You’ve got high stats, great skills, and have had awesome jobs…too many of them. You suffer from what we call in the biz Frequent Job-Switching Syndrome (or FJSS). Those who suffer from FJSS don’t have trouble finding jobs; they have trouble keeping them. A resume with 2-3 impressive post-college or post-grad school jobs looks great, but once that number jumps higher than 5-6 jobs in as many years, it doesn’t look good, no matter how impressive the jobs are.
Why does this matter to b-schools? Adcoms are looking for students who will a) make it through their 1-2 years of schools (or longer if it’s a part-time program), and b) be easy to place post-MBA. If you’ve had trouble keeping a job for longer than a year, you’re going to have a hard time showing that you’re capable of a and b above.
So what can you do?
You’re going to have to play defense. Here are some explanations that may work for you:
1. You moved around a lot. Most positions require you to live within a commutable distance from the office. If you moved across the state or jumped to another state or country, you most likely had to quit one job and search for another. And if you moved many times in the last five or so years, then you had to drop and search for new positions multiple times. You’re going to need to explain why you had to move (a sick parent, a new job or school for a spouse, etc.), but once you provide valid reasons, then your FJSS won’t look as bad.
2. You got laid off. Listen, it happens. And it could easily happen to really talented and skilled people like you. And while you were laid off, maybe you got a less-than-perfect job to help pay the bills until you landed a better job. And then you got that better job (because you’re so talented and skilled), so had to drop the temp job. Sometimes these things are simply unavoidable.
3. You had scheduling conflicts. For this one you’ll need to explain why you had to switch from full-time to part-time or day-time to night-time or US hours to China hours, and why your job at the time couldn’t accommodate.
4. You weren’t ready to settle. Beware of sounding like a commitment-phobe here and tread this line carefully. Sometimes a job just doesn’t work out. You don’t want to focus on things like interpersonal problems or other drama here, but on more substantial “fit” concerns: You weren’t challenged enough or it didn’t provide long-term growth potential.
Your reasoning for frequent job switching will probably fall into more than one of these categories. It’s unlikely that you moved five times in five years or that you got laid off after working a single year at five different jobs (and if so, yikes!). But if you moved once, got laid off once, and had some scheduling issues, then you may be able to create quite a compelling and understandable explanation for how you contracted FJSS and how you can be certain that the disease is only temporary. After all, with the right medicine (that world-class MBA and supportive network), you plan on kicking FJSS to the curb, never to be seen again as you settle into that perfect, dream job that you’ve got your mind set on.
“4 Great Explanations for Serial Job Switchers” is the next post in our blog series, 9 Secrets to Standing Out, a guide to helping YOU stand out in your MBA application – no matter how ordinary your profile may seem.