I am below average. When it comes to the number of jobs I have held, I mean.
I read some labor statistics recently, because that’s what parenting columnists do when we want to relax and unwind, and I saw a study that showed people born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 12.3 jobs by the time they were 52 years old.
Now, this group is way, way older than me. I’m talking two whole years! But I started counting up the jobs I have held anyway to see how I compared.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics study looked at jobs held between the ages of 18 and 52, so Baby Boomer kid jobs such as newspaper routes, lemonade stands and delivering Western Union telegrams don’t count. On average, workers went through about half their total lifetime number of jobs by the time they were 25. That makes sense, because people job-hop when they’re young, as they try to figure out what work they’re good at and to which corporation they want to shackle their bodies and sell their souls for the bulk of their adult lives.
By my count, I have held six jobs in my life. And I should note that the study defined “job” as “an uninterrupted period of work with a particular employer.” In other words, if you started at Gary’s Gas Station as a sweeper and eventually worked your way up to own the place, that counts just one time, even if you held 15 different positions on your climb to the top. The study could have been called “number of places worked,” it seems.
The reasons why I have worked for fewer employers is because my family had a farm where I could always find a job (even when I wasn’t looking for one) and because, despite the diminishment of the newspaper industry in the 21st century, I have been lucky to have a 30-year career in journalism spent at just two newspapers.
Now, if we count the times I boomeranged back to the farm as separate jobs, like during my, ahem, “sabbatical” from college after my sophomore year, well, my total number goes up a bit.
The study also found gender and educational discrepancies in the number of jobs held. For men, a college degree meant fewer jobs — possibly because a college-educated dude settled into a company early on for the long haul. For women, the opposite was found. Women without a college degree worked an average of 9.9 jobs during the prime working years, and women with a degree held an average of 13.1 jobs.
The survey contains information about length of employment, average time spent out of the labor force, wage growth and other data, and can be found online at https://bit.ly/2HAADBx.
This all brings us to the millennial generation, a massive lump of young people who have earned a reputation not only for being mystified by stick shifts, but also for being chronic, selfish, disloyal job-hoppers, ready to abandon their coworkers and pounce on their next career at the drop of a high-tech startup. The facts, however, refute that reputation (about career changes, not about the stick shifts).
A survey by LinkedIn found that, yes, it’s true that millennials experience more “job churn” — switching jobs and careers — early in their 20s, but that there’s little evidence that they continue to job-hop at high rates as they have gotten older. In other words, they’re not that much different from the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers who preceded them. People in their 20s and 30s today will hold more jobs and work for more employers than their grandparents or great-grandparents did, but that should be expected. The United States is no longer home to company towns where one industry provided jobs for the local populace. New businesses start up every week. And we are still just 10 years removed from the greatest economic crash most of us have ever lived through. A little job churn is a natural consequence of all those changes.
Fortunately, some of us can always boomerang back to the farm — where “churn” used to be a real job.