Leaving Your First Job

Our guide to working out when you should leave your graduate role and how you should go about it

The thought of moving on from your first job can be incredibly daunting, so there are a number of things to consider before you decide to do so. Follow our guide to ensure you are making the best possible choices during each step of the process.

Before you decide to leave

One of the most important things to consider is why you’re leaving your job. This should be your first port of call as there is often little point in leaving just because you feel as though you should (which appears to be a growing trend amongst millennials! The percentage of workers quitting their jobs rose to 2.4% in May 2018, the highest level since 2001). It’s worth remembering that staying in your role can often increase your chances of a promotion or pay rise, as you will have built relationships within the company and be familiar with how things work.

However, there are also many valid reasons for wanting to leave your first job! For example, there may be no chance of a promotion in your current company, you may not feel challenged enough or you may have decided to make a complete career change (if this is the case check out our advice on making a career change here). Ultimately you should never feel bad about a desire to leave your first job; however, you should be certain of your reasons for doing so. It’s important to have given your first job a good go and this is usually demonstrated by staying for at least 1-2 years. 43% of millennials anticipate leaving their job within two years, so it’s vital that you don’t fall into this trap and decide to leave as soon as you feel things are going badly. Allow some time for change and consider the fact that the company may be going through a particularly low or busy period which may only be temporary. Your reason for leaving your first job is bound to come up in future job interviews and will also be helpful in guiding the search for your next job, so make sure you give it plenty of thought!

Once you've decided to leave

Now you’ve worked out why you want to leave, we’ll move onto how you should go about leaving. The first thing to do is write a letter of resignation and give it to your manager as soon as possible. By law you must give at least one week’s notice, however, many companies will require longer periods of notice. 1-3 months is quite common depending on the size of the company, so make sure to check your contract for this information before you commit to a start date at a new job. It is crucial that your manager is the first person to know and doesn’t get wind of it through someone else. After telling them, you will be able to work out how you want to tell your colleagues. Breaking the news to people can be hard but it’s incredibly important that it’s done properly, as it will help them prepare for your departure and organise a replacement. It also helps you maintain relationships and reduces the chance of people feeling as though they’ve been left in the dark.

Maintaining the network you’ve built over the course of your time at a company is often a top priority for people preparing to leave their first job. It can be beneficial for a number of reasons - both personal and professional. On some occasions the position you leave behind may not be filled immediately and therefore your team may be left lacking a member for a few weeks. To help make this transitional period as easy as possible, and to ensure that people remember you fondly, it can help to form a contingency plan for once you’ve left. Speak with your team and run through the key tasks that your role involves so they are aware of what they may need to help out with until your replacement is found. Maintaining a good reputation even after you leave can be incredibly beneficial, especially when it comes to requesting references and endorsements in the future. Bear in mind that it’s a small world and you never know who knows who!

Following through

There is one final thing to consider. Although you may be pretty set on the fact that you want to leave, it is important to prepare for the possibility that your manager may propose a counter-offer. A counter-offer is a method that employers sometimes use in an attempt to hold on to their most valuable employees. An offer may consist of a promotion or a pay-rise and for this reason, they can often seem incredibly enticing. Therefore, it is crucial that you think about what you will do if you find yourself in this position. If your reason for leaving is related to pay or a lack of opportunity for promotion, then a counter-offer can often come as a pleasant surprise and result in you changing your mind. However, counter-offers can also cause rash decisions to be made that you may end up regretting. If your decision to leave is driven by a desire for change, don’t let the temptation of a pay rise get the better of you. It’s likely that it will only make the prospect of staying appealing for a short time and before you know it you will once again develop a desire to leave.

Making the decision as to whether to leave your job or not is undeniably tricky, so make sure you give it plenty of thought. For more advice about all things careers, check out our blog!

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