Lately I’ve been reading a lot of great career related content in The Atlantic. Most of it is written by senior editor Derek Thompson. His articles get shared quite a bit on my various social media feeds, and I can see why; he really speaks to the Millennial generation. My favorite article so far is this one, which recommends exploring a bunch of different career options in your 20’s vs. sticking with the first thing you land on because “becoming an expert will lead you to like it”.
Throughout the article Thompson refers to a recent study: What Should I Be When I Grow Up? Occupations and Unemployment over the Life Cycle, which argues that job-hunting earlier in your career leads to greater job satisfaction and greater income later on. I highly encourage you to read the study.
As Thompson puts it in his own words “Jumping between jobs in your 20s, which strikes many people as wayward and noncommittal, improves the chance that you’ll find more satisfying—and higher paying—work in your 30s and 40s.” So basically, job hopping is now okay!
I found this article so refreshing when I read it. I remember my 22-year old self: reading books to try figuring out what I should do with my life, sitting at my desk and feeling so trapped but way too scared to do anything about it. I was told I had to go for job security. My family had no clue what I did each day but put the fear of god in me for considering quitting. I thought: there must be something wrong with me that I find this so unfulfilling. Why can’t I just like it? Why do I crave more?
It turns out we left the Mad Men work era a long time back but we somehow still have those same ingrained beliefs that job-hopping is bad and, like a bad relationship that you know you need to end but never do, you should just stick it out at ABC Company and make it work.
But why? That company has no loyalty to you, as the recent Great Recession proved out. You are disposable, so why can’t your job be disposable too?
And since when did experimenting become so bad? Any nobel-prize winning scientist will tell you he first forms a hypothesis and then designs deliberate experiments to test that hypothesis. So why can’t we do that with our careers? After all, there’s just a few people that are so certain of what they want to be at 22. Yes, some people just know what they want to do from a very early age. For example, we see interviews all the time from actors such as Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow who just knew they wanted to be actors early on. Not so hard to figure that out when: a) it’s a really fun job b) your parents are already in the profession and c) it pays REALLY well and you’re already rich.
But what about the rest of us?
The good news is, the job hopping stigma is changing. When I lived in NYC people were still hung-up on the two year rule (ie- you must stay at your job for at least 2 years). But out here in Silicon Valley, things are changing so quickly all the time that you can switch jobs quite frequently as long as you have a “good story” to back it up with. Nobody remembers which startup was acquired (and let everyone go) or which one failed (and had to let everyone go). You can really Choose Your Own Adventure on the Left Coast.
But regardless of where you are and how old you are, I encourage you to experiment. On your LinkedIn profile and resume, list only years next to each job instead of months. And when you get that dreaded job hopper question in your interviews, why not answer by saying “I was experimenting with the right career path for me…”. Of course you need to finish that sentence with a “…and after all my experimenting, I’m now certain that this position is the right one for me”.
At least for the next few years 🙂