Can job-hopping hurt a nurse’s career?

Thinkstock | Stockbyte
Thinkstock | Stockbyte

How long have you been working in your current position? For your current employer? And would those numbers matter if you went looking for a job today?

A new term, the job-hopper, seems to have surfaced recently in our profession to describe a nurse who has changed jobs more often than not. But is job-hopping a bad thing? Do potential employers view it as a negative trait? Would an employer not hire you simply because you have too many jobs listed on your résumé?

Hmmm. Good questions.

The current era of nursing is changing–Baby Boomers are on the cusp of retirement, the Generation Xers are knee-deep in their careers and Generation Y is still dipping their feet in the sand. And in this era of change, job-hopping is still one of those gray areas full of lingering questions for many nurses.

In my opinion, the answer to whether or not job-hopping can hurt a nurse’s career is “It depends.” (I know, no one likes to hear that.)

As an employer, if I had a résumé from a nurse who had frequent job changes, I would probably be asking these types of questions before I even spoke to them:

  • “How often are you changing jobs?” A new job every 12 months or more is viewed very differently than changing jobs after six months or less on the job.
  • “Are you changing positions or just employers?” This can be viewed as expanding your experience, versus unhappiness with the employer.
  • “How long have you been a nurse?” This matters quite a bit. During the first five years of your career, there has to be a balance between finding your niche and navigating work relationship challenges.
  • “What are your career goals?” Are you changing jobs to seek more challenging roles? Do you need a certain type of experience that is required for your education or advancement?

In the end, it’s going to come down to one simple question that should be asked in person:

  • Why did you change jobs?” The why will probably guide the entire thought process on how the job-hopping will be viewed. Did you change jobs for professional or personal reasons? Did you pursue positive solutions before parting ways? How long did you wait for a resolution? Did you seek assistance? Did your previous employer understand your needs and wants as a professional? Did you as a new employee understand your job expectations?

When an employer is interested in hiring you, they are weighing the odds of investing the time and money into your employment. Why would they put forth the effort to train, educate and orient you to their workplace if you don’t have a track record that emphasizes some element of dependability or reliability?

Try not to look at this as an attack on you personally. Be objective and professional about yourself and your goals. And above all, be upfront and honest about the whys and why-nots of your job experiences.

Is job-hopping bad? I personally don’t think it is, as long as it’s seeded in advancing you professionally with a balanced and patient frame of mind.

Best of luck to you!

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