Q: Am I being viewed as a “job hopper”?

Q: I’ve been a librarian for nearly four years, and I am on my second job and third job title. I am not entirely satisfied with my current position and have been looking for other openings in and around my area; however, I do not want potential employers seeing me as a habitual “job hopper.” Please help!

SM: People change jobs for many reasons, and typically these moves are for the better – a promotion, more money, more responsibility, a change in environment, or an opportunity to learn new things. In many professions or industries, job hopping, defined as the “practice of changing jobs frequently, especially as a means of quick financial gain or career advancement,” is encouraged – and can be the only way to get ahead. In contrast, librarianship is a profession where loyalty and longevity have traditionally been rewarded, and “lifer” is a common term for employees. With its diversity and close ties to the information technology world, though, this can be an auspicious arena for job hoppers.

Newer librarians have less work experience, and do not necessarily know what kind of librarianship they want to pursue or what type of library they would enjoy working in. They may find themselves moving from one position to another in an attempt to find their place in the world of libraries. Outgrowing an entry-level position may also very well mean moving on, either to a different library or to a different position or role within the same library. This seems to be more and more common among newer librarians, as traditional library environments and librarians’ roles are changing rapidly with the technological age.

Librarianship is a very diverse profession, with so many different roles and types of libraries, that finding “the perfect position” may be downright impossible – especially if one is geographically limited. Many librarians, when they are starting out, take the first decent job that is offered to them. They soon realize that it doesn’t quite fit, so they acquire some experience, learn what they can, and start looking for other jobs. This doesn’t necessarily make them job hoppers. Having several jobs, or roles, in your first few years as a librarian can provide a (motivated) librarian with essential experience and wonderful fodder for a resume. It can convey positive clues to potential employers that you are motivated, not shy of change or added responsibility, and are eager to succeed.

But, if you think that you may truly be a job hopper, be careful. There are definitely negatives, if:

  1. You do not spend enough time in each position. This is generally one year, minimum. You need to give each position, along with your supervisors and co-workers, a fair chance. You need to stay long enough to gain something out of the position, and long enough to be sure that you do not want to remain in the position.
  2. There are stretches of unemployment in between jobs. Job hopping means moving from one position to another, not quitting a job and then looking for another one.
  3. You have changed jobs more times than you can count. Don’t make a career out of job-hopping. It might be fun to try something new every few years, but it will eventually make you look disloyal if you make a habit of it.
  4. You are hopping out of the profession and back in. Unless you have a good reason to leave the profession, or the position you left for is closely related to librarianship, it may be difficult to explain on your resume.
  5. Each successive position is not something more than the previous one. Your jobs should show a progression of skills and duties.

In all reality, switching jobs several times with a clear record of upward movement and responsibility will look better on your resume than staying in one position for a long period of time and not advancing in any way. But, ultimately, it all depends on how happy or satisfied you are. Some people find that perfect position, and they are very content doing the same thing and staying at the same level. Others enjoy, even crave, a constant challenge; if a position becomes monotonous or there are no new challenges in their daily activities, then they start to get an “itch” to move on.

Now, having said all that, you may not need to hop around so much after all. If you feel the itch to move, first try talking to your supervisor and letting her know that you are not fully satisfied in your current position. You do not need to mention that you might be looking for work elsewhere, but can provide some ideas on what you would like to be doing. You never know, there may be a great position, new role, or promotion right under your nose.

A couple of articles related to job hopping:

As the Job Market Improves, Job Hopping Will Heat Up” by Laura Stevens

Taking the Scenic Route: Following a Varied Library Career Path” by Priscilla Shontz

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