Job Loyalty vs. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

One of the biggest perceptions about Millennials, or Gen Y, is that they lack loyalty to employers and are quick to tender resignations as they pursue bigger opportunities, higher salaries and more benefits. I like to think of job-hopping as making “strategic career choices.”

As someone born on the cusp of Gen X and Gen Y (1977), I hesitate to lump myself in with the younger generation because I find it really hard to identify with some of the technological aspects that seem to define Millennials (mainly the obsessions with MySpace, Facebook, text messaging and everything digital). And when it comes to Gen Y’s mindset when it comes to work, I have similar but different attitudes. I don’t believe in paying my dues because I feel as though I’ve already paid them (I’m old, dammit!). I, too, need praise from my boss in order to validate my employment and writing skills (like most creative-types, I’m insecure) but I also know how to pat myself on the back.

But when it comes to job-hopping, I completely understand why today’s youth switch careers or companies every few years or months – I certainly have! It’s hard to believe that my one year anniversary with YSN.com is next week, and, if you ask my friends, it’s even harder to believe that I’ve worked at one place for an entire year! Since 2004, I’ve had six different employers, with my longest tenure being 1¼ years and my shortest being two weeks. I took some jobs for experience and skills, knowing that it was only temporary. I made lateral jumps between companies for more money. I was in situations where the work environment and commute were huge factors in my leaving. And I took one job because it had been a dream for years, and I had to at least try it out (I was there three months until the company folded). But after three years of relative job instability, I’ve reached this happy place in my career by learning what doesn’t work for me: I’m not a freelancer, I can’t be micro-managed, I’m not corporate, I’m not a commuter and I will not work for beans.

They say dating is a lot like trying on clothes – you have to find the one that “fits” – and that job interviews are a lot like dating. The same can be said for careers: How will you know it’s the right one for you if you don’t try it on? Regardless of generation, we each have a lot of different interests so it’s natural that more than one career should speak to us. All too often we hear people say, “I wish I had become <fill in the blank> instead” or “If I could do it all over again, I’d do <fill in the blank>.” Today’s youth are smart enough to know they don’t want to look back on their lives with regret.