By Terry Donovan
Executive search clients consistently voice concerns about candidates who appear to be “job-hopping”– i.e., frequently move to new opportunities after relatively short stints. These concerns are reasonable and can be justified in many circumstances, although other times, movement early in an individual’s career can be both beneficial and rational. For instance, one AETHOS placement talked about how he sought different companies and experiences in the beginning years of his career to make himself more well-rounded and adaptable in the future. Aiming to understand better these different views on job-hopping, an analysis was conducted on the career paths for eleven of our recent placements in hospitality real estate related positions, including Development, Acquisitions, and Asset Management roles. The idea was to gauge the first eight years of each placement’s career for the number of different companies represented. This does not include multiple positions within the same company, graduate schooling, or internships.
This exercise revealed that, on average, the individuals worked for 3.2 companies over the first 8 years of their respective careers. The median was 3 years, with a range of 1 to 6 companies. Interestingly, we at AETHOS also find that companies are becoming mindful that junior employees look for promotions or increased responsibility in organizations every two years, or they seek higher-level positions elsewhere. In some circumstances, managers encourage high-performers to look outside the company in the absence of immediate opportunities or prospects for advancement. For example, many Consulting and Appraisal firms in the hospitality industry neither expect their analysts or associates to stay with the company and advance through the organizational chart, nor are there enough positions readily available. Notwithstanding exceptions to the rule, companies looking for high-performers should generally regard these “job-hops” in an individual’s twenties as a logical and calculated, versus wayward, career path. In contrast, professionals reaching their early 30’s are often looking to settle down personally and professionally.
AETHOS’ proprietary psychometric tool (20|20 Skills™) also gives us a further and richer understanding of “job-hoppers.” This assessment measures execution, people and cognitive skills – i.e., attitudes and competency set that predict success in the hospitality cultures. The aggregate psychological profile of the eleven individuals showed noteworthy commonalities. First, these individuals showed above-average ability in analytical thinking which is unsurprising given this is a group of high-performing real estate and finance professionals. Second, these individuals stood out as very self-driven with above-average leadership capabilities. This was a bit surprising given their relatively younger age, but leadership involves many facets beyond traditional management abilities. Servant leadership speaks to being dependable, approachable, accessible, and focused on others’ success. In this context, the group of eleven individuals seemed to exhibit a balanced capacity for motivating people as much as for setting directives and holding others accountable. Lastly, the group showed a concern for adding enterprise value in multiple ways. Specifically, they had an impressive balance between “being entrepreneurial” and “towing the company line.” This is a characteristic one usually primarily sees in C-Suite executives. Assuming they receive proper mentorship, these individuals possess many of the attitudes and skills necessary to become the future leaders in this industry.
What’s the bottom line? Job-hopping must be kept in proper perspective, which entails taking time to understand the motivations and experiences of younger hires before making hasty, categorically dismissals. This is not simply about asking others, “Where do you see yourself in five years.” Indeed, if someone asked me this five years ago, my response would not have been “three years into a hospitality recruitment career.” But if people took time getting to know me, they would realize that I was looking for a chance to prove myself. This is likely a shared sentiment among up and coming talent. Ask people what they learned from previous positions and what they hope to gain from the next one. More importantly, managers should check-in with employees in their 20’s periodically to make sure they are sufficiently motivated, challenged, and engaged in their role and the company culture. An employee’s outlook and goals inevitably change during these formative career years, and a good manager or company will always strive to keep their finger on the pulse of these changes.