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Talent Talk: The New Normal of Job Changes

Image courtesy of Alamy/Cartoon Resource comic strip re new hire
On average, employees hold between 10 and 13 different jobs over the course of their careers. They are not “job hoppers,” and should not be considered as such during the hiring process.

Once upon a time — maybe I should add in a galaxy far, far away — people went to work for a company and retired after 40 years. Everyone understands that there are no more farewell luncheons with gold watches, and very few pension plans, but when hiring we still look at a resume and label candidates as “job-hoppers.”

]Without judgement, today I will give you the cold, hard facts about job changes. The source of data is a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study published in 2021. To get actual data, the study was limited to baby boomers born between 1957 and 1964, covering employment from 1978 to 2018. The survey included a cross section of almost 10,000 workers.

The average number of jobs held by that group was 12.4. That equates to a job change every three to four years on average. That is probably quite a disconnect from what you believe should be the case. Maybe you’re thinking: Sure, that might be the average for everyone, but we are hiring mostly professionals.

The data was broken down by men, women, whites, blacks, and Hispanics, and by education from less than a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree and higher. With 20 separate data points, the range from high to low was 10 jobs to 13.8.

Any way you look at it, baby boomers on average have 12 to 13 different jobs in their working careers. And remember, that study was only for people currently 58 to 65 years old, so if you believe the millennials and gen Z are changing jobs more frequently, they are not included in any long-term studies.

In fact, the BLS study showed that job tenure on average increases dramatically as people age. Perhaps the baby boomers (I am one) are just observing in the younger work force the same phenomenon that our generation went through.

If you are hiring and looking at a resume where someone in their mid-thirties has had a few job changes, keep in mind that it’s normal and does not mean that same rate of job changes will continue for the rest of their career.


About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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