Working life

How long should I stay in my first job?

22 Jun 2023, 13:24

first job

At the beginning of your career, the thought of committing to a role or company long term can be daunting. It’s hard to predict how your first graduate job will go when you’ve not previously taken on a full-time indefinite position. What if there are poor opportunities for promotion or professional development? What if I do not wish to remain with the company long term?

If you’ve been thinking about these questions, here is our advice on how to think about your first job.

You won’t stay in your first job forever

Your first job is normally an important stage of your career but is just one part of it. Graduates typically don’t expect to stay with their first employer long-term, with a considerable amount moving on after two or three years.

Consider which industry you want to work in

If you’re concerned about ‘getting stuck’ in your first job, consider what industry you’re aiming to work in and if you will be happy there. In some sectors, it’s common to explore different options and work in a few different roles early on in your career. In others, it may be best if you stay on for more than a few years. This is particularly preferable in occupations such as engineering where graduates typically take a professional qualification when they start working which may take some years to complete.

When picking an employer or a sector, consider what would suit you best. If you’re interested in exploring your options, aim for rotational graduate schemes where you try out different roles within the same company.

What if you’re actively job hunting?

Do your research

Once you’ve figured out your preferences, you’ll need to figure out whether you want to commit to an employer. Find out what opportunities are available and the likelihood of a promotion in the future. Some employers provide opportunities such as working abroad or upskilling courses. Talk to a recruiter about what a typical career path looks like within the organisations you’re considering. You might be happy to stay with the employer for a longer period if they offer good opportunities for career advancement.

Read your contract

It is expensive for companies to have to train new employees. To prevent you from taking part in the training and leaving soon after, your contract might state that you’ll be required to work with the company for a certain amount of time after you complete the training. It could also require you to cover some of the costs of the training if you leave too soon. Always read the contract carefully before signing and consider how the restrictions in the contract and the notice period might impact you in the future.

What if you’re considering leaving your job?

Talk to your employer as they might offer you the option to take up a different role within the organisation. You might be able to move to a different department or take on different responsibilities within your team that interest you. You can’t expect to be given new responsibilities or a new role if there are no openings, but you shouldn’t leave without exploring the options.

Show your manager that you are eager on taking up new challenges but have realistic expectations. The company might be happy to help you develop your career in a direction that interests you.

Frame your decision positively

You might be worried that leaving a job after a short period of time looks bad on your CV. Some recruiters might be wary about hiring someone who consistently moves from job to job, but they will understand that your first job might not have been for you.

Consider how you will frame your decision to move if you’re asked about it in an interview. Reflect on the skills that you gained from your experience in your first job and how they transfer to the roles you’re interested in.

Leaving a job without a new job lined up

It’s certainly safer to have a new job lined up when leaving your job. However, leaving your job without a new job to go to might be the right choice for you. Perhaps you know that leaving your job right now is the right choice for you. This may be the case if you feel that your job is impacting your mental health and you have financial support to keep you going until you find something else.

Whether you decide to start applying for new jobs and only leaving when you secure one, staying on until you gain the knowledge your position can offer or leave immediately, creating a plan will put you in the best position to make the next move. It might also be a good idea to develop your skills through a course and work on improving your CV before moving on.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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