It’s become gospel in recent years that workers jump from job to
job to job. Some reports say that the average person entering the
workforce today will go through as many as 20 jobs in a career.
It’s been cited as a symptom of a new crop of workers who avoid
committing to a single employer for more than a few years. Job
hopping has become so mainstream that staying with a single company
for more than three or four years now needs to be justified with
evidence of accomplishments and career advancement, much in the way
job hopping has had to have justification behind it.
It’s a trend that was true of male workers from the early 1980’s
through the late 1990’s. In that time frame, the current tenure of
wage and salaried male employees over 25 years old fell from 5.9
years to 4.9 years. Since 2002, however, the median male tenure
actually grew from 4.9 to 5.5 years. Over that same period, the
median tenure of women grew from 4.4 years to 5.4 years-tenures of
women had also grown in the decade and a half when male tenures
were falling, but that is largely attributable to a change in the
career mix of women that began to favor
“The 1980’s and 90’s was a
period filled with tremendous opportunity, when employees
discovered the power of being free agents and the salary advantages
of changing jobs. Since the turn of the millennium, though, the
economy has been markedly less stable, and employees have been less
likely to seek out unnecessary instability by changing positions,”
says Rob Romaine, president of MRINetwork.
While consistent tenures of less than three or four years can
still cause negative perceptions, being open to changing careers in
a slow economy like today’s can be an effective way to jumpstart a
career. During the recession many employees took on added
responsibilities without receiving a promotion, and those who did
see promotion often saw them in title only. The slow economy caused
annual salary adjustments to stay in the low single-digit
percentages, yet job changers who succeeded at adding value to
their organizations throughout the recession can now find salary
increases of 10 or 20 percent or more with new employers.
“In sectors of the economy that have reached, or even far
surpassed their pre-recession levels, like technical consulting,
accounting, or healthcare, rising tenure can mean even fewer
experienced candidates are available for mid-career opportunities,”
notes Romaine. “But, it also means that opportunities for those
willing to change positions will be both more plentiful, and have
more potential for reward.”
Median tenure for the healthcare industry over the last decade
has increased from 3.5 to 4.4 years, lengthening by three-tenths of
a year just since 2010. Professional and technical services median
tenure has grown even more-from 3.1 to 4.4 years since 2002.
For employers trying to find top performers, workers staying in
their positions longer means simply finding them becomes more
difficult. The longer someone isn’t actively in the job market, the
older and more out of date their discoverable footprints become.
LinkedIn profiles go unmaintained. Resumes in databases grow so old
they are irrelevant.
“Finding top talent that isn’t trying to be found requires
constant surveillance and proactive network-building. There is
nothing automated about the process and it’s challenging for an
internal recruiting apparatus to proactively build a pipeline for
key positions that a company may only be hiring for every few
years,” notes Romaine.