A college career services expert explains why 20-somethings job-hop
Think millennials in your workplace are ready and willing to jump ship as soon as the going gets tough? Think again.
Even though they are often labeled as “job-hoppers,” 80% of millennials believe they’ll work for four or fewer companies in their lifetime, according to a study by Bentley University.
That’s not to say that millennials aren’t moving around, because they are, but it might not be for the reasons you may think.
Millennials are ambitious and think strategically about their next career move. They want to get there, and despite what you may think, they do know they need to put in the work.
The issue, if you want to call it that, is how clearly they focus on that path. They see the opportunities for advancement and want to work toward them. But if they don’t see the opportunity, they are not afraid to move on.
As a career services professional who speaks with thousands of millennials, I often serve as a trusted advisor to help them navigate these transitions and have witnessed firsthand how driven they are. They are not making lateral moves or moves out of boredom. They move to grow.
I often reference research by Dr. Meg Jay, who has written extensively about people in their twenties and what she calls “The Defining Decade.” She discusses how the twenties are a pivotal time in brain development and a key time to develop one’s identity capital.
One of my favorite quotes from her TED Talk, “Why 30 is not the New 20,” is when she tells a 20-something to “forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. By ‘get identity capital,’ I mean do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next.”
Identity capital is a culmination of all of your experiences, from school and work, as well as both professional and personal relationships. According to Dr. Jay, and I wholeheartedly concur, a person should spend his or her 20s building up identity capital as well as developing professional networks outside of just “people you know.”
When it comes to millennials who are considering changing jobs, I often ask if they are in a situation where they are wasting their time, or are they in a situation where they are building identity capital and being impatient. When you frame it like that, you can help them see if there truly is value in where they are and why it may be worth staying, or if it really is time to move on.
Workplaces, in turn, need to ensure that they are providing that opportunity to gain identity capital in order to retain the millennial workforce. As we’ve heard time and again, the power right now is in the hands of the job seeker.
Many corporations are so desperate for talent, millennials and others have a choice of where they want to land next, particularly those who have already had other jobs and tested their talent.
You have to provide both the capital and the carrot.
Companies that want to attract and keep millennial talent need to ask themselves:
- Does your company have leadership development programs?
- Is there clear room for growth?
- Is there flexibility and work/life balance?
- Is what you offer, in combination with compensation, enough? In a generation burdened with student loans, money and financial stability are important to this generation and not just for buying the latest tech gadget.We need to stop blaming millennials for being “job-hoppers” and recognize what is really driving them to move — an increased level of ambition and confidence. Millennials’ personalities are not going to change, so the onus lies with employers who need to focus more on giving them a reason to stay and fulfill that ambition.
Susan Brennan is the associate vice president of university career services at Bentley University.