Continuing your search - a new trend

Reflections on a perpetual job search


A recent study reported by the Washington Post disclosed that nearly three-fourths of US employees are actively looking for new employment. Some search for jobs occasionally, especially when something frustrates them in their current work or workplace. Others shop regularly and consistently.

This active job-seeking includes individuals who have accepted new positions within the past year. It’s increasingly common for us to receive resumes from people who have worked for their current employer for only a few months. Why would someone keep looking, applying, and interviewing even when they’ve started a new job?

Good reasons for an ongoing job search

  • Uncertainty about the “fit” – Especially in the transition period of the first few months, many new employees continue their job search because they’re still uncertain about whether this position with this employer is a good fit for their needs, expectations, and hopes. What a prospective employee gleans from the hiring process can be very different from what he/she experiences on a day-to-day basis as a new employee.
  • Improving job market – Recognizing that the job market is increasingly favorable to the employee in many career paths, even new employees may continue to hunt and shop for a natural next step. This includes higher salary, better benefits, fresher challenges, and more. We’ve observed this in many applicants even in their first year with a new position. Sometimes their ongoing job search seems to be exploratory – testing the market to see what options are available now that weren’t even 3 or 6 months ago. Sometimes it’s genuinely proactive, longing for an even better fit or stronger opportunity.
  • Nervousness about employer loyalty – American workers are understandably nervous about whether their new employer will be loyal to them and their needs. We’ve experienced and observed the turbulence of the past decade for both small and large companies. We’ve noticed the trends of technology that can streamline or replace worker skills. This uncertainty is especially common within the first two years, when expectations about salary raises, improving benefits, skill development, and career advancement may be freshest in their minds.

For these reasons and others, even new employees – perhaps especially new employees – often continue their searching and hunting as employment consumers.

Impacts of ongoing job searches

The changing loyalty of employers to employees, both new and long-term, has impacted our workplace dynamics. For the past decade, many employees experienced employers as consumers and themselves as commodities that could be traded or discarded. Now, the tables are turning in terms of who is the consumer.

Employers invest time, energy, and resources for the hiring, onboarding, and training process for new employees. Likewise, new employees invest time, energy, and resources while learning a new job, developing relationships with a new team and a new supervisor/manager, and finding their niche in a new company.

When a new employee continues their job search, whether minimally or actively, it surely impacts their transition. It may well reduce the emotional and cognitive stamina a person has to dedicate to becoming an integrated part of the team. In turn, those limitations may adversely affect their efficiency, creativity, productivity and more.

Insights and implications

With 71% of the American workforce involved in job searches, this consumer approach to perpetual hunting isn’t a fluke. Yet it may well point to ways that both employers and employees can mutually strengthen our loyalty to one another.

  • It’s all the more important that both the job seeker and the prospective employer be explicit with each other about their expectations, hopes, and measures for success. What do you expect within the first quarter? within the first year?
  • It’s all the more important that both the new employee and his/her employer be intentional with each other in regular intervals looking back to those expectations, hopes, and measures for success.
  • And as the business relationship evolves, it’s all the more important that both the company and the employee consider and communicate how expectations, hopes, and measures for success may be changing.

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