Comparing apples to apples

Sean T. Lyons (Department of Business, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada)
Linda Schweitzer (Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)
Eddy S.W. Ng (School of Business Administration, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)
Lisa K.J. Kuron (School of Business & Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Publication date: 10 August 2012



This study aims to compare the career patterns of Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials over the various stages of their careers to determine whether there have been notable shifts away from the “traditional” career model characterized by long‐term linear, upward career movement, toward a “modern” career model characterized by increased job mobility, organizational mobility and multi‐directional career movement.


The retrospective career accounts of 105 Canadians were gathered through review of résumé information and semi‐structured interviews. The job changes and organizational changes experienced by each respondent in each five‐year career period (e.g. age 20‐24, 25‐29) and the direction of job changes (i.e. upward, downward, lateral or change of career track) were recorded. The generations were compared statistically on each of these measures through analysis of variance (ANOVA).


Significant inter‐generational differences were observed on all variables of interest, but the differences were largely restricted to the age 20‐24 and 30‐34 career stages.

Research limitations/implications

The study relied on a small sample because of the qualitative nature of the data collection. The sample was also exclusively Canadian. The results should therefore be interpreted with care and the research should be replicated with different types of respondents and in different cultural contexts.

Practical implications

The research demonstrates to employers that the younger generations change jobs and employers at a greater rate than previous generations and that they are more willing to accept non‐upward career moves. Recruiting and retaining young employees will therefore require a different approach than was used for previous generations.


The use of retrospective accounts allowed for the comparison of generations within various career stages. This overcomes a significant limitation of cross‐sectional studies of generational phenomena by simultaneously considering life‐cycle and generational cohort effects.



Lyons, S., Schweitzer, L., Ng, E. and Kuron, L. (2012), "Comparing apples to apples", Career Development International, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 333-357.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.