Call me old fashioned or out of date, however how do employers feel about employing staff who seem to chop and change jobs every couple of years? This was a question I found myself posing during an assignment we were engaged to perform for one of our clients. The task was to find a senior employee who could step up to the position of partner over the short term. As we began this search for our client, I noticed that many of the resumes we were receiving illustrated a change in employer every 2 – 3 years.

Yes, as a true Gen X, I am perhaps a little more traditional than those younger than me, although some of these applicants weren’t that much younger. Yes, I also acknowledge hearing more than once that our future generations will not be locked solely into one career or career path for their entire lives, but rather are likely to have up to seven different careers in their working lives.

Thus, I found myself pondering, are these constant changes of employer a sign of instability within an employee, or have they yet to find the right position or firm, or is it actually indicative of someone endeavouring to climb the corporate ladder? Are these people simply ambitious? Is this an expression of career development?

I’m not sure I actually know, and perhaps it’s a case by case basis. However, it made be reflect on a girl in my winter softball team. She is younger, ambitious, driven, goal oriented, knows what she wants to do and when. This drive is actually a breath of fresh air in some respects.  But, she seems to change employers every 18 months to 3 years. Initially I found myself thinking, I’m not sure I would want to be her employer. However, with further thought, at least in this instance, I saw the changing of jobs was more about progressing her career, about strengthening her skills, to find better and more challenging and rewarding positions. She is someone wanting to go somewhere, which I was almost applauding.

However, when I came back to my own personal expectations for my business, someone chopping and changing jobs every 2 – 3 years would be disastrous. Given the different services offered by my firm, it often takes personnel at least twelve months, if not two years, to really appreciate what it is we do, how and why. Thus, to dedicate that length of time to bringing staff up to speed only to have them leave shortly thereafter is draining and rather unsatisfactory.

I suspect this is a sentiment shared by many with the professions. Spending valuable time to train up personnel to varying degrees only to have them leave for positions in more prime locations or firms. This is a remark that we often hear amongst smaller firms. Although, I do know of some firms who are most mindful of such trends, keeping undergrads and graduates for a short time, knowing they will move onto bigger things, and being satisfied with this turnover.

But for most firms, this tenure of employment is probably less likely to be seen favourably, and it would appear so in this particular instance. If a firm is seeking to engage their future successors, it’s probably unlikely that they will want to take a chance on someone stepping into that senior role, only to be present for a shortish time. That said, it is imperative that parties being employed with proprietorship in mind be aware that they are ear marked for such opportunities and then have such progression to partnership fulfilled.  

What is your opinion? Are regular changes in employment reflective of someone being ambitious or is a lack of long term commitment to the one position too risky for your firm?

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