4 Reasons Why Generation Y Job Hops

This post isn’t justifying why you should job hop. Instead the intent is to explore some reasons why Generation Y bounces from job to job early in their career.

1.) Gen Y is inherently entitled.

If you’re in the tiny subset of rockstars in our little social media bubble, chances are you’re doing what you can to separate yourself from your peers. I know you are tired of hearing it, but you shouldn’t care because this doesn’t apply to most of you.

The truth is our generation IS totally entitled. People ask me all the time to connect them with X or give them a recommendation IF the salary is good. I have an idea. Get A job first, and then seek out that perfect fit with the fat paycheck and comfy benefits. Unless Mommy and Daddy are super rich this is the approach you should try.

Part of being a young worker, particularly in this economy, is grinding it out for a bit. You’ll be glad you did one day.

2.) Gen Y genuinely does want to make an impact, be challenged, etc.

Maybe it’s the entitlement talking, but Millennials really do yearn to make a difference. If their current employer is not providing this they’ll look to jump ship.

This young generation of workers are very educated and they want the chance to show what they can do. Running copies, fetching coffee and only doing grunt work that adds little to no value to the company is one of the fastest ways to frustrate a hungry young worker.

If you want to keep someone, give them work that matters.

3.) Companies are significantly less loyal than they used to be.

Too many Gen Y employees watched their parents get canned after years of loyal service to the same company. We’re witnessing big companies let great people go just because they can get cheaper labor to do work that is “good enough.” If they don’t take good care of employees after a decent amount of time (a year perhaps?), they SHOULD seek to hop around a bit.

If you work your tail off for a year, teach yourself lots of new things, assume more responsibility and bring in new business you would like to think your superiors would acknowledge that. And yes, that’s what you’re supposed to do, but is a pat on the back too much to ask? A little extra flexibility? A small bonus?

Positive reinforcement does wonders for loyalty.

4.) Younger employees don’t know what they want or how to get it.

I think this might be the most common of the four reasons. Younger employees aren’t yet seasoned at the job search/interview experience, nor do they really know what they want to do often times. They often get in situations that are terrible fits because A.) they didn’t get a good sense of the culture/work, etc. or B.) they were terrified of this economy and took a job to pay the bills while they found the ideal fit.

I see it happen everyday. I get e-mails about it from people who’ve fallen into the trap. They go, they interview, they didn’t ask the right questions. They got excited because the company wanted them, and they forgot to ask themselves if they wanted the company. (Which doesn’t always matter. See #1)

This invariably leads to, “Hey I better take this job even though it’s not a good fit, because it will pay the bills until I find something that IS a good fit.” And I’m not sure there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. Who knows? It could turn out to be a great fit. You could make it a great fit.

I always thought employers would scoff at a job hopper, but I’ve actually found the opposite to be true with respect to young workers. Often times, a good hiring manager/HR person understands, and even experienced a similar path themselves.

What do you think? Are these valid reasons for the Generation Y job hopping epidemic? What are other reasons you’ve switched jobs?

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  • Brittany L.

    Great post, Ryan! I think you hit the nail on the head that a lot of young workers struggle to find the balance between ‘putting in their dues’ in less than desirable job situations (reason #1) and actually trying to get what they want (reason #4).

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    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    I definitely think you should put in your dues, but I think that’s a lot more appropriate for a solid job that just isn’t a great fit for YOU. I don’t think you should have to work X amount of time doing something you hate, comprising your values, etc. just so that you’re not perceived as entitled.

    After 4-6 months you usually know if it’s a good fit or not. If you’re still young and it’s one of your first stops I don’t think there’s any harm in dipping your toe into other waters. What I lose patience with is people who turn down $40K jobs straight out of college because they deserve $60K in their minds. The real world doesn’t really work like that. Not in this economy anyway.

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  • Yes, we are entitled, but our parents are to blame for that. Think back to the “Baby on Board” stickers Mom and Dad had on the minivan when we were kids. We were SO special that they felt the need to tell the world just how special we were and that everyone should be careful because there was a VERY SPECIAL baby on board.

    Go through your attic. How many 17th place trophies do you have? Remember back to Field Day in middle school, where EVERYONE got one of those fancy blue ribbons simply for trying?

    We’ve been rewarded for effort instead of results since a very, very early age. Yes, we are entitled, but it’s a product of generations who came before us.

