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Career Lessons From A Serial Job Hopper

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JOB HOPPER
"Job hopping" -- switching careers frequently -- isn't necessarily bad, if you do it the right way. | Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Lowman | The Daily Muse

Confession: I have been in the workforce for 10 years and have held nearly as many jobs. In my defense, I have never started a job with the intention of only staying a short time -- my reasons for leaving range from realizing the position wasn't a good fit to being laid off to even moving to another state for my husband's job. But the reality is, the work experience section of my resume is lengthy and I fall firmly into the category of a "serial job hopper."

Older generations, my father included, held the belief that staying in a job for less than a couple of years showed disloyalty or unreliability. But while I admit that job hopping isn't an ideal scenario, I have no regrets about my career's "creative path." I've learned a lot about myself, and even more about my goals. If you find yourself defending -- or questioning yourself about -- a short-term stay at a job, let me share a few of the lessons I've learned.

1. No Job is Perfect, but You Don't Have to be Miserable

It would be foolish to expect to love everything about a company or job, but I strongly believe in the right to have more good days than bad ones. Sure, in tough economic times when many consider themselves lucky to have a job at all, there's less room to be picky, but there are always companies looking for talent.

So if you find yourself curled up in the fetal position on Sundays because you're dreading work the next day -- and this has been going on for months -- it's time to reassess your situation. It’s a good idea to start by trying to address the issue internally: ask your supervisor to adapt your position to better suit your interests, ask to pursue projects outside of your exact role, or even ask for a promotion.

But if things don't improve, don't be afraid of looking for a new job just because you haven't "put enough time in" at your current one yet. If you have desirable qualifications, hiring managers can be forgiving if you have a valid reason for moving on. I'm living proof.

2. You Can Learn with Every Step

There's a lot you can learn from every "hop" you make. Figure out what you like and what you don't. And, even if moving on wasn't fully your choice, you should look at the variety of responsibilities you've had as an advantage.

In my field of marketing communications, daily tasks can vary from PR to website maintenance to content development. In my job hopping, I've been able to dabble in a bit of everything -- and I now know where my strengths lie as well as what tasks I most enjoy. I'm now better able to figure out how to find a good fit in my next job.

3. The Company is Just as Important as the Position

Another thing you'll get better at as you go: deciphering company culture. Every company has its own distinct culture, and how you fit into it is important. Start looking for this fit -- not just the fit of the job description -- early in any interview. Don't be afraid to ask specific questions about the culture from the get-go, because that can be your key to being happier longer.

My stints at different companies have allowed me to pinpoint what atmosphere makes a good fit for me and what to look for during my search. Know what works for you -- and what doesn't. For example, if you know you work best when you're comfortable and casual and the dress code requires suits, chances are it’ll wear on you over time. A small thing? Sure. But many small things like this can add up and cause big-time unhappiness.

4. You Can Always Get Extra Help

Lastly, if you feel like your job history is getting in the way of finding a new position, here's a secret: meet with recruiters. As Melissa Mitchell, a search consultant at The Mergis Group explains, "That person can become an advocate for you and push your resume through the hiring process based upon relationships they've maintained with hiring managers." So whether you have a non-traditional background, you're switching careers, or you're a fellow job hopper on the search for yet another position -- a little extra help can go a long way.

Once upon a time, job hopping was the kiss of death when searching for a new position. But in today's business environment, having a lot of diverse positions isn't looked upon quite as negatively. I’m not saying you won't run into hiring managers who frown upon it -- but it won't put you on the hiring blacklist either. Even if your career path is as choppy as mine, just take it as a learning experience and get back out there.

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Elizabeth Lowman is a proud word nerd, happy to silently correct your grammar as you speak. A life-long passion for language parlayed into a career in writing and editing on topics ranging from court reporting to natural ways to boost your immunity. When not busy feeding her addiction to pop culture, sushi and/or cupcakes, you can find her trying to be a good wife, daughter and friend.

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