What Is The Average Number of Career Changes in a Person's Lifetime?

A "career for life" is essentially unheard of in the modern workforce. Compared to a few decades back, it is more common now to list a number of jobs on your CV over a shorter period of time. Job hopping is practically expected of people, especially when it comes to Millennials.

Key Takeaways

A "career for life" is essentially unheard of in the modern workforce. Compared to a few decades back, it is more common now to list a number of jobs on your CV over a shorter period of time. Job hopping is practically expected of people, especially when it comes to Millennials.

If you are thinking of a career change you are not the only one. 32% of workers between the ages of 25 and 44 are considering changing careers, and 29% actually have, according to an EdX poll!

In this guide, we will show you that it is completely normal for people to change careers, why they do it, and most importantly, how to do it so that it is least disruptive to your life.

Changing careers is a big decision and involves transferring your abilities and experiences to a whole new field of work, which may or may not be related to your current job to any degree. 

Maybe you're an electrician who wants to take a step up the ladder and try project management to earn more. Perhaps you work in the fast-paced financial market which would entice you to go for a field with less job stress.

The majority of people who look to change careers do so for the appropriate reasons, such as better earning prospects or a better work/life balance. No one would choose to put themselves through the stress and uncertainty of choosing to leave their current carer and begin a new one if they didn't have to.

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Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course

Therefore, don't be concerned that having three or four jobs listed on your resume would make you appear an opportunist. This is now the norm.

According to a recent Harris Poll survey conducted for Fast Company, the majority of American workers (52%) are considering changing jobs this year, and as many as 44% have concrete plans in place to do so.

This guide looks in detail at what is the average number of career changes in a lifetime of the average employee, why they switch careers, and what motivates them. Not only that, because we realize that changing careers can be disruptive, we will also show you the best way to change careers without causing chaos in your life.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

The average number of career changes for an American employee

The biggest challenge in determining the number of career changes is that while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor does track the number of job changes of the average American it does not track a person's multiple careers in a lifetime.

The primary reason for this is that it is very difficult to define what a career change is. It is difficult to figure out when a job change is no longer a job change and becomes a career change. 

For example, if a writer of crime novels switches to writing autobiographies, is that a job change or a career change? 

With millions of jobs and hundreds of variations in job descriptions, it is a huge challenge to define a career change unless it is very obvious… like an electrician switching to becoming a computer programmer.

Despite the lack of precise data on the number of career changes, there are some industry estimates that can offer hints. It is suggested that the average American employee changes careers between 3 to 7 times

This range has now become the accepted industry standard for the average number of career changes for employees in the U.S.

For perspective, if we take the average number of career changes to be 4 times and we are aware that the average number of job changes an American employee makes is 12 then we can safely conclude that every 3rd or 4th job an American employee gets is also a career change.

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 Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

The average tenure at a job in 2022

Another interesting angle to consider is looking at how long the average American stays at one job. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release, the average American employee with pay and salaries has been with their current employer for 4.6 years only. 

This average tenure is clearly impacted by one's age and occupation: 

  • The longest median tenures, 5.5 years, were recorded for managers, professionals, and related positions.
  • The median tenure for workers between the ages of 25 and 34 is 3.2 years.\
  • On the other hand, the typical length of employment for those who are 65 or older is 10.3 years, because at this age people normally have found a good job and settled in.
  • Workers in service occupations have the shortest median tenure at 3.2 years.

All these statistics add up to make the following conclusion - Americans are changing jobs 12 times in their lives, often spending less than 5 years at a job at a time. 

On every 3rd or 4th job they change careers on average.

Want to make a big career move? Take some time to check out the complete guide to switching careers!

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Why do people want to change their careers?

The next question that comes to mind as soon as you answer how often people switch careers is why they do it.

If you really want to get some help figuring out how to go about changing your career here is a list of the 6 best podcasts and 7 best books for changing careers.

There are many reasons why people want to change careers. But can you guess the top reasons why a professional might consider a career change today? What is the driving force behind making such a big life decision?

1. When they are not content with their pay or want more financial stability 

One of the main motives for leaving a job is not being paid what one believes one is worth. The EdX study also revealed that 39% of individuals who were considering or had already changed occupations did so in order to receive higher pay. 

Sometimes the best way to increase your earnings is to change careers.

Additionally, some industries offer very little job and financial stability. Employees leave such careers at the first opportunity they get to move to careers that offer more stability.
After all, financial stability also means stability in other aspects of life.