    The key for employers isn’t to tell us that we aren’t special, but rather to tell us that we ARE special, and because of that, we’re expected to do VERY SPECIAL things on the job. It’s all about embracing generational traits and capitalizing on them, rather than resisting and bitching.

    Great post, Ryan.
    .-= Matt Cheuvront´s last blog ..Friday Quick Hits- Learn Something New Every Day =-.

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    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    This got answered by a handful of others below so I won’t spend an elaborate amount of time here other than to echo what others have said. I don’t think we can blame our parents, especially now that many of us are in our mid-20s and fully capable of making our own decisions.

    I guess I was fortunate my parents weren’t really like that, and from a young age neither was I. I told my dad I wasn’t playing T-ball if they didn’t keep score when I was 6.

    All that said, I think this is a great caveat you included: “The key for employers isn’t to tell us that we aren’t special, but rather to tell us that we ARE special, and because of that, we’re expected to do VERY SPECIAL things on the job. It’s all about embracing generational traits and capitalizing on them, rather than resisting and bitching.”

    Do they have to tell us we’re special? Absolutely not. But if they do and raise the expectations as a result, I suspect they’ll get better results. Thanks for weighing in Matt.

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  • Good post! If you know a company isn’t a good fit for you – for whatever reason … what do you recommend is an appropriate time to stay put so as not to affect your future job searching negatively? I am in a situation where I enjoy my job duties, I’ve learned a ton in 3 years and have been given more responsibility. However, I don’t truly feel like my employer is a good fit for me in the long run. Socially, and culturally.

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    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    @Barbie – Thanks for stopping by and participating in the discussion. I’m hesitant to put a set amount of time someone must endure before jumping ship because I think every situation is different. In your case, I’d say that 3 years is more than enough time to justify looking elsewhere.

    I’d tell people in most situations to try and give it a year. Really get in the trenches and try to make the most of it. Sometimes you can maneuver your way into a similar role that’s a better fit or you can begin to shape your job in a way that is conducive to showcasing your strengths.

    There’s exceptions to every rule though, and if a company wants you to sacrifice your integrity or compromise your values I’d be honest and let them know first, but I don’t think 3 months is unreasonable to start shopping yourself.

    I think the most important thing is to not develop a reputation for hopping from one job to the next or you’ll fall into the trap that David talks about below.

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  • This is a great post; however, I think #1 is making a sweeping generalization that isn’t necessarily true. There are definitely people who are entitled and not willing to work hard to move up, but I think companies have moved in a similar direction. Look at all the unpaid internships out there and ones that require previous experience above that! Companies need to offer a little wiggle room to allow new grads to get their foot in the door and have a chance to work hard.

    As someone who is currently switching jobs, I’d have to say that #2 and #3 are hugely important factors, as they SHOULD be. And these don’t just apply to Gen Y. Making a difference and being able to earn some sense of loyalty are things that are important to many age groups.

    In addressing #3 specifically, I think this is so true. Times are changing and loyalty in the workforce is not rewarded the same way it once was, by both employers and employees. We have embarked on a “me, me, me” journey where employers are panning out jobs to the cheapest labor and workers are joining teams that offer the best benefits, flexibility and pay. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so. There are pros and cons but overall, it’s like piecing together a puzzle. If it’s a right fit for both worker and employer, then let the relationship work as long as it’s able to. Once one side is no longer happy, it’s time to move on. We are in such a fast-paced and open society where people’s (and business’) needs are constantly changing. Having people and companies that are willing to adapt to this ever-changing universe is an asset.

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    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    @Ashley – Thanks for the thorough comment and articulate thoughts. I’ll say that I agree with respect to the sweeping generalization, but I will say that I did preface it wasn’t applicable to everyone and I do think if it’s being said enough times there’s some truth to it (see: stereotypes).

    Don’t get me started on unpaid internships. I think they perpetuate the privileged getting more experience and better jobs, but I don’t write 600 words on that tonight. 🙂

    I agree that in an ideal situation it should be a “right” fit for both parties, but in reality due to the lack of jobs out there right now I think there’s a lot of talented people that will jam a square peg into a round hole if they think that it can pay the bills. It’ll be interesting to see how many people immediately start jumping ship if we ever come back out of this dip.

