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Dan Donahue

Musician. Traveler. Programmer.

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The post I wrote on job hopping ended up being the most viewed post on my blog, thanks in part to a colleague sharing it on Hacker News. There was a lot of feedback in the comments section of the post, the comments section of Hacker News and on Twitter. I felt like the first post gathered enough feedback that a second one would be the easiest way to summarize it all.

Food For Thought

The essense of my message was not about saying "screw your employer". It was simply a call to take an active role in your career development. A lot of people, especially younger folks, seem to be under the impression that the best way to make sure you career goes the way you want is to actively manage it. Older folks generally still believe that having a long resumé reflects poorly. It's interesting to see how opinions evolve generation to generation.

In talking with an old co-worker who is now a hiring manager at another company, I got some really great insight. He told me that his group tends to have more difficulty with recent hires who have spent a long time with their previous employer. He mentioned two specific problems. The first is that most have lost the passion for personal development. Put simply - they get comfortable and rest on their laurels. This leaves them disadvantaged as far as their development skills are concerned. The second problem is that they struggle to adapt to the new environment. They are so used to how they operated at the last place that it is a challenge to think differently.

I found those observations very enlightening. I've realized the awkwardness of being the new guy - trying to figure out how to fit in, trying to figure out how to prove your worth, etc. - but I never thought that the experience of doing that "new guy" stuff at each workplace has perhaps helped me become more malleable. Maybe job hoppers are more able to roll with the punches. They're familiar with more contexts.

What The Future Holds

In the last post, I made it a point to write about my experience looking back. One commenter wrote about the potential concerns that arise when you job hop for a long time. They weren't really at the heart of the last post, but they certainly were valid and I wanted to address some of them here. These are the things that worry me looking forward.

The first is that while it hasn't been an issue yet, it will someday be a point of contention at some job. It will come up. It will factor into whether or not I get an offer or get passed over. My commitment will be questioned.

Another good point that the commenter made was about ageism in the tech industry. It's more difficult to find jobs once you get to a certain age. His implication was that one of these days, it may be increasingly difficult to find one by being "aged out".

Both of these are valid concerns and neither are situations I want to experience. If you end up with many jobs on your resumé, these are the things you will worry about. It's not a great feeling.

Show Me The Money?

The same commenter, buried amongst his many good points, implied that a job hopper cares solely about their bank account. That one really struck me.

I did not include any details about why I left any of the jobs that I've held. I probably did myself a disservice by excluding that information. I didn't want to give people fodder to discredit my thoughts and I didn't think the information was important to the points I was making.

Job hopping is probably a bad choice of words in my case. It was never my intention to bounce around. I was never chasing the money. In fact, I hardly recognized that I was hopping jobs until I was getting my resumé ready to send out about two years ago and realized that it had gotten quite long. I've been thinking about how that has affected me, and will affect me in the future, ever since. This post is my attempt to distill those thoughts.

Other than my time as an independent contractor, I've never had a defined expiration date for a job, self-imposed or otherwise. I've always done as much due diligence as I could about potential employers. I'm always looking for an environment that I feel I can thrive in. I feel like I pick the jobs that suit me well.

The reality is that nothing is static. In the corporate world, revenue streams dry up. The products/projects you work on succeed or fail. Companies get bought. When a company gets bought, the new owners want to put their stamp on it. Your work changes. Layoffs happen.

Sometimes you feel unfulfilled - either professionally or personally. You may have to change your job to support personal decisions. For example, I decided to try a cross country move from Philadelphia to Chicago. I felt like I needed a change of pace. I had to get a job in Chicago. I really liked that job. Even despite a round of layoffs, which did not include me, I really liked that job. What I did not like was the loneliness I felt living in a city where I didn't know anyone. I did not like spending all my vacation days on trips back to Philadelphia to see my friends and family. So I left that great job and decided to go back to the East Coast. I'm still glad for that experience - both personally and professionally.

Sometimes an opportunity arises that seems too good to pass up. Even though you have a good job, you get offered with what seems like a great job. My older brother was starting his own business and needed some help. He asked me to join him. I had a job that I enjoyed but the chance to grow something from scratch with a family member seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I took it. It went well for over a year. Then our revenue slowed down. There was enough for one of us, but not both. I moved on, but I wouldn't give back that experience for anything in the world.

Anything Else?

I think that about covers it. I don't think there's too much more to say on the topic.

I became aware that I've held a large number of jobs. I thought about that a lot and decided to summarize my experiences. I received a lot of attention and feedback. I spent even more time thinking about all of those comments, questions and concerns. This post represents my response and the additional insight I've gained. It's time to move on (joke fully intended) and think about something else for a while.