You can also go through our guide on the typical salary increase you can expect when switching jobs.

2. Lack of opportunities in the current field of work

Some industries just don’t offer a path to grow beyond a certain point. When people are able to employ their skills and abilities in the work they are doing, they feel more useful, self-assured, and accomplished. 

People want to grow and advance in their careers, therefore if their current career doesn't allow them to do so, they will start feeling unsatisfied. If your job does not present opportunities for development and promotion, employees will start looking at other opportunities.

Beyond just wanting to put their knowledge to use they also seek a challenge to become better at what they do and if they don't feel like their abilities are being stretched, they'll feel disappointed. 

Keep in mind that people desire progress, fulfilment, and purpose in their careers.

3. Shifting to growth industries

Many employees in the hospitality, conventional retail, and other areas adversely hit by the epidemic are consciously looking for opportunities to transfer talents into growth industries.

A good example of this is people moving from such industries to the digital and e-commerce industries.

A survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 46% of former employees in the leisure and hospitality sector are considering changing careers. 

Restaurant managers have many talents that overlap with various responsibilities in other sectors, according to Broberg, whose firm works with private companies and public institutions to improve the alignment of talent with employer needs.

4. College degrees are no longer mandatory for many new growth industries

Businesses have abandoned a degree-based hiring strategy due to a high demand to fill unfilled positions and a talent shortage. A bachelor's degree is no longer a minimal prerequisite to accomplish some occupations anymore. 

Instead, recruiting managers are shifting to a skills-based strategy. In fact, many businesses looking for digital skills are collaborating with talent partners that offer certification, upskilling, and reskilling of employees. 

The elimination of the Bachelor’s barrier gives workers, especially those from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, the chance to transition into fields and positions that were previously out of reach.

5. Work flexibility

It is evident that the shift to remote work is a permanent aspect of the modern workplace rather than a transient predicament brought on by the pandemic. 

People are less inclined to move for a job now, and because companies are under pressure to fill unfilled positions, they are less likely to require job hopefuls to move as a condition of employment. 

Together, these two factors result in a much wider recruiting field for employers and a far wider range of job opportunities for individuals.

6. Your values have evolved

Just like relationships, jobs occasionally require you to grow in new directions. You might no longer be as enthusiastic about the mission your company is on as you once were. 

It's not difficult to assume that people might undergo significant life changes. What makes you happy at age 22 could not make you happy at age 40. 

You might have experienced a spiritual awakening and be yearning to leave the office and work in a more laid-back setting. 

Alternatively, you may now want greater stability than what your current employment as a freelancer offers, even if when you were younger, financial security may not have been a top priority for you. A career change may be necessary given these shifting values, issues, and priorities.

7. You wish to concentrate on other aspects of life

Our jobs occasionally don't provide us enough time to devote to other elements of our lives. Perhaps you wished you had more time to spend with your family or engage in a pastime you love. 

Many people like to take more time off to travel and explore the world. If so, look into a profession that enables you to work independently or with flexibility. 

Working fewer hours may be an option for you depending on your circumstances since research demonstrates that more and more employees are choosing part-time work as their primary occupation nowadays. 

Sometimes we need a career that enables us to see that there is more to life than work.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

OK, so I know career change is normal and I have a good reason(s) to go for one. Where do I start?

Changing your career can be a source of a lot of stress. You have good reasons to switch but you are either too scared to take the first step or just don’t know what the first step is.

Fear not, we have a step-by-step guide to help you on this journey:

  • Evaluate your position

    Make a list of things you like and dislike about your current career. First, think about how you feel about your current job and how satisfied
    you are with it. Note any repeating themes or noteworthy incidents, along with your feelings about them.

    Ask yourself difficult questions like "What do I like or dislike about my job?" Respond to them, then read your responses. You'll start to build a picture of what job happiness looks like for you based on your own opinion.

    At this time, you should also conduct a personal inventory of your interests, values, and talents that are relevant to the kind of work you would want to do. Think about times you've been very successful and what you were doing at the time, whether it was a job, a volunteer position, an internship, or something else entirely.

    Determine the abilities that contributed to your success and how you can use them in a variety of roles that interest you.
  • Determine whether you want to switch industries

    Considering whether such a significant adjustment is actually necessary is a crucial next step. You might discover that a partial career switch is all you need. 

    As you took note of the aspects of your job that you disliked you will also understand if there is something you can do to change that situation at your current job.

