How to Explain Your Frequent Job Switching Habit

by on July 12th, 2010

You’ve got a strong transcript, a solid GPA, and you aced the GMAT. You know you’re a strong candidate for pretty much any top MBA program. There’s just one thing standing in your way…your resume.

You’ve had some good jobs—that’s not the problem. The problem is that you’ve had too many of them, very close to each other. You’re afraid that your job switching past may make the adcoms write you off as a commitment-phobe. Of course, you know that’s not the case. But how do you convince the adcoms that each time you left a position, you had good reason for doing so? Even if you choose to use a functional resume format, there’s no way adcoms won’t notice your frequent job habit.

Defenses like: “I got bored,” or “It just wasn’t for me,” or “I hated my boss,” won’t really help your case. You’ll need to explain your fast-paced job changing action with a bit more detail.

Valid reasons for switching jobs:

  • You moved. While picking up and moving every few months may require an explanation on its own, it certainly does provide a valid explanation for frequent job changing. Let’s say you had one job during your senior year in Boston, then graduated and moved to D.C. where you landed a second job, and then one of your parents fell ill and you decided to move back home to San Diego to help out, where you got yet another job. While three jobs in the span of a year (or less) is generally frowned upon, your explanation make sense and doesn’t cast any shadow on your abilities to hold down a job.
  • Your schedule changed. You had been working part-time while you were in school, and then, upon graduation switched to a full-time job.
  • You were laid off. You had a job you liked and where you were liked, but were laid off during the recession, found a job to pay the bills, and then found another job that put you back on your desired career path.
  • You had trouble finding a good job match. While this explanation could make you appear a bit wishy-washy, if it’s true, then you should present your case carefully and honestly. While searching for “the one,” you came across some duds that you just didn’t jive with. Maybe they weren’t challenging enough. Maybe they didn’t help you actualize your potential. Maybe you were seeking more of a long-term growth position then these offered. Explain your case maturely—use reasons that don’t show that you’re afraid of job commitment, but that you just wanted more out of a job and were having some bad luck landing the right one.
  • Show growth and increased responsibility either as a motivator for some of the job changes or simply as a constant in your meandering.

If everything else on your application suggests that you should be accepted to the b-school of your choice, then it’s unlikely that a fickle resume will get you dinged…just so long as you explain the multiple positions and convince the adcoms that you are, in fact, an extremely committed person, who, post-graduation hopes to find a job that you’ll accept and keep for the long haul.

Related Accepted.com Resources:

8 comments

  • Thank you for this article - you've described my exact situation (luckily, with the valid explanations). Where would you recommend including this explanation? Would it go in the optional essay?

  • Nicole,

    Glad to be of help.

    That depends on the questions asked in the application. If a question asks you to describe your career progress (Kellogg #1 for example), the information could go into that essay. If no question asks about your career progress or allows you to discuss why you changed jobs frequently, then do include in the optional.

    Best,
    Linda

  • Thanks Linda.

    If we have worked for 4-5 years in one company only, do adcoms consider it bad if we have not progressed as much as others( those who switch) have?

  • Gupreet,

    Adcoms want to see that you have progressed. Period. If you have progressed less than your competition, that puts you at a competitive disadvantage.

    However, realize that "progress" is more a matter of responsibility and impact than title. So if you have stayed at the same firm and have received more and more responsibility even though your title has not changed much, you will be able to show the progress that adcoms seek.

    You might be interested in:

    http://blog.accepted.com/acceptedcom_blog/2009/4/29/admissions-wants-leadership-not-labels.html .

    Best,
    Linda

  • Thanks Linda you have cleared my Doubt.

    This happens when you are in a firm where "title" is not easy to achieve before a certain amount of time in comparison to those who are working in different organization and have joined at the same level.

    Do working at client site ( even if its domestic client ) adds to the credibility of the application?

    I am certainly looking forward to read similar articles to help shaping our application in right way.

  • Gurpreet,

    I'm glad I could be of help.The location of your work doen't matter much (unless it is add an international dimension). What matters is your impact and contribution. I guess you could say that being placed at a client site is a vote of confidence, but when you are applying to top bschools they expect that level of accomplishment.

    Again, I think the key is you impact and contribution. You can find many articles on MBA admissions at http:www.accepted.com/mba and http://blog.accepted.com/acceptedcom_blog/category/mba-admissions .

    Best,
    Linda

  • The first link should be http://www.accepted.com/mba .

  • Thanks a lot for your valuable advice.

Ask a Question or Leave a Reply

The author Linda Abraham gets email notifications for all questions or replies to this post.

Some HTML allowed. Keep your comments above the belt or risk having them deleted. Signup for a Gravatar to have your pictures show up by your comment.