Abhinav Sonal, 26, switched five jobs in six years and currently works with an education start-up based in Delhi.

“My first job at Deloitte as an associate wasn’t a client-facing role, and the work got monotonous," says Sonal, who quit after 20 months to join Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Working as a consultant, which involved constant travel as well as exposure to clients in the financial services industry, was exciting, but Sonal decided to quit and enrol for a master’s in business administration at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. He then joined Deloitte again through campus placements, this time as a consultant based in the New York office. But five months later, when he heard of an opportunity at UrbanClap, an online household services start-up in Bengaluru, he moved again. “I spent 22 fruitful months at UrbanClap as category head and managed a team of 80 people. But it was gruelling, with no work-life balance," says Sonal. He left the company last July to take a break and figure out things. He spent his savings on travelling and worked on writing a film script with a friend before he rejoined the workforce earlier this year, this time at Delhi-based education start-up Leverage Edu.

“Millennials are snacking on careers. They are trying several things till they find something they like," says Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder, Naukri.com. He says it is not uncommon for youngsters to have switched four-five jobs or professions within the first two-three years of their careers.

Madhu Gudi, 25, works as a marketing associate at digital entertainment firm Pocket Aces Pictures Pvt Ltd. But she’s also spent time running a workshop with scriptwriters; she has even done some acting. She has played the lead in video sketches like Stuff Girls With Short Hair Are Tired Of Hearin’.

Gudi likes it this way. “For me, a job should be a place I can learn and grow in," says Gudi, who has already changed jobs twice in four years since she completed her BSc degree in information technology from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, in 2012.

“Their expectations are high. They seem to meander into a corporate job and then find it repetitive and boring. If the job has demanding hours or is stressful, they are quick to walk away. They follow their passions and do the things we (as an older generation) didn’t have the guts to do in terms of career choices," says Radhika Gopalkrishan, partner at Mumbai-based Aon Hewitt Associates, explaining why she thinks millennials move not just within a profession but sometimes change professions to try and find what they are most productive at and enjoy. “They will jump without a safety valve to exotic professions like saving the world in some way, to creating art," she adds.

Managing the challenge

Companies struggle to engage this quicksilver millennial generation. A recent report by Gallup says 71% of all millennials in the US are either not engaged, or are actively disengaged, at work, and are constantly looking for growth and jobs suited to their interests.

Millennials can be challenging for employers who put in considerable management time and expense to recruit them. Given, however, that they form a large part of the workforce, and will continue to do so, what can companies do to convert job snacking into a full-course meal?

“Companies should stop thinking of millennials as employees for life and instead focus on crafting one- or two-year stretches of defined challenges where the employee can grow and the company can benefit," says Paul Breloff, Mumbai-based co-founder and chief executive officer at Shortlist Professionals, a recruiting company that focuses on technology-linked jobs. Breloff says companies can retain millennials longer if they can continually frame the employee’s work within the broader purpose of the company, thus giving millennials the sense of meaning and impact that is so important to them.

Abhinav Chopra, chief human resources officer and senior executive vice-president at Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd, believes in more frequent re-evaluation. “We need to reach a point where we can say to ourselves, you may work for me but I don’t own you. We have a contract and we respect that but we should review often," adds Chopra.

At data analytics firm Fractal Analytics, chief executive officer Srikanth Velamakanni says the solution to millennial snacking is to just accept of it. “Better restless outside the organization than in it," he says. The Mumbai-based founder says a lot of attrition happens in the 18- to 24-month stage. “Once the first 18 months of extraordinary learning have tapered off, we see a restlessness in younger millennial employees: It’s a ‘hey I’ve learnt enough, let me go’ attitude," he explains.

What’s worked for Fractal, then, is an open policy. “We are okay with letting people go, and we encourage them to come back any time," he says, pointing out that a reasonable proportion do return.

Today’s workplace is moving towards a gig economy. What matters, then, is not years of employment, but diversity of experience, says Chopra. So it’s important for companies to regularly have conversations with employees about different kinds of career progression, and offer them opportunities across various functional disciplines and roles in the company, if they want to keep the bright ones engaged and in the fold.

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