‘Great Flirtation’: Should workers constantly job hunt? – BBC News

In the past six months, Beth has increased her salary by nearly £10,000. She has gradually negotiated her way from full-time office hours to a permanent remote-working contract. Her day-to-day opportunities have swelled. Compared to the start of the year, she has struck a better work-life balance. And she’s done it with practically zero haggling or demands. 

Instead, her career upgrade has been achieved by swiftly changing jobs. “Whenever I’ve felt as though the role hasn’t been exactly as promised, I’ve looked for the next opportunity,” explains Beth. “If it’s something that’s closer to my ideal work set-up, a company that looks appealing, then I apply.” 

Based in Yorkshire, UK, Beth is soon to begin her third account-manager role this year. She says she’s only been able to finally command a fair wage and flexible working by adopting this job-seeking mindset. “Unfortunately, my experience is that I’ll only receive a pay rise if I go to my boss with another job offer,” adds Beth. “My end goal has always been remote working. It felt unachievable – until I found my new role.” 

Since the start of the pandemic, swathes of workers across industries have left their jobs – and millions more are contemplating quitting, too. It’s helping to cause a worldwide hiring crisis. However, it’s not just recent vacancies companies are struggling to fill. As many global economies are growing, businesses are struggling to keep up as they expand. The demand for talent is, therefore, skyrocketing. It’s created a sellers’ market: workers have more leverage than ever, and many can afford to cherry pick a role that aligns more with their values and desires.

Rather than begin searching for a new position when they’re unhappy or burned out – typically years into a role – some workers are opting to seek a better opportunity from day one. This mindset is a kind of ‘Great Flirtation’ with new jobs: a constantly wandering eye to other openings, regardless of how long a worker has been in a role, and how content they are in their current job.

In a labour market that favours workers, is constantly flirting with other openings the right approach to help workers stay happy, get into better positions – or even achieve more in their career?

‘Irrational, aimless wandering’ 

For decades, the prevailing narrative has been to stay in a role for as long as possible, build résumé clout and make a lasting contribution to an organisation.

Prematurely switching roles was stigmatised as ‘job hopping’ – not just by bosses, but also wider society. In 1974, American industrial psychologist Edwin Ghiselli likened it to vagrancy, coining the term ‘Hobo Syndrome’ to describe workers who frequently changed roles. His approach essentially re-framed the complexities of frequent quitting to irrational, aimless wandering – driven by internal impulses absent from “organised or logical thought”.

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