I’m a millennial who’s held four different jobs over the past two years.
This begs the question, “Am I a cliché?”
Gallup called millennials the “job-hopping generation” in a 2016 study.
An April NBC news article said: “Right now, job-hopping is on the rise because of the good economy and millennials who’ve grown up suspecting that there’s no such thing as loyalty from employers anymore.”
And a 2016 CNN Money article had the headline: “The new normal: 4 jobs changes by the time you’re 32.”
BTW, I’m 34.
Throughout my job-hopping years, I’ve been an event organizer for/owner of a nightclub, a marketing director for a hip startup, a journalist for a 103-year-old architecture firm, and now a sales manager for an eco-friendly sustainability company.
When I announced my most recent career switch on Facebook, I wrote, “Like a flakey millennial in continual pursuit of purpose, I’ve switched careers…again.”
One friend resonated with my sentiment by commenting, “Nail on the head lol.”
In my naive narrative of the generation that I’m a part of, I assumed that millennials do in fact quit their jobs more often than previous generations, and that we do it because we’re driven to find purpose and passion in our work. Which means I once believed the media headline hype, too.
But in the midst of researching this column in an attempt to reverse engineer my assumptions, I discovered that the numbers say something different, and that I was projecting my own ego onto a whole generation.
A number of studies do in fact show that millennials are job-hopping quite often. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2014 showed that the typical worker, aged 20-24 at the time, had been in their position for 16 months, as opposed to the five-and-a-half-year median tenure for those aged 25 and older. A widely referenced 2013 study from the consulting firm Millennial Branding said that 60 percent of millennials leave their companies within three years.
While this all may be true, the problem is how we’re looking at the data.
Consider this: In a FiveThirtyEight article from 2015, Ben Casselman wrote, “Numbers on job tenure for Americans in their 20s were almost exactly the same in the 1980s as they are today.” And, according to a 2017 Pew Research study, millennials are sticking with their jobs slightly longer than Gen Xers were in 2000.
What’s the point? The flakiness of millennials is nothing new. It’s not that millennials quit their jobs more than other generations—young people do.
And while job hopping is simply a symptom of being young and trying to find your place in the world, according to that same FiveThirtyEight article, it also has the benefit of driving up wages. Which is a great thing considering the wage stagnation that’s stemmed from the
In other words, as much as I want to think I’m part of a “special generation,” or as much as millennial stereotypes want to perpetuate the myth that my generation is disloyal and complacent, it turns out we have much more in common with Gen X and baby boomers than most might think. (But don’t tell them that.)
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This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Encounter.