It’s common (and even expected) that marketers dedicated to growing their career will make several strategic moves between companies pursuing a more compelling experience, increased autonomy, better compensation, etc. And in most cases, they’ll take those steps up much more quickly and frequently than the average professional who is content to steadily work their way up the ladder at just one company.
However, employers are understandably wary of hiring someone who has a history of rapidly jumping from job to job. They generally want to avoid a class of worker commonly called the “job hopper;” people who bounce from company to company chasing small salary bumps without ever really settling down long enough to produce real results.
Resisting the Job Hopping Temptation
An ambitious marketer with an in-demand skillset who knows how to play the job search game (immaculate resume, great interview skills, etc.) could, in many cases, find a fast and substantial salary bump by job hopping. They can apply to and accept a series of jobs in a short amount of time, each with a progressively higher salary. Any given job move might not result in a huge compensation bump–but if you take 4-5 new jobs in 5 years that each offer a ~10% salary boost, it adds up fast.
It’s not hard to understand the temptation of such a strategy. However, we almost always recommend against it for any marketing contractor or full-time pro who has long-term career goals.
No one rational will blame you for leaving a company for a better job with considerably higher pay and greater opportunities for growth. At the same time, making a hire is a risk and investment; businesses want to know that you’ll be around long enough for their commitment to pay off.
Eventually, job hoppers tend to hit a career and pay ceiling and get stuck in lower-middle management. No one wants to trust you with more responsibility (and more compensation) once you develop a reputation of ditching a business at the first sign of a greener pasture.
Differentiating Yourself from Job Hoppers
In the marketing profession, it can be very difficult to differentiate and ambitious, hard-working ROI factory who is aggressively growing their career from a flaky job hopper who might be gone before they’ve even been fully onboarded.
Marketers already have much shorter job tenures than most of their professional counterparts. Even Chief Marketing Officers tend to have far briefer stints than their other C-suite counterparts. In the agency world, jobs security is uncertain and often dependent on just one or a handful of clients who might leave at any moment. New marketing strategies are constantly emerging that make older tactics and channels (and the jobs attached to them) obsolete. And an increasing amount of marketing positions are interim by design in the form of freelance gigs, contract marketing jobs, or consultant roles.
It’s hard to discern between someone who is making frequent career moves to improve their personal growth vs. someone who is selling themselves to the highest bidder at any given moment. So how can you differentiate yourself?
1. Stick around long enough to deliver definite results
The biggest red flag for experienced marketing recruiters of a job hopper is a pattern of failure to invest oneself into a job long enough to impact the business before moving on to the next shiny opportunity.
Truly great, driven marketers are driven by results. They aren’t satisfied until they know they’ve done their job right—and have the evidence to prove it to themselves and others. No matter how good of a marketer you are, that takes time.
How long? It varies, but usually we expect most career stages with a company to last at least 3-4 years or so. As a marketing recruitment agency for 20+ years, that’s hat’s the minimum range we’ve found necessary for marketers to realistically settle into a job. You need to fully understand the organization and its industry, learn what’s needed from the employer, get good at it, and have an opportunity to make a demonstrably positive difference. And the larger the organization, the more time it typically takes to get that momentum going.
Wiggle room: Not every short spell of work is a sure sign of a job hopper, especially in this industry. Smart employers and experienced marketing recruiters will understand this. Many marketing jobs, especially early on in careers, are not particularly stable. And some cases, like mistreatment of workers, call for leaving the environment as soon as possible. Sometimes other circumstances, like a necessary relocation, can cut a great tenure short. One or two short stints throughout an otherwise stable career shouldn’t be enough to disqualify you from a great job opportunity.
2. Have a big-picture career plan
Where do you want to be in 5 years? What about 10, or 15?
If you’re a focused, career-driven marketer, you probably have a good idea. Your thoughts might not by very specific, and that’s OK. But you should at least have a general vision of the kind of work, responsibility and lifestyle you’d like to have at those points. And just as importantly, your work history will reflect that and show a logical progression towards those goals.
In contrast, a job hopper will usually have no idea where their career is really going. They don’t have a long-term plan for their career; their future will be decided by whatever opportunities they encounter by chance. Their resumes will reflect that with a mish-mash of work in a random assortment of industries and companies and no pattern that develops expertise from a technical or leadership standpoint.
3. Clearly distinguish parts of your work history that were designed to be temporary
Many marketing roles are deliberately designed not to be full-time. If you worked as a marketing contractor, or a Facebook marketing consultant, or have been on the right side of some interim marketing executive searches, odds are good your work history will include a few jobs that lasted just a few months or weeks.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, we highly recommend this kind of position as a great way to catapult your marketing career forward.
Without context, that can be cause for concern among hiring managers. So you need to make sure that you mention the interim nature of those roles in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and job applications so there’s no confusion. Make clear what was expected of you, the time frame you were on, and whether you accomplished your key goals.
4. Be patient
Job hoppers are impatient to a fault. And not just with their career path or personal growth. They’re impatient with the recruiter, the hiring manager; the entire process. If things drag on too long for their liking, they’ll lose interest and look elsewhere for their quick raise.
Career-oriented marketers are of course anxious to keep moving forward and see results. But they also understand that good opportunities usually take time to develop properly.
5. Be upfront and have the references to back you up
Take an honest look at your work history. If there’s a period that could even possibly make you look like a job-hopper, you should take proactive action to counteract it. Assume that any recruiter or employee will notice it–don’t leave it up to them to fill in the blanks. Be ready to explain the circumstances that led to your career moves at any point. Being upfront, honest, and self-aware will go a long way toward assuaging any potential concerns.
Then be ready to provide evidence to back up your story.
Were you laid off from an agency when they lost a big client under circumstances out of your control? Were you really a shining star during your brief–but remarkable–stint at that startup?
There’s only one way for potential employers to know the truth about your work history, other than taking your word for it. Smart hiring managers and recruiters will carefully scrutinize your references to find out what kind of worker you really are, and understand more about the circumstances of your previous career moves. Make sure you’re on the same page with the references you provide!