Think for a second about where you are in your career. How many jobs have you had in the past 5 years? Two? Three? Or have you worked for the same company for the past 5 years? It is good to reflect from time to time on where you are in your career and where you plan on going. Early on in my career I changed jobs almost every other year. The cleared IT community is full of competitive jobs. Competition creates a situation where recruiters can offer you more money if you leave your current job and start new with them. Sometimes you can see a simple job switch net you anywhere from $10k-$15k. This was very attractive when I was first starting out, but I was young and only took into account the money. Looking back now, I believe job hopping hurt me. There were many situations where I could have been patient and did my time to climb the IT ladder, but I was too antsy. Let me give you a few reasons why frequent job hopping could hurt you, in hopes that it will help you to make a more educated decision when thinking about making a change.
It’s Not That Much Money After All
Money is usually a big player when it comes to job hopping frequently. As I mentioned earlier, the job market for cleared tech professionals is competitive, and there can be some really attractive, high-paying opportunities. Let me caution you: do not be drawn by extra money; it is never that much after all. In a scenario where you are married and have two children, a $15,000 salary increase will not net you much in return. An increase of $15,000 is $1250 a month gross income increase, which breaks down to $625 per paycheck. “Well that sounds awesome! That’s a new car payment!” Hold on… it is not really a new car payment, and you will not see $650 per check, you might see anywhere from 50 to 75% of that number depending on your tax situation. Is switching jobs worth an extra $450?
Are You Happy?
Most people will hop into new jobs because they are unhappy or feel like they should be making more money. Is that you? If you feel like you are making a good salary and you are happy with your job, why would you hop to another job? You would not! However, there are times where, for whatever reason, you feel it necessary to test the market. The best conclusion I can make for this situation is a case of boredom. If you are bored, find a more interesting way to do your job! If you are already doing your best, study on the side or ask for training to learn a new skill. Learning a new skill or technology does not require a job change, usually. There are those situations where your current company does not have the budget for training, or they do not want to send you for training because they need you where you currently sit. Ask yourself why you are looking, then decided if you are happy or just bored.
Time in Grade
For those of us that are prior or current military, you know about time in grade already. For others, time in grade simply means the amount of time you have spent at a certain pay grade or rank. Time in grade applies to civilians as well and it is very important to your career. While not necessarily having anything to do with money, time in grade more closely relates to the idea of putting in your time gaining experience and learning how to do your job as best as you can. If you are constantly in a state of changing jobs, you really cannot earn any time in grade. Believe me, it is something that has to be earned. Your resume will be much more attractive with two 5 year job stints, than it would with 5 or 6 one year job stints. In fact, the more short time jobs you have had will require more explanation, as it makes you look like a flight risk should you come on board with them.
Take a Deep Breath and Think it Through
I do not blame anyone for looking. ClearanceJobs.com has a ton of amazing openings in the contracting community that would make anyone take a second look. Do not make a snap decision on whether to apply for or take a new job, however. Determine why you are looking, what you really want and do not let money sway your decision. Time in grade and work experience should take precedence over any other factor.