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  • Jennifer

    Great blog post, Ryan. I agree with several of your points, but I think I have to disagree with your perception that Millennials are entitled. As a fellow Millennial, I think that our drive and our need for achievement is sometimes mistaken for entitlement. (Granted, there are those select few who seem to perpetuate the stereotype…)

    Also, think about the school environments we grew up in. For us, high school and college were very competitive so Millennials think it has to be that way in the work force too. I think that also gets mistaken for entitlement.

    And about your comment on salary, our generation has more student loan debt than any other generation in history. Salary IS important because we not only have to make a living, but also pay down thousands (if not tens of thousands of dollars) in debt. Just a few thoughts!

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    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    @Jennifer – Fair points on all accounts. I’d argue that you’re probably a talented person who has surrounded herself with other talented people and that you’re mistaking your peers with the collective group of Millennials, most of which seem pretty entitled to me.

    Now, that’s certainly an unfair judgment since I don’t know you (or your peers), but in my experience all these graduates get out and want 50K paying jobs, and in this economy they’re not out there for everyone.

    In my graduating class (Masters in Marketing from Texas A&M) the year before the bottom fell out the starting salary was $62K. The year after, there were 6-8 of the 17 grads searching for jobs and 3-4 others that just took what they could get. The average salary was probably $62K if you counted this guy.

    I’m very fortunate that I’ve already paid off my student loans, but I realize this is a burden for many people. I also realize most people don’t need near as much money as they think they do.

    But again, I think you have some very salient points that provide some good discussion fodder from a different (and valuable) vantage point.

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  • Christina

    I think these are excellent observations. The only criticism I have is that in Reason #1, you advise that Gen Y “get A job first” instead of waiting for the perfect fit, but then in Reason #4, you mention that Gen Y sometimes “forgot to ask themselves if they wanted the company.” That seems somewhat contradictory – telling them to quit waiting for the perfect fit, but then again to not jump on a job opportunity that presents itself.

    I think this relates directly to a Reason #5: Gen Y has little experience with problem solving. You’re last few paragraphs mention “make it a great fit.” I believe that Gen Y was raised by a combination of aged Baby Boomers, somewhat resigned in their older age, and Gen Xers, creative but also quite entitled. Being as entitled as they are, Gen Yers refuse to just accept a situation, but they never learned the art of problem solving from Depression-era generations. That “make lemonade” mentality has all but passed away.

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    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    I was very aware of the contradiction in writing the post, hence adding in the italicized: (Which doesn’t always matter. See #1) as part of #4. I don’t think you can wait for the perfect fit, but I also think that not waiting certainly contributes to the reason Gen Y job hops.

    I really like you’re addition Christina. I think you’re exactly right. Too often I think Gen Y declares that it’s not a fit and thinks the grass will be greener on the other side (something alluded to by other commenters below) without first trying to maneuver themselves into a more favorable situation that aligns better with what they’re looking for. A lot of times you can ‘manage up’ or slowly shape the nature of your position over time if you “make lemonade.” Good thoughts!

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  • As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, as an employee and now an employer, I can’t resist throwing my 2 cents into this discussion. WARNING: This will be a novel of a comment! Sorry.

    When I graduated college, I was lucky enough to get hired at a tech company that was booming at the time! It was very much like Google in terms of their rapid growth, the way they treated their employees, the atmosphere you worked in, etc. I was offered a position that wasn’t a “perfect fit,” but I took it because it got my foot in the door. Honestly, I would have taken a job as a janitor there if that is all they could offer me. Because my goal wasn’t so much to land a job as it was to get myself into a good company that I could move around in and eventually move up in. No job is beneath you. And the vast majority of Gen-Y’s self-entitled attitude makes me sick! When you’re fresh out of college, an entry level job is all you deserve. No ands, ifs, or buts about it.

    No matter what stage of life you are in and how great of a job everyone thinks you have, there will ALWAYS be parts of your job that you do not like. No one is 100% happy all the time. You’ll have good days, bad days, ups and downs. That’s life. Although I think part of the problem is that Gen-Y thinks that they are entitled to being 100% happy all the time. So if they don’t completely love their job 100%, they just up and quit, assuming the grass is greener elsewhere. More often than not, the grass isn’t much greener elsewhere. And all that job hoping is hurting them because while they may be gaining bits of experience here and there, they are never proving themselves. They are never working themselves up to a higher position that may be the perfect fit for them because they refuse to suck it up and pay their dues in an entry level position for awhile. So their resume reflects a list 5-10 entry level jobs where they stayed less than a year at each! That’s a red flag for any employer and you’ll have some explaining to do.

