“Don’t define your world in black and white. Because there is so much hiding in the greys.”
Job-hopping is bad.
No, wait, it’s good. You haven’t found what you’re looking for.
No. It’s a red flag. Employers don’t hire.
Frustrated? Yeah, me too.
It’s not the partisan opinions. That’s a given. The LinkedIn ‘experts’ need this to sustain their bluster and ego.
And it’s not the “I hired a candidate that had no experience/teeth/eyebrows/turned out to be a Wookie…” (delete as appropriate).
It’s the sheer ignorance and assumption of it all. There are genuine reasons why people leave a role:
- The job wasn’t as described.
- Toxic culture.
- Wading in treacle.
- Crap pay.
- Health reasons.
- Re-evaluating priorities.
- Becoming a parent.
There are many. It’s complex. They’re individual. They’re contextual. One size doesn’t fit all.
Going through the wringer
Job hunting, sucks. No other word for it.
There’s trying to find a role that isn’t asking for your soul. The endless phone calls with commission-chasing recruiters. Application forms, CV changes, and of course, the numerical and verbal reasoning tests.
Some so complicated they make rocket science look like a Facebook quiz about which type of Pokémon you are (Blastoise, apparently). And still have nothing to do with the role you’re applying for.
Recently, I’ve had the wonderful experience of interrogations. From the employer’s side, I’m sure they would classify them as ‘interviews’, from my side, it felt like a scene from Line of Duty.
“You’ve had a lot of jobs – why?”
Well, where would you like me to begin?
- Double-dip recession in 2012. Grad schemes were highly competitive. So, I went for fixed-term contracts. Exploring what I liked and what I didn’t.
- Being micro-managed by people who really shouldn’t have been managers.
- Finding a role that I thoroughly enjoyed, but after 12-14 hours a day, structural and personnel changes, and losing my hair, I thought I would move on having delivered what I set out to do.
- Permanent role cancelled after fixed-term contract, due to the marketing department being consolidated.
- Being appointed for a role, only to start, and within a couple of months learned I was going to be made redundant.
- Pursuing a role in a sector you once loved, only to fall out of love with it due to its insular view on the realities of market changes.
- Doing something different only for it not being what was described.
- Going for a fixed-term contract only to have it pulled due to budget.
Yep, it’s been interesting.
But no, this still isn’t enough. Eyes of doubt continue to stare.
“People stick this stuff out. They work through it. Right?”
“Life is too short”, I say.
The look of interest and caution. This doesn’t add up. Why would someone think this way? What’s the driving force behind this? Does he think he’s the next Steve Jobs?
Some may feel comfortable telling their life story publicly. Especially on LinkedIn. It’s become a badge of honour.
And while some should be genuinely applauded, some are blatantly done for the engagement love. You know because we all need to start storytelling. Be our authentic self. Hollywood could make a film. It’d be motivational, inspirational and ego-tastical.
And while I’m not one to divulge all, the professional history, obviously isn’t enough justification for making decisions, professionally.
We forget our personal experiences influence all parts of our lives. Life’s rich tapestry. Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe that’s what I need to do. Tell my ‘story’. After all, it might give context to what I say on my about page.
So here it is:
2000 – 2005
- At the age of 12, I planned my suicide. I knew how I was going to do it. Where and when. I had even worked out the ‘clear up’. Every possible detail imaginable. I can’t recall the reasons for feeling that way, it’s been blocked out, but I can recall the darkness. Every year we lost close family members. It was challenging.
- The meds turned me into a zombified ‘Michelin man’. An allergic reaction ballooned my weight within weeks. It was hard to shift. I was bullied for it. Kids are cruel. It took me years to find any sort of confidence and drop the weight. I built my ‘shield’. Ten-pin bowling, gaming, anime, mtb, training, and martial arts became self-medication for my mind, body, and soul. They still are.
- The final summer of my A-Levels, Grandad, who had lived with me since the age of 5 (along with Nan), died from heart disease. A few weeks before, I had found him collapsed outside the house. Not only did this impact my grades, but this was also the first test of using the tools I learned when I was 12.
- Grandad died in August 2006. On the same night he died, there was an ambulance at the front door taking Dad to hospital. He had been ill for a while.
- By December 2006, Dad had been diagnosed with kidney cancer and prioritised for treatment. Kidney removed.
2007 – 2009
- In summer 2007, after suffering with pain after the op, it transpired it wasn’t a trapped nerve. It was bone cancer. Terminal. Running parallel to this, I wasn’t getting anywhere near the support from friends that I had once given out. During my A-Levels, I was the ‘agony aunt’ of the group. I liked it. I felt like I was helping people – making a difference. I battened down the hatches.
