Career Personality: Tireless Kangaroo

KangarooThis is the second post in the cycle “What Career Personality are you?” You can read the first post here.

The category “transatory+” did not surface in the original research. We allowed ourselves to “update” / “extend” the existing model. Why? Analyzing professionals in the last 10-15 years, you will find an increasing number of those who change jobs more often than only every 3-4 years. Some change as often as once a year. They are “consistently inconsistent”. Based on our observation, this rather recent phenomenon has two underlying causes in two different age groups:

  1. Generation Y & Z: free spirits who embrace change
    • Generation Y aspires “freedom and flexibility”. They are so-called digital entrepreneurs and work “with” organizations and not “for” them.
    • Generation Z: are career multitaskers who (will) seamlessly move between organizations and start-ups. (source: link graph)
  2. Baby Boomers & Generation X: after a stable, foreseeable career of about 10-15 years, one of two things happened: you either got laid off due to some sort of crises or you couldn’t stand working for the same company or boss any longer and took the first job that presented itself to escape the previous one. We call this move “the job out of the job” which in most cases turns out to be an erroneous decision. And then another job follows and then another one… and all of the sudden you are labeled “a jumper”.

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Daria Matyja, Divisional Manager @ Devonshire Poland, shares her perspective:

I come across so-called jumpers quite often, especially in the last years as their numbers have been increasing. I divide them into three groups:

  1. Recruitment error: candidates who have changed job frequently due to recruitment errors belong to the first group. At the very beginning of the recruitment process bad decisions were made in the area of correctly defining required competencies: too high, too low, or simply not adequate. As a result the manager does not perform and therefore does not fulfill the employer’s expectations. Consequently, the candidate “feels bad” and changes jobs quickly.
  2. Bad luck: there are candidates who simply have had bad luck: the company decided to lay off 10, 20 or 30% of their staff; the position was dissolved; a merger resulted in having one manager or department too many; the employer went bankrupt; etc. There are also other force-majeure factors: a serious disease (in the family), the death of a family member, etc.
  3. Rash decisions: candidates of the third group make rash, hasty decisions. Why? There are those who get bored quickly, the company doesn’t fulfill the expectations (according to them), their boss demands “too much” or they are simply not motivated. It can also happen that they don’t get along with their superiors or colleagues.

I’ll add a bonus group: those are managers who change jobs quickly because they are offered more money somewhere else. I am always extra-cautious towards them.

Before I decide to include a jumper in the recruitment process, I analyze their CV thoroughly looking at the big picture. These factors positively influence my decision to at least call them for an initial screening:

  • if the manager used to have a stable career and quick changes are only recent
  • the companies they have worked for have gone bankrupt, have undergone major restructuring or have stopped to exist. (e.g. Mariounnaud pulled itself from the Polish market this year.)

During my call, about 90% of the candidates can give reasonable explanations for their recent frequent changes.

I obviously wonder if this time it will work out, or if the candidate / client will experience a déjà vu. Even more so, as every client receives a guarantee period with every placed candidate. That means that if the candidate decides to resign before the guarantee period is up, I have to find a replacement at not cost to the client. This is obviously a situation every headhunter wants to avoid.

But to be honest, we can never be 100% sure if the placed manager will perform as expected in the new place of work. And depending on the recruitment process it can turn out that a jumper will simply be the better choice because our client will be the best possible employer and they’ll work together happily ever after.

Summarizing, I wouldn’t label a jumper right away as “candidates that shall not be contacted”. We approach them with the necessary caution to avoid unfavorable financial consequences. However, to be clear: if somebody has been a “true kangaroo” their entire career, I don’t even bother.

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Not all recruiters either take the time to analyze a CV in-depth or have the necessary market knowledge to assess the changes adequately. Magdalena, what would be your advice, as a Career Angel, to experienced managers who fall into the category “bad luck” or “took-a-job-out-of-a-job-and-now-regrets-it”?

Magdalena Bednarska: As a recruiter I was always very suspicious of force-majeure events. You can try to verify it, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for medical records. On top of that, is it really bad luck that e.g. somebody’s family member got sick and they decided to quit their job and take care of them… or was it their own, very personal decision to make that sacrifice? Does that mean, that next time somebody is sick, they’ll leave the job again?

Recruitment errors: based on my experience, the vast majority of recruitment errors, and I’d also include “empty promises”, lie with the organizations and not so much with the candidates. To give you an example: one of my clients received an offer, signed a contract, quit her job, and on her first day of work she hears, “We can only pay you 80% of what we’ve agreed due to budget problems. If you perform, you’ll get the 100% after three months.” That is a huge violation of trust.

My advice to her: don’t act rashly. While trying to solve that situation pro-actively, start looking for a Plan B. Don’t take the first job that presents itself. Don’t hurry. Think. Don’t act emotionally. And to prevent such situations in the future: double and triple check your potential employer before signing anything. You also have the right to “check their references”. Ask your friends and contacts. Read about them on the Internet.

Let’s discuss the following case: an experienced manager decides to leave their company after 10 or 15 years. They don’t adapt to the new corporate culture and change again after 1 year. After several months in the new company, they send their CV out – again; this time because their new company is being restructured. This type of managers have several options on how to communicate “I’m not a kangaroo! Don’t discard me!”:

  • re-organize / re-group your CV
  • turn short stays with a company into “projects” assuming it is true and can be reasonable defended during an interview
  • don’t provide detailed dates of employment periods; show only years
  • don’t mention short stints if they happened in the past or
  • move them to the “additional information” section
  • add a “reason to leave”
  • address potential concerns or reasons to leave after such a short time in the cover email

To be clear: those tips don’t work for everybody. All of them can be argued in favor or against depending on the manager’s situation.

Irrespectively, always, always, always make sure to have a well-prepared list of references the headhunter or potential employer can call to verify “your story”.

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  1. Remember that the only role of the CV is to get you invited to an interview. You don’t have to explain everything in your resume. Leave something for the conversation.
  2. Talk to the skeptic before he speaks to you: address potential concerns in the cover email or during the interview. That only shows that you understand how the market works which makes you a more valuable and trustworthy candidate.

Allow them to see that you do not have the DNA of a tireless kangaroo, but that you are a “loyal dog” or “royal lion” at heart who happens to have had a little bit of bad luck. More about them soon!

—- update:
Read also:
Introduction to theory
Wandering Butterfly
Constant Chameleon
Loyal Dog
Royal Lion
Busy Beaver
Lazy Sloth