Please Don’t Hate the Hopper

Amateur: word origin: late 18th century: from French, from Italian amatore, from Latin amator ‘lover,’ from amare ‘to love.’

Dilettante: word origin: mid 18th century: from Italian, ‘person loving the arts,’ from dilettare ‘to delight,’ from Latin delectare.


To love and delight in a myriad of different things, topics, pursuits, studies, hobbies, interests. That person sounds like someone you’d like to be around; someone well-read, interesting, versatile and curious.

Yet in our culture, the shallow, yet broad skill set is disdained in job seekers. Endless articles warn against having too many positions for too short a time on your resume. Job hopping shows unreliability. In a 2010 article in Business Insider, VC and Entrepreneur, Mark Suster goes as far saying, “I never hire job hoppers. Never. They make terrible employees.” His claim is that people who move around a lot are “lazy”, “untrustworthy” or “disloyal.” Suster equally dislikes consultants because “They’ve already voted with their careers that they’re not “company people”.

But other voices are coming forward to refute this company line. Millennials are the whipping-boy-du-jour for companies who have, for so long treated workers as disposable commodities. It may seem disloyal and inconvenient to a company that needs to hire, train and retain talent, but this backlash is a long time coming. Despite employers wanting to maintain their total grip on employees’ time, younger workers are now being encouraged to change jobs. It may actually be better to learn and move on, to take that better paycheck or opportunity when offered because, why not? The company that your dad worked for isn’t going to give you a gold watch after 40 years on the job, heck you are lucky to get full-time with benefits. Pension? HAHA!

In addition to the pure practicality of disloyalty on both sides of the employee-employer relationship, subjective quality of life and aspirational factors cause more job hopping now than ever before. Millennials (and now, more and more workers of all ages) are standing back and examining the role of work in their lives. Humans are not built to act as ants simply toiling away to pay the bills. There more to life than a job and career. Balancing work with family, friends, hobbies, curiosity, exploration, and appreciation is the new normal.

Smart employers can actually take advantage of newly re-minted urges to expand the definition of success. Instead of obsessing over finding “loyal” workers, progressive companies are finding the well-rounded, nimble thinkers with at least one golden thread of strength. The tricky part is finding that thread in a one-page synopsis of a lifetime of work (in the case of older workers who have even more obstacles to face in the job market than do their younger competitors).

The expert need not worry for there will always be ample opportunity for those who excel in their field to innovate and attract support from colleges, employers, and Venture Capitalists.  But what about the highly curious, fast learner who for whatever reason never developed an expertise. Is there no value in knowing a little bit about a lot of things? If you look hard enough at the pinging work experience of today’s Job Hopper, you will find that one golden thread of experience and you might even exploit its unique value.

Steve Jobs said in a June 1982 speech to the Academy of Achievement,
“I heard about some kid that’s 14 on his way to Stanford, and that’s great,” Jobs said. “That’s sort of out of the ordinary, but you might want to think about going to Paris and being a poet for a few years. Or might wanna go to a third-world country. I’d highly advise that and see people and lepers with their hands falling off and all that stuff. It’s very much, so worth doing.”

Would you hire a third-world visiting poet? Perhaps, if that person brought a strength to your team that would be of benefit to your company. Maybe that person is highly organized, compassionate, analytical… you don’t want robots working for you, you want humans with hearts.

So, don’t hate the hopper. They might be flakes they really could be simply lazy. But give yourself the opportunity to find hidden talent by looking for the individual with a myriad of interesting life challenges and experiences. As long as they have that one wonderful quality you need and want, they will want to be a part of your team and stay!





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