One day I will clean out my garage all the way down to the last storage box and find my original job application from my first full-time, non-temp job.

I was 19 when I ambled into a greeting card company called Recycled Paper Products on the north side of Chicago to apply for a customer service job.

I got the job and stayed at the company for nine years as it grew from $1 million to $180 million in sales. The only reason I was able to make a copy of my job application (a paper form, since I got the job in 1979) is that I became HR Manager for the company in 1984. It took me a long time — over a year — after moving into HR to realize that I had access to my own personnel file as well as the rest of the personnel files, and maybe I should take a look to see what various people had written about me!

I found my job application in my personnel file. On my application, a long-gone HR Manager had scribbled “job-hopper” in the margin. Really?! I was 19 years old. I had waited tables and done a little temp office work in New York. I laughed out loud when I saw that I had been labeled a job-hopper in my very first grown-up job search.

This is how business weenies think. They don’t think in context. They see a string of short-term jobs on a resume or job application, and they are thrown into fear. They don’t stop and say, “Wait. This applicant is a teenager. Of course she has short-term jobs on her resume.

“Plus, this chickadee just moved to Chicago from New York. She was a full-time student in New York. Maybe we could take a huge business risk and give this girl a $5-an-hour customer service job. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

They took the risk and gave me the job, but millions of job-seekers still run into the same problem that slowed me down while otherwise-intelligent business people deliberated over my worthiness for an entry-level job.

Job-seekers are rejected from good jobs every day because somebody on the other side of the desk sees them as “job-hoppers.”

Humans are creatures of habit. Most of would stay at each job longer than we did, if it were our choice!

Instead of painting someone with the “job-hopper” brush, we could ask a job-seeker why they left each of their past jobs. Often they left because their job was eliminated. How could anyone blame a job-seeker for that? Yet decision-makers do blame job-seekers for their choppy resumes. They glance at a resume and say, “This person has too many jobs in their career history.”

We are entering a new economic era. We are all entrepreneurs now, whether we work for ourselves or for someone else. We have to run our careers like businesses, yet many business people don’t want working people to do that. They want them to do whatever their employer tells them to do, and be quiet and happy and await further instructions.

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