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Job-Hopping Blues

November 23, 1999

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Trucking companies have been dealing with driver job-hopping and a driver shortage for years. But with today's tight labor market, other employers are now facing the same problems.
A recent article in U.S. News & World Report says everyone from truck drivers to pharmacists to waitresses is job-hopping in order to get more money. The magazine estimates that approximately 17 million workers will quit to take other jobs this year, up 6 million from five years ago.
Stephen Pollan, co-author of career advice books, told the magazine that puny raises are at the root of nearly every decision to quit. Money can even ease the pain of non-monetary reasons people switch jobs, he said, such as helping pay for child-care or making up for a boss who's a jerk.

Since the current economic expansion began in 1991, the average company has budgeted only 4% annual merit raises for salaried workers, and even less for hourly workers, according to the magazine. During the same period, corporate profits have risen 9.4% a year, while the take-home pay of CEOs of large corporations rose 13% a year. As a result, worker happiness with their pay has dropped to about 40%, according to surveys by the Hay Group.
Many companies apparently feel it's cheaper to deal with the turnover than to give everyone large raises. Looking at the skyrocketing profits, it's easy to see why. To get a significant raise, say career consultants, many workers today have to change jobs.

U.S. News interviewed a wide range of job-hoppers, including a pharmacist, a bartender, high-tech workers, and, of course, a truck driver.
Donnie Whitley of Milano, TX, recently jumped to his 11th employee in his 12-year driving career because it meant a 3% raise. In the past couple of years, he says, he constantly sees recruiters when he stops at truckstops.
The good news, says the article, is that some employers are finding that job hopping costs more than rewarding loyalty.
And for the employee, despite the large raise, there are some downsides to job-hopping. At each new company, employees have to get used to new management, new rules, new procedures. They have to prove themselves all over again. Retirement plans may be jeopardized. They might end up jumping from the frying pan into the fire and have to change jobs yet again. And in the truck driving world, some elite fleets that pay well and have an excellent reputation for treating drivers well are reluctant to hire job-hoppers. The driver who hops from job to job like a frog on lily pads may find he has hopped his way out of a choice career opportunity.
Job-hoppers also may find less satisfaction in their jobs. In its "Profile of the Interstate Trucker" survey, Newport Communications found that seven in 10 truckers were at least "somewhat" satisfied with their job. Drivers who had only worked for one fleet were more satisfied that drivers who had worked for two to five fleets. Drivers who have worked for six or more fleets were the least satisfied of all.

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