Why Generation Y should job-hop, even in the recession

There’s buzz in the media that Generation Y is finally being put in our place. The recession won’t play favorites and Gen Y will see just what Gen X and the Boomers have been talking about. Besides this being ridiculously sad – honestly, are we really a society that beats down optimism? – it’s also completely erroneous.

The Economist reports that “the touchy-feely management fads that always spring up in years of plenty (remember the guff about ‘the search for meaning’ and ‘the importance of brand me’) are being ditched in favor of more brutal command-and-control methods.” (h/t The Schiff Report)

Except companies that operate according to the latest trend and resort to command-and-control methods are neither Gen Y-friendly, nor anyone-friendly. You cannot have one set of values one month and a different set the next, because what makes individuals productive in one economy does not change in another.

If you value an open, collaborative approach, that shouldn’t change when times get tough. Especially when Gen Y values are so beneficial to everyone.

The Economist goes on to say that Gen Yers “have labored under the illusion that the world owed them a living. But hopping between jobs to find one that meets your inner spiritual needs is not so easy when there are no jobs to hop to.”

Except that those who can perform will always be able to find a new, exciting position. And Gen Y knows how to perform, especially under pressure. We’ve been multitasking since we could make a to-do list and we readily embrace change. We came of age during 9/11 and as Nadira Hira argues, “corporate America often appears just as scary and unstable (and untrustworthy) as the world at large, if not more so.”

Just because we’re experiencing an economic meltdown for the first time does not mean that we’re going to hide in the corner. We’re not going to settle. Really, we’re not surprised. We saw all this growing up– lay-offs, bankruptcy, politicking – and it’s exactly why we wanted to change the workplace in the first place.

As the Financial Times reports, “today’s younger generation are better prepared for economic hard times than their parents or grandparents: they were not expecting jobs for life… switching jobs and reconsidering careers are second nature to them.”

So, stop listening to those who say Gen Y won’t survive the recession. Here are four ways to really feel secure in today’s economy –

1) Turn down job offers. My mother was horrified and I was elated when I turned down a job offer a couple months ago. But it is one of the most empowering career moves you can make because you get to practice negotiating, you get feedback, you’re in control and you have the option of using it as a bargaining position later.

2) Get paid what you’re worth. I’ve increased my salary 60% since my first position out of college. If you’re keeping track, that’s a 20% raise each year. Silvana Avinami, a self-proclaimed strategic job-hopper reports on Brazen Careerist that she does even better than that, averaging a 30% raise with each hop (see comments).

You simply cannot do this by staying at the same job unless you’re there for a very long time. You just can’t.Loyalty is about delivery,” and when you deliver, you should be rewarded accordingly.

3) Over-perform. You probably don’t love what you do. And if you don’t like your job, even a little, you’ll start performing badly. That’s bad because high performance is the key to a successful career.

“It makes sense,” Penelope Trunk argues. “If you don’t need to get another job anytime soon, then you don’t need to perform well in the next six months. You can coast. Job hoppers don’t coast or their resume will look bad.” Job-hopping allows you to find out what you like and figure out your strengths by forcing you to make an impact quickly.

4) Risk everything. Because safe is boring and maybe that’s good when times are easier, but they’re not. Safety doesn’t create innovation. But innovation does create new jobs and new opportunities. Innovation creates new markets and cures for illnesses and ideas that make us excited to get up in the morning.

You really want to help the economy? Put yourself out there. Risk everything. Do it for you, your family, your friends. We’ll all thank you.

Recession proof.

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