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The Myth of the Job Hopping Millennial

Once upon a time, staying in a job for less than a year or two carried a huge stigma. It raised a red flag to potential employers about your seriousness, reliability, ability to work with a team and loyalty. Today, that logic is outdated. Switching jobs every few years is the norm, and it’s not just Millennials that are doing it. In fact, job hopping has become widely accepted. Fast Company recommends people switch jobs every three years for the rest of their lives. Forbes says people who stay with one employer longer than two years on average will make less over their lifetime. Here’s why the myth of the job-hopping Millennial is just that: a myth.

Other generations job hop

In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the findings from its National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 2015. They found that people born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957 – 1964) held 11.7 jobs from age 18 to age 48. Half of those jobs were held from ages 18 to 24. That averages out to a new job every year. The average job duration tended to get longer the older a worker was when starting a job.

Baby Boomer’s aren’t the only ones. A study from Pew Research found that Gen Xers were even more likely to job hop when they were 18 to 24.

People job hop less as they age

Why do young people job hop and older people tend to stay put longer? Much of it has to do not with age, but with stage of life. Young people without mortgages and families are not as concerned with stability. Once employees reach a certain stage in their professional lives, stability and flexibility matter more than a bump in pay or a bigger title.

So why do we hear so much from employers about job hopping Millennials? For one thing, there are a lot of them, and they’re in high demand. Baby Boomers are retiring from the workforce at a rate of about 10,000 a day, and there aren’t enough Gen Xers to replace them. This means that Millennials have more opportunity to jump ship to follow more money, greater job flexibility, more responsibility and bigger titles at a younger age than previous generations enjoyed.

Job hopping says more about employers than employees

A wide range of industries face a predicted 15 years of labor shortages. Yet, the Society of Human Resource Management’s Aging Workforce Initiative found that less than one-third of organizations are making changes to their management/policy practices, retention practices or recruiting practices to address the shortage.

Employees of all ages have a lot of opportunities right now. If you’re not convinced, ask your accounting and finance employees how many times that a recruiter has reached out to them on LinkedIn in the past year. They’ve likely lost count, but employers are still holding back pay raises. The Atlantic reports that, according to ADP Research Institute, employees who stay with their employer see average pay increases of 3.9 percent. They also reported that those who switch jobs are doing much better, averaging a 4.5 percent pay increase, although some savvy job hoppers are seeing much bigger raises.

In short, young workers believe that loyalty is a two-way street. And if their employer is not going to take care of them, they’ll follow the opportunity. That’s a smart move no matter what year you were born.

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Janet Berry-Johnson

Janet Berry-Johnson is a CPA and a freelance writer with a background in accounting and insurance. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, Guyvorce, Magnify Money, Freshbooks, Intuit's Firm of the Future, Discover Student Loans, and Chase News & Stories. Janet lives in Arizona with her husband and son and their rescue dog, Dexter.