Please Make Us Your Stepping Stone

job hoppingI’ve heard it said among millenials that job hopping is important for resume development. In fact, a recent Forbes article, Job Hopping is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials, outlines the advantages of millennial job hopping and how employers can avoid it.

Job hopping is a disturbing reality of our economy. However, employees know that they are replaceable, can easily be laid off, need to prove their worth, and are living in an era of extreme financial insecurity. So how does a law firm overcome this new reality?

Just last week, I spoke with an AmLaw 250 partner who oversees associate hiring and development. She told me that their law firm policy is not to hire right out of law school. Instead, they wait until the young lawyers are done cutting their teeth and let other firms handle the basic training. She said, “Once they’re five to ten years in, they’re usually ready to settle down somewhere and we go after them then – that way, there is more long-term stability, higher productivity, and lower HR costs for recruiting, training and turn-over.”

It’s an interesting concept especially when, according to a survey conducted by beyond.com:

  •  30 percent of companies surveyed lost 15 percent or more of their millennial employees in the past year.
  •  87 percent of companies said it cost $15,000 to $25,000 to replace a departed millennial employee.
  •  A large majority of the companies surveyed said millennials leave the company because they don’t consider it “a good cultural fit.”
  •  About 30 percent of millenials leave because they’ve gotten a better offer elsewhere, but almost the same amount say they left because their career goals didn’t align with those of the employer.

While law firms face the same challenges as other industries, ours is still a rather traditional industry with established ideals. Here is some food for thought.

Law firm employers do care about the lawyer’s resume. If you cannot show stability, you surely need to be able to explain why. There are often extenuating circumstances. But remember, the reasons you are job hopping will not be clear on your resume alone and while traditionalists, baby boomers and gen-xers are in charge, they’ll be scrutinizing the length of employment elsewhere.

The grass isn’t always greener. Take it from me. When I was a judicial law clerk, I loved the work, the Judges and staff. At the time, I could not afford to maintain my mortgage on municipal wages. I became the only woman lawyer at an all-male-attorney law firm. Not only did I go from working nine hours per day to 13-plus, I was paid less than my equal counterpart, treated poorly by some of the staff, at the bottom of the litigation totem-pole and expected not to take vacation that I had earned. Needless to say, the grass was definitely greener as a judicial law clerk.

Quality of life matters. In general, earlier generations were raised to value loyalty, job longevity and accomplishments while millenials value vacation and flex-time, the ability to access social media from the office and immediate gratification. Neither is “right.” What is important is that quality of life matters and the definitions vary. In fact, a 2012 survey by Net Impact found that, of all generations, 88 percent of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job, and 86 percent said the same for work they found “interesting.” When an attorney is seeking a new job opportunity, while salary is always a consideration, corporate culture will play a big role in the decision-making process. For most, being comfortable in an environment for nine to 12 hours a day (and then some) is just as important as being able to pay the bills.

Just as in the movie, Animal House, when the pledge says, “Thank you sir, may I have another,” most law firms are not likely to say, “Please make us your stepping stone.”