees can real­lo­cate them­selves more quickly to take advan­tage of local optima. I think you can use this to demon­strate a global opti­mum too.

  • J. Nathan Matias

    @turian won­ders if Job Hop­ping is a good thing, even for star­tups

  • J. Nathan Matias

    @turian won­ders if Job Hop­ping is a good thing, even for star­tups

  • J. Nathan Matias

    @turian won­ders if Job Hop­ping is a good thing, even for star­tups

  • J. Nathan Matias

    @turian won­ders if Job Hop­ping is a good thing, even for star­tups

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