By Pan Jingyi, Yu Jing
By all accounts, 31-year-old Peter Xue had an impeccable CV. He was at one time a research analyst, an investment banker and a business consultant. But none of those titles lasted for more than a year. In two years, he had changed four jobs.
His first job upon graduation, as a research assistant at a think tank based in Washington, D.C., did not offer a good salary. That pushed him to return to China to find jobs in the finance sector, later to find out that the money-driven corporate culture was not the right fit. In eight months, he packed up all that he had and came to Singapore, keen to find the right balance between a good paycheck and work that interests him.
"After quitting my third job, I came to realize that there is no perfect balance between a good salary, a job with meaning and work-life balance," said Xue. "You just can't have it all."
Across China, millennials like Xue are changing jobs at a speed that is unseen in generations before them. According to a report published by professional networking platform LinkedIn, millennials born after the 1990s stayed on average in their first job for 19 months. In comparison, the number for those born in the 1980s is 43 months, and 51 months for those born in the 1970s.
Among the industries that see the highest rate of job-hopping are internet and consulting industries. Hopping jobs frequently to have boost salary is common in China's overly competitive internet industry, where companies vie for top talents to achieve faster expansion. Many tech companies in China have the implicit rule that if one jumps from one tech company to the other, the salary jump that comes with the next job offer should be no less than 15 percent.
Frequent job-hopping is a relatively new phenomenon in China. For the previous generations, many of whom desire to work for government departments or state-owned enterprises, job security and stability are crucial. Not only would it bring a stable paycheck, it guarantees pension, housing, medical care, and even educational opportunities for their children.
But now even millennials working for state-owned enterprises question if all is worth it. 29-year-old Sisi Zhang, who worked for a state-affiliated enterprise for only a month before quitting, revealed the struggles she went through before submitting her resignation letter.
"Though the job offers a good welfare package and high social esteem, the fact that there is not much real work to do except from redundant work created by the bureaucracies is a constant reminder that I don't belong here," she said.
Now working as a translator for a foreign embassy in Beijing, she said job-hopping for her is a process of adapting to changes in society as well as a process of self-discovery. "Today, work is not as fixed as before and some occupations that exist today may not exist tomorrow."
Because of improved economic conditions, working for a purpose is becoming increasingly important for millennials in China. According to the 2018 Chinese College Graduates' Employment Annual Report by MyCOS, a consulting company specialized in higher education management, 46 percent of the college graduates say they quit because of limited career development potential, while 43 percent say it is because of low salary and insufficient welfare benefits.