Should I stay or should I go?

Rose Watson, Careers & Employability Service Manager

So you’ve been working in your first graduate job for a year or so now. You may have been in the classroom, clinic or office, or you may have been working online from your bedroom. But in any case you’ve probably become quite comfortable with your settings and your team, and at last seem to have got the hang of what you’re doing, more or less! So what now? Do you enjoy your comfortable life or should you think about moving on?

The days of joining one company and staying until retirement have long passed, and according to research by BPS World, the average person in the UK changes employer every 4.5 years. But how do you know the right time to move jobs? When does comfort become stagnation?

Can'T Decide Fred Armisen GIF by IFC

The BPS survey found that employees cited the following as reasons to stay in their longest serving roles

  • Enjoyment of their job
  • Being treated well and respected by employer
  • Being well paid

As a new graduate, what would be good reasons to look for a new role or employer – and what would be good reasons to stay put?

Should I go?
  1. Challenge versus comfort. You’ve got to that stage when your need for challenge is just that bit bigger than your need for comfort. You’re quite at ease in your job, and feel that you can perform the job well. But the thought of doing the same routine over and over again fills you slightly with dread. Everyone is different, and whereas some of us prefer a more routine environment, others find routine highly stressful.
  2. You’re not learning anything new. Okay, the pace of learning new skills and information will slow down a little once you are in the 2nd year of your job, but if you have reached the stage when you can’t think of anything you have learned over the last month or so, that’s when you know it is time to move on!
  3. You’ve identified your strengths or interests and would like to use them more – or use others less! You have learned quite a lot about yourself in the past year or so, and some of it is quite surprising. Who knew that you would develop such a passion for data, or that working with young children is so stressful? This is the time to re-evaluate what is important to you, and if you are not making the most of your strengths or Career Anchors now is the time to move to a situation where you can.
  4. Money. Always important, but to some more of a motivator than to others. In general, greater pay rises come at the point of moving job role or organisation rather than through annual pay increases. Having said that it doesn’t mean that you should only move if a greater salary is on offer, as some people choose to take a sideways move for similar or even lower salary, if they feel there would be other benefits such as more responsibility or a different skill set.
  5. You have a bad boss or colleagues. It can really affect your confidence if you are unfortunate enough to have a boss or colleague who is a bully, lazy, or just disorganised. If you feel that you are in this situation, stop and take some time to reflect upon the situation. Allow time to adapt to the workplace and your colleagues. Maybe you need a bit more time to prove yourself, or you just need to adapt to their working style. Ask for feedback for others so that you can reflect honestly on the situation and consider whether you can change your behaviour or attitude in some way. However, some work environments are just toxic and if you really can’t see that the situation will change in the foreseeable future, you may well need to take control and start to look around for something else.
  6. You have a plan about where you want to be. You think you should widen your skills or expertise. This may be gaining experience in a different sector or organisation, or with a different client group.
Should I stay?

You don’t always have to leave your job to change your life at work. Sometimes moving is not the only thing to do if you are feeling bored or dissatisfied with your current job. You could try the following to improve your current situation:

  1. Talk to your boss and suggest new projects or areas of responsibility. Take responsibility for your own development and tell them about your strengths and areas of interest. They are not mind readers and may not know what you are thinking!
  2. Look out for training and development opportunities to make your work more interesting. This could mean asking to go on a course, but it can also involve taking part in working groups, shadowing a colleague, or volunteering to work with people outside your organisation.
  3. Consider applying for a different job or secondment within the same organisation.
  4. If your relationship with your boss or colleague is a cause of stress to you, consider what you could do to address this. Try talking to your HR department, or think about different ways to approach your co-workers. And if this doesn’t work, be patient – sometimes one person moving on can lead to a real change in team dynamics!
But will future employers think I’m a Job Hopper?

You know the myth – millennial job hoppers are always bored, never staying in one place, must be unreliable or uncommitted. Will future employers be wary if you move too often? Well this depends on how you present it in your future applications. People change jobs for many positive reasons, including being promoted, poached by another company, or looking for new challenges. This can show that you are committed to a career area, ambitious, proactive and well connected. Saying that you left a company for personal development will always play better than saying you didn’t like your boss! Discover here why job hoppers make great employees.

So how do I decide?

Give yourself permission and time to listen to that little voice inside your head. Explore your options and daydreams, and weigh up when your need for change is overtaking your need for comfort.

If you need some help in thinking more about your motivations and values, there is a range of resources on the Careers webpages. The website offers a whole range of free tools in their ‘Career skills’ section.

Some people find it helpful to draw up a list of ‘for’ and ‘against’ when weighing up their options, and you might find it helpful to speak to a Careers Advisers. Remember, University of Worcester graduates can use the Careers & Employability Service for as long as they like after they leave!


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