    They say the best predictor for future behavior is past behavior. And while loyalty in the workforce may not be what it used to be, if you are job hoping every 6 months, I’m going to be very reluctant to hire you. Why? Because I don’t want to invest all that time and money training you just to have you quit in 6 months – leaving me to re-fill the position and re-train someone. No thanks. Instead I’ll pass on you.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy and wanting the best for yourself. But be realistic. Realize you’re young and everyone has to pay their dues, including you! Forget your entitlements. The only real demand you should make is being given the chance to prove yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere. So worry more about getting your foot in the door and worry less about what you’ll actually be doing there.

    Don’t believe me? Then take this as an example. One of the reasons employers look for at least a BA degree is not to show that you’re educated in a particular field, but because it proves you can stick something out. You can commit to at least 4 years of doing something that no doubt you struggled with and wanted to quit at times. But you didn’t quit. As an employer, I like to see that. It tells me that when things get hard, you push through, knowing a goal is in sight and you’ll do whatever it takes to reach that goal. Apply that same work ethic to everything in life.
    .-= David´s last blog ..When You Hate Your Own Writing =-.

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  • At what point does Gen-Y acknowledge the entitlement issues passed down from their parents, then get the fuck over it? The argument is starting to sound like a washed out high school football star reliving the glory days, while at the same time blaming all of their life’s failing on the fact that they never ‘made it’. It seems to now be washed up into a crutch. And it needs to end. We need to collectively stop blaming everything on our parents, how we were raised, the technology we had, the suburbs, etc. It’s time to own our lives. Enough of the snowflake bullshit.

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    Susan Pogorzelski Reply:

    I have to agree…I wrote a comment in reply to Matt’s comment above this afternoon but never posted it because I truthfully didn’t feel like opening this can of worms for debate.

    We’re always pointing fingers towards the parents, but I think they were just doing the best they could, wanting more for their children than they had. Maybe it’s only from personal experience, but my parents didn’t have everything that I did growing up. In fact, my mom told me that when she was younger, she vowed to give her children what she herself never had — and not just the physical things, but the support, encouragement, and respect for her kids. She wanted more for her children, just as I will want more for my own.

    So where does it begin and where does it end? Every generation wants something better for the next, for their children; I think that’s only natural. And yet, somehow, I think it gets over-analyzed and messed up and we start putting labels on it, giving into it. There comes a point when our parents do the best that they know how and it’s up to us to take responsibility.

    My two cents.
    .-= Susan Pogorzelski´s last blog ..Time- Be My Friend =-.

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  • Travis

    I’m not going to argue about feeling entitled. How can I, when I’m working on my second MA, aiming for a job in academia or the arts, and essentially refusing to think that I could ever survive a corporate sort of job, let alone anything involving actual manual labor?

    But, that aside, is there something wrong with job hopping?

    I’d put a #5 on that list, that Gen Y doesn’t know how it is supposed to be done.

    Are we not supposed to take different jobs, acquiring experience and testing the waters of different types of positions, different types of companies/organizations, eventually working our way up to where we actually want to be? What’s the alternative?

    If job hopping is not advisable or preferable, are we meant to just take whatever job straight out of college and then stick with that company, that job, that career, throughout our lives?

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  • I couldn’t agree more with the majority of David’s comment. Especially the hard-to-swallow concept that “no one is 100% happy all the time”. It’s tough…b/c when you’re fresh out of college, you think you know EVERYTHING! The reality is that you don’t (and that can be a HUGE asset in many situations). But it’s the false belief that you know everything combined with that burning desire to shoot out of school like a cannonball to make a difference in the world that makes it difficult to assimilate into the culture of a company that was cruising along just fine while you were still eating pizzas at 2 a.m. and sleeping through class. All of that makes it hard to digest the acceptance of an entry level job and the inevitable grunt work that comes with it. Kind of like what Matt said, it IS the employer’s role to provide you with the right tools and support to do great work. If you do a great job, then like you said Ryan, they should reward you for that. If you’re busting your butt for the company and there’s never an opportunity for moving around and growth, then that’s a good reason to hop.

    As a recruiter, my clients (who were paying me to find employees) would say exactly what David is saying every single day. So often job hopping happens because people think this entry level stuff is BS and that the grass is greener elsewhere…so they jump only to learn that it’s not! They’re still doing entry level work somewhere else because they hadn’t yet grown and moved up the ladder.

