The Millennial generation are nothing if not mythical, with all manner of apparently accepted wisdom about them and their approach to working life. One of these is that young professionals are gadflies that are happy to flit from job to job, and indeed from career to career.
It’s a myth that is oft repeated but one that has little grounding in actual evidence. If you look at average job tenures in America, they’ve barely changed in recent years. Indeed, statistics from America’s Bureau of Labour Statistics reveals that workers over 25 years of age spend an average of 5.1 years with their current employer. What’s more, this figure is actually rising, albeit only slightly. Those in the 25-34 age bracket spend on average 2.9 years with each employer, and whilst this is lower than other age ranges, this has always been the case historically.
Indeed, the biggest (downward) shift has come from men aged between 45-54, whose average job tenure has fallen over 4 years since 1983.
Free agent nation
Where things are changing however is in the nature of work, with a growing number of people working as either freelancers or in the gig economy. For instance, nearly 50% of 15-24 year olds in Europe are working on flexible contracts, with data suggesting that half of Americans will be freelancing within the next decade.
There is also a distinct change in the nature of skills themselves. The World Economic Forum revealed recently that the shelf life of skills today is declining rapidly. It thus necessitates a constant renewal of skills, and imposes a significant advantage to those capable of doing so.
It’s a way of being that most freelancers take as given. For instance, a study from UpWork found that freelancers are ‘upskilling’ at a far faster rate than those in more traditional, permanent employment.
All of which creates an interesting, if rather mixed picture, for whilst those in full-time roles seem to be staying in those roles for as long as their peers from past generations, an increasing number seem to be adopting freelance work. Either way, it’s perhaps not especially fair to characterize Millennials as footloose, given that those in employment certainly don’t appear to be, and those who aren’t are actively choosing just such a lifestyle.