By Robin Reshwan

U.S. News, September 24, 2018 —

Intentionally navigating your career, not jumping blindly, is the best way to maximize your options.

More than one in five U.S. employees changed jobs in the past year, according to a recent ADP Workforce Vitality Report. That number continues to grow every year because it has never been easier to make a change and our strong economy offers more job options.

On the surface, a move to increase your pay, title or responsibilities seems all positive. Changing jobs frequently or with no strategy, however, is not necessarily a good thing for your career. Many professionals find that when they quickly leap for a “grass is greener” opportunity, they may find themselves in a cycle of poorly matched roles and more turnover. Here are three ways to accelerate your career without falling into the trap of being a job hopper.

Be intentional.

Many professionals take the opportunities that come to them: a role at the same company where a friend works, a job that an aunt can give them or a position offered by the brand-name company that visits campus with happy job-fair representatives. As with most things in life, though, the easiest route is rarely the best.

For the best options, select and pursue roles that match your interests and your abilities.

If you are an entry-level professional or new grad, this means researching roles, professions, industries and companies before it is time to interview. Learn enough about the market to recognize what you like, what may not be a match for you and what will benefit you over the next two or three years, not just the first six months after graduation. If you are currently working, this front-end preparation can greatly benefit you, too.

Jumping between jobs may not pay off. (Getty Images)

Resist the temptation to accept a role just because it requires the least amount of effort or risk to land. Looking for a job is not a fun experience, so it is natural to want to avoid extra rounds of interviews and the potential rejection involved in pursuing a range of roles.

But endure it anyway. The extra time you put in to think through what you want in a role, how your qualifications will match and how a change can give you more options in the long term, the more likely you will be satisfied with the new role. Professional satisfaction lowers anxiety, increases performance, drives quality and ultimately keeps you engaged at work longer. Having a track record of success, promotion and tenure at one company increases your career prospects.

Be informed.

Job switching “is now easier than ever – and workers often don’t have an accurate understanding of the overall benefits of two competing employment contracts,” writes Graham Templeton for ADP, a human resources management company. Money is an easy tool for a company to use to attract a candidate, but switching jobs for an increase in pay, although beneficial in the short term, may potentially harm you in the long run if you hastily select the wrong role.

The best transitions start by analyzing what you are drawn toward and why you want a change at this time. Then, think about non-monetary significant factors to assess how a role meets your needs. These can include work-life balance, location, growth opportunities and company culture. Hiring expert Lou Adler recommends that you need at least a 30 percent increase in significant factors to inspire a move. If the role is not a strong match, even if it pays more, it may not be a good move.

Think 40.

Forty is the current expected number of working years for today’s workforce. In 40 years, the average employee will face four to five economic downturns where job hopping and haphazard career planning create significant obstacles to continued employment. In a downturn, many qualified employees go months or longer without work if they appear to be a risky hire without a network to vouch for or hire them. If you average multiple months of zero income into your overall career earnings, you can quickly see that jumping without intention and information can cost you significantly more than the short-term gains are worth. You don’t need to know what role you want 30 years from now, but you do want to reserve transitions for when you can make significant, intentional gains.

The best defense is a good offense. Getting hired is about minimizing the perceived risk for the employer because turnover is so expensive and distracting. This is a dirty little secret that many job seekers don’t know or don’t consider. After playing a role in thousands of hires over my career, I have seen firsthand that most managers hire the least-risky qualified candidate. Intentionally navigating your career is the best way to actively minimize perceived risk and maximize your professional options.