The tables have turned. A decade ago, interviewers frowned upon job-hopping. If you listed a series of jobs on your resume, employers branded you as unstable. In short, not a team player or a company person.

The new thinking is job-hoppers are priceless assets who are more experienced and marketplace-savvy than someone who has held one job for a long time. If you haven't moved in two or two-and-a-half years, you had better have a good reason for staying at that job. 

In fact, many workers who have built formidable reputations as job-hoppers are more sought after by many companies. Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), in Oak Ridge, TN, a multinational corporation with 24,000 employees located at 150 sites around the world, hires only job-hoppers.

Mike Pasqua, SAIC's sector controller for the technology solutions sector, says that the company's more than 1,000 job openings will be filled by job-hoppers who have the right experience mix. "We're looking for people who can hit the ground running," he says. "Ideally, that's someone who has about 10 years experience and has held at least three different positions in the information technology area."

Pasqua stresses that fiercely competitive markets are willing to pay a premium for experience. And real world experience almost always means job-hopping. The technology is changing daily and the best way to stay on top is by changing jobs often.

However, random unfocused job-hopping can do more harm than good. Constructive job-hopping takes thought and planning so you can achieve your goal of moving forward. Do it badly and you'll move laterally or backward, either of which is not recommended. Ponder these three secrets of successful job-hopping.

1. Make strategic moves within the same industry. Contrary to popular myth, successful job-hoppers are focused and targeted. Each job change can be likened to a move on a chessboard: it's a carefully planned logical move, rather than an impetuous act.

2. Don't burn bridges. Farsighted job-hunters change jobs without leaving a bad taste in the mouths of their previous employers. A take-this-job-and shove-it attitude is career suicide. Even if you hate everything about the job -- boss, colleagues, products -- try to leave on good terms by swallowing your feelings. The computer industry, for example, boasts a powerful grapevine. Bosses talk to one another. If word gets out that you are a loose cannon with a temper, your career prospects will suddenly not be as bright as you thought they were. The idea is to leave with good references. The bigger the job and the higher you get, the more important the references.

3. Leave in style. That means no surprises. Give plenty of warning so the powers-that-be have plenty of time to find a replacement. Waiting the obligatory two weeks before telling your boss is bad form. Smart job-changers do everything they can to ensure a smooth transition. It starts with a carefully worded resignation letter to your boss, spelling out why you're leaving and thanking him or her for the opportunity to hone your skills. This is when diplomacy yields big rewards. Prior to telling your boss, you should alert colleagues who work closely with you. These are people you're going to be in contact with often. They're going to act as your eyes and ears, telling you what's happening at the company. Naturally, once you're comfortably situated in a new company, you'll do the same thing for them.

Don't lose sight of the fact that you're part of a close-knit industry, in which not making enemies is important. Who's to say you won't wind up working for your previous   company again or possibly doing some consulting work for it? All the more reason why it's important to make a graceful exit.

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