Hiring managers want to see that you've spent your career gaining responsibility and leadership skills. If you can do this with one company for six years - more power to you. However, there is decidedly less of a stigma against frequent job changing. This sea change has been most dramatic in the world of high tech, though it's standard in hot industries like advertising and public relations as well.
This doesn't mean the job-hopper stigma has completely vanished. If you've got too many jobs on your resume, you could end up getting pegged as unstable, disloyal, or unable to work with others, especially if these jobs are typically for terms of six months or less.
Why switch? The most common incentive for switching jobs is money. Few hiring mangers will fault you for moving to a job that pays well, as long as it's not the only reason you're moving. As mentioned earlier, another big reason people move is to take a higher position. Still others move because they feel that they've reached a plateau in their learning curve, and need a challenge. This is completely feasible, but if you're constantly moving because you constantly feel like you've exhausted your opportunities in a short period of time, hiring professionals will question your decision-making ability.
How can you prove you'll be committed to this job? Perhaps your desire to switch jobs is a bit more personal - your boss is a tyrant, you find the work you're doing is not really what you thought it would be, or you decide that you want to switch industries. Simply explain your reasons without negativity and blame.
Hiring managers tend to get turned off by people who can't take responsibility for their actions. If you made a bad decision, say so, then go on to explain why you think this job will be different, and how you plan to make it work. If you have a choppy resume for other reasons - perhaps you temped for a while, you were laid off after a merger, or you worked for a startup that floundered - try to use your varied experience to your advantage. Describe how those things made you adaptable, and taught you how to deal with difficult situations. No one likes a victim.
Go for it
When it comes down to it, if you must job-hop, make it constructive. Here at Vault.com, we're big proponents of the passive job search. Sometimes the best time to switch jobs is when you're feeling good about your career - and that means moving out to move up. However, you should think through the reasons you're moving well before you hand in your resignation letter.
Once you've decided it's time to move, keep these points in mind:
1. Avoid frequent lateral moves. If you're repeatedly switching industries and you constantly feel underemployed or unfulfilled, there's probably something deeper going on. Try temping for a while, take some time to assess your skills, and figure out what you like and really want to do.
2. Don't burn bridges. Even if you hate your boss, your job, your cubicle, the cheap toilet paper in the bathrooms, leave on good terms. If you're moving within an industry - and in one geographic area - there's a good chance your old boss has some sort of connection to your new one. Keep in touch with other people you worked closely with. You never know when you'll need a reference.
3. When resigning, start off with a carefully thought out resignation letter, enumerating the reasons why you're leaving and thanking your boss for the opportunity to learn with the company. Then make a good faith effort to stay on and train your replacement. This may take longer than the traditional two weeks notice.
Up to a decade ago, you'd be hard-pressed to get an interview if your resume betrayed you as a job hopper. But this attitude has changed over the years. In fact, according to one recruiter, in some industries, if you stayed at the same job for six years, you'd have some explaining to do.