Illustration: Ashley Siebels
There’s a stereotype that millennials are job hoppers, ready to drop their employer at the drop of a hat when they get bored or unhappy. It’s all part of the unflattering stereotype of selfish millennials being part of the “me me me” generation.
But that narrative doesn’t hold up to reality, according to new numbers from the Pew Research Center.
Millennials aren’t job-hoppers
Looking at U.S. Department of Labor numbers, the Pew Research Center found that millennials are staying in jobs longer than people who are a decade older or more. Comparing millennials in 2016 with Generation X workers in 2000, researchers found that 63.4% of millennials today are staying in their jobs for at least a year, compared to only 59.9% of Gen X workers at the same age.
And millennials have lasting power. When it comes to staying in a job for more than five years, Gen X and millennials are neck and neck at 22%
Why are millennials not changing jobs?
One reason for this is that millennials today have a higher level of education, which has been linked to longer tenures at work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that those who had a high school degree were more likely to stay with an employer for 10 years than those who didn’t have that degree. 46% of millennial women in 2016 had at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 34% of Gen X workers back in 2000.
Staying in a job longer may not always be a good sign, however.
For one thing, millennials may be staying in their jobs because they’re worried it may be hard to find a job elsewhere. Their time in one position could also indicate that there’s not much room to move up into senior positions that are occupied by Gen Xers or Boomers. And another possibility: heavy student-loan payments, which has hit people under 35 harder than any other generation, could be making millennials attached to their paychecks and, as a result, their jobs.
Why is job-hopping so bad, anyway?
Job-hopping has long had a bad rap, with much ink spilled about how terrible it looks to have a series of one-year positions on a resumé. Changing jobs showed flakiness, disloyalty, or other warning signs, experts have said.
But times change. Corporate layoffs and restructurings are common. The 50-year career with a Rolex and a pension at the end is rare and loyalty is less of a factor in many companies. Even baby boomers acknowledged that it’s much harder for young adults to get their careers started than it was for their generation.
The real work to be done is to take the stigma off job-hopping, which is often the best way to get a promotion or a raise. Taking a better opportunity — often the real reason for job changes — is also a good reason to pack up. In 2013, Forbes found that an employee could get up to 20% increase in salary for leaving compared with the 3% average raise an employee can expect to receive.
The truth is that it may take several jobs to get to a good place in a career and know what you want. Millennials have demonstrated they have staying power when they’re in the right place, so when millennials do switch jobs, it’s probably not flakiness. It could be the sign of an important strategic switch.