Job Hopping and Upward Mobility

New Perspective and Fundamental Best Practices

Dilbert on job hopping

Dilbert cartoons make me laugh!

Our natural reaction to the idea of client job-hopping ranges from panic to anger, right? When a client quits, you have to repair employer relations, scramble to find the client another job and worry about the delay for other clients who need to work quickly.

No matter what, clients should never quit a job before they have another one and should inform you about their plans when they’re active on your case loads. Not doing so can jeopardize their self-sufficiency and your agency performance numbers.

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Images excerpted from an Ajilon infographic

Taking that hard line without considering all of the angles can do clients a disservice, though. The definition of job-hopping is changing jobs too often so that you appear unreliable to hiring decision-makers.

Recent information from a range of employers and human resource professionals seems to be softening from the old-school belief that workers should stick to the same company their entire careers. That’s not really possible anymore and is it really even good for us?

Here is some new data and fresh perspectives collected from several sources considered through the lens of our work with refugees and other new Americans.

There are both pros and cons around changing jobs too often.

A recent infographic from Ajilon and outlines the five potential benefits and downsides of changing jobs and other useful information. It’s worth a look. Here are the two most relevant for our work:

One Familiar Risk

Giving two weeks notice is mandatory and reduces the risk of leaving a bad impression while changing jobs. Burning bridges is the biggest risk, according to the infographic. This is especially true for our clients, new to the U.S. job market and just building their professional networks and reputations.Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 7.15.24 PM

This makes it even more important to help clients internalize the only rule about changing jobs to which there is never an exception: ALWAYS give two weeks notice. ALWAYS.

One Surprising Benefit

Changing jobs can build valuable workplace skills beyond what we’re able to help clients build before they start their first job. Changing jobs can actually develop stronger U.S. workplace skills including increasing job search independence and mastering expectations around training and self-directed learning.

We already know practice is essential for our clients to master the skills they need for career mobility. A recent article in goes into more detail about this shift in thinking about changing jobs.

Four Talking Points for All Clients

As with everything in our work, there is seldom one right answer that will work for every client. Here are four talking points that are important for every client to understand:

  1. Always give two weeks notice before leaving a job. This can never be over-stated. Employers talk to each other. If you don’t give an employer time to replace you, you cause them problems. They will see it as proof that you are not dependable and reliable. They will tell other employers this opinion.
  1. Try your best to work in your first job for at least 6 months. No matter your skills and experience, you are new to the U.S. workforce and you will learn a lot. Talk to your Employment Specialist about the reasons why you are not satisfied. They might be able to help you improve the situation.
  1. Do not quit a job until you have another one. This is risky for all U.S. workers, especially ones with no savings or strong U.S. networks. Quitting in anger might feel good for a minute, but it hurts you – and your family – for much longer.
  1. Talk to your Employment Specialist before you quit a job or you might risk eligibility for assistance. If you are still receiving refugee or other government cash benefits and are in your first 6-8 months in the U.S., talk to your Employment Specialist before you quit a job. Not doing so could have consequences and even result in losing cash benefits.
Special Considerations for Low and High Skilled Clients
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Consider the employer perspective when advising all clients.

For Low English Proficiency (LEP) clients, it is more likely that they will become stuck in the first entry level job they accept. Providing reassurance that they can gain skills and advance, as well as giving them basic knowledge to do that, is a fundamental part of achieving meaningful self-sufficiency. If possible within resource constraints, encourage them to call you when their English has improved to discuss a job upgrade.

For clients with higher skills or professional certifications, it might be a good thing if they are able to find their own job upgrade more quickly. One or two relatively quick job changes following U.S. workplace norms and demonstrating advancement is unlikely to brand them as undesirable job hoppers, as long as they quickly settle into one job and keep it long enough to count.

Consider providing higher skilled clients with the complete infographic. It will add credibility to what they are learning in job readiness classes and one-on-one meetings with you.

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