The Not-So Surprising Secrets To Getting Millennials To Stay At Their Jobs

Balance, pay, mentorship: these factors could be part of the formula that makes young workers stick around.

The Not-So Surprising Secrets To Getting Millennials To Stay At Their Jobs
[Photo: Flickr user IAEA Imagebank]

Young people get a reputation for job hopping, and it’s kind of deserved. A recent survey from Payscale and Millennial Branding found that about a quarter of people born between 1982 and 2002 believe you should start looking for a new job before you’ve been at another one for a year.


But not everyone switches jobs frequently. Indeed, some young people stay in jobs for many years. The reasons aren’t all positive; sometimes people stay because there aren’t other opportunities. However, job longevity is often a sign that organizations are doing something right. Generally, that “something” is on this list:

Young employees get real responsibility

Jaime Leifer has been doing publicity for PublicAffairs Books for most of the 13 years since her 2001 graduation. Publishing has been in flux, but “What we try to emphasize here is the relative stability and, for lack of a better term, the familial nature of how we work,” she says. “We’re a small team. Everyone is essential.”

As part of that, she was given “a lot of responsibility and a lot of autonomy relatively early on.” Of course, working for a small organization has its downsides. Leifer left for two years in the middle in part because there was no way to earn a promotion until someone left. But when her old boss did leave, her organization called her up and she happily returned to take that job. “Feeling like you’ve got a real stake in the business can make it less attractive to jump around a lot if you’re a younger employee,” she says.

Young employees are mentored and supported

Maryellen Brown taught language arts and literature to seventh and eighth graders at the same New Jersey school for seven years (until she recently went out on maternity leave). She stayed in part because she was “blessed to have supportive and encouraging supervisors and administrators,” she says.

“These people made sure to check in with me regularly throughout my first few years. Anyone is nervous when they start out a new job, especially if it is one’s first job out of school; having supervisors who I truly felt had my back made me feel like I was working with allies.” They helped her become a more effective teacher, and see how she could influence the school and the whole district over time.

Such meaning and purpose matters: “I think the key reason I stayed was because I felt–every day–like I was doing something important,” she says. “If an employer is hoping to keep an employee around for the long haul, this validation and atmosphere in the work place is key.”


The pay is good

Let us not forget this option. Katey Kline had been working at a small midwestern bank when she seized the opportunity to nearly double her salary by moving to a role as a program manager in a technology area for a Fortune 500 company.

She’s now been there 14-plus years. “Their salaries mean I’ve been in a position to save and splurge,” she says, and she’s gotten a raise every year. Then there are the benefits. She earned her MBA for $10,000 out of pocket, and “the vacation package allows me to take week-long trips–a few times a year if I feel like it.”

Employees can have a life

Millennials don’t view the old way of working (in a cube, 9 to 5) as the inevitable order of things. Organizations can inspire deep, abiding loyalty by recognizing this. In Kline’s case, the biggest reason she stayed is that “my company let me keep the majority of my role, move states, and become a home-based worker.”

Much of her work could be done anywhere, and by not insisting she stay in Chicago (she now lives in North Dakota), this “allowed me to turn a long-distance relationship into a marriage.” She didn’t want to leave, “but I had looked elsewhere, knowing it was most likely going to come down to a choice between job or love.” That’s a contest jobs seldom win. “I really have the best of both worlds right now.”


About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at