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Conflicting advice for Gen-Y and Millennials entering the work force

Highs and lows - on a rollercoaster“Why back in my day, we worked for one company all our life…”

Words uttered by many a baby boomer, father or grandfather who shakes their heads at the job-hopping antics of their grandkids, kids or nieces and nephews…

Does anyone believe they will work for the same company all their life now? Probably not! Beginning in the 1980s and ever-accelerating, it became pretty evident that companies were going to trim the excess (ie: people) from their balance sheets and a ‘job-for-life’ has become a veritable myth. Even founding your own company wasn’t a guarantee you’ll be employed for life – make money and you’ll likely find yourself booted by your own management, don’t make money and eventually you’ll have to close the business due to the lack of income.

So, it was amusement that I read two articles about the career path that Generation Y and Millennials are being forced to take. Ya see, the days of working for the same company all your life are gone. Quite possibly forever – for most people. But is that what everyone wants?

The argument for job hopping:

The article from WA Today, focused on how constant job hopping, with the youngsters leaving every 6-12 months was highly beneficial – creating a flexible, diverse, mobile work force. Job hopping allows one to surf up the career chain, getting pay increases you probably wouldn’t get with a Company, especially as many companies tend to use the market conditions (good or bad) as an excuse to not give a pay rise.

It is arguable that certain jobs do lend themselves to this kind of atmosphere – the IT industry probably being one of the best. And then there are other jobs, like engineering, where it might not.

It is also arguable that early in one’s career that job hopping does expose someone to more opportunities and experience than they would get if they were stuck with one company.

Personal toll of job hopping:

However, a contrasting article by the Financial Post points out the toll job hopping can have on people. Not everyone is cut out to be eternally looking out for a job, living the highs of being paid and the lows of unemployment. Some just want a steady job, be able to save for a rainy day or a holiday and have kids and a house. Instead, they find themselves battling a corporate culture which just want people for a contract here a bit of part time work there. It’s hard to gather up any experience at all, and then even harder to get a full time position where they are not forced to dwell every night on whether they will have a pay cheque next week.

And let’s face it – not every job should require an elite, mobile, flexible job force. I’m sure most people are OK about having to adapt to new technology making their jobs easier (and sometimes erasing them), but technology changes don’t come out that fast that you are obsolete the next week! Most people, if continually employed, can adapt to changing technology in the workplace.

But it’s staying continually employed that is the challenge for younger people today. Job hopping obviously works for some – but what happens when they want to be managers? There is no doubt certain people enjoy the ‘start up’ phase’ and others prefer the steady eddy “all the bugs ironed out” phase. But to be an effective manager, you have to be a part of both phases at some point. People who job hop endlessly are clearly start up lovers and that doesn’t always make for the best managers as they lack the experience to plan for problems and issues down the road. Plus it just gets plain expensive for company’s to be hunting for a new manager every 12-18 months!

In summary…

There is no doubt, both sides have pros and cons –

For the individual:

Pros Cons
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to rise quickly up the corporate ladder
  • Increased Pay
  • Diverse experience
  • Lack of stability
  • Can impact chances at managerial jobs as they get more than 15-20 years experience
  • Inability to plan long term financially

For the Company:

Pros Cons
  • Can eliminate job positions quickly in response to changing market conditions
  • Reduces payroll costs
  • No need to hang onto low-performing employees for an extended period of time
  • Constant influx of new ideas
  • Loss of knowledge as employee exits
  • Employees become bored when stuck at one level
  • Can get costly replacing management level employees

There is no doubt the corporate work place has changed dramatically in the last 30 years and it will undoubtedly change dramatically in the next 30 years. Let’s just hope we don’t end up re-inventing the wheel because so much management experience and knowledge has been lost by people job hopping too quickly!

 

About Sally G

Sally is an Earth Scientist with experience in geology and geomorphology. She has always had an interest in general science.