Here’s a question you haven’t heard before: Why are millennials so apt to quit their jobs?
For as many times as we’ve heard an answer to this question — it still makes us all confused. Employers are confused about our seemingly erratic career choices. Our parents are confused (worried) about our looming quarter-life crises. And, we are confused about who we actually want to be.
Speaking on behalf of all millennials (which I know is a danger), I think I can explain.
Here it goes.
Quitting is a thought that floats in-and-out of our heads — no matter how great our jobs are. This idea of leaving our current jobs is a conversation topic that stumbles into any happy hour. It’s an equalizer between colleagues, and a glue between outdated friends.
Because, we “millennials” want our careers to be everything. We want to find It. We know that others have, and life is too short for anything but perfect. So, until we do — we won’t stop searching.
Let me break that down for you.
We’ve been told we can Do Anything
Since we were young, we’ve been told we can do anything. We’ve been raised to think we could be anyone. We’ve been fed these mantras that We Are Special, and Work is Fun and we should Do Something We Love.
As we entered the school system, we were coddled and prodded and pushed into believing that we could change the world. That our ideas mattered. That after school, after college, we would miraculously fall into this fluffy world of Fun and Success and Ease. That with the snap of our fingers, we would find It.
It being Purpose. It being Fulfillment. It being that feeling when Work is not actually Work; when “Work” and Fun and Purpose all seamlessly mesh into one.
That finding It was doable. That some career would be exactly what we were meant to do.
As we got closer to looking for It, we were bombarded with the career advice to find something, that One Thing, that doesn’t feel like work. We were told:
“Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
We’ve seen others find It
Our vision of work was painted by one-hit-wonders, by shooting stars, by college-drop-outs-turned-billionaires.
These one-in-a-million types of workers made us believe that we too, could be like them. That we too could create something that we care about. That we could Be The Boss at the age of twenty-three. That we could skip the line and get the corner office. Or at least have a say in that Powerpoint presentation.
We have been shown an image of entrepreneurship that has this celebrity status teeming at the edges. We’ve hung up posters of Steve Jobs in our dorm rooms, and even contemplated leaving college to be like Mark Zuckerberg.
We’ve watched others who are just like us obtain their dreams — so why would we settle for this half-ass Adulthood?
We’ve been warned that Life Is Short
We’ve watched our parents and grandparents Save Up and Work Hard for our entire lives. We’ve seen some of them brag about their dreams to see the world, but never make it.
We swore that would never be us.
Most of us were lucky enough to spend a few months, or a few years in a place completely foreign to us. By our early 20s, we’ve seen places that distort our vision of what’s normal, and what’s beautiful. We come to expect everything to be a challenge — whether deciphering items in the grocery store, or immersing ourselves in deep debates that resonate in the hallways of our school.
That’s why, when we finally arrive at work — most of us are bored. Most of us don’t want to sit behind a jail-cell desk all day. We ache to interpret street signs in another language, rather than the political nuances within our company.
We want to be challenged in ways that we’re used to; in ways that are different; heck, in ways that are scary. We know that we don’t have time to waste.
The combination of all these factors told us that we don’t need to wait for that gold watch at our retirement party. That who knows — we may not even retire. We may be content with jumping around forever: from the Big Company to the teeny nonprofit and back; from New York to San Francisco to Hong Kong.
And you know, maybe it’s not even just being content. It’s also feeling guilty. It’s feeling like our parents made all these sacrifices to get us here? We’re hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to be doing this? We feel like it should be better, it should be more.
So, no — we are not loyal. And, we’re not going to be satisfied with this fake, corporate stuff that makes us feel icky. That makes us feel low. That makes us remember we’re not the boss, that we’re not making a difference, that we’re not doing anything, really, except sitting behind a desk and pretending to Do Work.
I know, I know, that’s how we’ve earned ourselves this terrible reputation of being Lazy and Impatient and Entitled. But, take it from me — we’re not.
We’re just looking for something More. We want this job-thing to not be Just a Job. We want it to be a life. To have meaning. To change something, anything about this kind-of-fucked-up world we’re living in.
To selfishly, Live with a Purpose that’s bigger than who we are right now.
Did you enjoy this read? If yes, check out more Adulting stories @ my blog, On Adulting.