Most College Students Plan to Leave Their First Job Within 2 Years



Whether they’re ambitious or just plain restless, today’s college students don’t plan on staying at their first post-grad jobs for very long. 

A recent College Pulse survey of 1,500 U.S. undergrads found that a majority (56 percent) expect to stay at their first post-grad jobs for less than two years before they either leave the company or are promoted. And since it’s atypical for companies to promote new workers in such a short time period, many of these students may resort to finding a new employer. Only 10 percent said they anticipate staying in the same position for six years or more.

Already, young workers are known for being quick to leave their jobs. This new data suggests that the trend is here to stay. 

In part, students are eager to move on so quickly because they understand the career benefits of lifelong learning and don’t want to get stuck thinking about and doing the same things every day. A majority of students (57 percent) said switching jobs often offers more opportunities for learning and growth than staying at the same job for years. 

And, of course, there’s the financial component. Even early on in their careers, students want to make as much money as they can, and most of them (60 percent) think switching to another company is the easiest path to a pay raise. Forty percent think sticking with the same company and being promoted is the easiest way to see a pay bump. 

Students’ opinions about promotions tend to change as they get older, though, as freshmen are much more likely than seniors to believe moving up within the same company gives the best chance of making more money.

Presumably also for financial reasons, the vast majority of students (90 percent) hope to land a full-time job after graduation. And 87 percent of students are confident they will obtain a position that corresponds with their major. 

Unfortunately, many of these students may be a bit too optimistic. The reality is, only 27 percent of college graduates are currently working in a field related to their major. And more than 40 percent of them take positions that don’t even require a degree as their first job. 

At least in part, this issue is accentuated by student debt. A separate survey recently found that an overwhelming 61 percent of students would take a job they aren’t passionate about right after college simply because they feel pressure to pay off their student loans. Half of the students polled went as far as to say they’d take the first job opportunity they’re offered, with 62 percent citing financial pressure as the reason.

In this vein, many recent graduates are showing low engagement in the workplace, which may also add to their desire to switch jobs so often. A Gallup poll found that only 29 percent of millennials feel emotionally and behaviorally connected to their job and company. Moreover, 16 percent claim to be “actively disengaged,” meaning they are out to do damage against the company they work for. 

“It’s possible that many millennials actually don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies aren’t giving them compelling reasons to stay,” Gallup described in a summary of its findings. “When millennials see what appears to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it. While millennials can come across as wanting more and more, the reality is that they just want a job that feels worthwhile — and they will keep looking until they find it.”

Although millennials make up the bulk of the young workforce, the majority of college students are part of Generation Z. The findings from this College Pulse survey suggest the two generations have similar outlooks on employment and share a willingness to switch between jobs. 

Students, however, do still worry that changing jobs so often will hurt their resume. Nearly three-quarters of the students polled agree that switching jobs frequently makes job candidates look unreliable, while 28 percent say it shows ambition. 

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