Critics point to “job-hopping” — a tendency to frequently change jobs — as a sign that the millennial generation is flighty, unable to commit, and self absorbed; all of the stereotypes that we hear in the media.
According to University of Michigan Economist Justin Wolfers, they’re just being smart. NPR’s Planet Money asked a series of economists what they would say if they were giving a commencement address. Here’s an excerpt from Wolfers’ response:
“Approach your career ambitions the same way you approached your romantic ambitions at college. Sure, you’re looking for ‘The One,’ but the only way to find that is by going on a lot of dates. And you should think about your first job as a good first date. Try it out. If you like it, stick around for another year. But if not, ask another employer out. And keep playing the field until you’ve found the job you want to stay with.
This pattern of hopping between jobs while young, before settling down, is in remarkably common. And it makes sense, too. Romantic success never follows from trying to improve your partner; it follows from moving on and finding a better match. The same is true in the world of work.
Indeed, economic research shows that most large pay gains come not from your boss promoting you, but rather from moving to a job that’s a better fit, with a different employer.”
Staying at a job that you’re not happy with is a disservice to yourself, because you’re unlikely to improve all that much at it; and a disservice to the employer, because they have a disengaged employee who knows that they don’t intend to be there for the long-run.
The reason some millennials are hesitant to change jobs is because they’ve already put time in, are worried about losing stored goodwill, or being perceived the wrong way by future employers.
Miami University of Ohio professor Melissa Thomas has a perfect response, saying that millennials need to “understand that sunk costs are sunk; do not be afraid to change direction.”
Once you’ve put time into something, you’re not going to get it back. Letting that enter into your decision-making is a fallacy.
If you can make a compelling case about why you’re leaving somewhere and need a new opportunity, and that you’re confident enough to take the leap, then it’s easier than people think to overcome recruiters’ worries about job hopping.
Employers might be hesitant to hire people if they think they might jump ship shortly after. That’s the wrong way to look at it. As nice as it might be to find the perfect fit the first time around, it’s unlikely. And it’s especially unlikely with recent graduates who don’t have much work experience.
Far better to go through a few jobs or employees to find “the one,” as Wolfers puts it.
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