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Job hoppers needs to look before they leap Add to ...

As companies have downsized and stripped out layers of management, promotions in organizations have became fewer and farther between. To get ahead, people are increasingly looking to hop to another employer for more opportunity. A Globe and Mail online survey this week found that 49 per cent of 5,797 respondents said they are looking for a new job this year.

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In the United States, 60 per cent of employees surveyed by staffing service Right Management Inc. said they intend to look for opportunities with another employer this year. And a separate Right survey found that 54 per cent of 558 organizations have already seen top talent leave for other jobs in the first half of this year.

Executives are hopping to new jobs with increasing frequency. A recent survey by networking organization ExecuNet found that executives now stay with an organization for only 2.8 years on average before moving on, down from 3.3 years in 2006.

FOUR WARNINGS

A mercenary approach to jobs as stepping stones may actually slow executives' progress to the top, according to a new analysis by Monika Hamori, a professor at the IE Business School in Madrid that appears in the July Harvard Business Review:

1. Job hoppers face barriers

Finding: Footloose executives are not more upwardly mobile than their single-company colleagues, according to Prof. Hamori's analysis of the career paths of 1,001 chief executive officers in Europe and the United States. The average number of jobs the CEOs held before their big promotion was three, and they reached the top an average of 23.1 years after starting their career. But for every extra job above three in the résumés of job hoppers, advancement to the top took as much as an extra year longer than that average. Executives who had worked for six separate employers, for example, took 26.75 years to reach the CEO level.

Lesson: In interviews she did with more than 20 executive recruiters, Prof. Hamori was told that employers look for a track record that includes long stints - at least five years and ideally closer to 10 - with each employer, that include internal promotions. "Recruiters say this indicates an executive who works well and is valued by employers," she said.

2. Fast ascent may not be the best ascent

Finding: Executives who moved up the quickest earliest in their career reached a ceiling that delayed their next move because they became too specialized, the study found. Only 40 per cent of executives who changed jobs on their way to the top consistently moved up to a bigger company or job title. Another 40 per cent took lateral moves and 20 per cent moved to roles with a lesser title, narrower responsibility or to a smaller company.

Lesson: A slower ascent with lateral moves that provide executives with broader expertise seems to be valued by companies promoting people to top rank, Prof. Hamori concluded.

3. Big fish needn't stay in big ponds

Finding: Sixty-four per cent of the executives who started their careers with Fortune 500 companies later moved to smaller firms, the study found. Many reported they felt that they got promotions faster in the smaller organizations because of their earlier track record at a big, well-known company.

Lesson: It's a good strategy to join a well-known company early in your career because future employers will assume that if you can make it in the big pond, you are qualified to swim in both big and little ponds.

4. Industry switchers can thrive

Finding: Those who switched from one industry or specialty to another weren't any less likely to continue to advance in their careers, the study found, with 29 per cent of the executives having made at least one jump to a completely different industry, and another 23 per cent shifting to a markedly different job function in their industry.

Lesson: Be strategic. If there are limited opportunities to rise in your specialty, look for other careers that will value your skills and expertise.



MEET A JOB HOPPER

Michael Kennedy, 51, Cambridge, Ont.

Current job: Director of sales in Canada for cosmetic company Basic Research Inc. since December, 2009.

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