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Millennials have a reputation for being incapable of sticking to one career. It has become a rallying cry for businesses: that they have to “put up” with bad prioritization and lack of focus from those ages 18 to 34 (which represent roughly 35 percent of the workforce). Those that believe this is a problem point to a lack of commitment, a lack of skills built by a long term understanding and growth in a particular sector of business. The determination for many is that this workforce is “dumbing down” business effectiveness and employers are forced to adapt to a “churn and burn” mentality, mining the strength and work of millennials before they bolt for their next adventure.
I ask you: Is that a bad thing? Is transition and exploration really a negative? How many of us can say we’ve stuck to one solid career path? I, for one, cannot. I am here to say loud and proud: I am a serial (re)inventor. I believe wholeheartedly that job change (for progress and opportunity) has given me a unique ability to see things in a very macro way, coupled with an ability to back up ideas with detailed actions. Indeed, I believe that this perspective is one of my core strengths.
In a 2015 article on fivethirtyeight.com, Ben Casselman echoes these ideas. He postulates that the problem isn’t that millennials job hop. It’s that they don’t job hop enough. Why do they hop? I would state that it’s because their ability to grow financially and occupationally is tied to learning additional skills and taking on new ways to thinking. In many organizational structures that value position over experience, this type of growth (a.k.a growth for experience) is not rewarded. Consistency and paying one’s dues are the fundamentals that are too often rewarded, even if they are not helping engage the company in ways that truly motivate.
While it is true that I stayed in one field for a decent chunk of my career, spending more than 15 years in television as an executive producer and development executive, it is also true that in 15 years I worked for more than 10 companies and also floated back and forth between production and other industries I’m passionate about. In production, hopping from one job to another is vital to learning skills and becoming stronger in what you do. In most production companies, if they hire you as an associate producer, you will be an AP in their eyes for a long time. If one feels they have what it takes to be more, they often have to move to another company where they can get a fresh start. I did this in spades. It is what allowed me to go from the “mail room” to executive producer in less than seven years. In any field this same holds true:
Sometimes you have to move out to move up.
Let me be clear: skill and creative execution are what truly gets one to move up versus just moving around. If people justify job hopping as a skill but then cannot perform or live up to that opportunity, they aren’t living into reinvention, but are coming from a place of entitlement without work. That is another character trait many cite when talking about millennials: being lazy and wanting title versus putting in the hours needed for said title. That view has become part of a stereotype for an entire generation. Yes, there are those that job hop because they don’t want to work as hard as companies would like, or put in their “dues” as others have in the past. But truthfully, for many workers (young and old alike) its not about laziness, its about progress and opportunity. For that subset I don’t define this as being entitled, I define it as being ambitious and confident.
I’m in my 40s and have held leadership positions in media, but also PR, marketing, event production and both nonprofit and for-profit companies.
Being exposed to many forms of business practices and philosophies hasn’t hurt my career, rather it has created my career.
My experiences are what allow me to be confident as CEO of a firm that helps people bring out new ways to present themselves in media, communications and business development. I can do this because I have lived lives of mastery within all of these areas of focus.
This is not to say that I don’t admire my friends and colleagues who have worked their way up the ranks of one or two companies, or who have dedicated their lives to one profession. That is something to be applauded. But, as noted earlier, even within one profession or career, I would assume that most have shifted out of a specific track within a company or industry for opportunity to learn more and to earn more.
Merriam-Webster defines reinvention as being able “to make major changes or improvements to (something).” I would argue that for my personality type, my ability to reinvent has made major improvements to the clients and industries I’ve focused on. More so, reinvention is an important element of my DNA.
While it is true that there is always a risk that your new hires will jump ship when they feel they’ve exhausted what they can learn from you, it is also true that there are great opportunities. Delve into anyone you bring into your organization for their passion and their skills. Know that they need to be challenged and grow as much as you need them to execute. Know that encouraging growth betters you, and them. I often say that I will reward risk. I give my team enough rope to swing, or hang, what they do with it is up to them. Remember that reinvention feeds growth and the ability to make major change possible. Let your team swing!
My assumption is that many of you reading this today have also reinvented yourselves. Embrace that change. Embrace it in yourselves and your workforce. Change is inevitable. Be one that looks to nurture reinvention and not lean into the stereotype, because the potential is tremendous!
Patrick Jager is the CEO of CORE Innovation Group – expert strategy and implementation in media, communications and business development.