First Job: How Long Should You Stay

This question tends to pop up a few months in after landing your first “real” – not summer internship or school jobs – job. Most entry-level employees start at the bottom and work their way up the ranks. You’ve to learn new skills, gain valuable on-the-job training and grow your experience first.

As time goes on however, it can be difficult to determine if you have learnt what you need in order to advance, or if you should stay a little while longer. Here’s some key advice to consider and help you sort your thoughts out.


Your first job often isn’t your dream job

It’s a starting point on the board game of life. First jobs are great for learning valuable skills like what it means to be a team player. You learn from the industry’s best minds and take those experiences with you on the road to your dream career.

There’s no golden rule stating how long you should stay at your first job, though career experts say that a minimum of a year is a must for you to stay and learn all the necessary skills there are to learn. Just don’t wait until you’re grey and wrinkled to find something better.

Pay your dues

As a young and hungry first-time employee, it’s not uncommon to want to rush and get ahead of the game. However, these tendencies can keep team members stuck in lower-earning positions and dreary jobs. You simply have to “pay your dues.” Everyone starts out small and has to work menial positions. Don’t aim for your boss’s chair until you’ve earned the right to sit in it.

Be realistic

New graduates tend to make a common mistake of being unrealistic about the first five years of their career. They leave universities thinking they’ll take on the world, move up the ranks within a few years and open their own corporation. Reality check – it’s not that easy. Becoming an industry leader takes time. Not only do you have to build a solid reputation, competition is fierce.

Look for big opportunities at your first job

If you are one of the few lucky ones who finds that your first job after college offers several great benefits, it might be worth staying long term. If you work hard and learn the ropes, you may be able to earn a promotion faster than at other companies.

Keep compatibility in mind

Some job simply isn’t a good fit. Take into account the company culture and see if it matches yours. Some team leaders may expect employees to take on unreasonable workloads when your job description say otherwise. Give it at least three months. If you still feel it isn’t a good fit, start looking for a new position.

What if you leave before your first year is over?

If you decide to leave your position before one year is up, it is advised to try and stay at your next job for at least two to three years. Leaving the second job early establishes a negative pattern to hiring managers; job hopping – something that is not favourable.

Just remember, if it’s been less than a year, write a thank-you notes to those who have contributed to your learning journey. This goes a long way in preventing hurt feelings or resentment for leaving early.

Once you have decided to leave, leave gracefully; don’t tell everyone how you really feel. Keep up the appearance and treat everyone with respect and decency. It’s easy to burn bridges but seldom do we find methods to rebuild them.



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