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At one time, it was common for workers in a wide range of industries to find a great job with a successful company and to spend most or all of their career working for the same company. However, things have changed, and job hopping is now far more common. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average time a worker remains employed with the same company is 4.6 years. This average is only 2.3 years for those who are between the ages of 20 to 34. As you might imagine, there are both benefits and drawbacks associated with changing jobs frequently. It is important to understand these pros and cons so that you can take steps to maximize the benefits strategically while detracting from the negative effects of frequent job changes.

Improve Job Skills

When you work in a single position or company for many years, you may not have the opportunity to use all of your knowledge and training. These skills become stale, and your understanding of certain concepts may become worthless over time when knowledge is not used. More than that, you may not be able to fully develop new skills that could help you to take your career to new heights more quickly when you only work in one position over the years. Each position you work in can introduce you to new skills and training opportunities, and having a more well-rounded resume could potentially help you to land a better job down the road or to reach the pinnacle of your career more quickly.

Increase Income Potential

Regardless of whether you are comparing the average salaries of engineers, pharmacists or other professionals, you may be aware that most employers offer only a nominal cost of living salary adjustment each year. Some companies unfortunately do not even offer this small increase in income, and it may be several years or more before you receive a single raise with some companies. On the other hand, the earning power of your education and skill set may increase at a much faster rate, and you may discover that you need to change jobs periodically in order to earn the income that you are truly capable of. Keep in mind that your improved skills learned by frequently changing jobs can also help boost your earning power more quickly over the years.

Get Comfortable With Different Work Environments and People

Another great benefit of changing jobs periodically is the ability to work in a wider range of work environments and with many different people. This includes exposure to different managerial styles, working with a wider range of co-workers and learning how to meet the needs of a greater range of customers or clients. Through these new and varied experiences in different workplaces, you may feel more natural and comfortable in various work situations over the years. This can help you to interview more successfully for new jobs, and it can also help you to thrive in new positions. In some cases, individuals use this benefit to become a successful consultant in their field.

Employers May View Frequent Job Hopping Negatively

Many employers and hiring managers are well-aware of the trend for individuals to switch jobs more frequently now than in the past. However, when individuals change jobs too frequently, this can be a red flag for employers. For example, there is a difference between how an employer views a job candidate who changes jobs every three to five years versus how an employer views a candidate who has not stayed with a company for more than a year. Employers typically invest time and money training their new hires, and they want to select candidates who they feel comfortable may stay with the company for at least a few years. Even if you are a more qualified candidate than other applicants, your tendency to change jobs frequently may dissuade employers from offering you a job.

Relationships Could Be Impaired

Another potential downside associated with changing jobs frequently relates to your professional relationships. Careers are often developed through the ability to network extensively and to establish excellent industry connections. Some individuals you meet in a professional setting may be loyal to a specific company, and if you only stay with that company for a very short period of time, it may not be long enough for you to develop a lasting relationship. In addition, you may not stay in a company long enough to develop great references for future positions.

Switching Jobs Without a Plan

If you plan to switch jobs often, it is important to do so strategically. You should search for jobs that offer you the ability to enhance your current skill set, and you should research future job opportunities before deciding to make a career move. Understand how many years of experience you need developing a skill or working in a certain position or at a specific level before you change jobs. Make plans to stay in a specific position for a defined period of time before you leave. You should never leave a job because you are bored or frustrated, and you should always keep your attention focused on increasing your skills and earning potential.

Job hopping can be beneficial when done strategically, but you can see that it also can damage your career and jeopardize your ability to get a great job in your field if it’s done haphazardly. While many employers understand that the average time a worker may stay in a position is approximately four to five years, you should plan to keep a job for a period of time that helps you to strategically advance your career and maximize your income. With the right strategy in mind, you can enjoy great benefits by changing jobs periodically over the years.

This article was contributed by guest author Cassidy Hennigan.