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How have careers changed? An investigation of changing career patterns across four generations

Sean T Lyons (Department of Management, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada)
Linda Schweitzer (Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)
Eddy S.W. Ng (Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




Popular literature argues that successive generations are experiencing more job changes and changes of employer. The “new careers” literature also proposes that career mobility patterns are becoming more diverse as people engage in more downward and lateral job changes and changes of occupation. The purpose of this paper is to test these assertions by comparing the career mobility patterns across four generations of workers.


The authors analyzed the career mobility patterns of four generations of Canadian professionals (n=2,555): Matures (born prior to 1946); Baby Boomers (1946-1964); Generation Xers (1965-1979) and Millennials (1980 or later). Job mobility, organizational mobility and the direction of job moves were compared across groups through analysis of variance.


Significant differences were observed in job mobility and organizational mobility of the various generations, with younger generations being more mobile. However, despite significant environmental shifts, the diversity of career patterns has not undergone a significant shift from generation to generation.


This is the first quantitative study to examine shifting career mobility patterns across all four generations in today’s workplace. The authors extend previous research on generational differences in job mobility by using novel measures of career mobility that are more precise than extant measures.



This study was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The authors wish to thank Lisa Kuron for her invaluable work on this research.


Lyons, S.T., Schweitzer, L. and Ng, E.S.W. (2015), "How have careers changed? An investigation of changing career patterns across four generations", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 8-21.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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