Oh no! I am a job hopper.

While I was working on a background page for my website, I started to realized that a quick glace at my resume would label me a job hopper. I hate the label “Job Hopper”, mainly because I never felt that I portrayed any of the characteristics of the stereotypical hopper. I have never been fired, been socially or mentally unbalanced, and I’ve never left a position because I wasn’t capable of doing the job. I have left every single place I’ve worked on good terms and have received glowing recommendations on my work ethic and many accomplishments.

Additionally, almost every new position I’ve taken has been a progressive move, meaning that I have consistently moved to higher volume, higher quality establishments with larger staffs and bigger challenges. I have always wanted to do more, accomplish more, take the next step if you will. So why did I always leave after a year or two?

Looking back closely, searching through the smoke of justification, and digging down to the coals of truth I think I found my answer. It seems to boil down to a conflict between my personality and drive versus the double edged sword of the Salary Trap.

The Salary Trap
Most chefs are familiar with the “Salary Trap”, this is the phenomenon where you are sitting in a hiring interview and the manager wants to pay you on a salaried basis and to justify why this isn’t just in his best interest says something like, “This is a salaried position, so you should expect longer hours early on, but later if you can do the job and meet your goals in 40 hours a week that’s great! We are really paying you for the job not by the hour.”.

Now, if your like me, your thinking that sounds great! I don’t mind making personal sacrifices in the short term if it balances out later. Unfortunately, it seldom works out like that.

Flash forward six to nine months, you now have a well trained motivated team, you’re at or exceeding your goals, food cost and labor costs are in line and work is going great. At this point, you want to start cutting back on hours, spending some time with family, working on some personal projects, but this is when managers start making comments about your coming and goings and start watching your time. Now I don’t know if it’s greed (“If you work more we could cut labor, and be even further under budget”) or if it is just maintaining the status quo of “good” chefs must work 60 to 80 hours a week, but the next step is that you end up babysitting. Not babysitting your staff, but rather babysitting the clock. At this point, you have spent months developing a staff and system that works and can now manage your kitchen effectively without living there. However, you can’t leave now because even though your not paid by the hour, you have to maintain the image of working at least fifty hours a week or you’re some kind of slacker chef. So you end up babysitting the clock, finding busy work or coming up with a new product or promotion. This will keep you busy for a while, but in time you’ve worked out the bugs and trained the staff on the new systems and go back to busy work.

It doesn’t take long before I start to get bored with this pattern and start looking for the next challenge, the next job, the next step in my career. It seems like common sense to me, if I had a highly productive employee who could meet his goals and feel productive and content in forty hours a week or do the exact same job and feel bored in fifty plus hours a week, how would I benefit by encouraging the latter?

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