Huge decline in average time spent in first job, with millennials entering the workforce since 2010 staying on average just 1.1 years, compared with up to 5.7 years for those starting work in the 1960s

Workers who spend between 2-3 years in their first jobs earn higher average salaries over the course of their careers, suggesting a salary premium for staying put within a first role, according to new research by job search-engine Adzuna.

The study, based on analysis of 50,000 jobseeker CVs, analysed the earning potential of workers across the UK based on length of tenure in their first position, showing the pay premium on offer for staying put in a first job and revealing the optimum time to move on to a second position.

A little loyalty does give workers a long-term leg-up the salary rankings according to the findings, with workers who spent between 2 and 3 years in their first role earning an average of £37,800 per annum, and those who stuck to a first role for between 3 and 4 years averaging £37,100.

Meanwhile flakey first-jobbers switching positions within twelve months of starting work average earnings of just £33,000, around £4k less per year, suggesting some employers may frown on mercenary job-switching, and that this may hold back long-term pay prospects.

However, loyalty beyond the first few years doesn’t pay: workers with an average first job tenure of 4 years or more are paid an average of £35,500, £2k less than those switching earlier. This makes 2 to 3 years within a first role the salary sweet spot for new workers, beyond which the rewards on offer for staying put decrease.

Northerners make most loyal employees while Southerners switch jobs more often

The data also reveals a North-South divide in employee loyalty, with Northerners tending to stay put in a first role for longer. The North East is the most loyal region, with an average first-job tenure of 3.1 years, followed by Yorkshire & The Humber (2.8 years) and the North West (2.7 years).

Londoners are the least loyal, staying in a first role for just 2.1 years on average, followed by workers in Northern Ireland (2.3 years) and Scotland (2.5 years).

Differences are also visible between the sexes, with men tending to stay put in a first role for longer than women, at 3.9 years compared to 3.2 years.

Similarly, employees who went into the workforce straight from school show more loyalty than those with a degree, averaging 3.9 years in a first role compared to 3.0 years for university graduates.

Adding these traits together suggests that male non-graduates in the North East make the most loyal employees, while London female graduates the least.

Generational change in attitudes to switching jobs

The stats also show a huge decline in the average time people stay in a first position. Millennials are now staying in their first job for a fifth of the time the baby boomers spent when entering the workforce, suggesting changing generational attitudes to switching between jobs to climb the career ladder.

Workers who started their career in the 1960s stayed an average of 5.7 years in their first role, while those joining the workforce in the 1970s spent 5.1 years in a first position. This has since fallen significantly, with those starting a career in the 2000s staying just 2.2 years before changing employer. Recent years have seen the average first-job tenure reduce further, halving to just 1.1 years for those beginning work between 2010 and 2015.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, comments:

“Switching jobs to climb the career ladder may be tempting for ambitious young workers, but patience comes with a premium. Workers who show staying power by sticking to a first role for a few years end up earning more than their flightier colleagues. Yo-yoing through a career by changing jobs often can be viewed negatively, and could harm pay prospects in the long-run. Instead, showing a little loyalty pays dividends.

“Workers are spending shorter and shorter periods within a first role, with each generation moving on more quickly then its predecessor. It used to be the norm to stay with one company for life, but now it is becoming commonplace to switch between industries and companies multiple times throughout a career. In part, the post-recession trend for shorter stints in a first job reflects the tougher jobs market. Employers have a tighter grip on their purse strings, which is forcing many workers to go elsewhere for a pay rise. In many cases, switching jobs quickly is a necessity, not a choice.”