Average Length of Employment in the Current Age

How long have you been at your current job? Statistically, if you’ve lasted more than 4.2 years, you have stayed longer than the average American. This time span is much shorter than a few decades ago when the average length of employment was more like 20 years.

The fact that American’s move from one job to the next about every four years means that the average American will hold over ten jobs in their working years. What does all of this job-hopping do for a career? Here are seven significant impacts that this short length of employment can have on your career.

1. A Short Length Of Employment Can Help You Collect Valuable Skills

Jonathan Yabut, a thought leader among young workers, says that he thinks of job hopping as a smart move. He found that in his career, he could “collect the best practices” in different industries when he moved from the telecommunications industry to pharmaceuticals. The valuable skills that he picked up, like customer service, were an asset to him.

If you get hired with one company and stay there for the rest of your career, you will only learn one set of skills and one set of best practices. If you hop from job to job, especially if those are within different industries, you will be exposed to many learning opportunities. You’ll see many different ways of doing work. And this means that you will be growing at a high-speed. 

2. Networking Opportunities Abound When You Change Positions Frequently

When you hop from one job to another, you broaden your network. This is valuable because the people who you meet in your various positions could end up contributing to your career path in the future.

This is precisely what happened for Adam Hasler, who went from owning and running a Washington D.C. coffee shop, at age 22, to writing case studies for an academic journal. Those two jobs may seem completely unrelated, but they are connected through the idea of networking.

At the coffee shop, Halser got to know one of the regulars who happened to be a professor at a nearby university. This connection led to one of Hasler’s next jobs, which was writing case studies for the academic journal “Innovations”, which the professor had founded.

Networking leads to real opportunities, and the value of broadening your network shouldn’t be overlooked. As you expand your network, you also increase the chances that you will be able to meet the people that will help you get where you hope to go in your career. Personal relationships can be one of the most valuable commodities out there.

The higher up you go on the corporate ladder, the more critical networking becomes. ExecuNet reports that only 10% of executive level jobs ever make it to job boards or other public forums. Even when jobs are posted, it may just be for HR reasons.

But the winning applicants don’t often come from the pool of people who apply without connection, which executive expert Mark Anderson says is “akin to cold calling.” Instead, high-level positions are shared among networks of peers, coworkers, and professional boards.

3. Recruiters Might Not Want to Hire You If You’re a Serial Hopper

Job hopping has positive and negatives. It can help you collect skills and network, but at the same time, recruiters might be wary of you when you come in for an interview. When companies hire employees, they have to invest a lot of money and time into training them. The recruiter might think that someone with a track record of short employment stints will again move after a short period. 

It is up to the person applying for the job to put each short stint into context, and show how their job hopping helped them become stronger, rather than makes them weaker. Here are some ways this can be done: 

  • Speak directly to any objections the recruiter has.
  • Talk about how the experiences you gained at each job site make you a more valuable employee.
  • If you plan on sticking with the company, say it.
  • Sign a contract to show commitment (if it feels comfortable and is right).
  • Show the value that you will give, even if you don’t stay for a long time (for example, pitch an idea that you have that will earn the company money in the short term).
  • Discuss the skill set you have accumulated through diverse positions.

4. Short Employment Lengths Can Speed The Climb Up The Ladder

When you move from one position to the next, there is always the potential for a promotion. If you stay in one position year after year, “putting in your time” before you get noticed and promoted, you may have to wait a long time.

One successful CEO, Justin Hutchins, has worked his way to the top through bouncing his way through six different companies in under thirty years. He says that one of the keys to success was flexibility.

In past generations, workers had to pay their dues before moving to a higher position, and this was an accepted way of doing things. But in current career culture, 40% of millennials expect a promotion or a raise every one to two years. They are likely to move to a new job that offers them brighter prospects if they find it.

Even though moving at an average of every four years might help you advance up the career ladder, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, businesses are looking for staff members who prove that they can be loyal. They won’t hire a person for an advanced position within the company if they see that the person has recently gone through a lot of short-term jobs.

Harvard Business Review reports that firms often look for a resume that shows a balance between long term employment and shorter stints. Companies might not be impressed if you bounce from one business to the next every few years.

But if you work for a company for a decade, move to another one for a few years, and then move onto a third for another long stretch, you show potential. By creating a balanced resume, the people hiring you will see that you are ambitious, have experience, and can adapt to change. They also see that in the right situation you can remain loyal to a team and contribute value.

5. The Four Year Average Length of Employment Can Help You Avoid Feeling Stuck

No one wants to feel stuck. One of the benefits of having a four-year average length of employment is that you get to change things up every once in a while. If you’ve ever started to hate the cubicle walls around you, then you know the feeling of being trapped. When the employment tenure average stays low, it is acceptable to move jobs.

In past decades, when the average employment tenure was high, it may have been unacceptable to move jobs. The employment length flexibility that we enjoy in work culture today allows for movement. Feeling stuck at a career could lead to anxiety and depression.

6. Movement Leads to Job Fulfillment

Some job hoppers describe their career path as “circling in on” the right career. With every hop, they get a little bit closer to the perfect job. At each position, they learn more about themselves and what they look for in a career.

Maybe you’ve experienced this in the past. One job teaches you that you hate nighttime hours, and the next post shows you that you love working with children. Whatever your preferences are, you can learn them through trial and error when you move from one job to the next quickly. This can help you find real fulfillment in your career.

7. Develop A Defensive Outlook

In past eras, work culture was very different. People saw the companies they worked for as stable, reliable income streams that they could feed off of for life. Companies provided retirement and pension plans, and employees had complete trust in their employers. Multiple recessions have taken that outlook away from us.

This is a good thing. Workers who move from employer to employer don’t have the luxury of entirely relying on one income stream for life. Do you see the value in that? Workers that don’t rely on a parent company need to look out for their wellbeing. This defensive outlook can be career-saving during bad economies.

The average length of employment for American workers in today’s age has impacted our work culture in many ways. The amount of time that you spend at each job position affects your career as a whole. We’ve gone over the positives of this, and the negatives.

If you do many short stints, you might be seen as a flight risk. Employers will fear that they will invest in you only to have you leave before you contribute anything of value. On the other hand, moving from job to job can help you collect skills, gain promotions, and increase your network.

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