If you’re bored of your graduate scheme then you’re in good company. A lot of people get fed up with their graduate jobs quickly. A study by the Association of Graduate Recruiters indicated that employers lose 20% of their graduate intake within a year of completing the program, with 46% of new graduate hires moving on within the first 5 years.

Graduate schemes are a great first job for a lot of people:

  • They’re a good introduction to working life and give you a lot of structure that you don’t always get from studying at university
  • You’ll usually get to explore and develop your core skills, which can show you what you’re good at and where you should focus to add impact later in your career
  • You should have high job security if you’re at a larger corporate, as it’s rare for big companies to cut newly hired graduates even in difficult times
  • You’re joining a company at the same time as a group of other graduates at an inflection point in your lives, so it can be great for making close friends and establishing a network you can call on for the rest of your career

While a grad job can be a great launch pad, a lot of the key learnings will be picked up and reinforced during your first 18–24 months. This is because the most useful skills you’ll learn early in your career are generalist, transferable skills that you’ll make great use of throughout your career. For example, learning how to work with difficult people, writing good emails and adding impact to a meeting.

If you stay longer than 2 years, you’ll mainly develop job-specific skills. For example, someone on a tax graduate scheme will start to become an expert on tax code in a specific country, which is not a transferable skill. This is why I think a 2 year time horizon is ideal for your first job, and it’s healthy to be thinking about next steps when you’re 18 months in*.

*There are some graduate schemes where it makes sense to stay for a certain amount of time, e.g. if you’re working towards a well-respected qualification and are close to completing it.

If you realise you’re ready to move on, it makes sense to start exploring your options for your next career move early. A good place to start is by thinking about what parts of the job you have enjoyed the most. This can give you useful clues for what your biggest strengths are, so you can double-down on them with your next move. Another useful exercise is to find people on LinkedIn who started in the same job and see what paths they have taken. This could spark ideas for what you do next.

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