8 unusual traits of people who constantly switch professions, according to psychology

Have you got workplace wanderlust?

Instead of a strong desire to travel the world, you may often get itchy feet when it comes to your job.

That’s not the same as making strategic moves to climb the ladder or deciding to go a different direction altogether to explore untapped talents and desires. 

This is something else.

Instead, you frequently get the urge to escape the grind and so constantly switch professions in search of something that you can’t seem to find.

It can be okay to change your mind about what you want to do.

But when we’re quitting just for the sake of quitting, it may be time to delve deeper into our motivations.

For both good and bad, people who constantly swap jobs have some slightly unusual traits compared to others.

Here’s what psychology says about these types…

1) They embrace change

Let’s start on a positive note. 

An openness to experience has been noted as one of the more positive traits of those who jump around in their careers.

Life is full of uncertainty and it shows flexibility, adaptability, self-reliance, and resilience when someone embraces that.

These are really useful life skills.

A lot of people get stuck in life (and careers) because of the fact they are too fearful to try out something new.

As professor of applied neuroscience and organizational behavior, Justin James Kennedy, explains:

“Embracing change fuels growth, enabling self-discovery in career shifts and challenges…Unveiling the intricacies of change is paramount to unlocking one’s genuine potential. Within the depths of our minds lies a captivating revelation: Our brains naturally gravitate toward the familiar, seeking efficient shortcuts for navigating the world. However, consider this: Our cognitive shortcuts, deeply ingrained, can stifle personal growth and constrain opportunities.”

It is rare to find people who, far from shying away from change, actively seek it out.

2) They can be impulsive

Here’s where an openness to change can step into something else entirely:

When it’s ill-thought-out and potentially reckless. Because a certain amount of safety also gives us a sense of security in life.

The stability of paying your bills and putting a roof over your head is one that most people want.

But when you have an impulsive character, you may rush into things without fully considering the consequences.

Impulsivity can come from a lack of emotional stability.

When we don’t know how to regulate emotions, we’re more likely to be led by them in the heat of the moment without thinking about the long-term implications.

Psychologists point to the fact that certain types of impulsive risk-taking are associated with emotional immaturity.

3) They’re easily bored

Some may call them fickle, but when we’re understimulated we quickly become apathetic.

Research has highlighted how tasks that are repetitive, monotonous, uninteresting, and lack the complexity to give enough stimulation can create boredom in us.

Feeling overworked is stressful and isn’t good for our health. Yet the study also found that being underworked causes boredom.

When we find ourselves feeling this way, whether in our work or personal lives, it’s often because some vital ingredients are missing.

Particularly, we may feel like we are longing for greater purpose and autonomy in what we do — both of which are intrinsic motivations.

Without these in place to drive us forward, we may well grind to a halt from boredom.

4) They may have a steadfast growth mindset or a stubbornly fixed one

Sorry to sound so vague, but here’s why it could be one of the two:

It all depends on the reasons for frequently switching jobs.

Because it can be a sign of a willingness to grow or an avoidance of difficulty.

A growth mindset keeps us humble in approaching new things and encourages us to remain open to learning. This can account for a certain amount of intentional job hopping in life.

But it all comes back to just how prolific that behavior is as well as what triggers your desire to move on again.

It’s more indicative of a fixed mindset if your decision to go walkabout coincides with workplace challenges.

Because an inability to stick at anything in life points to a problem with the next thing on our list.

5) They could have some commitment issues

Whether it’s the case or not, a pattern of switching professions can make you look like a commitment phobe to employers.

As Amy Zimmerman, the chief people officer of Relay Payments puts it:

“It sends quite a few negative signals. Number one, you lack commitment. Number two, you lack perseverance. It tells me that if the going gets tough, you get going.”

According to psychology, all sorts of experiences and personal qualities can make us shy away from being able to stick around.

It may be an avoidant attachment style, personality disorder, low self-esteem, or even a past trauma.

Whatever the reasons, studies that looked at the personality types of people who frequently switch professions have found a lack of conscientiousness in them.

6) They’re more likely to be extroverts

This one likely links back to the fact that psychology shows introverts are more risk-averse than extroverts.

Studies have also found that introverts tend to be more humble than extroverts.

And the quality of humility was another one that has been negatively associated with job-quitting.

Extroverts likely feel less fearful of putting themselves out there.

They may also have better social skills to help them navigate many different types of jobs, thanks to their confident and personable character.

7) They may have more psychopathic tendencies

Before your head starts to spin, I’ll be quick to reassure you that psychopathic isn’t the same thing as psychotic.

As defined by psychologists studying the condition:

“Psychopathy is a disorder characterized in part by shallow emotional responses, lack of empathy, impulsivity, and an increased likelihood for antisocial behavior.”

Okay, so clearly, that still doesn’t sound so great.

Psychologists believe that narcissists and people with psychopathic traits are some of the types of personalities who may be more inclined to constantly switch professions.

In particular, research has found that employees scoring high on narcissism are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs. It’s also been suggested they are more likely to quit for ego satisfaction.

8) They’re not afraid to live their life for themselves

Studies show that those who flit from job to job also score low on agreeableness.

I won’t sugar coat it, psychologists describe this personality trait as how kind, sympathetic, cooperative, warm, honest, and considerate we appear to others.

But hold on, that doesn’t necessarily make you a self-centered person.

Because when you think about it, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the people who aren’t afraid to quit are less concerned by what others think of them.

A bit of a selfish approach allows us to consider what’s best for us rather than get tempted into people-pleasing.

There are likely many people who feel trapped in work they hate but have ended up there trying to keep others happy.

It turns out, this can end up being one of our biggest regrets later in life.

Just how constant your career change is reveals a lot

Whether you’re fickle or free-spirited, up for a greater challenge or simply running from it will likely depend on your own personal motivations for frequently switching professions.

Only you will know the truth about your own circumstances.

As we’ve seen, having the guts to go after greater happiness in your career takes courage.

Yet an inability to ever feel contentment, no matter what you do, may highlight some deeper issues on finding life satisfaction that need addressing.

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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