It’s no secret that the era of company loyalty seems to be nearly finished. Employees jump from job to job with relative speed and seemingly little regard for company loyalty.
“You take the best offer,” says Jake Bolton, a 27-year-old programmer who has worked for five employers since graduating from the University of Florida in 2011. “I’ll have loyalty to a company if they keep paying me what I’m worth. But as soon as I see my salary start to sag compared to other people, especially new hires, I’m gone.”
Bolton, who lives in Bristol, Conn., with his wife and 2-year-old son, says his loyalty is to himself and his family, not to his employer — a philosophy many consider to be in line with other millennials.
“I reject that millennial tag,” Bolton says. “People like to say ‘millennial this and millennial that,’ but where did we learn it from? Who taught us the days of company loyalty are dead and gone?”
Mia Pavalone, a 24-year-old copywriter who works as an independent contractor from her apartment in Chicago, answers before I even finish asking the question.
“Oh, I blame my dad for that,” Pavalone says. “I think a lot of my friends feel like that. I mean, I spent my whole life at home listening to my mom and dad complain about work. And it was never about their actual jobs; it was always about my dad getting screwed out of a bonus or my mom finding out that the guy who worked next to her was making more money.”
Pavalone says her dad told her from an early age never to trust her boss.
“He’s a big spy fan. He reads lots of espionage books, and he loves the term ‘blowback,’” Pavalone says. “He’d always say my generation would be corporate America’s blowback, the unintended consequences to guys like him, as he says, ‘getting the shaft,’ from their companies.”
According to Pavalone, her father believed an entire generation of children grew up watching their parents anguish over job stability, and when they took their place in the workforce, they’d be much less likely to accept the usual practices of corporate life.
“My dad would look at the stock going up, and his head would practically explode. He’d be stuck with the same salary while the company continued to make more money,” she says. “It drove him nuts.”
Bolton has similar stories.
“My mom’s a social worker and my dad’s an ex-Marine who became a logistics guy. He probably saved his company millions of dollars by noticing all the dumb mistakes they’d make when it came to shipping products and ordering parts, and when they updated their system to automate all the orders — when it was finally, officially in place, the actual day it went live — they offered him 12 weeks of severance and laid him off on the spot,” Bolton says. “So yeah, there was lots of yelling at my house about work, and yeah, I’m probably the way I am because I had to listen to them complain about it.”
One of the secrets of the job-hopping trend is that employees are gaming the system when it comes to salaries, according to Shadd Weber, a former job analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Let’s say you stick with the same firm for five or 10 years. In today’s economy, you’re getting anywhere from a 1 to 5 percent raise each year,” Weber says. “If you’re accepting a new job every year or even every other year, it’s doubtful that you’re leaving for 1 to 5 percent. Most people want at least a 10 percent increase in salary if they’re going to switch jobs.”
Bolton says making more money are reasons “one, two and three” on his internalized list of why and when he should look for a new job.
“I like a challenge and I want good benefits,” he says, “but I’ve learned in a short period of time that jobs that pay well are pretty much the jobs that offer good benefits and will give me cool projects to work on.”
Pavalone agrees. “I’m all in on the gig economy,” she says. “And the better the money, the better the gig.”
Despite what some may think, both Pavalone and Bolton say their work stands with, if not above, the work of their respective employers’ long-term workers.
In fact, Bolton says he’s a model employee wherever he goes.
“Unlike the guy who’s a lifer, I want to do as well as I can as fast as I can. I want to impress the hell out of my bosses so they give me a great reference. They’re not shell-shocked when people leave. They get it,” Bolton says. “The idea is to get them on your side. You do your work exceptionally well and you move on. And don’t fool yourself. They’re doing the same thing.”