Tuesday, November 14, 2006

They've had HOW many jobs?

train tracks switching

One of the most common holdovers from the work world of yesteryear is that staying in the same job for a long time shows loyalty, and moving from job to job frequently indicates disloyalty, or worse--flakiness.

Well, it's just ain't so anymore. In the mid-70s people spent about eight years at one job. Now it's about four years.

And how many jobs do you think the average American has before retirement? Try seven.

I've heard hiring supervisors bemoan the fact that kids these days just don't stick with a job. And they're right--among 20-34 year olds, the average job tenure is only 2 years. But this isn't necessarily a negative.

I usually ask this question: Would you rather have a stellar employee for 2 years or a nightmare for 10? People these days, particularly the younger demographic, switch jobs a lot for many reasons:

1) Because they can--the unemployment rate is low, and barring some economic disaster this will continue to be the case in many sectors.

2) Because they're looking for a variety of experiences. In some fields (e.g., IT) things change so often that you literally can't get a well rounded resume WITHOUT changes jobs frequently.

3) Because they get bored. Yes, this is a luxury of the current job market, but the reality is it's up to supervisors to keep their staff challenged--and not just younger workers, but everyone. We live in a fast-paced society with tons of information streaming at us constantly. If you don't let people get creative and use their strengths to guide them in new directions, they'll go with someone who will.

Be warned, however: Job switching CAN indicate performance problems, which is why we always do thorough reference checks.

For more related stats, check out the BLS.

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