Confessions of a Job Hopper
Partner and I moved to Chicago in May of 2009. The day before I packed up my little box of a car and drove the thousand or so miles north to my new home, there were a few things that were absolutely true:
- I was a college graduate who was assured acceptance into my school's Master's program. I was well-thought-of by the faculty, and my educational future was bright.
- I was in a job I absolutely love, that to this day I still consider my favorite job. I was doing something I felt bettered my fellow man, which filled up my personal cup - so to speak. I loved going to work, and I made a good enough living to save money and still pay all my bills.
- I had no credit card debt, and I had a sizable amount in savings.
- My job and prospects were pretty much secured, and I was on a career path that would last at least the next 10 years of my life.
But, for reasons far too human - read: both complex and simultaneously simple - we moved to Chicago. The day after we moved, a few things changed:
- The job I was supposed to begin - in the same field doing similar work - fell through. They had lost the funding to employ new people. So that contract and verbal agreement...meant nothing.
- I no longer was in school, nor was I anywhere close to forming a relationship with a college and gaining admission - not to mention the fact that paying for school was now problematic due to issue 1.
- We used savings to move and live while looking for a job, which quickly ran out. Thus, credit card debt now was a part of my life.
- I had neither financial nor educational security, was over a thousand miles away from anything remotely resembling home, and had no idea what I was going to do.
And that, folks, is how I became a Job Hopper.About a month after we moved here, I finally got a job...making coffee at a book store. It wasn't much money at all, but it helped slow the bleeding. Partner gained employment, too, a short while after that, which, combined with my income, didn't come close to equaling our income pre-move, but we made do. A few months after this, I got a job as a waiter in a big chain "Italian" restaurant and made even more money. All this time I was trying to get "back to work".
Finally, about 4 months into waitering, I got a job doing what I wanted to do. It lasted 3 months. No funding, and other complications, meant I was tossed back into the ether of the overeducated/underemployed milieu. This was only the beginning of 2010. A few weeks later, I entered the world of retail. Since that time, I've worked for 5 different companies. 3 months at that first one, 4 months at another, about a year and a half at the third, a disastrously humiliating run for less than a month at the fourth, and I've been with the fifth since July. I like to pretend the fourth didn't happen, as it lasted such a short time, but it did.
All told, since we moved here in May of 2009 I've had 8 different jobs working for 8 different companies. 8 jobs in less than 4 years.
I belong to a group of people known as the Millennials. Quite a lot has been written and reported about us in the last few years. The global financial crisis that raged not just in America but around the world between 2007 and the present has caused heretofore unheard of unemployment for my generation. Yet, we're also the most educated generation to have ever lived. More of us have graduated high school, college, and gotten advanced degrees than in previous generations. We're more tolerant, more comfortable with technology, faster learning, and able to adapt much better than previous generations.
As a whole, though, we're more narcissistic, more self-serving, and feel more entitled than previous generations.
A lot has been said about my generation, about me - in a universal sense - and while we get lauded with praise for how tolerant we are of people's differences, how smart we are, how socially conscious we are, we get slammed much more often for how entitled we are, how flighty we are, how we change jobs and career paths at a rapid fire pace. Employers don't want us in their companies, and the pieces of paper we have hanging on our walls mean absolutely nothing when we're stuck working 2-3 crappy jobs just to pay our share of the rent in our studio apartment we share with an out of work nuclear physicist and an MD who delivers pizza.
I'd like to say something back. I'd like to let you know 'why' we feel entitled. Why we hop from job to job. Or, at least, tell you what I've seen.
You know how you tell your kids that you work your ass off so that they can have a better life than you did? You want them to have a better education, a more secure financial life, a better home, be more tolerant, a better everything. Well, it worked...sort of. Our parents' generation - the folks that grew up in the 60s and 70s - created a world where we were able to go to college at a rate never before seen. We were able to express ourselves and be ourselves and study what we wanted and learn at our own pace and be individuals and not fall into the clockwork society of the past. We didn't have to go straight into the work force, because you made that better world. We were told all our lives that if we got a good education, worked hard at being smart, at understanding new technologies, philosophies, cultures, and ideas, that we would succeed.
We were told 'Go! Be! Live! Thrive!' So we went. We were. We lived. We thrived. We got an education. We learned more, saw more, and did more than our predecessors. Then, it came time to enter the real world...and...through no fault of our own...the economy collapsed. The job market evanesced, evaporated, went POOF. No longer were employers seeking fresh young minds straight out of college. They wanted the candidate to have 5-10 years experience on the job. They didn't want to waste time training. They want to put somebody straight to work.
All those degrees in all those subjects we liked, all those degrees in art or philosophy or theatre or even social science...all those civic minded, technology-driven, idea-generating degrees...they didn't help us like we were told they would. The job market didn't care that we'd spent 8 years of our lives getting a doctorate in the subject of our personal bliss.
So...we make coffee. We sell clothes. We wait tables. We pursue our bliss when we can and how we can, but we've got bills to pay and a doctorate that is just good enough to make an origami cow. Why do we hop from job to job? Because right now, nobody is promoting anyone. I've seen people spend 10 years of their life at a job only to continue being passed over for the newcomer from outside the company. The rest of my generation saw that, too. So, when we want to advance, we know that it's going to take a hop and skip to a different company, a different job, with a better title and paycheck.
And we won't feel guilty about it.
Because we are able to adapt to our surroundings. And, our surroundings are crap. Why don't I show a company loyalty? Simple. Right now, companies aren't showing their people any loyalty. They're not giving out raises, they're not promoting from within, and they're all scrambling to make sure their CEO and executives can make millions of dollars and fat bonus checks while the folks making them their money figure out whether this week is peanut butter and jelly or ramen.
So stop complaining about my generation. Sure, we can whine with the best of them, and some of us are horrible examples of the coffee shop hipster prince who's just waiting for a golden egg to fall in his lap, but the rest of us are survivors. We're just trying to make it in the world we were given.
I was told recently by someone who will probably be hiring me for my 9th job that job hopping was going to ruin my resume. Well, maybe so, but I looked her square in the eye and said, "Listen, I have bills to pay. I'm damn good at what I do. I will be damn good at the job you put before me. I will be impressive. I will be one of, if not your best employees. But, at the end of the day, my loyalty is to myself, and what I've learned of the job market is that it does not favor my age group. So, if I'm a bit opportunistic, it's only out of self-preservation."
She said she can't wait to work with me.
Love and Lyte,