Not Just Opportunists, Millennials Beginning to Shape Career Paths

retiring-the-generation-gapEvery few days I see something praising, lamenting or pondering the Millennial generation (also called Generation Y), which includes those born from about 1980 to 2000. And every few months I end up in a conversation in which a Boomer matter-of-factly states that young professionals demonstrate less loyalty to their employers than they or other members of the Boomer generation have shown.

That’s why I was intrigued to find a section on employee loyalty as I recently read Jennifer Deal’s Retiring the Generation Gap: How Employees Young and Old Can Find Common Ground. In this section, she offers a different take on Millennial loyalty to employers, which is that Millennials are just as loyal (or disloyal, depending on your view) to their employers today as Generation Xers or Boomers were to their employers at comparable stages in their careers. Moreover, she hints that what might look like disloyalty to those more established in their careers actually has very little to do with loyalty. Instead, Millennials are just at a stage in their careers during which it’s necessary to progressively hone in on what they want their careers to look like:

“… Job engagement — how much someone actually likes her work — plays a critical role in her staying in her job. Earlier in a person’s career (typically, when she is younger), she has less experience and is less sure of what she likes and what her options are, so she is more likely to think about moving to a different job that is more aligned with what she thinks she will want. As time goes on, she gets a better idea of what she enjoys, and the jobs she searches out are closer to what she enjoys, so she stays in them longer. So perhaps the movement in the earlier years of an individual’s career is more about learning and less about opportunism than people might think.”

As I think about my own career path, I see that the spirit of this quote holds true. I entered the working world as a graphic designer. During that time, I realized I missed writing and editing, so I began remapping my career path. I wound up “optimizing” my career path a bit by taking a new job that allowed me to spend half of my time on graphic design and half of it writing, editing and managing web projects. (The additional freedom and responsibility was a nice perk, too!) I liked that mix of projects and responsibilities so much that I looked for even more opportunities to produce content and multimedia for the web when we ended up moving to a new city. Now I miss graphic design sometimes, but this new career path is much more in line with what I enjoy.

So am I just another “disloyal” Millennial? I think not.