“The Job Hop” – no, it’s not the latest dance craze, but it is the latest generational sensation sweeping the nation. In today’s ever-changing job market, staying in one place for more than a few years is considered a rarity; long gone are the days of 30 years with a company, pension plans, and a gold watch at your retirement party. Our parents are the last of a dying breed of “company men”, who loyally served one brand for the entirety of their professional lives, and now we’ve entered the new age of job hopping, where millennials bounce from one thing to the next to find that perfect fit.
Ask any 20-something for a resume and a pattern quickly emerges – 6 months here, 18 months there, a year at the last place, and now they’re somewhere new. Yes, this is a product of the fluctuating job market that we entered into as young adults, but it’s also a hallmark of our generation – if we don’t like something, we leave. We’d all like to believe that each move was on to something better, but many times we’re hurting ourselves in the process without realizing it.
The biggest factor in any job change is usually money – a larger salary or higher hourly rate is always enticing, and sometimes a necessity. If you know that you’re worth more, and have found something that will pay you what you’re worth, then take the leap – but be sure to ask a few more questions about what strings are attached to that number. Your base salary is an important figure, but there are many other factors to consider before taking that job.
First and foremost, find out what the benefits look like. If you’re making a little more money, but paying twice what you used to in healthcare and dental, then you can wave goodbye to that extra cash. If you’re offered more money, but get half the vacation time, is that extra money actually worth it? Figuring in the added cost of any benefit changes might change your perspective on that “larger” number, so these are all things to consider before accepting the position.
The next question to ask is about their retirement plan – do they have one, and how does it work? Does the employer match contributions in any way? Is it easy to access and make changes? What’s their vesting plan? One question people forget to ask until they’re filling out paperwork is how long they have to wait until they’re even eligible for their benefits; sometimes you can join a plan right away, but many companies require you to be there for 6 months or more before you’re eligible.
Other things to consider are holidays, personal days, and sick time – find out how flexible the hours are if you had to take a half day or had an unplanned absence. Is this the type of position where you’d be answering emails and phone calls while you’re home sick? Having this information ahead of time can either assure you that you’re making the right move, or convince you to stay put… sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. Also consider that you’ll have to start accruing vacation time all over again, and that you may not be able to use it for several months; you’re committing to their new policies, so it’s important to find out what they are.
Another thing to consider is any perks that come along with the job, including the one you’re leaving; do you get an employee discount? What about free meals or a company vehicle? Gas cards, memberships, amenities… the list goes on, but until you ask you’ll never know. All of these little benefits add up and they can greatly alter the value of the salary they offer you, for better or worse.
A huge factor for any new position is the commute; while most people already have a good idea of what it would look like to travel to their new position, few actually calculate the mileage and the time it will take to get there. If they offer you more money but you’ll spend 2 hours roundtrip in the car each day, is that trade off worth it? Are you sitting in traffic to go a few miles, or spending your mornings and nights on a train? These might seem trivial when someone shows you a big shiny number, but they’re important to consider; an alarming number of people start a new job only to find out that they despise the commute, and start looking for something else before their direct deposit is even set up.
Parking is a great question too for anyone working in a metro area; I’ve heard horror stories of people starting new jobs, only to find out that there is no street parking, and they were actually making less money after paying for a spot in a parking garage each month. Others had to move their vehicles every 2 hours, or park 10 blocks away and bike in, making them late, frustrated, and occasionally wet. Make sure you understand the logistics of getting to your new job before saying yes and potentially regretting it later.
If you’ve weighed all of these factors and are still ready to make the change, another great question to ponder is whether you can actually see yourself there in 5 years… is this a move in the direction you want to go, or is this just another temporary gig to get out of your current predicament? Plenty of companies will advertise “room to grow”, but do your research and find out what the actual employees say; sites like GlassDoor offer insider perspectives, as well as the occasional disgruntled ex-employee insights, which can also be illuminating if taken with a grain of salt.
One last thing to consider is the gap between your last paycheck and your first; depending on the timing of your exit from your current job and the start of your new one, you could be going several weeks or more without a paycheck. Find out what their policy is on paying out vacation time, when you can expect your final check, and figure out if you can afford to take time off before starting your new position. I once had 11 days off between jobs, while it was a glorious mini-vacation, it did stretch my wallet; planning ahead can save you a lot of stress during this transition.
Asking as many questions as possible during the interview process can show that you are serious about the position, as well as organized and well-prepared to make the move. Many young people are so desperate to get the job that they simply don’t ask these questions prior to accepting the position only to be disappointed later, but the reality is that showing interest in these details gives the impression that you’re serious about the move and might even be weighing your options against other offers. Giving careful consideration to the new position as a whole rather than just the number will save you the grief of regretting another “job hop” instead of a calculated career move, so do your homework and ask away; when it comes to your livelihood, there are no stupid questions.