- For nearly 7 months, 2-3 times a week, we were told: “he’s going”. I lost count of how many times I rushed out of my job as a Learning Support Assistant (my first gap year) to go to the hospice. And somehow, to the credit of Dad’s strength and tenacity, he had pulled himself round. We watched Dad shrink to skin and bone. Cancer so vicious, he broke his hip, lying in bed at home, through a cough. He was wheelchair-bound from that moment. We’ll never forget that scream. 26 January 2008, 7:30 pm. Dad passed away. I was 19. My brother 16.
- Before he died, Dad had spoken to me and my brother about everything. Life, gaming, looking after Mum and Nan, dogs, cats, drink, music, education. The promise I made, not wanting to go to university at the time, was to do a course. I had to focus on the future. Pursue my passion having done the Young Enterprise scheme. I enrolled on my HND Business course. Theoretical and practical – my type of learning. There, I would meet my first true love. She was Polish. We were together on and off for over 7 years. My best friend. But as with that itch, we eventually drifted apart. I’ll always be grateful for her support.
2010 – 2011
- After working contracts, rebuilding, and establishing new friendships during a second gap year, I was encouraged to go for that top-up. The University of Winchester would be where I studied. I loved it. It saved me. Literally. Looking back, it’s what motivated me to pursue the work I did when I became Digital Marketing Manager years later. It was my way of saying ‘thank you’.
2012 – 2017
- In 2012, I finally got my foot on the career ladder. The people were lovely, but I was nervous. Through this pursuit of fulfilling that promise, I felt like I had to keep the name ‘Panteny’ going. My Dad was fondly remembered. I didn’t want to let him down. In my head, I was, and still am, carrying HIS reputation. Continuing the ‘legacy’. Stupid, I know. I’m my own man. But it was my way of making him proud.
- In 2013, I was encouraged to pursue a Master’s by one of the editors I was working with at a publishing company. Not only would this change my thinking, but it would also introduce me to my future wife (we got engaged on 25 September 2021, after being together for 4 years). She’s, my soulmate. My rock. My best friend.
2018 – present
- Fast-forward to 2019, and after years of delivering in my roles, I finally experienced redundancy. I had escaped one redundancy. I felt like I had failed. Despite the reality. I pursued contract work to keep the lights on at home.
- Moving back to my favourite sector, I realised that I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. The passion was gone. I wanted to do something different.
- Back in 2014 I had tests for what they originally thought was Crohn’s disease. All tests had concluded it, except for the biopsy. I was put on the FODMAP diet and by default, was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Between 2018 – 2020 the symptoms came back with vengeance. At the peak, I was ill 6-8 times a day, every day. When I eventually went to the docs, tests indicated that it could be bowel cancer. Fortunately, the camera would show that I was clear.
- There’s one thing that I learned during this time. There are different types of stress. One is manageable and is part of the passion and enjoyment of delivering, the other is a dangerous side effect which can manifest itself physically.
- So rather than pursue roles that weren’t right, or contracts that get pulled because of the lack of funding before they begin, I’ve taken a different approach. I’m working nights, stacking shelves, while I find the right role.
Everyone has suffered from this pandemic.
2020, 2021, and probably 2022, will always be known as the years the world changed. Forever.
New viruses may appear, but the mental impact, the wellbeing pandemic, will be felt for decades to come.
We’ve all struggled. We’ve all had time to think.
Stop the assumptions
They say time is a healer, from my perspective, it’s about learning to adapt to a new normal.
I still struggle with my mental health. Daily. The scars are still there and sometimes old wounds open.
Maybe it’s because of my martial arts training, but I see my mental health as a kickboxing tournament. Each strike reveals a new move from the opponent. We’re both learning. We both get stronger. We’re equally matched. The rounds continue.
That’s why I find the trivialising of ‘imposter syndrome’ so infuriating. It’s real. It’s dangerous.
Despite this, I’ve still delivered and managed teams successfully.
And that’s the point I want to make. My experiences, professional and personal, have enabled me to achieve what I have. They’ve also given me one crucial strength – perspective.
I want to make it perfectly clear; I haven’t written this for sympathy. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. And I haven’t written this to say, ‘I’m special’. Far from it.
Others have experienced, and are experiencing, much worse.
I’ve written this out of frustration.
- The frustration of the recruitment process.
- Frustration for the binary views about gaps in the CV.
- The frustration of the ignorance people have on ‘job-hopping’.
- Frustration that people don’t seem to think that the employee can decide to make ‘the call’.
- Frustration that people think you have to spend years in a role to grow and achieve.
- Frustration that ‘sticking it out’ in toxicity is seen as the ‘right’ thing to do.
My experiences, give me an edge when it comes to what I do. My life’s tapestry has revealed what really matters, and how quickly it can go.
That’s why I don’t have time, patience, or energy to put up with shit.
‘Pivoting’ has been the buzzword since 2020. It doesn’t just apply to business models. It applies to individuals.
When people ‘job hop’, there are reasons. Right, wrong, indifferent, they’re contextual. Assumptions are not. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover…’
So, the next time you see a ‘job hopper’, remember, it takes two.
See you next time.
(Normal service will resume)