How long should you stay
in your first post-college job
Depending on how you answer the following question, answering how long you should stay in your post-college job can vary.
Did you accept your job because you:
- thought you found your dream job
- took the first job that I was offered
- held out as long as I could but needed to pay the rent, so…
- were sold a totally different job than the one you are currently doing.
If you answered category 1. “I found my dream job!” consider starting over
We don’t mean this is your dream job forever and you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career with your first job after graduation. However, your first job out of college is in the industry you achieved your degree in, it’s in line with your salary requirements, and you’re excited to tell people that you work there.
In addition, you probably have some flexibility in your role, work with senior team members who have offered to mentor you, and you can see your career path beyond your current responsibilities. In this scenario, your company is giving you a lot of incentive to stay beyond the one-year minimum tenure that each recent grad should aim for with their first position after graduation.
If you answered category 2: “I took the first job that I was offered.”
If this is the category you fall into and you’re counting the minutes until you can leave this job, you should read the NY Times article.
Chances are, there are parts of your job that you actually like but have issues with aspects. A couple of questions to ask yourself if you’re struggling in your first job post-graduation are:
1. Can your struggle be fixed by some on-the-job training from your employer?
2. Can you get a better job?
If the answer to questions 1 about training is yes and your employer is able and willing to train you, show some initiative by reaching out. It will pay off in the way your manager feels about your willingness to take steps to advance your career and could improve your perception of your current position.
If you answered that you think you could land a better job, start looking! If you know that you’ve “paid your dues” and have gained valuable experience you can add to your resume, don’t hesitate to start your job search.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the average recent college graduate keeps their first post-college job for 18 months. If you have been in your position less than a year, selling your experience may prove more difficult.
If you answered category 3. “I held out as long as I could but needed to pay my rent, so…”
This is probably the toughest category to find yourself in. You could have taken the job because your parents told you that if you didn’t find a job that week, that you’d be looking for an apartment in addition to a job.
You might have taken the job because you signed a lease on an apartment before you had your job figured out and you needed to pay your rent. Or you might have spent all summer searching for a job, had run out of options, and took the job.
Before you leave your current position, assess the questions asked in category number 2 and then make your decision.
The reason we caution you to not hastily quit this job is it’s highly probable that you will find yourself in this same position at your next job. That only sets yourself up to dislike your second job as much as your first and painting yourself as the dreaded “job-hopper”–someone who is only capable of committing to a job for a year or less.
Do whatever you can to avoid this label. In a survey completed by the recruiting software company called Bullhorn, 39 percent of recruiters and hiring managers reported that a history of job-hopping is the biggest hurdle facing job seekers. If you thought your job search was hard without having professional experience, the process only gets tougher when it looks like your experience is cut short in every job you’ve taken.
If you answered category 4. “I was sold a totally different job than the one I’m doing.”
We know this scenario happens, but we believe that it shouldn’t. We recently talked to a candidate who was told that she would be an event planner when she took the role but ended up selling hair styling tools inside a big-box retailer.
She reached out to us to help her with her job search. This is one value-add to working with a recruiter. As recruiters, we work with our clients to do an in-depth investigation of what they are really looking for in the perfect candidate, and what responsibilities this position will handle. At that point, we can work at matching the best career opportunity to our talented candidates.
After reviewing which category you most likely are experiencing, truly assess your situation. If you decide that it’s time to leave your current role, treat this job search like a full-time job that you are managing in order to find your dream job. Take what you’ve learned from your current experience, figure out how to talk about it in a positive way, and start looking for your next opportunity.