how bad is it to leave a job after less than a year?

A reader writes:

I took a new job just less than a year ago that I was incredibly excited about. It wasn’t exciting for the pay or benefits, but I really wanted to work at this organization that I had very strongly admired for years.

Since day one, I have felt deflated by the job. I am disconnected from most of my coworkers, I have no team, and I don’t feel connected to our mission at all – which is such a blow considering my excitement from before I started. On top of the frustrations I have with my role, a lot of our cultural issues bother me a lot. We’re not transparent, and respect between coworkers and from management to coworkers is often lacking.

I’ve been struggling for 10 months to make this job feel right, but it just doesn’t. I’m now exploring other positions, and one or two look promising and would pay more. I have never left a job before one year before, but I feel like this might be it. Should I hold out longer, or should I take a new opportunity even though I haven’t reached that very important milestone?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 113 comments… read them below }

  1. Tarra

    This is generally a useful question to answer but I think it’s actually a moot point for the OP – by the time they’ve applied, interviewed, given notice etc it will be around about the year mark anyway.

    1. Sloan Kittering

      Yeah that’s one spark of hope for people who hate their jobs but are trying to stay longer: my last job search ended up taking much longer than I thought, before I got to the point where I was actually in interviews explaining my work history. Six months is pretty likely, maybe as much as a year in some fields. And there is some psychological benefit to knowing you’re sending out resumes and may be getting out soon-ish. So if it’s too soon, you’ll learn that by not getting callbacks, but you can at least start brushing up your job searching skills.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      Well, except that as AAM notes, there isn’t anything magical about the one year mark. If OP made it to a year and then moved, she isn’t insulated from being considered a job hopper – if she had another (or several) one-year stays at other jobs, it isn’t going to look great.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Also agree. Just that if she started looking around the one year mark, there’s a chance it’ll be a year and a half or two years before actually moving on. I hope not for OP’s sake though. Depends on the industry/experience.

    3. Emily K

      That would be true for the job after the next one, but the current resume they’d be shopping around would show that they’re looking now, 10 months in. (Which is fine in OP’s situation for the reasons Alison gives.)

      1. Sloan Kittering

        It’s true. I just found there was a decent lag both times in job searching before my opportunity-identifying skills and good-application-writing skills got honed enough to start making real headway in the search. I got better over time, and it took several months before I really hit my stride.

    4. Rachel Morgan

      That was very true for me. I’d been in a job for 9 months, applied for an amazing opportunity (that I couldn’t pass up). By the time interviews were over and I was offered the job, I’d been there for a year and a month.

    5. Powercycle

      That happened to me recently. I started looking for a new job after 8 months. By the time I actually left, 14 months.

  2. EMW

    This is perfect timing. I used my one shot to leave my last job after six months when a global positions working for a manager I knew for a 20% pay raise and a bunch of exposure opened up – global team, more responsibilities, etc. Previous to that I left a job at 19 months due to relocation out of state. I’m now at the 18 month mark in my current job and it’s changed pretty drastically since I took it. The job requires a fair bit of travel so I always planned on sucking it up for two years and then looking.

    I applied for a job last night because it was in my ideal city and had the things I liked about my position originally. I’m wondering if it’s too early. If it is, they just won’t invite me for an interview, right? These kinds of jobs just don’t come up everywhere, so when I saw it I decided I had to apply.

    1. PB

      ’m wondering if it’s too early. If it is, they just won’t invite me for an interview, right?

      Maybe, maybe not. They might invite you for an interview but ask why you’re searching so early, so it would be a good idea to have an answer prepared.

      1. EMW

        Oh yes, I have a great answer. My job has changed significantly twice since starting and the 60% travel requirement just isn’t doable for me long term. The job I applied for is domestic travel only intermittently. It’s really the international travel that is eating up my weekends and jetlagging me for life. Staying on my current team requires travel, although I’m working to reduce the amount. I don’t want to move teams and my company doesn’t have locations where I would like to live (Chicago/Milwaukee area). The job is similar to what I started with at this company but in a city I want to live in.

      2. Blue Anne

        I have an application in right now for a job that looks absolutely fantastic to me. Organization I really care about, interesting work, great salary, incredible benefits, one of those things that looks from the outside like it could be The One. But I’ve been at my current place for a little under a year. And the place before that a year and a half…

        Is it okay to say “I’m not in a job hunt, I just couldn’t resist applying because I would absolutely love to work in this particular job at this particular organization”? Is that enough of a reason?

        (Man I just really want that job so much.)

