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Career Hacker: The pros and cons of IT job hopping

October 28, 2014

A recent Forbes story created a stir when it contended that workers who change jobs frequently make more money—about 50 percent more over 10 years. The story has lots of people wondering: Should I move on?

The answer probably isn’t so simple. For one thing, being branded a “job hopper” isn’t always the best career move—at least in certain situations. Before changing jobs in IT, consider these factors:

  • Your career aspirations. If you’re aiming for an executive role, it pays to hang around one company. The reason? Businesses value managers who understand their company goals and culture, and also who have established relationships of trust within their organization. But IT employees in specialist roles, where you work in a highly technical or advisory capacity, might consider moving on frequently for the extra pay, title bumps and opportunities to learn.
  • Your industry. While the information technology field tolerates job hopping better than other industries, certain industries (like banking) and positions are more conservative. Engineers, for instance, are often expected to leave every 18 months to three years. But there seems to be general agreement among IT professionals that the further along in your career you are, the longer your tenure should be.
  • Your motivations. Daedtech lays out an excellent framework for why you should change jobs frequently—and pay is just one reason. Keeping skills fresh, avoiding a dues-paying culture and other organizational bureaucracy, and advancing faster also provide enough incentive to move on. But if you’re happy with your company, coworkers and work, or you’re looking for an executive-level role, the benefits of staying in place might well outweigh your reasons for leaving.

Maximizing opportunity while minimizing risk

How much job hopping is too much? Even for careers where changing jobs frequently is seen as a boon, most employers look askance at multiple stints of less than a year. So even while changing roles to earn a pay bump, make sure you’ll be happy in the new position. The short-term gain you make in salary can be offset by opportunity cost: You probably won’t get that great job that pops up because few employers will look at a resume from someone with only a few months in their present position.

Many IT workers consider two years a good amount of time to stay in a position—it’s enough to make an impact but not long enough to stall your career.

Thinking of finding a new position? Explore some of the the coolest jobs in IT. Or if you love the thrill of change, perhaps IT contracting is the right path for you. 

Image courtesy of joeltelling under a Creative Commons license

Lisa Dare is a marketing writer for TEKsystems who enjoys learning about IT from some of the smartest folks in tech. She frequently blogs about IT career advice and the lighter side of tech, and on her off days loves to kayak and play with her toddler son.

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