Millennial Guide #1: Should I Leave My Job, Yet?
If you have to ask or Google it, it’s probably not the right time.
How many of these have you heard:
“Millennials are too quick to jump around and don’t want to stay in the same job for long,” or “Millennials don’t care about building a career at one organization,” or “Millennials don’t want to be like their parents and retire from the same place they first started working at”.
I’ve heard all of these and plenty more from employers, recruiters, representatives, and even from friends and family. It seems to be a pervasive myth that we don’t have the capacity or the desire to build a career anywhere, that we prefer the thrill of switching jobs at our leisure.
What you may be surprised to learn is that according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the average wage earner stays with their employer an average of 4.2 years, more than 2 years longer than we expected, which is a surprising increase from previous years. And data collected on Baby Boomers shows that they held more than 11 jobs on average between 18 and 50, a number that the BLS expects to continue to increase as we work longer before retirement.
So what does this have to do with deciding when to leave your job?
As a Millennial in the workplace, I think it’s expected that I won’t stay at any job longer than two years. I’ve had countless discussions with friends about the optimal time to leave, how to know when you’ve hit your ceiling, or how sometimes the only way to move up the ladder is to move out of the organization. There are plenty of reasons why, after two years, you may start to feel frustrated or ready to leave.
A lot of organizations are siloed and jobs can often feel singularly focused within your department or team. You may have been hired into a boxed role, or one with little growth up or across. Or, you might feel stifled by leadership, unsupported by your management, and frustrated with the daily politics of having a job. If you work for a non-profit or an NGO, for instance, budget and talent retention issues can often lead the smartest people to often look for a new challenge more often than they’d like.
If you’re at a place right now and your instinct is to Google whether you should leave or not after X amount of months or years, then you should stay.
In all of my jobs over the last decade, there has been a clear moment that made me realize it was time to leave. At my first job, it was clear that after almost five years, I had learned all that I could and would likely not be able to step outside the role I was hired for, an administrative assistant. At other jobs, that moments became clear after organizational changes, dissolution of teams, or personal moments of clarity in the future direction of my work.
And in every situation where I wasn’t sure, I’ve stayed until I was absolutely sure for a few reasons. Namely, in times of frustration or great organizational upheaval and change, it’s easy to want to think that leaving is the answer. But the old adage that the grass is only greener on the other side is accurate, because in general, it’s fertilized with, well… fertilizer.
I’ve quelled some of the anxiety or frustration by applying to other jobs and even interviewing for positions that seemed interesting and offered growth opportunities. But more times than not, I’ve come back to my desk and sighed with relief that the process was over and that I wasn’t leaving, yet.
It’s reminded me to appreciate where I am, to be thankful for the job I get to do each day, and even to be more aware of my skills and experiences. It’s highlighted that every organization and company has their own challenges, and that leaving isn’t necessarily going to alleviate my frustrations. I’ve been lucky to be able to build each of my jobs and to use my frustration as a star in my navigational system guiding me to a place where my passion and my career intersect, while solving problems along the way.
Sometimes, we just need to remember that we’re valued, appreciated, and a lot smarter and experienced than we remember.
And sometimes, it’s just time to leave.
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