Gen Y and our jobs for life…..

Published: 10 October 2013

It amuses me that many of the articles written about Generation Y are not authored by anyone who is part of it. Amusement aside, I qualify as a bona fide member of “Gen Y.”  As such, I thought I would offer my thoughts about our attitude to “jobs for life”, perhaps addressing some of the apparent alarm on the subject. 

A recent report by a large, global, professional services business showed that the majority of Generation Y respondents said they expect to work for between four and six companies in their lifetime.  Before everyone’s jaw hits the floor, I thought a little about the context that my peers and I operate in. My generation will be in employment until we are at least 70, so if we work for between four and six companies this represents an average tenure of between six and ten years. Not so frightening.  Couple this with the fact that a recent report by Reed stated that the average length of tenure in the UK is currently 2.4 years.  Therefore Generation Y would appear to be pretty long serving - at least three times the national average.

Working in recruitment I get many insights in to length of service and how it’s perceived. Firstly when my clients are looking for a permanent hire, no-one wants to see a “jumpy CV” where someone has had four or five jobs in as many years.  Consequently, a CV where the candidate has remained with every employer for between six and ten years is seen as extremely stable and the ideal candidate will have been promoted at least once during that time.

Candidates who have been with their companies for over ten years can often be seen as high-risk.  They may be too “institutionalised” and could struggle with the transition to a new organisation. I have never received a brief where the client has asked me to find someone who’s been in their company for 20 years.

Jobs for life may not be our preference, but why is this perceived by many as being negative? If Generation Y professionals are expecting to work for 20 different employers over the course of their career, this would be a cause for concern; however, this is not the case. Organisations want to keep their top talent but ambitious people need fresh challenges. If my peers and I are staying with our respective employers for between six and ten years then I think we’ll be just fine.

Tim Baker is a Consultant in the HR Practice at Berwick Partners

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