How Long Should You Stay in Your First Job?

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So you graduated and landed your first job out of college. A couple of years down the line, one question you keep asking yourself is what’s next?

We often hear that millennials have a tendency towards job-hopping and are eager to leave their first job. However, the statistics for Belgium run contrary to this common belief. While 60% of graduates understandably don't see themselves spending their entire career with their first employer, 46% say they plan to stay for 1-3 years and 27% want to stay for 3-5 years.


How can you know when it’s time to start considering other options? Answer these six questions:

1. Am I happy in my job?

One question you may need to ask yourself is: ‘am I happy in my job?’. If you are, then there really is no need to look elsewhere, but if you aren’t, then you may need to think about making some changes.

Happiness is key in a workplace: without it, a job can become unbearable. It is the centrepiece of an individual’s position in their career, as it is an extension of who they are.

2. Where do I want to be?

Another question you should also ask yourself is: ‘am I where I want to be in life?’. This is an increasingly common problem for many people as some may be at the end of their career, yet still hate their job.

That is why it’s a good idea to implement a career plan, as it ensures that you will get to where you want to be. A career plan will not only help you find a career that is a good fit for you, but will also help you explore your abilities and interests, strategically set career goals (short and long-term), help design learning and action plans and ensure your future work will be successful.

3. Do I find my work challenging?

Do you find your own work challenging? Or is it boring? Have your tasks become too easy? These are all questions we should consider when working. A job can become uninspiring when there is a flaw in the job design. To fix this, employers can explore job design techniques, such as enlargement (increasing the scope of work by adding more tasks), enrichment (implementing a heavier workload) and rotation (experiencing new areas of a business by being moved around in industries or sectors).


4. Am I really learning anything?

Learning is an important factor in a job. If your responsibilities have remained the same since you started, then you are likely to end up feeling bored and unmotivated. It’s a good idea to enrol on courses related to your industry to gain an understanding of your work’s interconnected structure and sequences. You could even enrol on a course that teaches you general business knowledge and procedures. Another beneficial tool is to find a mentor. Mentors are a good way to help you constructively critique and refine your craft. When finding a mentor, there are two main options: you could shadow a senior colleague, or someone remote from your business that is in your industry.

5. Am I working to my full potential?

It can sometimes be hard to work to your full potential, because certain career paths can limit your ability to perform and execute certain tasks. So, it is wise to assess whether you are working to your full potential within your job. We often associate potential and success, but they can also be opposing forces. Identifying how you personally define success can help to alter your perspective on your potential. Whether you want to climb the corporate ladder, paint masterpieces or work in a bank, all careers have a different sentimental value to each person. Some people have realistic goals, some unrealistic. Three steps that can help you utilize your full potential are: identifying strengths and weaknesses, finding your true passion and finding your vision. Once you complete these steps, you can get a good idea of where you are and where you want to be.

6. Am I being recognised for my work?

If you receive recognition in your job, this can have a positive impact on your performance; it gives you a psychological boost. Humans have a fundamental desire and need to be appreciated, and if they don’t receive this then it is easy to feel unrecognized, undervalued, unmotivated, unsatisfied and lose chances for promotions and rewards. This then negatively affects employees’ work ethic, resulting in further unrecognised work and a lack of motivation and dissonance.


Once you’ve answered these six questions, you can decide where you are. Most people are told when to change careers, but really, the best person to judge that is yourself. Only then can you benefit further, as only you know what you want.

Ask for a professional coach

Working with a career coach doesn’t have to impact your bank balance. MyNextCompany is one of the very few organisations, if not the only one on the Belgian market, that offers career coach services free of charge.

Get me a career coach!

Nicolas Christidis

Written by Nicolas Christidis

Nico is a true people leader and a talent whisperer. Has been in recruitment since before you could say “1999." After work, you will see him cheering for AS Saint-Étienne or on a tatami mat practising martial arts.