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Hello, I Must Be Going: Job Hoppers Have No Time for a Gold Watch

[As published on Recruiter.com]

Your parents and grandparents likely had only a few jobs before settling in with one company until retirement. For you, that’s probably not the case.

According to a PwC report, millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – comprise a quarter of the workforce. They are the largest generation since the soon-to-retire baby boomers, and they have very different goals from previous generations.

For example, money is not their highest priority.

(“Wha-what?” you say. “Heresy! These young’uns!”)

More important to millennials is that they have a true work/life balance; that they be inspired to grow personally and professionally; that they be productive, but not tied to the office for long hours; and that they feel a sense of purpose and are contributing to solutions instead of acting as small cogs in the larger machine.

These aspirational goals, though noble, are not the same as those of millennials’ parents and grandparents, who wanted the money, were okay working for “The Man,” and were willing (and expected) to stay as late as it took to get things done.

According to the PwC report, 38 percent of millennials who are currently working said they were actively looking for a different role, and 43 percent said they were open to offers. Only 18 percent expect to stay with their current employer for the long term.

Not long ago, job hopping was a bad thing, but the times, they are a-changin’. Wall Street Journal article cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 findings that workers aged 25-34 averaged three years at their employers, compared to 5.5 years for all employees over 25.

Regarding job hopping, the average hiring manager used to think, “What’s wrong with this person who can’t keep a job? How quickly will they leave me? A chronic short-termer will likely use me as a stepping stone, so is it worth taking that risk to hire them? If this person burns me, will the next one of their contemporaries be any better?”

Why are younger workers leaving their jobs sooner? Because they can. Hiring managers in technology, finance, consumer/retail, business services, and healthcare are becoming more accepting – or more desperate – in order to fill critical roles. Competing for the best people is nothing new, but today’s employers need to make compromises due to outsize demands and a smaller supply of qualified workers.

This new paradigm has further implications for the future. How compatible will these young job hoppers be with coworkers of different generations? How will they behave as managers later in their careers? Will they accept, support, and encourage short-termers, or will they revert to old-school mindsets of wanting long-term, consistent teams? Will they hop less, wanting more financial stability as retirement gets closer?

I’ve hired several dozens of people during my managerial career and recommend that employees stay in a job for at least three years. The company has gone to considerable expense to search for you, hire, and train you. It takes at least one year to learn the season/cycles before repeating them. Fewer than 36 months probably isn’t enough for you to get acclimated, learn your job, make contributions, prove yourself, and master it before saying see ya later.

Groucho Marx, as Capt. Spaulding, told his party guests in Animal Crackers, “Hello, I must be going, I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going. I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going.”

That was long before the age of millennials.

Marx proclaimed to his gathering, “I’ll stay a week or two, I’ll stay the summer through, but I am telling you, I must be going.”

Do what’s best for you, but before jumping ship, consider how your current employer might speak about you later and how your new employer might (skeptically) view your commitment.

Be prepared to discuss what loyalty means to you. Give a lot of thought to that classic question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Ferris Kaplan is founder of Best of You Resumes.

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