While some may see a job applicant with multiple past employers as a job hopper, others may see an opportunity to hire a radiologist with diverse work experience.
A younger radiologist recently lamented to me that his current job had not panned out so well. He had no real hope for it to improve but was reluctant to move on since this was his second post-training gig, and he didn’t want to jump around too much.
Chuckling a bit, I reminded him that I was on the verge of my sixth position, and it had not hurt me yet.
He wasn’t exactly wrong. Conventional wisdom says it is suboptimal to have too many lines on your CV (at least in the employment section). Folks using that document as a snapshot of who you are might understandably think, “Why has this person moved around so much?” The greater your previous job lineage gets, the more likely it’s going to come up in (or prevent!) an interview.
If others are liable to perceive negative things about me, I am inclined to use a method termed the “accusation audit,” courtesy of Chris Voss (the author of Never Split the Difference, which is well worth a read). The negativity can be greatly defused if I point out such things before anyone else does.
Hearing that I am about to embark on my sixth post-fellowship job in just a couple of decades, what might you think of me? Maybe I do lousy work. I might be unreliable, or unpleasant company. Perhaps I’m not a “team player.” I could be excessively demanding, bringing up an endless string of dissatisfactions and wanting them all immediately addressed. There are any number of other reasons why I might be encouraged to leave or otherwise be forced out the door.
Alternatively, I could be the one who too readily chooses to depart when my excessive demands aren’t met. Maybe I am disloyal, bailing as soon as a better-looking job comes along. I could just be a harbinger of bad luck. Groups happen to fall on hard times after I join, and if I am the last one in, it makes sense that I am the first one out.
Of course, if I do need to account for myself (such as in an interview), I don’t have to be so hypothetical. Alternatively, I am ready to give a succinct explanation of how I wound up in each job, and what transpired to make me move on to the next gig. If you have been reading this blog for the long haul, you know it already. None of my moves sound at all bad when you hear their details. I can actually spin those deets to my favor, given half a chance.
Just explaining why you are no worse than anyone else, however, is setting the bar rather low. Why not use the opportunity to toot your own horn a little bit? If you haven’t gotten the impression, I am far from bashful about the lineage of my CV.
First, the radiological world in which sticking with just one or two jobs for decades no longer exists for a lot of us. Secondly, having worked in a few more places has significantly added to my capabilities.
Working in multiple different environments makes me that much readier to survive (and thrive) no matter where I find myself next. I have lived as an academician, an outpatient imaging center guy, a high productivity telerad, and staff in machines of hospital systems from tiny to gargantuan. I know what works and what doesn’t in each place, not only to fulfill my role as a rad, but also what is good vs. bad for the rad group around me. Plus, I have learned which of those settings satisfies me, and which I will avoid for the rest of my career.
My status within those jobs has varied as well. I know how to be everything from a faceless worker bee to a member of leadership, and I know how an awful lot of other rads think and operate in those roles. I could walk right into a group that’s considering branching into telerad, for instance, and immediately bring them up to speed on what I have seen done right and wrong in the three different telerad gigs I have had. I can draw upon 12 years of experience, covering literally hundreds of different facilities, that the group might otherwise have to figure out the hard (or expensive) way.
Not everybody is going to accept that more lines on a CV is anything but bad news. Attitudes based on conventional wisdom can be hard to dislodge, since they have had prolonged residence in the mind and own the advantage when it comes to fending off new ideas. Hence, it can be valuable to give a nod to that wisdom, and it’s here that the aforementioned “accusation audit” comes back to center stage.
Another side-effect of going though those extra lines of past employment on one’s CV is that one can humble-brag with some magical buzzwords: personal growth. Proactively embrace some of those negatives from the audit. I could say that, in hindsight, perhaps I did have some unrealistic expectations of previous jobs. Now, with the benefit of working in multiple places, I have seen what is feasible, and any prospective employer can rest assured that I won’t be expecting anything that is not agreed upon upfront.
I might go with another line from the audit. Maybe I didn’t properly value the concept of loyalty to a team and was willing to job-hop in a never-ending quest for slightly better terms. But now, having jumped around a lot, I have seen that putting down roots and going for long-term stability is the better way to go.
One doesn’t have to believe such things in order to verbally espouse them. I would suggest focusing on stuff with at least a kernel of truth though. It helps you sound more genuine. I myself am not a daredevil when it comes to such fibbing. Even if I were good at it, I don’t think I would like its feel. Also, as Mr. Laurel once said, “Honesty is the best politics.”
One thing I don’t think anyone with a many lined CV would have difficulty saying honestly. Having been through X number of jobs, it’s that much better understood what job X+1 needs to have (and what other stuff isn’t so important as it seemed in the past). One is likelier to hold out for it or otherwise walk away from negotiations rather than accepting something untenable and hoping in vain that the “less than” new gig will someday morph into perfection. That’s worth something to a prospective employer, knowing that the new hire is only going to sign on the dotted line if he or she is likely to stay for the long haul.