Young Professionals Juice file photo.

Juice file photo.

Why YPs leave jobs

Published on October 22nd, 2013 | by Josh Hafner

If 20somethings entering America’s workforce are told anything, it’s that a good job — any job, really — is hard to find.

In August, unemployment for young Americans ages 18-29 neared 12 percent. Yet a survey released that same month found many companies struggling to keep millennials on their payroll, costing them time and money in the process.

Some young professionals who have ditched employers in Des Moines said they view career mobility differently than their parents, and that even a sour economy can’t pin them down to a position they don’t like.

About a third of companies surveyed by career network and the firm Millennial Branding lost 15 percent or more of their millennial employees within the past year. Almost 90 percent of companies said a millennial employee costs them between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace.

Nathan Robertson, 27, knows what a millennial employee can mean to a company. He also knows why a millennial might leave. Robertson currently works for a recruiter at a major company in downtown Des Moines but left a previous employer last winter to travel for three months in Argentina. He plans to leave his current employer in May and travel to Brazil for the World Cup.

“There’s not really any job in the world I’d take over going to the World Cup in Brazil,” Robertson said. “That’s where my values are.”

Robertson’s mother recently retired from a career with the U.S. Postal Service, which she began at age 20, he said. But some companies that his father worked for unceremoniously let him go or treated him poorly. His parents’ career tracks left two impressions: One, working for a single company your whole life is boring. Two, Employers won’t likely be loyal to you, so why be loyal to them?

Robertson landed his first recruiting job out of college in 2008 and was laid off five months later, he said. The ordeal left a bad taste in his mouth.

“To me, the story of being loyal to a company, I don’t put any value on that,” he said. “I’d rather work for a lot of different companies in different places and different cultures and newer experiences, for me.”

In the recruiting world, Robertson said he hears complaints that America’s younger workers are lazy and not motivated. In reality, young professionals may just have different needs, he said. Robertson claims to have seen many a millennial not receive proper training or challenges in a position.

Sioux City native Andrew Anderson, 28, worked in Des Moines for three years before quitting and taking a job in Denver because he wanted to see the world outside of Iowa. He then grew to want to see the world outside of the U.S., leaving that job to travel in Southeast Asia for a few months. He returned to Denver and found a job in the oil and gas industry.

To be sure, the scariest part about about leaving a job in a recession is later finding a job in a recession, Anderson said. Jumping from a job you’re not happy with in a relatively jobless economy requires self-confidence and determination, he said, particularly if you’re not sure where you might land. But it’s a jump Anderson said his peers seem more willing to make.

“It’s not laziness; it’s that we want to do things that make us happy and are a better fit for us,” he said. “It’s not a desire not to work; it’s a desire to find something more fitting for us.”

Share your thoughts on millenials and job mobility.

About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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