        1. Blue Anne

          Maybe making it clear that if I’m not offered that job, I’ll be quite happily staying where I am?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Please keep in mind that if you left a job for relocation purposes, you have an “out” for leaving “early”. You didn’t leave because you were just done with the job, you were done with the city for whatever reason that may be. I just skim along a resume and see “oh they worked in NYC for 10 months, ah then Seattle right after that, they moved, of course they left.”

      Barring being ran out of town of course but really, this isn’t the wild west, that’s pretty unheard of this day and age ;)

      1. Lisa B

        But pleeeeeeeease mention that in your cover letter. :) Short hops on a resume worry me, but if there’s a reasonable explanation in the cover letter then they are non-issues. I had a candidate who succinctly explained multiple short stays that were bad luck/timing, and made it to interview selection. Without that background he never would have been considered.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          Ah yes, very much so something to touch on in a cover letter.

          When I was relocating and sending out resumes, I always made sure to explain that “yes I’m from out of town, yes I am relocating, yes I will be available to come meet with you.” because I’m always in the camp of more info than less.

        2. JustaTech

          Yes, this! I have a coworker who, on paper, looks like a terrible job hopper. (And she’s chosen to move around plenty.) But several of those “job hops” were actually “company went under”, which is pretty common in our industry and doesn’t say anything bad about the person who got laid off.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      I think the bottom line is that there’s no magical amount of time that is ideal in a job. As long as you have a legitimate reason for leaving, most reasonable interviewers wouldn’t see it as a problem. You relocated prior to this job, and your current job has changed significantly. It never hurts to try.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Yeah you might not get the job if your short tenure is an issue for them, but if you don’t apply you definitely won’t get the job. When you see something great and you know you’re ready to go, I say apply.

  3. Roscoe

    This is perfect timing for me as well. I do want to ask though a follow up to go with it. I know that the convention is you shouldn’t talk bad about your former job or employer. If a job isn’t “toxic”, but you really don’t like it for other reasons, how do you spin that into a positive or at least a neutral sounding statement? I mean, its likely that you really just don’t like it for a number of reasons. Its easy if you’ve been someplace for 3 years to say “I’m looking for new challenges” or something generic like that, but you can’t really say that in this situation.

    1. esra

      When I was moving from bro-y tech startups to… anything but bro-y tech startups, I mentioned that I was looking for a culture with more focus on process/streamlining. Basically, you’re leaving for a reason, maybe you hate your coworkers, maybe the job is boring as heck. The way to turn that into a positive is to talk about what you’re looking for that’s different. So instead of “I am so tired of being surrounded by tech bros and nerf guns” I focused on what I do want to be surrounded with going forward.

      1. Ama

        Yes. I was leaving a job where basically any work no one else wanted to do fell on my plate, and everything was a last-minute emergency because no one even bothered to ask me (or other admins) what the process was for
        something until right before they needed it. So when I was looking, I said I was looking for “a more focused set of responsibilities” and a job that “had a higher percentage of proactive, rather than reactive, projects.” The job I was hired for is really only suited for someone who thrives planning things as much as a year in advance (in fact, I remember my hiring manager’s face lighting up when I said my “proactive” line) and while I’m happy to pitch in on coworkers’ projects when needed, the projects I am directly responsible for have not really changed in the six years I have been here.

    2. MissDisplaced

      I think something like:
      The position was described as being focused on X, but upon working through it for a few months, I found the focus really needs to be about Z. I’m really more interested in working on roles focused on X and not Z, and decided this job isn’t the best fit for me even though I was excited to work for Company.

    3. Falling Diphthong

      Would some people like the job for the reason you dislike it? One person’s have to travel is another’s get to travel. One person’s bro-y startup is another person’s bro-y startup. If you want more or less structure, chances to wear many hats or a well-defined single role, flexible hours or predictable ones, it helps to be able to articulate that when you’re interviewing possible employers.

      1. TardyTardis

        And there are a few of us who actually enjoy the nerf guns (unless the damn missile fall in my coffee, then THAT MEANS *WAR*!).

        Ahem.

    4. Psyche

      I just say “It wasn’t a good fit” about my short stint. I don’t usually get asked for more, but if I do I tell them that the role really needed someone with expertise in X and my specialty was in Y.

      1. Roscoe

        That is brilliant in its simplicity! I never would’ve thought of just being that simple with it and leaving it there.

    5. Dagny

      I put a massive asterisk next to “You shouldn’t talk bad about your former job or employer,” and that is, if the bad thing is so bad, and unrelated to you, your job, or your performance, AND no reasonable employer would tolerate it, it’s okay to say so. But you follow it up with what you are are looking for. Example:

      “My manager introduced twice-daily mandatory group therapy and discussions of past abuse. I love using my psychology degree to help people, and want to be in an environment wherein everyone respects personal and medical privacy, as behooves us as professionals in this field.”

