So called job hopping used to be seen as a wholly negative trait. After all, surely if you couldn’t stay at a firm for longer than a couple of years, you must have some sort of major personality defect or are unable to form relationships with partners and your colleagues? Either way, you weren’t going to be looked on particularly favourably.
However, fortunately, times and opinions have changed quite substantially. ‘Job hoppers’ aren’t painted in anywhere near as negative a light as they once were and the idea that anyone who’s flitted between a number of roles must be a problem employee has, thankfully, been consigned to the past. Obviously, if you can barely last a few months at a company before burning bridges it won’t be viewed favourably, but for professionals who’ve had stints at a variety of organisations – and emerged from the other side with relatively good references – it can actually benefit your career substantially.
The rise of the contracting lifestyle has certainly played a part as working in this way is considerably more respected than it previously was. The millennial generation has also contributed. Depending on which study you read, younger professionals tend to stay in roles for considerably less time than their predecessors ever did. Employers are, in general, more understanding that sometimes there’s just not a good fit between the firm and the individual.
The main benefit you can gain from job hopping is the range of diverse opportunities you will experience. It’s likely that you’ll still be operating for a firm in your chosen area of specialisation, but different practices will have different ways of doing things, different cultures and different partners. This means that you can benefit from experiencing a range of alternative approaches which can only aid your career development. Working alongside people of diverse backgrounds and experience levels will also help.
And there are other, less obvious, plusses. For one thing, you’ll never get overly familiar in a role to the point that you take your foot off the pedal and stop producing your best work. If you’re starting out at a new firm you’ll always, or at least you should be, ready to impress.
There’s also a much higher chance of finding the firm that is a good match for you. We’re not going to pretend there’ll be some picture-perfect Disney moment where you find the legal practice that fits you like Cinderella’s shoe. But experiencing different practices means that you’ll at least be able to ascertain what you do and don’t like about certain employers. This will give you more confidence later in your career if you are looking for a new opportunity as you’ll know what to look for and what turns you off.
Another perk is that you can significantly expand both your personal and professional networks through job hopping. You’ll, rather obviously, get to know a lot more people from working at a range of firms and the cynics amongst you may also be aware that you’re likely to earn more money from operating in this way. Most firms will offer you a pay increase if they really want to take you on and moving around regularly might mean you benefit from golden handshakes and signing on bonuses which could boost your earnings by a considerable amount. That’s not a reason to move on its own, but it’s certainly a benefit you can take from it.
That being said, you can’t take the increasingly positive view of job hoppers as an opportunity to storm through the legal sector upsetting colleagues and partners wherever they go. Law is a close-knit profession and, if you’re still working in your area of specialism, chances are that other firms will have seen your name before and will be aware of any unenviable reputation you may have built up. This means that maintaining good relationships is vital to a successful career as word travels fast. You might have some extra explaining to do in your interview to cover off why you’ve changed roles more than the average legal professional, but if you can make a compelling argument, your new firm is likely to benefit from the skills you’ve gained as a job hopper.