Why temping baffles boomers and benefits Gen Z
A generation ago, listing a plethora of short-term jobs would have been a red flag - an indicator of no sticking power.
But for young employees in 2023 this temporary mindset might actually be a much smarter strategy.
A recent study by Career Builder revealed a startling commitment gap between working generations. The average length of stay in a job before moving on varies significantly according to age. Baby Boomers last 8 years and 3 months, Gen X for 5 years and 2 months, Millennials for 2 years and 9 months.
And Gen Z? Just 2 years and 3 months.
For senior staff, Gen Z’s short-termism may be hard to understand.
Anyone entering the workforce in the latter half of the last century would have encountered very different expectations. A person usually found their career path quickly, and by their early 20s most Boomers and Gen Xs would have found a straight route to a steady wage and stuck with it. Even older Millennials would have experienced similar expectations.
If not a job for life, then the majority would be thinking in years, not months and temporary roles were certainly not mainstream.
If young workers are career butterflies, is it any wonder? They have arguably lived through the most unsettling times since WWII, surfing unprecedented tech innovation, fast evolving social movements, terrifying climate change, massive inflation and - of course - a global pandemic.
It’s no surprise if they feel unsettled and disconnected. A recent Gallup Poll rated Gen Z as the least engaged group of all working generations.
Why? The knee-jerk response is that this age group has a famously short attention span.
Yet, if anything, Gen Z suffers from too much attention. With social media connectivity in its very DNA, this age group almost never switches off. As well as being plagued with anxiety as a result, Gen Z is also plugged into trends and opportunities 24/7.
While Boomers and older Millennials would have needed to make an active effort to survey the job scene by buying a newspaper or visiting an agency, younger workers signed up to LinkedIn, Indeed and yes, even social media platforms, are offered new possibilities every hour of every day - right in the palm of their hand.
Yet all these explanations for Gen Z job-hopping are swerving the real issue.
This generation has witnessed profound shifts in the human experience. Former generations were promised the dream - “work hard and you can buy a house, support your family, retire and live comfortably”. That is no longer reality as the cost of living has skyrocketed while wages trail far behind. Gen Z has been buffeted by greenwashing, misdirected by click-bait and flummoxed by conspiracy theories.
So, who should Gen Z believe? Increasingly - each other. Job rating sites like Glassdoor offer a platform for young workers to share their real-life experiences in the kind of frank appraisals that can give CEOs palpitations. Furthermore, they are not holding back from voicing their opinions of employers on social media and by word of mouth.
Truth is currency. In a McKinsey survey 65% of Gen Z said they particularly value knowing what’s going on around them, to build some sense of some control. Transparency at work is, for most under 25s, non-negotiable.
So perhaps not surprisingly, when it comes to nailing their colors to one company mast, Gen Z is hesitant.
Career choice is key to Gen Z’s identity. For many this rests on green ethics and inclusivity. In a recent report from KPMG, one fifth of Gen Z applicants said they had rejected a job offer because the firm’s ESGs were not up to their standards.
All of which underlines why time spent in the temping sphere is perfect for Gen Z. Temping has always been a useful option, but it’s now regarded as a credible way of building a young person’s career.
Short term contracts offer not only the chance to build experience and skills, but also a way to achieve a balance between earning and fulfilling a parallel passion.
And working alongside someone who’s also happily creating sellable pottery on Etsy or singing in a weekend band makes for a workplace mix of diversity and dynamism.
So, far from a series of false starts, the temping Gen Z job-hopper is simply flexing wings in this butterfly phase of their working lives. It’s the best time to land and take off several times over.
Want to learn more about temporary and contract opportunities? Connect with a LHH Talent Specialist today!