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Career skills

How Long to Stay at First Job After College

You worked hard throughout college and have started your first job. If you’re like many recent college graduates, you’re wondering how long you should stay in this role. Considering there’s a significant chance that you’ll change roles more than 10 times during your working years, it’s important to start your career out on the right foot.

How Long Should You Spend at Your First Job?

Employers want you to stay with their company. Recruiting job applicants and training new hires is expensive. Likewise, future employers want to see that you don’t job-hop every few months. No company wants to invest resources in an employee that leaves after two or three months.

The general recommendation is to stay at your first job for at least one year. This length of time shows you are willing to commit to a role but aren’t afraid to pursue one that’s a better fit.

When you stay for at least 12 months, you can get an idea of the full extent of the position, the company’s working environment, and its business practices. Leaving after a shorter time suggests you can’t commit to a long-term role.

Future employers will question a shorter stint with a company. They may assume you will leave their company after only a few months, too.

Why Do People Leave Their First Job?

People leave their first jobs for many reasons. You may find yourself looking for another job because:

  • You’re seeking better compensation.
  • You’re interested in pursuing a higher degree.
  • You don’t think the role is a good fit.
  • The work isn’t challenging enough.

No matter the reason for quitting, you should take steps to ensure your first position looks great on a resume.

Choose a role with fair pay.

When you’re starting out in your field, it’s tempting to accept the first job offer that comes your way. Don’t fall into this trap.

Instead, consider the compensation that’s offered. Do you foresee yourself needing a salary boost in the next year? If so, you’re better off waiting for a more competitive job offer. Earning a decent salary will be an incentive to stick with the job for longer.

Consider your academic plans in advance.

Are you planning to pursue another degree? Create a plan as soon as possible. When you’re applying for jobs, consider part-time positions that you can keep even when in school.

Informing a potential employer of your plans well ahead of time can make the transition easier and looks better to future employers. You can tell these future employers that your former company was aware of your plans and worked with you to keep you on as long as possible.

Gather as much information about the position as possible.

No one wants to hate their work life. Thoroughly read the job description before accepting a role, even if the job seems straightforward. Take notes during the interview and ask questions to gain insight into the job duties.

Some companies may even let you shadow for a few hours or more. Consider requesting a breakdown of the job responsibilities and the approximate percentage of time you’ll spend on each.

For example, will you be performing clerical work around 25% of the time, traveling 25%, presenting 10%, etc.? This breakdown can give you an idea of the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, preventing unpleasant surprises down the road.

Pursue positions with growth opportunities.

Before you sign the contract to begin your first job out of college, consider whether the company has growth opportunities. You may love the role you’re applying for, but will you be happy with it four years from now?

As you develop your skills, you deserve promotions (and higher pay). If there’s no room to grow, you’ll find yourself looking for a new company within a few years.

Conclusion

Stay with your first job out of college for at least one year if possible. You’ll have more time to develop a relationship with your employer and improve your professional skills. The employer will be more likely to give you a positive work reference for a future position. Future employers will also be more willing to hire you when they know you’re committed for a longer period of time.

If you do need to quit, here are a few resources to help you find the right next job:

By Taylor Thompson

Taylor is a co-founder at Purpose Built Ventures, where he helps launch mission-driven companies. Before Purpose Built, Taylor led growth at Almanac, strategy for Curious Learning, and product at PharmaSecure. His work helps 100,000s of people collaborate at work, 4 million children learn to read, and protects billions of medicines from counterfeiting. He has hired dozens of people, helped raise more than $50 million, and contributed to HBR.org as a researcher with Clay Christensen. Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow, and he has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

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