Tree-huggers and job-hoppers

Job-hopping used to be considered a severe career detriment. ``If you handed someone a resume with six jobs in only a 10-year period, they'd think something was wrong with you,'' says Jacques Lapointe, president of Retail Recruiters International, Inc., a middle-management search franchise concentrated in New England.

But today, job-hopping can be a plus.

It's a habit encouraged by headhunters, who look for people with flexibility, ambition, and success, who want to move on. The company for which the headhunter works will only be able to recruit this choice employee by offering them something they feel they are currently missing, says Janet Jones-Parker, executive director at the Association of Executive Search Consultants.

And companies do this regularly.

Why are employees in today's climate expected to be movers?

``The person who stays too long in the same company - a ``tree hugger - is increasingly seen as narrow in experience and someone who's fearful of the unknown,'' says Lapointe.

For the individual and opportunity seeker, this attitude flip is a boon. Not only does it mean people don't have to get locked into a career because of loyalty to a company, or fear of leaving, it's a free service.

Companies pay the search firm, and all you have to do is get your name into their huge data banks. It's a lot easier than pounding down doors and mailing out hundreds of resumes.

But you have to stay employed in the meantime.

About 90 percent of the people a search firm presents to a client are already employed in another position, says Steven Garrison, managing partner of Ward International in Dallas, one of the largest search firms. And 80 percent of the jobs are never advertised, adds Alan Schonberg, president and co-founder of Management Recruiters International, Inc.

This means you are most benefited by a personnel consultant if you're working, and developing a valued expertise in some area.

``The minute you're unemployed in this world, whether it's true or not true, you lose 50 percent of your marketability,'' Lapointe says. ``Companies seem to want someone who is on-line with what they do.''

``Companies want the best talent,'' says James Wall, director of human resources at Touche Ross & Co., ``and the best talent is most often employed.'' -30-{et

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