Confessions of a Gen Y Job Hopper

Marla - The Safari Driver

My first job out of college –
A Safari Driver at Disney World

I hear people say all the time that young professionals only plan to stay in a job for two to three years (Forbes). I’ve even heard HR reps say that Gen Y employees will have seven different careers before they’re 30. And that’s pretty accurate.

Almost all of the young professionals I know switched jobs quite a bit at the beginning of their careers, myself included.

Six months ago, while talking with a friend at lunch, I told him I’d been in my current job for two years.

“Oh,” he said, “So it’s time to get a new job.”

I thought that was the silliest statement I’d ever heard!

But 6 months later, it turned out he was right…

I don’t deny that Millennials will change jobs every two to three years. What I’m not sure I agree with, however, is this assumption that there is a premeditated intentionality behind it every time. These folks make it sound like young professionals today are walking into a job knowing that they will intentionally leave in about 2 years. I don’t think that’s always the case…

So, as a self confessed “Gen Y Job Hopper,” I thought I’d give you a little insight into what made me hop between 4 jobs in only 4 years.

1) The Internship or Contract Position:

The first few jobs I had, though I loved them, were all contract or internship positions. When I got the jobs, I was thankful for a full-time position, but I knew there was an end date. Nothing inspires people to move on faster than the existence of an end date. So if a Gen Y employee leaves a contract position after 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years, can you blame them? I think a lot of us would do the same thing…

2) The “This is not the job I wanted, but it’s a job” scenario:

My first job out of college was driving Safari Trucks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. I got to drive a truck in circles all day long, and talk to a captive audience of 36 people about all different types of animals. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a fun job! It just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life, or more than 6 months… This is another case where someone might have an end date in mind.

3) The “I’m bored and not learning any more” scenario

Gen Y as a group is very curious. We’ve grown up multitasking (even if we sometimes do it poorly) and live in a digital society that’s constantly evolving. We are always learning new ways of doing things, and we thrive on it. We’re not quite at the point in our career where we want to be comfortable (though depending on life stage – married with kids – we may opt for comfort at work since we’re in turmoil at home). We want to learn more about the company and how it works. If we’re not challenged, we will likely learn all we can and then move on. That is why rotational programs have been a successful tactic for attracting and retaining Gen Y (Forbes). But this one is not premeditated. Sometimes it takes us a year and sometimes it takes us four to get comfortable. But when we’re comfortable and other opportunities are out there, we’ll probably move…

4) The Great Corporate Re-Org

This is what made me leave my last job. I loved what I was doing and who I was working with. I was responsible for strategy creation (the exciting part of my job) and creative execution of said strategy. I was one of few who got to stay in my previous role after the reorganization, but they had cut my job in half. They kept me doing creative execution and gave the strategy part to someone else. Faced with a lack of a good challenge, I found myself a new position in the company. Gen Y is not likely to let others dictate their career path, and if they don’t like where it’s going, they’ll move! It’s that simple. I would have been happy in my previous role for quite some time, but when my role changed without my consent, I took back control of my career by finding a new challenge. This wasn’t a planned change, merely a reactionary one.

These are just a few reasons that Gen Y employees will leave their current roles, but these are ones I know to be true from personal experience. It’s not that we’re flighty, and it’s not that we have commitment issues. We just know what we want, and if we don’t find it, we’ll keep looking for it.

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4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Gen Y Job Hopper

  1. There is definitely a trend of 20-somethings changing jobs fairly regularly. I personally started at my job, knowing I wouldn’t be there more than three years primarily due to its geographic location. It’s hard to be so far from family, but I moved for the opportunity. I think your 20’s are the time to explore a lot of jobs. There are so many opportunities. Why choose one path right out of college?

    • I’m so glad you mentioned geography Gabbi! That’s a huge reason too. I didn’t mention it because I personally was excited when I moved out of state for my first job, but my husband is a teacher, and he has MANY friends who had to leave their home towns to find employment (many of whom were not excited about the prospect). And that’s the beauty of your first few jobs; it’s very easy to move around and explore new things without slowing your career down.

  2. Along the lines of being curious, I think there are more jobs out there than people can possibly know about when just getting started. Gen Y is probably training for jobs that don’t even exist yet too! It natural to look around and evolve with an organization. I love that your next role is at the same company. It might technically be a new job, but it means that the org values your skills, and you’ll bring all sorts of past knowledge to your new role as you’re able to take on the next challenge. Enjoy!

    • It’s funny you mention that Robin. My new role is actually one that didn’t exist in the company 1 year ago. I would say that can play a very strong factor in job hopping. Combine that with the fact that some of us just chose a major so that we could graduate from college in 4 years, and you’ve got a whole generation of very educated people who are still trying to “find” themselves. Love your perspective!

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