    Many times the hopping is a result of a bad fit – the person got onto the wrong path: they’re really more of a marketing person than a sales person, an introvert stuck in an extrovert’s job or vice versa, etc. I believe if people put more focus on finding the right fit in the first place, they wouldn’t find themselves having to jump around later. Like you said Ryan, employers are generally more understanding when this is the situation.

    If people get in touch with what excites them (and sometimes that does take experimentation…which his why summer jobs and internships are great) and figure out the cultural fit they want (small vs big company, fast vs slow pace, dressy vs casual environment, etc) and THEN hunt down opportunities that fit that, they should do their research and take the one that feels best, stick with it and give it their all. If nothing works and hopping always feels inevitable, then an entrepreneurial path is probably a better fit…tackle the grunt work AND the big stuff that way….and hope an income can be generated.

    Real good post Ryan.
    .-= Marc Luber´s last blog ..Clean Energy Gets Over 90 Billion Investment from Recovery Act =-.

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  • I’m not pointing fingers at my parents…at all. I don’t think this is opening a can of worms, but rather having an engaging discussion. I agree 100% with everything you said Susan. No arguments whatsoever for me. My parents were focused on doing everything they could to give me a better life than they had. I will do the exact same thing for my kids. I don’t know when being ‘entitled’ became such a negative word. To me, it’s not, at all. It is if you let that entitlement get in your way and cloud your judgement, but entitlement and wanting meaningful work, to live a passionate life, to do the things you love? That’s not Gen Y specific, it’s what everyone strives for.

    Rather than telling Gen Y ‘kids’ “You’re not special” – embrace it and use it to your advantage (speaking in a professional sense). Special people should be expected to do special things…roll with it, embrace these ‘stereotypes’ – instead of debating their relevance.
    .-= Matt Cheuvront´s last blog ..Friday Quick Hits- Learn Something New Every Day =-.

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    Norcross Reply:

    Entitlement a negative word now? It always have been.

    To define: “the right to have something; something that one is entitled to (or believes that one is entitled to). Used in conjunction with privilege”. In other words, being entitled is getting something without earning it. That’s a negative thing if I’ve ever heard one.

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    David Reply:

    The word “entitlement” is one of the ugliest words around. To me it’s like hearing the C-word. Makes me cringe.
    .-= David´s last blog ..When You Hate Your Own Writing =-.

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  • I actually had a random conversation with a 40 something on a plane about his Gen Y employees. He was upset that they wanted to work, but any time they were given work they would procrastinate and go on their “fancy cell phones.” I told him the same thing you said here, its not the volume of work its a desire to be challenged.

    I also can’t agree more with your point about not knowing what you want. It takes an incredibly mature, observant and forward-thinking person to know exactly what they want before they’ve experienced a variety of situations. Experience, whether in life or business cannot be matched. I don’t mean experience on how to use a tool or technology, as much as experience to provide perspective.

    I have to say though that although you’re right about companies being less loyal, I actually support that trend. A company has to look at its bottom dollar, its profitability and its growth forecast. That’s American, that’s capitalism. When an indivdual becomes more important than the whole, the company has issues. This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t give the pat on the back, but that should be the responsibility of direct management rather than company policy.

    As always, love that you get us thinking. Keep up the posts when you have time.
    .-= Jake´s last blog ..Vibram FiveFingers =-.

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  • Pingback: LeBron James: A Job Hopping Gen Y Example | Careers Out There()

  • It’s so much more sharing of info these days, that you can literally read everything all your peers are doing..

    So one day, you might want to be a pilot until you see on TV or on Facebook, how cool it is to be a police officer, so you change your mind.

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  • I job hop because most jobs are shitty.

    Want to spend years paying your dues? Go right ahead.

    I’d rather struggle for a while, on my own terms, than do something I hate day after day.
    Tyler Hurst´s last blog post ..Why I’m a Lemonade Detroit Supporter

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  • Kayla

    Certainly hit the nail on the head, there. Your reasons are exactly why I job hop.

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    Kayla Reply:

    Also because wages in Canada are pretty low and cost of living in very high. I’m 24 and have to move provinces, back into my parents basement and leave my boyfriend behind for at least a year, just to get things back on track financially. It is very frustrating.
    Gone are the days when the woman could stay home and tend to the house..

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