Don’t feel bad about job hopping
I have changed seven jobs in the last six years, and although I have personally never been cornered about my lack of loyalty to a company, the topic of sticking out with one job for years versus jumping ships comes up pretty frequently in my conversations with friends, families, and colleagues. I feel zero shame about moving to the greener pastures in life, but the people around me who have gone through a similar experience seem guilt-ridden because of the job-hopping trend in their portfolio. In this post, I want to help overcome the stigma of switching jobs—from my subjective lens. Nobody starts a job thinking that they will quit one day. Humans crave loyalty, predictability, and longevity. The majority of us have friends from our childhood, are married to our high school flames, and admire things in life that last longer. But while it’s true that we want to be loyal to one job, most companies don’t inspire the same level of commitment because they don’t offer the right mix of challenges and incentives for people to stick around. We are not as emotionally invested in our jobs as we are in our personal relationships. Switching jobs is like scaling one mountain after you have scaled a previous one. Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash Towards the beginning of our careers, we start out as interns or entry-level employees. We climb the smaller hillocks because we think that’s the only possible achievement at this point. As we learn the ropes and harness our skills, we become natural at it, climbing the rungs in the same mountain or ascending to new heights in the neighboring landscapes. In your mind, what you are looking for is a summit that is high enough for you to camp forever. But as you scale the highest mountains, your horizons open up intriguing new vistas for you. If your current job doesn’t offer you the right kind of camp environment for growth and engagement, you are naturally eager to explore the other higher planes in the periphery. Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash Sometimes, it’s people on a higher peak that holler at you to join their team because they noticed your hard work through their binoculars. Other times, you are adventurous enough to take the leap and rope traverse to those Alpines, disregarding the uncertainty and icy challenges the journey might offer. After all, we thrive in life because of the good challenges in life; these challenges are as rewarding as they are difficult. That’s not being disloyal. That’s fundamental human psychology. We are driven by curiosity, new goals, and the pursuit of happiness. Photo by Swapnil Dwivedi on Unsplash Thomas Alva Edison tested thousands of materials before he finally stumbled on the right filament that would make the lightbulb last longer. David Allen worked 35 different jobs before he was 35 years old. Today, he’s most known for pioneering the Getting Things Done (GTD) principles in the corporate world. Robert Greene, who wrote The 48 Laws of Power and other best-seller books, worked 80 jobs before he decided to pursue a career as an author. Some of these jobs included being a translator, a construction worker, a Hollywood movie writer, a magazine editor, and so on. People remember what you have done — not how many times you did something or in how many places you did it. If something doesn’t feel right and you have a better alternative, it’s always a good thing to move on. There is a famous quote that says — people don’t quit jobs, they quit their bosses. And I agree. “Bosses” in this context can imply many nuances of a company’s work culture: lack of innovation, lack of growth, lack of clarity, etc. “You don’t have to prove your loyalty to your employers to achieve something in life. Loyalty is for dogs.” I guarantee you — if an employer gives its employees the following three things, they will hardly quit. Opportunity to learn and grow Freedom to contribute new ideas Good people to socialize with If a productive employee leaves a job, it’s not his/her fault at all. It’s a failure on the company’s part to keep him/her engaged. Just compare this employer-employee relationship with the business-customer relationship and it becomes immediately clear to understand that it’s always the company’s responsibility to keep its employees engaged. Employees deserve as much priority as customers—if not less—because the entirety of a business rests on their shoulders. It made sense to retire from your job after 40 long years till the 80s because the economy had limited growth opportunities. But job switcheroo is a natural byproduct of the fast times we live in, just like how lay-offs are sometimes seen as an inevitable evil. When they criticize you for being fickle-minded and unfaithful, the society as a collective spectator mocks us because they don’t see what you see. Critics lack empathy; judging comes easy to them. But you have your eyes set on something meaningful, something bigger than you, and you won’t stop until you find it. And when you get to that point, you become a much happier person. You unlock a state of contentment that was elusive to you all this while. Had you not been so relentless in your pursuit, you would have never landed here. Once you achieve this level of self-actualization, the same society labels you as a hero, defines your journey as an adventure, and celebrates your ups and downs as achievements. It’s foolish for companies to expect their hires to stay with them forever. Today’s businesses are smart enough to look beyond this mindset that sees employees as contracted slaves — leashed and dog-collared in company-branded lanyards. A four-year tenure in today’s job culture feels like forever—if it doesn’t offer enough excitement. It not only limits your professional growth but also curbs your innovative streak when it stops being challenging. On the other hand, when you move from one company to another in your pursuit of a higher calling—you own your own development. You are smart enough to understand the opportunity cost of staying complacent versus the courage it takes to jump the ship. You don’t have to prove your loyalty to your employers to achieve something in life. In the words of one of my all-time favorite managers—that kind of loyalty is for dogs. The only loyalty you have is to your well-being, to your growth, and to the people who matter in your life. Your loyalty should be to the vocation and the value that you create in the world around you.