Job surfing not totally negative, recruiters say

On the Job

March 28, 2007|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun Columnist

Recruiters no longer automatically toss your resume aside if you are a job hopper.

It's more common these days to be on your fifth, sixth or even the 10th job in the several years after college graduation.

Philip Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, calls it job surfing.

Some of his data show that young workers hold three to four jobs within five years of graduating and upward of 10 jobs in some cases within five to seven years.

"It doesn't mean these kids are slackers," Gardner says. "What everyone is looking for is [career] fit. Companies are looking for fit, and kids are looking for fit. More than ever before, kids aren't sure what they're looking for but know it when they see it."

Plus, employer loyalty is practically nonexistent, especially among young workers, Gardner says. So, if a job isn't working, they leave and find something else.

Still, that doesn't mean you should aimlessly job surf, says Susan D. Strayer, a former Johns Hopkins University career adviser and author of The Right Job Right Now.

A series of short stints might turn off prospective employers.

"The perspective I always have as a recruiter is do you have a good story to tell" about why you left a job, says Strayer, also a former corporate recruiter. "Otherwise, people fear the chronic job hopper because it takes time and money to train someone new."

Job hopping can be unavoidable - you might work in an unstable industry, say, retail or a creative field like advertising, or maybe the job is not what was advertised.

But Strayer suggests staying at a job at least a year, during which a worker can receive a performance review. An evaluation can help you examine "your future and gives you time to solve current problems" instead of looking elsewhere, Strayer says.

Even if you have a year on the job, "as a recruiter, I'm going to wonder why did the person only stay a year?" she says. "Did they not evaluate the job in the front end and didn't make the right choice, or did this person leave at the first sign of trouble?"

To avoid excessive job surfing, do your homework on a job offer. Strayer says a rash decision is a reason for job hopping. "Certainly, you can't predict everything, but you should take the time to figure out what you have in return and what is a good fit," she says.

From the mailbag: A few readers were happy to know that a messy desk isn't a sign of their ineffectiveness. Last week's column featured a new book, A Perfect Mess, which argued that moderately messy systems can breed creativity and productivity.

Sherry of Southeast Baltimore responded this way: "I have been battling the comments about my messy desks for years to the point where I devised my own saying to explain my `madness.' I would say, `Well, a messy desk is a sign of genius!'"

Based on the column, "I wasn't that far off," Sherry wrote.

Are you a job surfer? Send your stories, tips and questions to Please include your first name and city.

On the Job is published Monday at

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