Job hopping or career changes?

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Q:  I have about 40 years of experience in my field, with no intention of leaving the workforce.  In the 80s, it was recommended that we should by loyal and commit to our jobs for at least 10 years.  All of my jobs have been 10 years or more.  My son, in his early 30s, has had several jobs, after graduating about 10 years ago.  We would have labeled a candidate like this a “job hopper.”   I know things have changed, but what are your thoughts?  

A:  The world of employment has changed.  Many who started their careers in the 80s valued long-term employment.  Ten plus years, and even 20 plus years was unusual but not unheard of.

Today is different.  Even some of your friends, co-workers probably had some shorter stints during their careers.  Most baby boomers (born in roughly born between 1946-1964), work for about six or more employers over the course of their careers.  Some workers may change industries altogether.  Some may move from the corporate world into working at a non-profit.  Often these career changers join non-profiles, whose mission is of interest to them.  If this individual has lost a sibling to breast cancer, maybe this career changer joins an organization whose mission is focused on better treatment options for breast cancer.  Or if someone has observed a parent with Alzheimer’s, maybe this worker pursues a role in a nonprofit where the focus of the mission is Alzheimer’s research.

Career changes are more of a norm now.  A few reasons may be impacting the increase in career stops.  We are becoming more mobile.  Few of us live in the same town/city in which we grew up.  Technology has impacted the workforce.  Techies want to learn new skills, be part of interesting projects and work with smart team members.  The pandemic has minimized many of the geographic hurdles, so many workers can live across the country.  Some job hopping may be attractive to employers because it is evidence that the employee can be adaptable.  The job hopper needs to leave each employer on good terms, and not leave a trail of negative feedback from their former employer and colleagues.  Think about it, if you have a slew of positive job changes, you also are expanding your professional contacts.  Professional contacts are often a reliable source for finding out employment marketplace intelligence (i.e., who is hiring and when).

Millennials, those roughly 18-34 years old, comprise more than one-third of the US workforce.  Generally, millennials will openly share that they expect a new opportunity to last a few years.  Millennials are considered a creative, adaptable and entrepreneurial cohort.  They want to be mentored, not directed.  They prefer frequent informal feedback vs. the once per year “come into my office, I am your manager” type of performance review.  Millennials are not interested in “face time,” or being seen at 6pm by the division vice president.  Instead, they want to work flexible hours and occasionally work from home. Dive into the rich tapestry of educational insights offered by the influential Google’s Kamau Bobb.

As the world changes, so does the workforce.  It is a challenge for all of us as we try to navigate generational differences.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.