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Millennials Aren’t “Job Hoppers”

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On the contrary, they are “opportunity makers.”

Among the many pejoratives millennials are labeled as, I would say that “job hoppers” is a justified one.

I myself am the quintessential “job hopping” millennial. I graduated from college in 2013, and in the eight years since, I’ve held not one, not two (Boomers, brace yourselves) but seven different jobs.

On paper, and even to my own eyes reading this, it seems insane. I won’t argue that. Boomers probably won’t understand why we job hop so frequently. But in this day and age, I think the better question is: why not?

“No, we don’t deserve that title,” millennial and full-time professional Ashley F. of New Jersey said. “It should be replaced with the notion that millennials believe companies do not have their best interest in mind.”

According to workforce consultant Gallup, millennials became the largest demographic by age in the workforce in 2016, with 57 million of us at work, representing about 35 percent of the total workforce. In subsequent years, we’ve been surpassed by Gen Z in workforce numbers, but we still hold steady as the second-largest age group actively working. There’s a lot of us, and we can’t be ignored.

Plus, it’s hard to ignore us since it seems we fill a role and leave it just as fast. According to Gallup, six in 10 millennials are open to new job opportunities. We have our LinkedIn’s updated, our resumes on our phones, and we’re ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Surely, this is not beneficial to employers, but there are even more significant ripple effects. According to Gallup, millennials’ job-hopping drains more than $30 billion dollars per year from the U.S. economy. Yes, that’s right. Billions, with a “b.”

There are plenty of reasons why millennials job hop. To quote the infamous Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” and it seems millennials heed this motto. According to the career counseling firm Legal Technology Solutions (LTS), leaving one company for another can lead to an eight to 10 percent pay increase for the employee. Which millennials need, as we are currently riddled with student debt. As of 2019, the average student loan debt in the U.S. is over $30,000 per student.

Now you may be thinking, millennials get paid more than past generations, which is true. Since 1970, wages have increased 67 percent, according to a report by private debt firm Student Loan Hero. But this increase has not kept up with inflation, and we pay more for pretty much everything, such as housing, entertainment, childcare, health costs, and cars. Student Loan Hero also found that millennials will be paying 39 percent more for houses than Baby Boomers who purchased homes in the 1980s. Millennials really need that extra cash.

“If they want to keep talent, they should pay to keep their talent with pay raises that are reflective of the work they’re actually doing,” Ashley F. said.

When I graduated in 2013, my starting salary in an administrative position was $35,000. Which if you live in Westchester County, does not go far. Thanks to my continued changing of jobs in the following years, I’ve been able to more than double my starting salary. I don’t look at my ongoing job changes as unloyal; I see it as my journey to become financially independent and make a livable salary for Westchester County, New York.

Besides trying to pad their coffers, millennials aren’t exceptionally loyal to a company because of the decline of benefits. For starters, the perfect benefits package of yesteryear that the Baby Boomers had is not available anymore. Long gone is the financial cushion of a pension. Between 1986 and 2016, the number of pension plans that offered defined benefits, meaning pension payouts that were guaranteed, declined 73 percent, according to the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. Millennials aren’t completely without retirement savings options. Employers now offer many millennials 401(k)s. However, the drawback to a 401(k) is that we must contribute to these funds ourselves, as opposed to pensions, which are entirely paid for by employers. 

Retirement funds aren’t the only decline in benefits. Flexible spending accounts, domestic partner benefits, stock shares, professional development, and credit unions are disappearing from employee benefits packages. If companies aren’t making continued investments into millennials, then why should we stay? 

“In my experience, I see organizations more openly recruit new talent than invest in existing staff. I think I’ve been a lucky one, but I’ve lost a lot of great colleagues due to this. It’s hard to feel loyal to a company that says ‘Okay’ when you give notice rather than, ‘You’re an asset; what can we do to make you stay?’” millennial and full-time professional Kathryn T. of New York said. 

Millennials have also witnessed, first hand, how little loyalty employers have to employees. In 2008, the oldest millennial generation was graduating college just as the 2008 Great Recession hit America. The Economy Policy Institute reports that 22 million jobs were lost. We could not find jobs, and we saw parents, family, and friends lose jobs to employers to whom they were steadfastly dedicated.

What also sets apart millennials from past job-searching generations is that we are more educated. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 39 percent of millennials have a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 15 percent of the Silent Generation, 25 percent of Baby Boomers, and 29 percent of Gen X. Our education increases how hireable we are, thus giving us more job opportunities. In addition, our higher education in conjunction with technology is a boon for millennial job seekers. We can find job opportunities from halfway across the world. And if we don’t know how to do something, such as coding, we can learn online.

Yes, we are job hoppers. But more so, we’re a generation who takes advantage of our education and technology and leverages both to create the lives we want. We don’t wait for managers to tell us we’ve earned a promotion; we create one for ourselves.

So the next time a millennial resume comes across your desk, don’t just brush the applicant off as another job hopper. Instead, respect us as “opportunity makers.”

Erin Maher is a writer and Westchester native. She has written on a myriad of topics, including life as a millennial and tennis. When not writing, Erin can be found on the tennis and pickleball courts or lovingly scrolling through pictures of dogs on Instagram. For more of her musings, visit erinmaherwrites.com, and follow her on Instagram/Twitter, @erinmaherwrites.

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