    Could you possibly be happier in the same role but with a different company? Perhaps even at your current company, you might be happier in a different position. 

    For many professionals in the middle of their careers, switching careers result in higher job satisfaction.
Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

  • Study the industry you want to enter

    If you determine that switching careers is best for you, an important next step is to do your study on the new industry. How has the industry changed as a result of COVID-19? Can you achieve your professional objectives in this field? What are the trends in the industry?

    To obtain a glimpse of what the future might hold, you might find it useful to go to a regional or online industry event. You may check out what the experts in this network are up to right now. You can conduct some research on LinkedIn and ask for assistance from your alumni association.
  • Gather information through informal interviews

    Before considering a career shift, informational interviews might give you some inside knowledge about the target industry. Is there a professional in that field in your network? If not, could someone introduce you to someone?

    Ask them about the qualifications needed to be successful in the field during the informational interview. What will this industry look like in ten years? What would a business expert suggest to someone looking to start on this particular career path? These kinds of inquiries might give you the necessary understanding for your subsequent actions.
  • Decide what training or credentials you require

    You might find that you need to complete some additional studies to be eligible for your new industry. Do you merely need experience, or do you also require a degree or another certification?

    If your circumstances allow it, you can consider taking classes online or at a nearby institution. Reach out to your alumni to learn more about the opportunities they may be offering. Your alumni association may be conducting boot camps or exclusive programs for alums.
  • Commit to the career change you want

    Determine your level of commitment to changing careers. It won't happen if you aren't fully dedicated to the cause. Create a weekly timetable for your career change objectives to increase your dedication.

    For instance, block up an hour or two each week in your calendar to dedicate to networking, research, and informational interviews. Make time to attend any required classes for certifications or degrees.

    Establish deadlines if necessary and set gradual goals for yourself. To make sure you maintain moving forward with your career transition, you can also invite a trusted friend or relative to serve as your accountability partner.
  • Stay focused

    Choose a place to store all of your research and insights on job changes. It's important to have a specific place to place all your research data, notes, and thoughts so you can easily access them whenever you need them.

    This place could be a folder on your computer or a special drawer in your home office desk. This will save you time because you won't have to use up the time allotted for your career change organizing yourself; instead, you can pick off right where you left off.

    You'll be more likely to take the process seriously and stay on track if you have a dedicated place to go to for this task
  • Determine potential obstacles

    When it comes to changing careers, there will always be challenges. You can develop a strategy to overcome them as soon as you recognize what these challenges are.

    Do you, for instance, have any particular worries about changing careers? Do you need to reduce any distractions at all? Do your plans need to take into account any practical considerations, such as paying a mortgage or funding a child's education?

    To identify and analyze all of your obstacles, list them all in writing. Make a practical action plan for each of them.
  • Update your CV

    Your cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile should reflect your professional brand and also be relevant to your target industry. It's also important to identify your transferable skills; skills that you have used before that can also be used in a new industry.

    You can do this by comparing your previous resume copy to job descriptions in your target industry. What keywords are they using? What skills are they looking for that you already have?

    Make sure to include those words and skills on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

  • Use your network

    When choosing connections to reach out to, keep in mind the industry and job you wish to pursue. Speak with experts you can rely on to advocate for you and keep you informed about opportunities. 

    You can do this over the phone, over text, or even with a social media message or email reference.

    Additionally, look for chances to volunteer, intern, or job-shadow. This will offer you the experience to set yourself apart from other job seekers and assist you in determining whether the industry or field is a good fit for you.

If it applies to you, it will also help to look at our guides on changing careers at a specific point in your life:

Final thoughts

The data on career changes demonstrates that the majority of Americans are not happy with their current jobs and would like to make a change. Many of these employees are also willing to consider changing careers in order to find jobs that are more fulfilling or pay better.

Additionally, we also looked at the reasons why Americans want to change their careers. Deciding on a career change is not always simple and it can be challenging to determine what you want to do next. It could seem like an endless search until you locate something that works for you. We have added a step-by-step guide to help you manage your career change.

Here is where retraining may be useful. It provides you with resources and opportunities without the danger of venturing into new fields on your own. Today's technology and online learning platforms make it simpler than ever to change one's career path.

We hope that this guide has been helpful to you and that you will use it to begin a profession that is more satisfying than the one you currently hold.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many times are you likely to change careers?

How many job changes is too many?

What is the average tenure for Millennials?

Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course
Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course
Last updated on:
March 5, 2024

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