I job-hopped in my 20s even though everyone said not to. It was the best career decision I could have made.
- Young people are always told to avoid "job-hopping," or moving between positions too often.
- But throughout my 20s, that's exactly what I did.
As young graduates are preparing to enter the workforce, they're repeatedly told a few things — one of which is to avoid "job-hopping," or moving between positions too often. It's often suggested that young employees stay at each company for at least two years, and we're reminded again and again of how vital the career ladder is.
Increasingly, however, this isn't the case: In many fields, the career ladder is turning into the career lattice, where the most effective way to increase your income is to find a new position. The workforce landscape is constantly changing, and it's important to realize that not every piece of advice works for everyone. Instead, each person should look at their situation and consider what makes sense for them.
Job-hopping wasn't in my plans, but it ended up working out that way. I started my first full-time position when I was 23 — enthusiastically ready to give it my all — but I quickly realized that it wasn't a good fit.
I felt completely unappreciated and knew that the job was jeopardizing my mental health, so I finished my 10-month contract and then immediately moved abroad for another position. I came back to the U.S. in late 2019 with plans to go abroad again (for at least three years) in early 2020, which was swiftly canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This change quickly led to a few others while I tried to find my footing again. As an educator, my options for work were limited that late in the school year, so I took on a few short-term contracts to hold me over until I found my next full-time position. That next position wasn't for me — even if I did enjoy having a full-time, salaried job again — and I moved to my most recent position. Now, I think I'm here to stay — at least for a while.
None of those moves were pre-planned, and in each location, I fulfilled my minimum contract duties before moving on. Despite this, I was terrified of what new companies might ask about my short employment spans as I applied for their open positions.
I studied up on potential answers to help me prepare for the inevitable questions about job-hopping, but in the end, it almost never came up. In fact, I was often able to preempt the questions by mentioning the skills I learned from each position before they asked about it, stressing how I had learned and grown in each job. I was able to use those skills to further my career, and I've carried them with me through every single job change.
My first full-time position taught me a lot: I learned that it was important to me to work around people who love what they do and with supervisors who appreciate my work. I was also working 70 to 80 hours a week, and I quickly realized that work-life balance is important to me.
In light of this, I've made it a habit to prioritize my mental health no matter what I'm doing for work. Though the position wasn't a good fit for me, learning these lessons early on in my career helped me establish boundaries that I have continued to enforce since.
The positions in Germany taught me more lessons than I can count (Germans are known for their work-life balance and efficiency). One of my main takeaways from working there was that sometimes, done is better than perfect — something I remind myself of when it's 8 p.m. and I'm editing my lesson plans, again.
My most recent position showed me that there are certain things that I want from my employer, and that I shouldn't settle for less. I realized that I shouldn't be nervous about asking contractual questions before accepting a job offer; people work in the HR department for a reason.
As I move into the next phase of my life and career, I have brought all of this wisdom with me and I continue to learn and grow each day. I came into my current position knowing exactly what I want from work and exactly what I'm able to give as well.
Because I established my work parameters and boundaries before accepting the position, I was able to find one that fit my needs and desires perfectly — somewhere I can finally see myself staying long-term.
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