Recent articles in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Charlotte Business Journal, and Pittsburgh Business Times draw some interesting, albeit suspect, conclusions about an Accountemps study of job search habits of employees over 18.
The Accountemps study press release supports the adage “the best time to look for a job is when you already have one.” And here’s the good news: nearly 3/4’s of office employees feel “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” heeding this advice. The remaining quarter are “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” looking for new employment before leaving their current firm. That doesn’t mean they don’t do it; it just means they are anxious about doing it. The authors, as well as the business journal reporters, seem to have missed this last point.
The Silicon Valley reporter drew the conclusion that the study “found stark disparities in new job search tactics among workers of different age groups.” Several of the articles were critical of younger workers, aka millennials, because of their higher level of comfort with “looking for a new job while on the clock for their current employer.”
Unless you get paid overtime for receiving those evening and late night emails on your smart-phone, you are always “on the clock.” So this understanding of the study suffers at its inception from misconstruing the questions answered. However, I think the difference in age groups stems as much from perception by the responders to the questions and the responders stage of their career, as much as any difference in “job hopping” sentiment.
Millennials blur the lines of work and personal time, or rather they don’t try so hard to keep them separate. When you ask a millennial when he/she is at work, they are much more likely to reply “all the time.” They are more likely to see “the place” they work to be irrelevant to any designation of being “at work.” They are “at work” emailing on public transportation; they are “at work” when they answer a call at dinner; they are “at work” when they prepare a presentation from a beach house. Because they work from so many “personal” locations, they naturally conduct more personal business from more traditional “work” locations.
The other bias in this survey is the definition of “job search activities.” For this study job search activities encompass only those activities that can be conducted at a traditional office location, and activities focused on those early in their careers.
The reason people over 50 don’t spend time at work “searching online job applications” is that it’s a waste of their time. By the time you get 30 years into your career, networking is far and away the most productive way to job search – every outplacement consultant will tell you this. But networking with professional colleagues at trade association events, off-site professional continuing education seminars, at coffee shops, or even golfing, aren’t listed – this is the way people with 30 years experience find jobs: networking with colleagues they know to people they don’t.
People who are in an earlier stage of their career can benefit to a much, much higher degree from responding to online job ads or, as they get just a few years of experience, working with professional recruiters. Obviously any data would show a younger bias toward these activities. The press release mentioned no efforts to compensate for this inherent bias.
My conclusion is that these articles, like far too many I read on job searching, promote stereotypes which in addition to the inherent problems with any generalization, also inaccurately criticize the behavior of entire groups of employees.
“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.
Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people. I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin. The job is not the work.” ― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?