The average graduate stays in their first job after university for just a year and a half, new research has revealed. Of the 42% who left their job less than 18 months after starting, one in five quit after just six months.

The research — involving 2,000 graduates from the last ten years — supports growing anecdotal evidence suggesting the nature of graduate job hunting has shifted hugely in the last decade. No longer are graduates picking a career aged 21 and then just ploughing on with it (thank God — talk about dull). Today’s graduates are prepared to chop and change until they find a career that ‘fits’.

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And you’re an ambitious lot. The study – by The Marketers’ Forum – found that four in 10 graduates said they left their first job because they weren’t able to progress up the career ladder fast enough. Many used their first job to try out an industry – and found it triggered a complete re-think (15% said they realised they’d picked the wrong career entirely). You’re also being flexible about what job you take — only one in five said their current role was their ‘dream job’.

Don’t you fear being labelled a job-hopper? Apparently not. Although six in 10 graduates were concerned that quitting so soon would make them unattractive to future employers, the average graduate felt that nine and a half months was a respectable time to spend in their first job.

Until now, it has generally been believed that 18 months is the minimum you should stay in any job (unless something is seriously wrong). Could this change in graduates’ attitudes be a symptom of the new, so-called ‘flexible’ workforce, where young people are rarely offered permanent, full-time positions and instead start their career with short contracts, temp jobs and freelance work?

The research also found that many graduates admitted they’d made big — and expensive — mistakes with their choices about university. Only a third said if they had the choice again they’d pick the same university and degree course. Nearly a quarter said they’d choose a different subject — and nearly a fifth said they wouldn’t bother with university at all.

Quentin Crowe, managing director of The Marketers’ Forum said the findings about today’s graduates should warn prospective students to think carefully about their options when considering higher education:

“After spending several years studying for a degree, it can be daunting to suddenly be under pressure to do something with it and get a job.

“The research sends a stark message to young people about to finish their A levels. Be absolutely certain about your university and degree choices and, if not, explore wider options now to avoid disappointment three years down the line.”

He said he expected school-leavers to become increasingly shrewd about their choices as the price tag for university leaps this autumn. Options like their new flexible, part-time course, Professional Marketing and Management for Business are ideal “for individuals looking for a fast track, cost-effective head start into a rewarding career.”


Or in today’s ‘flexible’ economy has it become more acceptable for graduates to do jobs for shorter periods at the start of their career? How many jobs have you had since you graduated? How long did you stick with each – and why did you leave?

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