Why are so many young people quitting jobs and what do they want?

Jul 13, 2022 | Attraction & marketing

Data shines new light on why young people are quitting their jobs right now as well as what they want from their employers, explains Chris Rea at Prospects.

The pandemic brought about a lot of uncertainty around jobs and the economy. This meant that many young people used the time to reflect on their career plans and search for jobs that provided a better work-life balance.

We’re now seeing what has become known as ‘the great resignation’, with a significant number of people early on in their careers already leaving their jobs voluntarily.

Data from Prospects at Jisc’s Early Careers Survey 2022 of more than 5,000 students and graduates suggests that this trend is showing no sign of waning.

Nearly a third (30%) of those in work said they planned to leave their current employer this year. Last year’s graduates were most likely to want to change jobs (40%), compared to those who graduated in 2020 or earlier.

ISE data shows retention is at an all time low. Employers currently retain around 83% of graduates and 77% of school leavers two years after joining an organisation. Given the current climate we’d expect these numbers to decline over the next year.

Why are young people jumping jobs?

The most common reason graduates gave for wanting to quit their job was career advancement (39%). Nearly half (48%) of the 2021 graduate cohort specifically said this was their main reason, indicating that the opportunity to develop and grow in the way that they would prefer isn’t available with their current employer.

Research by the Learning and Work Institute shows that employer investment in training and development has declined due to a decade of low growth following the financial crisis and recent economic uncertainty, and there are further concerns over the quality and impact of some of the training that is being delivered. It found that young people, who were severely affected by the economic impact of Covid-19, have also seen large falls in training during the pandemic, particularly those working in the private sector.

This could be why so many 2021 graduates who were in work said they planned to leave their employer in 2022 to advance their career.

Stagnant salaries and the rising cost of living are also impacting career decisions with 18% of those surveyed looking for a salary increase.

Mental health challenging

Trying to be optimistic and motivated about careers as well as taking care of mental health were the three biggest challenges reported for 2022.

Digging more deeply into these figures, we can see that motivation was a particular challenge for university finalists (65% selected it). Those with a disability were more likely to highlight mental health as an issue (76%) compared with those with no known disability (50%). Women cited mental health as a challenge (61%) more often than men (42%). And 53% of graduates also struggled with their mental health over the last year.

Mental health and motivational challenges can have many different impacts on career planning and performance. For example, it could go some way to explaining the ‘poor quality’ job applications and lack of ‘effort/passion/research’ that employers noticed in their 2020/21 recruitment cycle.

More on this in our previous blog The problem with graduate job applications

What do young people want from their employer?

Respondents were also asked about what’s important to them when looking for a job, internship/placement, or apprenticeship/training scheme.

The three most crucial factors for each group were training and development, career progression and work-life balance.

Those looking for a new job were the only group to place more importance on work-life balance than training and development and career progression, suggesting that it has greater significance when people are thinking about their long-term career.

Women were slightly more likely to say that work-life balance is important to them with 94% saying that work-life balance is ‘fairly’ or ‘very important’ to them, compared to 90% of men. This lends support to previous findings suggesting that a healthy work-life balance assumes great significance for working women.

Many employers are grappling with retention problems right now and the fact that there are structural issues in the economy, particularly with getting people in from outside the UK, means those challenges don’t look likely to ease very soon.

Being flexible about when and where work takes place is vital to young people right now. We also suggest that employers talk to young workers about how they want to progress, offering relevant training where they can with a clear development path that works for them.

 Read more student insight and data

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