Seven Careers in a Lifetime – True or False?

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( does not provide estimates on the number of times people change careers in the course of their working lives, there’s a claim (or misconception) floating around that states most people will change careers 5 to 7 times during their lifetime.

Is that true? Or is more fairy tale?

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the number of lifetime career changes is sketchy at best.

“The problem is career change is tricky to define,” says Solomon Polachek, a professor of economics and political science at Binghamton University in New York, who nonetheless calls the seven-career figure “a considerable overestimate.”

That’s why statisticians and economists started using a different metric…how long someone has worked for their current employer.

Economists and statisticians have examined how often Americans shift jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau asks some respondents to its Current Population Survey who are employed how long they have been “working continuously” for their current employer.

But even that has problems. Especially in today’s economy.

The bureau is just starting to track job changes for people born between 1980 and 1984. But in yet another example of the difficulty of measuring career stability, the recent recession may have skewed things so much that long-term trends will be masked.

Here’s a graph of the current findings using the “steady job” measurement:

Steady job holders

Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Two years. That’s the longest I’ve ever spent in the same chair in the same cubicle. I was in the military for 5 years but in different jobs every 18 months. I was self employed for 3 years.

What about you? What’s the longest you’ve stayed with any single employer? Or yourself if self employed.

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