If You Think You'll Stick With That First Job a While, Think Again

If You Think You'll Stick With That First Job a While, Think Again

Students from City College of New York wait to hear first lady Michelle Obama speak at their graduation ceremony in New York, June 3, 2016.

SourceSam Hodgson/The New York Times/Redux

Why you should care

Because too much company loyalty can hold back the newest members of the workforce.

As spring turns to summer, students across the country — many in their early 20s — graduate college and join the workforce. But they shouldn’t get too comfortable in their new cubicles. According to a summary finding from a recent National Longitudinal Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

More than half of recent graduates ages 18 to 24 with a bachelor’s degree or higher left their jobs within a year.

To be precise, 55.3 percent of that demographic went job-hopping before they got their autogenerated congratulatory first-year email from human resources. Though the survey followed a group of people born between 1980 and 1984, experts believe it’s consistent long-term behavior as they trace the transition from school to work and adulthood and compare this generation’s actions to those of earlier generations. “Nothing is crazy in what we’re finding,” says Donna Rothstein, a research economist with the survey. “It looks very similar from year to year. There’s no big jump.”

Rothstein says the numbers from the most recent survey reflect similar results from a survey that followed members of the baby boomer generation, which found 69 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 remained at their jobs less than a year, regardless of education level. “Basically, when they’re young there’s a lot of churning,” Rothstein says.

This latest group was first interviewed in 1997, and response rates from the 8,994 participants are 80-plus percent. While more than half of those surveyed with at least a bachelor’s degree left their job within a year at ages 18 to 24, those numbers shifted drastically for those older than 25. Data shows that as the subjects got older, they spent more time in each position and stopped the frequent job-hopping.

As for why job turnover tends to be higher among young people — like recent college graduates — Rothstein says it’s about finding jobs that are the right fit. “If you have a good match, it tends to last a lot of time,” she says. “[These young people] are trying to find a better match.”

To some extent, you have to be in charge of your own professional development.

Nicole Belyna, recruiting manager

Human resources professionals agree. “It forces employers to understand their turnover a little more,” says Nicole Belyna, a recruiting manager in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Society for Human Resource Management talent acquisition expertise panel.

And when young employees see benefits like pensions, raises and employer health insurance disappear, they discover moving around jobs has its own benefits, like learning new skills or earning higher pay. Belyna notes young employees find they often can advance in their fields more quickly at a new company than they can by staying put and waiting for a promotion or a raise — the time-honored move-out-to-move-up strategy. Switching jobs can help young members of the workforce find the best fit for them in terms of role and culture as well.

“To some extent, you have to be in charge of your own professional development,” Belyna says. “There is a mindset that if you don’t like the culture of where you are … or if what’s important to you in a workplace changes, you’ve got the opportunity to start fresh.”

So, to any recent graduates who find themselves in jobs that feel like the wrong fit, it’s OK to leave within the year. Half of your peers — as well as generations of workers before you — have your back.

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