When (And How) to Quit Your First Job

With Simply Hired data showing six consecutive months of job growth this year, the outlook is bright for job seekers across the country. But if you’re still working (and learning from) your first job, is that a good enough reason to make the leap to a new job?

The economic environment might send some interesting open positions your way, but how do you know when it’s the right time to make your first job move? Here’s a list of six factors you should consider before you decide it’s time to quit your job.

Are you still learning?

Second only to earning an income, the purpose of your first job is to teach you valuable skills in your industry and the economic market. Do you feel challenged doing the job you’re doing? Are you adding new skills to your resume every month? If so, you might benefit from sticking around until you’ve tapped out the learning opportunities in your current position. You’re better off looking for a job when you feel more like you’re wading in repetitive tasks and eager to add to your skill set.  

Are you still making important connections?

Your first job is an important opportunity for building a network of people who know you, appreciate how you work and want to provide mutually-beneficial recommendations. If you’re still meeting a steady stream of career-boosting connections and life-long friends, you may find that a career move would remove your ability to network as well. On the other hand, if you’re surrounded by dead-end networking opportunities and you don’t see that changing, it might be a good time to make a move.

Is there room for growth where you are?

Before you jump ship, it’s worth considering how you can leverage your current position to accelerate your career (even as a Millennial). Are you in a position that could feed into a promotion within a few months or years? Instead of researching for interviews, could you invest your time in securing a new job within your workplace? If you feel a connection with your employer, team and industry, it might be worth pursuing a new job in-house and using the economy’s growth as bargaining incentive.

Is the new opportunity in line with your 10-year career goals?

The main mistake first-time job hoppers make is replacing their current job with a job that’s exactly the same as their old job, just with a new company (a lateral move). Even if it’s not a direct promotion, each job change should bring your career a step towards your long-term goals. If the job you’re applying for doesn’t explicitly move you toward those goals, part of your interview should involve finding out how the new company will help you reach those goals or move you along over time.

If the answer to each of these questions indicates that it’s time to make a move, then go for it. Make your next steps count by going about your transition like a professional. Here are three next steps that can help you make a smooth transition:

Prepare yourself to summarize these answers when you interview.

“Why did you leave your last job?” is a common interview question, and the questions you’ve just considered can help you answer it. Plan to summarize your discoveries from above into a cohesive answer to this question. Your response should be honest, succinct and full of excitement for the career ahead of you.

Quit without burning bridges.

It doesn’t matter if your old coworkers burned popcorn in the break room every day, if your manager made immoral purchase order decisions or if the workplace environment was absolutely toxic. It’s not your job to badmouth your former employer or “fix them” in your exit interview. The best way to quit your first job is to do so peacefully, with at least two weeks notice and with references intact.

Stay in touch with your network.

If your first instinct upon quitting is, “Later, suckers!,” you’ll regret it. Give your new job some time to grow on you, and then actively reach out to your old network to keep your connections warm. Use LinkedIn to manage and connect with old and new coworkers and supervisors to make sure that your network is active the next time you need it.

Whether you stay or you go, this economic environment is a great opportunity to evaluate the value of your skills and consider your career trajectory. If it’s time to quit your job, these tips will help you do so strategically and with as little damage to your long-term career as possible.