You’ve probably heard that millennials have a reputation for “job-hopping,” that is, switching jobs after a brief amount of time rather than “settling down” at one job or organization long-term. According to one survey, most millennials will have 15-20 different jobs over the course of their lives. Perhaps you’ve been accused of job-hopping yourself.
The term has a generally negative connotation and with good reason. Loyalty is an important aspect of being a good employee, without a doubt. Employers want to know that their employees are taking their jobs seriously and not always looking for “something better.”
However, I do not believe that millennials should be condemned for their tendency to switch jobs—or that they are even entirely unique for job-hopping. For example, according to a survey by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Baby Boomers held 5.7 jobs on average between the ages of 18 and 24. And from 25-34, the average was 4.5.
And maybe that wasn’t so unreasonable. In fact, there are real benefits to job-hopping. If you, like me, did not find your dream job straight out of college and are still struggling to find “the one” when it comes to your career, take heart! Here’s how your job-hopping just might be benefiting you:
01. Developing a range of skills
In the last six years, I’ve worked as a human resources clerk, an elementary school literature and grammar teacher, a podcast editor, and a social media manager. No, a recruiter might not be particularly thrilled with the plethora of jobs on my résumé. I clearly do not have one set career path with one long-standing job (or even two) to back it up.
I was not someone who always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (I believe “angel” was at the top of my kindergarten list), and upon college graduation, I had a whole list of job ideas and potential career paths. Some of the jobs I ended up working fit neatly on that list; some did not.
What I do have, however, is a wide skill set developed over years of new and different job experiences.
I said “yes” to unexpected opportunities that presented themselves, and I ended up leaving jobs for a variety of good reasons (including a move, marriage, and a baby). What has surprised me the most about my seemingly hodgepodge jobs, though, is that I have carried over skills from every job into other jobs and into my own personal life. While on the surface each job looked as different as could be, they’ve a lot more in common than I would have anticipated.
For example, when I started a job at a small startup podcast company editing podcasts, I was attracted by the prospect of editing people’s conversations, having both prior experience with editing and a natural love for it. I knew that learning this skill of editing in audio format would, at the very least, tap into that “word-loving” side of my brain and be interesting to me.
What I didn’t expect, however, was that editing audio conversations and scripts would challenge me grammatically and as a writer. I would frequently have to rearrange whole “paragraphs” of audio clips in order to make it flow and sound correct grammatically. This skill, in turn, greatly helped me in two jobs I acquired after leaving the podcast company: teaching grammar to fifth and sixth graders and freelance writing. Never would I have guessed that a job editing podcasts would help make me a better writer and teacher!
Many friends have told me that skills learned in one job unexpectedly helped them in others. Even if it doesn’t help you in another job, though, a learned skill is bound to find its way into your everyday life. Looking even further back at high school and college jobs, I can see now how the skills I cultivated then are hugely beneficial to me now. My many babysitting jobs helped prepare me for motherhood, and my waitressing experience helped me know how to treat (and tip) servers whenever I go out to eat.
The bottom line: there are myriad reasons for learning many new skills, and it is very unusual to regret a skill acquired in one job just because you did not end up staying at that job long term. In fact, even if you do stay at the same job, you should still be continually learning new skills. A 2018 LinkedIn survey of more than 2,000 people found that the number one reason people are happy at work is that they have taken the time to learn and expand their skill set.
02. Discovering your passions
The not-so-secret secret to being happy at work is doing something you love. But it’s not always easy to pinpoint what you love to do—or to find a job doing what you love to do—when you are in the throes of starting your career. And that’s okay!
Job-hopping is sometimes a way to find satisfaction and true happiness at work. Millennials, especially, seem to understand that it is not beneficial to themselves—or to anyone else—to stay at a job they are truly not fitted for. Among other reasons (unrelated to compensation), Millenials are inclined to leave a job if their current company doesn’t share their values, provide the desired guidance and opportunities for growth, or allow them to pursue their passions.
This can be a good thing. Because you never really know if a job will be a good fit until you jump in, any new job necessitates some level of risk—especially early in our careers when we might not know yet exactly what we love to do. More often than not, it takes a little trial and error to discover your passions, but it’s always worth it. Even though not everyone ends up being crazy about their job, it might be a good choice for you to try a few things out before settling into something: you never know if you’ll discover an unexpected passion.
03. Broadening your experiences
In our fast-paced, always-changing society where travel is easier and people are moving and exploring new places more than they used to, young people, especially, are focusing more on seeing the world and having new experiences rather than settling down. Job-hopping is often responsible for giving them these new experiences.
Working in many fields and in diverse locations helps mould people’s characters, not just their portfolios. Broadening one’s experiences in different settings, in fact, helps create leaders who are skilled at working with many different kinds of people and in different capacities.
From my own personal experiences, I feel much more equipped to work with people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities due to my diverse résumé. While my job as an elementary school teacher (before having a baby) was probably closest to my “ideal job” because it was firmly in my “comfort zone,” I am immensely grateful for the other opportunities I had to work a little bit beyond what was familiar and comfortable to me.
As one millennial writer suggested in an article for Forbes, job-hopping is quickly losing its stigma: “As millennials rise into management positions and start hiring other employees, they will change in perspective on job-hopping.” If millennials really are revolutionary in their job-hopping habits, I don’t believe it’s any cause for concern. On the contrary, it could be cause for celebration—the millennial generation’s tendency to follow their passions and always learn and grow could create positive change.