      “My boss grabbed my rear end every day. I brought it up to HR, and their solutions were inadequate to address the problem. It was very traumatic, and although I understand the desire to want to work out problems, I would prefer to be in an office that has a deep commitment to professional norms.”

      You NEVER want to say anything that makes a company think you would say the same thing about it some day. If they are the type of people who don’t put up with arse-grabbing or blatant disregard of medical privacy, they aren’t worried that you’re going to say the same thing about them to the next employer.

      1. Slartibartfast

        My new boss read from the Bible in a staff meeting, compared himself to Jesus ans said as his disciples we should wash each other’s feet. 100% true and yet nothing I have ever brought up in an interview.

  4. stitchinthyme

    I would think time is a factor. Like, if you left a job after a short time in your 20s and then you do it again in your 40s, with one or more long-term jobs in between, is having two really that big a deal, especially if you have good reasons for both? I get that two or more in a row would be bad, but it’s not really that much of a stretch to think a person might have struck out in the career game a couple of times just due to bad luck.

    1. Tigger

      I agree. What if you have to leave a job to care for a sick family member and the next job closes down? Life just sometimes happens.

    2. RandomU...

      I think it’s all about patterns. I expect to see a couple of short term 1-2 year positions on a resume in the early years, but seeing more than that I am going to wonder.

      If there are more than a couple, I’m ok if I’m seeing increased titles or responsibilities, but if the jobs are fundamentally the same… I’m going not look at that favorably.

      If there are a couple of short terms mid career in between some longer stays I’m not going to be concerned.

      If you are in your 5th year of professional working and you have 5 1 year positions on your resume. I’m going to pass regardless of your skills.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch

      That’s true too but keep in mind that you shouldn’t need to go back 20 years of job history in a resume anyways. So that’s when you get to start leaving things off.

      Case and point, my first job lasted 14 months. I don’t even list it or the temp jobs I did after it. I list the job I landed in for a decade and then the jobs after that, which add up to about 4 instead of letting people know I’ve seen the insides of many other places either part-time or temporarily for one reason or another.

      The resume is to show your track record, unless it creates a weird gap of sort, you don’t need to put it all down there. People don’t usually ask about gaps that far back either. “I see you left a job fifteen years ago after six months, how come?” It’s usually your relevant current details they’re focused on, the rest is filler.

  5. Tigger

    I work in a very seasonal industry so my past 4 jobs have been less than a year. I also moved cross country in that time span. When I was interviewing for my current job it didn’t come up because everyone here gets it, but it actually came up in an interview for a side hustle dog walking job. She was not impressed with me lol.
    If it is normal for that industry I don’t think it is a huge deal.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I have to laugh when people are so picky and prickly when it comes to side gigs and relatively low skill placements like that. It’s up there with the one time a comment here said that a Subway manager wouldn’t hire anyone who didn’t have past Subway experience…working in another deli kind of place making sandwiches was not enough for them. Bless their hearts, each and every one.

      It all boils down to “Well I’m glad you saved me from ever having to report to you, you’re bonkers AF.”

      1. Same!

        Ha! I’ve heard of restaurants in NYC unwilling to hire wait staff who don’t have “NYC waitress/waiter experience” because you know, waiting tables in Chicago, Orlando, or anywhere else is so different they can’t possibly be good at waiting tables in NYC! *eye roll*

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          That one I can take a stab at — that’s code for “if you’re here to break into Broadway we don’t want to play second fiddle to auditions.”

          1. Same!

            I’ve never heard of that as code for “no actors/singers/entertainment people!” I just assumed the hiring managers were really picky for no good reason.

          2. GigApple

            I’ve seen that attitude in a lot of job areas in NYC. The conversation is usually something like, “yeah, her portfolio is good, but she didn’t have to produce on a deadline working in Colorado,” or “being an assistant to a Chicago exec doesn’t mean you can hack it as an assistant in NYC.”

            Ironically, the places where I’ve run into this attitude usually *can’t* hire people with NYC experience because they are exploitative and brutal and don’t pay enough. They “settle” for candidates just moving to the city, who don’t know the reputation of the company, don’t understand the hours they will work, or don’t yet grok NYC pay scales. The newbies get underpaid and treated like a chew toy for a year or two and then take their newly minted “NYC” credentials and jump ship for someplace better.

