There was a time – 15 to 20 to 40 years ago – when it was common for an average American worker to be employed by the same company for 30 years or more. Essentially, one’s entire career was often spent contributing to one firm.
Now, if an employee stays with a company for more than five years, they might be considered a veteran. Sometimes, after five years, even the company’s own founder is ready to move on. Why is this? As an institution that enables people not only to switch jobs but to switch entire careers, we’re curious about the factors and attitudes that have led to this change.
A Generation of Job Hoppers
According to a 2012 PayScale report, the median tenure for a millennial employee was just two years, compared to seven years for a baby boomer. And a 2013 survey by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com, a career networking site, found 30 percent of companies lose 15 percent or more of their millennial workers within a year.
“People are no longer willing to commit to jobs where they are bored and miserable,” said J.M. Auron, owner of Quantum Tech Resumes, who has advised technology professionals on their careers for more than a decade.
He even made a connection to the steady increase in divorce rate, arguing that people are also increasingly unwilling to stay in unfulfilling relationships.
Auron also says that people’s motivations no longer center around money. He said that his clients want jobs that are interesting and that challenge them.
Sara Menke, founder of San Francisco-based Premier Staffing, a recruiting firm, echoed this, saying that stability is not the most important thing for most of her millennial clients, who work in a variety of industries.
“People are committed to making a difference and care about their quality of life and work-life balance,” she said.
She also said that years ago people didn’t have the access to improving their skills, so they would often stay in the same place because their skill set limited them.
A New Career Mentality
Ashley Stahl, a career coach who focuses on helping people in their 20s and 30s find meaningful work, believes that there are two key reasons for the shift away from employees staying with a single company for a long time. The first is education. With a massive increase in people with bachelor degrees and alternative post-collegiate education, came an increase in confidence and the mentality that “no job is too big for me.”
Along with a college degree came a lot of college debt. Stahl said that the average college graduate’s college debt is $30,000, and she says that many switch jobs based on financial needs. The second major contributing factor to rapid job switching, Stahl says, is the Great Recession, particularly for millennials.
“Millennials saw their parents getting laid off and it changed their concept of loyalty,” she said. “They realized that loyalty had to be to oneself and not to one’s employer.”
Finally, Stahl believes that for young women, a renewed feminist movement (with role models like Hillary Clinton and Facebook COO, Cheryl Sandberg) led college-educated women to want to make more money before having children, hence accelerating the rate of moving from one company to another.
Employers Play a Part
The fact that employees are staying at companies for less time isn’t solely a result of changing employee attitudes. Employers are also part of the equation, according to Maggie Mistal, a veteran career coach who hosts the popular podcast “Making a Living with Maggie.”
She cites recent research showing that many employers, particularly in the technology sector, think that if an employee has stayed with the company for more than three to five years, it means that the employee’s skills are not up to date. Furthermore, Mistal said that some employers believe that if an employee hasn’t been poached by a competitor, then that person probably isn’t very innovative.
From the employee side, Mistal says that raises are not keeping up to speed with the increases in the cost of living.
“Employers have to pay market rate when they hire you, but not while they have you,” Mistal said. “So sometimes the only way get a market rate-paying job is to move to another company.”
Mistal also said that she’s seeing a lot of “boomerangs,” or employees who are hired by a former boss or colleague to work together again, just at a different company. While this concept is nothing new, she said there’s an increase in this happening.
Acknowledging that people enjoy working with people they like, Mistal said that networks and teams are as important as ever.
“People are still building networks that could last for 30 years or more, just not at the same company,” she said. “Now there’s much more loyalty to the individual, rather than the company.”
Make a career switch work for you with the proper skills and planning. GA can help.