I am a job hopper. My complete resume is extensive and complicated. If I took the time to list every one of my jobs and positions held, there is no way a prospective employer would take the time to read it. I have worked as an accounts payable clerk, administrative assistant, employee benefits manager, realtor, financial aid assistant and counselor, customer service representative, insurance salesperson, marketing coordinator, event planner, and copywriter. I have also dabbled in a couple of mildly successful but ultimately unsatisfying multi-level marketing endeavors and taught Zumba classes.
The shortest time period I spent at one company was five days. It was a small, less-than-bustling advertising agency, and I had taken a part-time position as an assistant to the largely absent owner. I was already beginning to get bored and began doubting my decision when another employer (the one that I really wanted to work for at that time) contacted me to let me know that they also wanted to hire me.
After some consideration and a fair amount of unnecessary guilt, I notified my present employer that I had made a mistake and needed to take the other offer. I gave her the notice she requested, and we parted on good terms.
That wasn’t the first or last time something like that happened to me in my work experience. In fact, I had switched career paths so rapidly and frequently I earned a reputation among my family and friends for being a job hopper. It was often the topic of conversation at my family gatherings — events where my mother or someone else would try to count how many positions I had held in my not-so-long history of working in the real world.
I was aware that my ongoing quest for the right professional fit carried with it the stigma of being a flake, being indecisive, being a quitter. I knew that what I was doing was an important and necessary part of finding my calling and figuring out where I belonged, but it seemed like those around me valued longevity and stability in a career. In that category I was falling short.
For several years, I allowed this stigma to invade my thoughts and shake my self-confidence. My resolve to find a path that would not only allow me to pay my bills but would offer the ability to do something I really cared about grew weak at times. I began to wonder if I was aiming for something selfish, something undeserved, or even unrealistic. I started lingering longer at jobs where I was unhappy. I tried harder to fit the mold, to be content with what I had and stop longing for something more.
But the reality was that I couldn’t wake up every day to face a schedule filled with tasks that I did not enjoy. Each time I hopped from one position (with hopes that the next would somehow answer all my prayers for professional fulfillment), I experienced the same hope, the same excitement, and the same energy burst that accompanies something new.
I would approach each new experience with a positive attitude and an eagerness to serve. I would work diligently to learn all I could about my new surroundings, the new people I was interacting with, and the job duties under my charge. I was determined to figure out what I was put on this Earth to do. And each time I was disappointed with my new position, for whatever reason, I would once again begin searching for something better. I would get ready to hop.
The last position I held as an employee was for a medium-sized advertising agency, where I was hired as a copywriter but ended up acting as a receptionist most of the time due to lack of work. I recall sitting at my desk with too little to do, gazing out the window in front of the office and wishing for escape. I felt trapped. I was bored. I had done everything I could think of to be productive in my role there for the day, and I was out of ideas.
I had asked for more work and there was nothing forthcoming. My work space was tucked in a corner of the office where no one else entered so I think I was often simply forgotten. That was the day I decided that it was time for something completely different. I was simply not wired for the corporate world. I needed to start thinking outside the box.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not dismissing the value and commitment of employees in similar roles to those I have held. On my journey, I’ve met many very bright, talented and dedicated people who were passionate about their careers and were an asset to their organizations. I have great respect for them and working with them has brought me invaluable knowledge and experience.
In fact, this journey from job to job and company to company has taught me a lot about myself. I have gained some amazing skills and have ruled out some industries and job tasks that absolutely do not make sense for me. I’ve learned that I feel trapped in a cubicle, and that I love to write more than anything else. I’ve also learned that it’s OK to try different things and explore what interests you — and if it doesn’t work out or turns out to be different than what you expected, that’s OK, too.
I’ve learned that the key element in this journey is to be honest with myself. If I’m unhappy with a situation or feel the need to try something new, admitting it and accepting that feeling is a critical step toward finding my path. Questioning why I’m dissatisfied with the situation allows me to reflect and gain knowledge about what I really want in my career.
I’ve learned to stop listening to others regarding what I should or shouldn’t feel or do. Only I can figure this out for me. Some people seem to be born knowing what their calling is. I envy them. That isn’t me. I am still searching for professional bliss, and I’m OK with that. I’m closer to finding it than I’ve ever been, and I’ll keep working toward reaching my goals.
I know now what my ideal day looks like and I have a good idea of what I need to do to make it a reality. My job hopping past has given me irreplaceable tools to do this.
So to my fellow job hoppers I leave you with this: If you’re searching too — give yourself a break. Enjoy the journey and trust that your inner voice will lead you to where you should be.