How to Use Your Job-Hopping Experiences to Identify Your Career Direction

When I talk to potential clients, I often hear fears that their job-hopping experiences mean that they may never settle down into a career. This fear is unfounded: Job-hopping experiences can be one of the best resources to help someone identify a career direction. Job hopping, of course, is when a person works at several companies for one to two years and leaves the positions for a lateral move, increased compensation, increased responsibility, or change of title. The benefits of job hopping are that the person has exposure to different jobs as well as an opportunity to see what is available. Job hoppers have also had a chance to learn about themselves and what they bring to the table. The reason some struggle to identify a career direction after job hopping is that they are not given the tools to unpack those experiences. This article is intended to help in evaluating these job experiences, recognizing patterns, and using the information to guide future career steps.

Identify Your Likes and Dislikes
If you were to look at every job that you have had, what did you like and dislike about each one? Were there any patterns among the roles and responsibilities? Perhaps you found yourself enjoying using similar talents or skillsets among your different roles. You also might find that certain skillsets bore or frustrate you. You might also notice that you have strengths and weaknesses in certain areas. Where there any patterns among the company culture? When you look at your likes and dislikes, did you notice anything about the places where you have worked? This is a great opportunity to look at the values and work culture of the various companies where you have worked. Do you prefer a small, medium, or large company? Do you prefer to work from home or in an office environment? Do you prefer set work hours or a flexible work schedule? Do you prefer a startup or perhaps a company that is established and has been around for a while?

Evaluate Your Experience 
Now that you have taken some time to write down your likes and dislikes, it is important to evaluate what you have learned so that you can use the information to guide your career direction. First, look at patterns among your roles and responsibilities. The goal is to identify these patterns and carry them forward to roles and responsibilities as well as strengths into your future career. Once you identify roles and responsibilities you enjoy, find careers that allow you to build upon them and use them every day. If you want to love going to work every day, you must enjoy what you do. You also have to be willing to walk away from the patterns of roles and responsibilities you do not like. Getting hired because you have previous work experience is easy; however, if you do not like your job on a day-to-day basis, you will continue to quit and job hop.

Next, identify patterns in company culture. When you start carefully evaluating what you have liked and disliked about your previous employers, you can better identify companies where you might want to work in the future. You can do research on websites like glassdoor.com and linkedin.com, and you can ask friends, family, and coworkers for suggestions as well.

Do you want to be self-employed? No matter what, you might realize that you just do not like having a boss. You prefer being able to work on your own terms such as freelancing, contracting your services, and/or starting your own business. You will still be accountable to those who hire you, but you can set your own terms. Starting a journey to self-employment is not a bad thing. A study by Emergent Research, which studies trends in small businesses, found that by the year 2020 almost 40% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing.  If you start a freelancing business right now, you will be ahead of the curve.

Take Action
Now that you have taken some time to evaluate your past experiences, what do you need to do next? Do you need to do more research about career possibilities and companies? Do you need to go back to a specific career that was a good fit? Do you need to start your own business? Or perhaps do you need to hire a coach? Keep in mind that making a career change is a one-step-at-a-time process.

Don’t let the fear of job hopping stop you from settling down; use it as a platform to gather information about yourself, make informed decisions, and take your next steps.  Job hopping can be a blessing in disguise, instead of a hindrance. It is all a matter of how you learn to share your story and sell yourself to a potential employer.