Source: United Benefit Advisors (UBA)

A young employee just starting out in the workforce may be tempted to think that he or she will stay at the same company for decades until retirement with a congratulatory party and gold watch in recognition of their years of dedication. The reality, however, is that “job hopping” has become the new normal. In a poll conducted by CareerBuilder, 25% of employees held five or more jobs by the age of 35. For people who had been in the workforce longer — workers age 55 and older — 20% held 10 or more jobs.

Employers, however, should not be so quick to judge the job hopper as someone who is simply disloyal. There are a plethora of reasons why an employee may choose to voluntarily leave a good (or bad) job. An employee may actually want to grow and develop professionally with the same company, but there may not be any opportunities available, or he or she may want to add a specific skill set that’s not possible with a current employer, such as exposure to international markets. So, they leave. The recession was another factor causing employees to leave one company for another. Many employees took jobs that, while they didn’t like them, had to be taken in order to make ends meet. Now that the job market has rebounded, employees have a little more freedom in choosing a job where they actually want to work.

Helping foster job hopping is a reduction of the stigma surrounding multiple job changes. According to an article in??Human Resource Executive Online, people in a position to hire employees are placing less importance on the risk that they will quickly leave as long as there are good reasons behind the career moves they have made. That being said, an applicant’s age is a factor when measuring how frequently that person has changed jobs. That same survey by CareerBuilder found that 41% of all??HR??professionals viewed job hopping to be less acceptable once a person reaches 30 and more than one-fourth said that it was especially intolerable after a worker reaches age 40.

One of the benefits of job hopping is that these people often have a wide range of experience and knowledge. Half of all hiring managers and??HR??pros commented that these employees often quickly adapt and acclimate faster to new working environments, according to CareerBuilder. An upside seen by employers is that job candidates who leave the comfort of familiarity for the risk of the unknown are the same people who will think outside the box and search for the unorthodox solution. In the tech industry, and many others trying to emulate them, this is an especially desirable trait for an employee to have.

Of course, an employee can’t have it both ways. If he or she takes calculated risks and learns from their failures, that’s good. If, however, they have a history of poor decisions and taking frequent chances, then red flags are certainly raised.

When it comes down to making the final hiring decision, an applicant’s time spent with his or her previous employer(s) should only be a small consideration compared to the education, experience, job skills, and personality that they bring to the table. Job hopping, depending on a candidate’s career level and position within an industry, should not be a measure of the potential tenure they will have if hired.