How Long Should I Stay at My First Job Out of College?

How Long Should I Stay at My First Job Out of College?

Reviewed by: .

You’re in your first job out of college, wondering if it’s time to leave. Or maybe you don’t have your first job yet, but you’re already thinking about how long your tenure should be once you get a job. 

You should stay at your first job out of college for at least nine months. Nine months is long enough to help you accumulate the skills and experience you need and short enough to give you leeway to change your career track.

This article will explain why your first job as a college graduate should last for at least nine months and the signs that it is the right time (or not) to quit your job.

The Risks Behind Leaving Your First Job Out of College Too Early

Switching jobs is a widespread practice that has many benefits for employees. For example, switching jobs allows employees to negotiate better salaries, learn about different office cultures, and earn experience at various companies. However, many employers will find it suspicious if you leave your first job too early.

As a fresh graduate, you have nothing to show but your school’s reputation and grades. This is why out-of-college jobs are usually a leap of faith for employers. Many HR managers do not know how well freshly graduated students will perform in an office environment. Leaving your first job too early might indicate that you are unfit for the professional world.

Note that leaving your first job too early is not a deal-breaker for employers accustomed to that practice. However, you might be asked to justify why you left your first job so early during job interviews.

When Is the Right Time to Quit Your First Job?

There are many personal and professional advantages to sticking to the same job. Longer-term employees are sometimes offered a promotion and level up to more responsibility.

However, it is sometimes better for your career to quit your position and accept another job offer. Here are some signs that might indicate that it is time to quit your first job:

  • You are underpaid: it is not rare for employers to take advantage of freshly graduated college students. If you did not get a raise after your first year of work, it might be time to consider other positions and compare these offers with your current situation.
  • Your job negatively impacts your physical and mental health: it is no secret that first jobs are straining. If you feel constantly depressed, stressed, or extremely anxious because of your work environment, it is recommended to talk about these problems with your psychiatrist. If you have a backup plan, quitting a toxic workplace can be relieving.
  • There is no more room for advancement: the corporate structure of your company might not allow for promotions at the current time. Careerwise, it is not ideal to get stuck in “entry-level” and “junior” positions for years. Getting stuck in that positions might also send a bad signal to prospective employers.
  • You are no longer learning: it is crucial for fresh workers to gain experience as fast as possible. Switching jobs might be a great opportunity to break your routine, learn new skills, and compare different company cultures.
  • Economic difficulties: if your company fires many employees, introduces short-time work, and cuts benefits, it might be a sign of economic difficulties. It is bad news for you as new workers are usually the first to be fired. If you think that your position is at play, it might be a good idea to jump ship before the company goes bankrupt.

All in all, the right time to quit your first job mostly depends on your personal situation. For college graduates, staying for at least nine months at the same position is usually enough to gain sufficient experience to either negotiate a better salary or find another position.

Note that there are exceptions to this rule. For example, it is not unusual for interns to leave their position within six months. A few months of internship is sufficient to acquire enough experience to either land a paid position or switch to another company.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Leaving Your First Job

Here are a few wise questions you should ask yourself before leaving your first job:

  • What are my plans? It is important to have a backup plan before leaving your first job. It might be another job offer, a clear path to a more satisfying job, or a grant to study at grad school.
  • Did I gain enough experience? Your next employer will ask you about your first and only professional experience. It is important to have something to show your newly acquired skills: a project you did all by yourself, a letter of recommendation, etc.

Conclusion

How long you should stay at your first job out of college depends on several factors. Regardless, your first job can set the stage for how the rest of your career plays out. If you take the time to choose your first job and figure out how to use it to your advantage, you’ll set yourself up for success.