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Changing employers versus changing occupations

Catherine Loughlin, Associate Dean, Research and Knowledge Mobilization


Illustration for Vurain Tabvuma research video blog post

The gig economy. I know you’ve heard of it. The phrase is one of the most tossed-about in the popular business press -- right up there with “millennials killed [insert anything]”.

People will change careers seven times in their lifetimes. Or is it six times? Or fifteen?
Vurain Tabvuma, professor of management

These unsubstantiated statements get tossed around a lot by executives and HR columnists, but the truth is, there are no solid statistics that demonstrate this.  A study by LinkedIn shows that there has been an upsurge in people changing jobs during these “millennial years” but the study is based on a survey  of LinkedIn users. Is this a representative sample of all industries, fields and demographics?

The Bureau of Labour Statistics are mentioned in a few popular press stories that show that today’s “job-hopping millennials” actually change jobs about the same number of times as their baby boomer precedents.  In fact, their tenure at each job may be a bit longer.

So, what happens when people change jobs? And is there a difference in their job satisfaction when they change, not just employers, but occupations? Is that creative accountant more fulfilled as a graphic designer? Is that retail manager enjoying going to work as a veterinary technician more? These questions and their answers have a number of implications for workers and employers alike.

It was these questions that Dr. Vurain Tabvuma, associate professor of management, and his team of fellow researchers sought to explore in their 2017 article, “Is the Grass Greener? A longitudinal study of the impact of employer change and occupational change on job satisfaction.”

Everyone dreams of jumping that fence and exploring the path not taken. Perhaps you are one, regretting that circumstances hold you back. Dr. Tabvuma and his colleague’s findings show that perhaps those circumstances are in your favour!

Catherine Loughlin
Associate Dean, Research and Knowledge Mobilization

sobeyschool@smu.ca T: 902-420-5422