Executive Centre

Beware of the potholes: Job hopping in the senior executive ranks

A VP- Ops at a large captive American BPO in Hyderabad quits in 2001 to join a third party set up in Delhi as COO. His family continues to be in Hyderabad. In March,02, the person quits. Reason cited: business was not growing as envisaged. He is without a job for the next 8 months & then finally joins as COO of a large IT companyís BPO. The individual quits this company in Oct. 04 & moved on as Head- Operations in a smaller KPO. Reason cited: KPO is an exciting play. March 2006: Last heard, the person is no longer with the company.

A VP HR from a large MNC in Delhi moves on to Head HR at a large Pharma company. The role title offered & compensation was a huge draw. Within a year, he quit & joined a BPO company as HR Head. Reason: wanted to be with family in Mumbai. He is again on the lookout for a better opportunity, since the job involves late conference calls & the consequent disruption in the work life balance.

These are not stray incidents worth ignoring. Increasingly, senior professionals are falling in the trap of frequently changing jobs. This is no longer restricted to entry level coders or programmers. Willingly, senior professionals with excellent credentials are changing jobs more frequently than ever before. In a tight suppliers market which exists in India today, with every company worth its weight wanting to hire people & willing to better any salaries, quick career moves are often the result of so called 'exciting' opportunities that professionals find it hard to pass-by - even at the risk of creating a perception of job-hopping.

If one would ask anyone in the know, jumping jobs especially in sectors like IT or BPO has reached a record high. In mature economies, a senior professional may be would change a job every four to five years. Thanks to the job market boom in India, people are changing jobs with regular precision, with salaries statistically multiplying with every move. For many, every 15 months, itís on to a new job!

What these people don't realize or overlook is the fact that frequently changing jobs is a serious impediment even to their mid to long term career growth. Companies want to see stability in a personís profile. If he has a history of jumping around, the company fears that he will 'jump' for the first opportunity that shows itself. If youíre positioning yourself as a mature professional, a job change every year isnít going to be received well with most employers.

Frequent moves show either a lack of judgment or confused career goals or both. To some hiring managers, job-hopping also indicates that the candidate isn't wise enough to see the negative connotation rapid moves have with the next employer and that suggests immaturity.  In most cases, they are seen to lack a sense of commitment and loyalty to any organization they have been a part of. The habit would be difficult to manage and therefore would be a recurring issue.

At the senior levels, only when a person stays in the role with the employer for a few years would he/she develop the necessary skills, work in a team, build interpersonal relationships & consequently excel in the function. Going through a few business cycles as a part of one collective unit is important for one to derive organizational & team synergies. This aspect may not show up in the formative years as much as it does when the executive holds a position of importance.

Statistically & objectively, a generalization cannot be made as to how long should one stay with an employer, and how many employers can one afford to work for before being labeled as a "job hopper". One would refrain from even hazarding a guess- whether 2 or 3 years in a company- the topic is open for a debate. Even if the number is lower for your previous stints, one should at least have 4 years or more with the latest employer, this could in many ways square-up the previous instability.

Increasingly, one is observing that there is starting to exist an across the board reluctance to hire job-hoppers in the senior executive ranks. This is more so for any blue-chip company, be it an Indian firm or a multi-national. Rather than make oneself un-employable by changes jobs frequently, one could rather focus on making a dent on the role or the function in the process, making one's skills irreplaceable for the employer to directly value the personís presence.