Job Hopping Gains Ground

August 23, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — For the fourth consecutive quarter, the percentage of American workers who chose to change employers has increased, according to the latest Lee Hecht Harrison Career Mobility Index.

Six percent of those who were employed at the start of the second quarter voluntarily left their employer for a new job — up from 5.3 percent in the first quarter and 3.8 percent a year ago. The index, commissioned quarterly by global career management services company Lee Hecht Harrison, is based on a nationwide telephone survey of more than 1,000 adult Americans.

Kevin Ecclesine, senior vice president of Lee Hecht Harrison’s Grand Rapids office, observed that the findings suggest the rise in employee turnover that many predicted would take place after the recession.

“During the depths of the downturn, most people who weren’t laid off, or in imminent danger, stayed put,” he explained. “They were grateful to have jobs, even if they weren’t happy in them. Now with the recovery making slow but steady strides and new jobs opening up, more workers seem emboldened to make a move.”

Ecclesine said that while the job market is definitely on the upswing, changing companies is still risky.

“When the economy is booming and the political environment is stable, it’s generally safe to take a chance on a new employer: Even if the position doesn’t work out, there will be plenty of other openings. Today, with the recovery just gathering steam, and a presidential election underway, it is too soon to act on just any opportunity for change.”

However, Ecclesine said, that doesn’t mean all prospective job changers should stay put.

“Regardless of the economy, there are circumstances where switching employers may be the best thing to do,” he said. “Individuals should weigh their options carefully and proceed with caution.”

Ecclesine offered the following advice for those contemplating changing employers:

  • Identify your motivation: Knowing what is driving your desire to leave your current employer will help you choose a suitable new one, or may make you reconsider your plans. Can your needs only be met by going elsewhere or might you be able to negotiate a different position or better arrangement with your current company?

  • Know what you want to do and have a plan: If you haven’t already, evaluate your career priorities and goals. If you see an opportunity that moves you toward that objective in a way your present position can’t, then pursue it. However, conduct due diligence before making a decision.

  • Do extra homework on your potential new employer: If it’s an established company, how did it weather the last recession? Was there downsizing? What areas were targeted for cutbacks? If you had been there, how would you have been affected? What is on the horizon? Are there new products and new marketplaces for the existing ones? Is it reasonable to expect the company to move manufacturing or technology to offshore locations? How might changes in the political environment impact the industry?

  • Pay extra attention to corporate culture and fit. Assuming no jobs are eliminated, you are likely to be at the new company for some time. Make sure it’s a place you want to be.    

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