It’s time to let go of the fantasy that there’s a “one and only” dream job waiting for you—the career soulmate to provide you with 35 years of self-fulfilled bliss and full dental care. That position doesn’t exist for most, according to a recent Gallup poll, which found millennials to be the least engaged generation at work. Nearly 30 percent admitted that they lacked “the opportunity to do what they do best.”
Findings like this paint a bleak picture of the millennial’s place in today’s workforce. But before you resign yourself to decades of 9-to-5 drudgery, consider that the lack of a single career actually means the possibilities are endless. To take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, think about leaving a job sooner rather than later. You wouldn’t be alone. In 2014, the median amount of time that workers had spent with their current employer was 4.6 years. Among ages 25 to 34, however, that timeframe drops to three years. There’s no stigma about having four different employers on your resume over a decade. Your future boss (if you choose to even have one) may appreciate your ability to adapt and embrace fresh challenges. Give yourself 18 months to two years at each job if you must, but don’t feel obligated beyond that. New beginnings can be your new normal.
Of course, the gig economy doesn’t offer much in the way of benefits, and it necessitates constant pivoting that can be exhausting. But with a little help, it’s possible to make it work.
Emilie Wapnick, career coach and author of Renaissance Business, recommends juggling different skills rather than focusing on a single trade. She says there are four main employment models in the modern workplace: There’s the “group hug approach”—a single job that brings together multiple interests. (Think startups that require the ability to wear multiple hats.) The “slash approach” means committing to being a full-time part-timer. (You’re not an artist, but an artist/tennis instructor.) The “sequential approach” is about investing in a single career for years, then flipping the script. And the “Einstein approach” requires a stable day job while exploring additional interests on the side. (Einstein held a job at the patent office while working on extracurricular pursuits, like the theory of special relativity.)
Here’s the trick in 2016: The most successful people you know embody all of these models. Maybe you start out in sequential mode before hitting a hairpin turn and converting to the slash approach in pursuit of work-life balance. No matter what: Always be an Einstein. Exploring personal interests outside of work will make you happier and better at any 9-to-5.