It’s completely normal to change jobs every few years. The days when people clocked in and out at the same company for years (and years) on end are over—no one expects that anymore. In fact, you might even be judged if you stick around the same company for too long.
And yes, with all this moving around, people don’t develop the same kind of loyalty that comes with working at the same firm for 25 years. Again, that’s OK. What’s not OK is bouncing around from position to position, leaving the job the second you get bored.
Why? Because you’ll earn a reputation as a job hopper, and after you hop one too many times, employers will start to worry that you’re not taking your career seriously. A 24-year-old exploring her options is fine. A 34-year-old who’s had a different job every year since graduation, not so much.
So, how can you prove you’re committed to your career path without sticking around at your current company forever? Well, there are four things you should do at every single job—for your own personal career growth, but also to prove to a hiring manager that you’ll make a positive impact on the company, regardless of long you stick around.
1. Learn Something New
If there’s only one thing you can say to prove your time with a company was well spent, it should be that you’ve learned something you didn’t know before. Maybe you had a marketing position and you mastered a new software application that’ll help you harvest and apply data to drive successful campaigns. Maybe you did some cross-functional work between operations and sales to better understand customer requirements. Or, maybe you attended weekly strategy sessions and drew some innovative conclusions on the future direction of your industry.
Whatever you do, be sure you’re always learning and growing. Most employers will give you these development opportunities, but smart employees will find a way to seize them regardless. If no one’s offering this learning experience to you, seek it out within the company or take classes elsewhere.
2. Accomplish Something Hard
It’s no secret that career growth demands progress, and progress requires accomplishments. That’s why it’s easy to spot the difference between those who switch jobs out of boredom and those who do so to further their careers. The former group will come across as flighty and indecisive, unable to point to any worthwhile endeavors on a resume. The latter, on the other hand, will have meaningful and specific obstacles they’ve surmounted.
When you’ve only got a few years with a company, you need to demonstrate and test your ability as often as you can. These displays of productivity show future employers that you’re a person who gets cracking on day one, someone who thrives on setting and achieving his or her goals. If there are currently no challenges in your way, create one (by launching a new initiative, not by deleting the company’s data server), and overcome it.
3. Make Some Mistakes, Then Learn From Them
Look, nobody’s perfect. Advancing your career is a process that often requires a few stumbles along the way—so before you leave a job, be sure to try and tackle something you aren’t completely certain you can do. If you make mistakes, then so be it. You’ll show people you’re not afraid to test a theory and see what happens. In fact, you might discover there’s more value to extract from your current position, in which case it might not be time to leave yet. Or you might uncover some truths about what you truly enjoy at work and where you want to go in the future.
The bottom line is that character and determination are built through trial and error. So, be sure that each position you hold is one in which you have to overcome a difficulty, take responsibility, and inevitably grow from the experience.
4. Get—and Stay—Connected
Everyone knows that the world of recruiting and referrals has been forever changed by social media. It’s easier than ever to leverage networks like Twitter and LinkedIn to find new job opportunities, which is why you should establish connections with as many colleagues as you can while you are working with a company. You never know when you’ll be able to help them out with a referral down the road, or request a reference for yourself.
Keep in mind that connecting—truly connecting—is about a lot more than just friending someone. It’s about taking the time to get to know each person you add to your circle. While that can entail mentoring or teaming up for a project, it can also be as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee.
With the number of career opportunities available today, it’s no surprise that people want to move around. But before you leave one job for the next, be sure you’ve done everything possible to get the most value out of the experience. If you don’t, your resume will eventually reflect what you’ve missed—and more importantly, you’ll have let a good opportunity go to waste.