“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I’ve never understood asking a group of first graders this question- I wouldn’t trust a six year-old to pick my outfit, let alone my future.
Yet, the usual answers pour in, “A doctor!”, “An astronaut!”, “A farmer!”
Suspiciously absent would be the more truthful and yet far less expected, “Oh, y’know, a little of this, a little of that.”
I’ve grappled with this question long after my six year old self yelled out “A Mermaid!” (Boy, was I disappointed.) Since I have a wide range of interests, it took me longer than I care to admit to find out that I wanted to be a writer. And I’m not alone.
Most millennials these days not only job-hopped every two years or so, but if they’re under the age of 32, they’ve switch careers at least four times. That’s four more times than I’ve tried to eat quinoa.
But is this a good or a bad development? Are we millennials indulging in our oft’-debated flightiness, or is pivoting careers every year the new normal?
The truth is, most of our generation don’t end up in the industry they studied. I’d need multiple sets of hands to count the amount of friends who’ve ended up in completely different fields.
English Literature? Marketing.
Computer Science? Well, this one is gold, everyone should just do this one.
In the end, your major in college has very little (or nothing) to do with where you end up. The days of walking out of your (*cough* WAY more affordable *cough*) University and straight into a job for 25 years until you get your frosted retirement cake, are over.
Add on top of that the fact that the longer you’re unemployed the harder it is for you to be placed, and suddenly job hopping seems like a far more attractive prospect. Much like in the dating scene, you’re at your most desirable when you’re already taken.
What was once seen as a sign of a troubled employee pad-hopping because of incompetence, is now something that over 42 percent of the millennial workforce engages in. The issue is whether or not employers, ever wary of turnover, still perceive it as an indicator of disloyalty.
In fact, it's indicative of another issue entirely.
Employee engagement of millennials is the worst of any age bracket, the shortest explanation being that what employers offer is not what young professionals feel will benefit them. Before you cry “Selfish! Lazy! Skinny jeans!” Let me throw down some knowledge:
According to a Quantum Workplace survey, the number one concern for millennials in the workplace is professional development, even before money. That means our priority is learning more, adding to our skills, and gaining more responsibility so we can move upwards.
However, career development as a practice no longer seems to be a priority among employers, which in turn leads to more job hopping.
See where I’m going with this, people? It’s a circle, and yes it can be vicious.
“Young talent wants the opportunity to learn from someone with expertise; they want that on-the-ground experience to happen today, not tomorrow–and certainly not in five years.”—Adam Smiley Poswolsky
With such a large amount of millennial workers bouncing between opportunities, you would think the stigma of a diversified resume would have faded by now. Unfortunately, many companies that are hiring still view job hopping as either unreliable or as a full-blown liability.
The onus is on the employer (and to a slightly lesser degree, the employees) to negotiate better incentives for long-term employment.
So how can millennials approach the job market when their resume looks like they pointed at the jobs board on Indeed and said “I’ll have one of everything,”? And employers, what can you do to make retain millennials and make them want to stay?
Millennials, Know Your Professional Story
No matter what kind of work you do, when you walk through a company's doors, you better know your career's story.
Take the time to go over your resume through the lens of a story-teller. How would you explain your working journey?
Job hopping can seem disjointed, but there is most assuredly a through-line. Perhaps your last job had you dabbling in social media and it awakened your passion for digital outreach, which led to your current position at a digital marketing firm, where you hope to learn even more.
Even something as seemingly divergent as going from bartending to accounting can find interests in common, such as being responsible for inventory.
Create a relationship between every job you've had, and explain how every opportunity naturally led to another.
Employers, Invest Your Time and Interest
Engaging a millennial workforce doesn't mean you have to increase everyone's salary exponentially (although we wouldn't say no to that). Oftentimes investing in an employee's experience at work can leave them with a greater sense of purpose.
As CEO Larry Kim of Mobile Monkey puts it:
“Culture and values matter to Millennials. Get them to buy into your company’s purpose and you’ll find that some of them are willing to work for less.”
This means implementing some change in how you develop your team. Something as simple as starting a ‘Lunch & Learn' once a week and invite everyone to a conference room where you watch a class, webinar, or presentation. This helps millennial employees understand the business better and acquire new skills.
It's also very advantageous to fully understand each individual's goals, that way when a project presents itself you can give them an opportunity to take on a new challenge. This helps employees feel that they're being given a chance to start moving up the corporate ladder, and that you trust their work ethic.
This increases their sense of purpose and can can stem the flow of employees jumping ship. Invest in your workplace relationships in a genuine way, and millennials will build your business for you.
In the end, to instill a sense of loyalty you have to extend it first, and making an environment where you value your direct reports past what they can provide for you is a great place to start.