My posts on this website follow my Wharton Magazine essay, “The Importance of Career Breaks,” which looks back at my personal experiences resetting career goals after graduating from Wharton and again after retirement. My first post, “Sticking With the Job, Without Feeling Stuck” offers tips on preserving a position at any career crossroads.
This second post addresses the corporate pitfalls that recent B-school grads, in particular, often encounter that lead to discontent and, traditionally, job changes. Strategies for boosting happiness in an existing position — especially relevant for young professionals who may feel the need for more stability in today’s battered jobs market — follow.
In the U.S., Gallup estimates that turnover among disengaged millennials has historically cost companies $30.5 billion annually. A recent Deloitte survey of young workers globally also found that 50 percent of Gen Z respondents would want to switch jobs within two years, suggesting the potential for even more turnover.
Why this trend in corporate free-agency? Several things come into play. A 2014 study conducted by staffing company Randstad and consulting firm Millennial Branding found that career-building opportunities (not money) drive 34 percent of Gen Z’s employment decisions.
A Harris Poll survey of 1,000-plus Gen Z and millennial respondents also shows that deficiencies in a company’s IT are a significant reason these employees seek advancement elsewhere. The poll also draws attention to the pressures of staying connected 24/7, with roughly seven in 10 respondents in each generation saying they are always on, or checking, work devices outside normal hours.
In that vein, a study conducted by Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics pointed to mental health issues as the reason why half of millennials and three-quarters of Gen Z employees leave jobs. HR specialist B. Fred Sachs, formerly with Medical Facilities of America, explains why nearly 60 percent of those polled about mental health never brought up the issue at work: “While the role of HR is to sympathize with workers, the emotional energy limits of employees are met with little appreciation up the chain of command.”
While reasons for a job change are multi-faceted and unique, here are five ways to help mitigate this trend:
1. Insist on unplugging after work.
If a hard boundary isn’t possible, set conditions for when you can be contacted. Being fully engaged in non-work activities during time off is especially important, as shown by a new UCLA study that found people who treat weekends like vacations tend to be happier than those who don’t.
2. Fix stress, not stressors.
In B-school, assignment pads are ubiquitous. But in the real world, being on top of your to-do list doesn’t address underlying stress. Learn about work-life balance, self-care, and professional help outside the office. At work, foster ties with people you enjoy being around.
3. Impress yourself.
Along with meeting corporate expectations, set personal goals and rewards. Ask yourself daily: How and to whom is my work important? Is it important to me? Aligning this dichotomy defines long-term success on and off the job.
4. Plan your dream job.
Write down what you envision yourself doing. Plan in small steps how to get there, leaving gaps to figure out as you go. Then network with people of like interests.
5. Invest in yourself.
In an age of longevity and longer careers, “retirement is no longer the ultimate goal of younger workers,” says Dan Carroll, co-founder of financial adviser Wealthfront. Likewise, Jamie Hopkins, director of retirement research at Carson Group, says, “The goal for millennials is stamina for sustainable careers. Achieving it takes the peace of mind of affording to reset and retool your career.”
David Barudin W69 lives in Virginia with his wife and two dogs. He earned an MA in creative writing from Hollins University and has published his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in literary, trade, and popular magazines.