We looked at millions of work histories in Canadian resumes to see if we could determine patterns in who often Canadians were changing jobs. It turns out that different cohorts have very exhibit very different behaviours in their career transitions.

For example, Generation X spends over 20 per cent longer in each job they hold than Gen Y does.

Those people who graduated from university in 1992, Generation Xers, worked an average of 3.2 jobs in the first 12 years of their career. They stayed approximately 41 months or 3.4 years in each job.

Just ten years later, the cohort graduating in 2002, Generation Y, held 3.9 jobs over their first 12 years on the job market, with a shorter tenure of 32.5 months or 2.7 years in each job on average.

Gen Y changed jobs 22 per cent more often over a 12 year period than Gen X did.

Contrast that with the job longevity experienced by their parents. According to Statistics Canada, two-thirds of Canadian Baby Boomers entered their fifties in long-time employment – holding down jobs they had been in for at least 12 years with the same employer. In fact, more than half had worked for the same firm or organization for far longer — often 20 years or more. (You can read that report from Stats Can here.)

If the current trend continues, Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs in their careers.

Here’s what we found out about the current situation from surveying 4,000 Canadians at the end of last year. Only 6 per cent of people have held just one job in their career, while 16 per cent said that they had held ‘more than ten.’

How many jobs have you had in your career?

    1 – 6%
    2 – 8%
    3 – 14%
    4 – 15%
    5 – 13%
    Between 5 and 10 – 28%
    More than 10 – 16%

Changing career paths entirely

Canadians aren’t only increasingly changing jobs – we’re actually completely changing careers more often. Most of us are now switching career fields at least two or three times. We asked 4,500 Canadians:

How many different career paths have you followed?

    1 – 24%
    2 – 35%
    3 – 24%
    4 – 9%
    5+ – 8%

The most common reasons people gave for changing career paths were discovering a new field they were passionate about (35 per cent), becoming bored/disillusioned with their original work (24 per cent), and setbacks such as lack of advancement and /or cutbacks, layoffs in a career path (19 per cent).

Most Canadians don’t think they will stay in the same vocation for their entire career. In a survey of over 1,000 people, nearly three quarters (73 per cent) said that they do not expect to remain in the same profession for life.

Knowing that a job – even a profession – isn’t permanent should take some of the pressure off the decision making. It’s not so dire which job you take right now since your career will be made up of the many, many jobs you’ve held and paths you’ve followed over your working life.

The most important question to ask is no longer “What should I do?” It has become, “What am I going to do next?”

What skills can I acquire next, what can I take on next to add accomplishments to my resume, what will my next career move be.

For success careers in today’s ever-changing world of work with trends and technologies rapidly inventing new career paths and making others obsolete, evolution isn’t ‘survival of the fittest’. Evolution is survival.

Read the full report: Thinkopolis VI: Moving Work

Peter Harris
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