          3. Mhoops

            Nope. I bartended in nyc for 4 years and saw lots of those job postings and they would have tons of actor staff still. They just assume that it is going to be way busier and harder bc it’s nyc then some small town job. A lot of times it’s stupid. And sometimes it was true. I worked for a chain and a lot of ppl who had bartended at other locations couldn’t hack how crazy it got and would get demoted to being a waiter.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch

          Ah yes part of it is because they’re like “But do you have roots in this city.”

          I have had to try to remove that issue from my boss, he’s certain anyone who is moving here from Somewhere Else is just trying to get a foot into the city so they can work for one of the Major companies. I’m just like “Sure…but everyone is always trying to get somewhere else, give them a reason to stay here.”

      2. Jessen

        I always got the impression that those sorts of jobs don’t really “count” when it comes to job hopping anyway, or at least not in the same way. Like no one at all is surprised that I noped out of my little 10h a week cashier job for a dollar fifty more an hour and 40h a week (but somehow still part time) at walmart – or that I jumped out of that walmart job once I got some full time call center work. You want me to stay, the pay and benefits have to be livable.

      3. Like a chicken but bigger

        It’s usually those places that have the most annoying hiring processes too, IME. Then they wonder why they don’t get quality people.

      4. TardyTardis

        One thing about pharmacies, at least the ones I know about, is that it’s really hard to get into pharmacy schools without having done at least a bit of broom-sweeping in actual pharmacies. They really want to know if the click of pill counters drive you nuts *first*.

  6. Catleesi

    I feel this, and am in a similar position of wondering how long I need to stay in my current job. It’s a new field to me, and I love a lot of things about it including the work and my coworkers, but I hate the area. I moved to a new state specifically for this job and to get experience in this field. I initially planned to stay 2 years, but am now giving myself permission to start looking at the 1 year mark.

    I think in Alison’s answer the key is your previous history and how long you can commit to the next position. My last two jobs were 5 years each which I feel gives me some flexibility but it’s hard to know when to use your “freebie” of a short tenure.

  7. Aveline

    I’ve found that as long as you give the job six months or more (i.e., sufficient time to learn it and see what it is actually like), the key issue isn’t the length of time, it’s framing. So as long as you frame your departure to your prospective employers properly, they will accept it.

    I’d rather see someone leave after six months if they’ve had sufficient time to see what’s going on than to have them waste three years of their lives and their employer’s time (if it’s a job where the employer is training them for the future).

  8. Anonymous in WI

    Long time reader but want to comment because this topic has been on my mind for awhile. My husband is a physician who is finishing up training (fellowship). He has moved quite a bit already for med school, internship and residency and I’ve been shielded from a lot of these moves as we met when he was in residency and I had been in that state for a long while. I did move with him to a new state for fellowship and while we are still looking into next steps/options for his first attending physician job, it’s possible we may have to move from the state where his fellowship is this summer and I’d leave a job I started a little bit less than a year ago. I get that it’s ok to have one short term stay (my last job I stayed 8+ years), but I can’t guarantee that we would stay in our new city more than a year or two before we are “settled.” Would two short term stays given these circumstances raise red flags?

    1. Tigger

      Most likely not. Especially if you put the locations on the resumes and it is quite obvious that you moved states.

    2. RandomU...

      It depends, the short stays wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but the relocation might. That can indicate that you are trailing spouse and that may put off employers.

      I think you can get past this by making it clear in your cover letter that your short term relos were a temporary thing and you’ve settled in a new area long term. It helps that you have a long term job. This relates to my comment above. It’s more about the patterns for me.

    3. Artemesia

      At some point your husband will presumably move into a practice and settle into a long term career. So it is easy to discuss your short term jobs as necessitated by his internship, residency, fellowship, whatever moves.

    4. I coulda been a lawyer

      Been there, done that, but we were married before we moved to a new state for medical school. So the NEXT location(s) you “came here for the Fellowship and to find our permanent home”. Or “now that fellowship is over we will be here permanently “. Especially once he gets a “real” job you can point to. Most physicians stay put after all of that is over. Hopefully.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood

      This is a situation where I’d suggest looking into an ongoing relationship with a national temp agency or chain.
      A military spouse I know did this with great success — she worked for (customer-facing national chain) for something like 8 years. Her resume shows one employer despite her living in 3 different states. I know it doesn’t help you for your *current* situation, unless you happen to work for a company that might be able to transfer you, but you at least could look into it for starting out in the city you move to for his first attending physician job.
      And maybe it’ll help someone else reading this.

  9. RJ the Newbie

    I was at my first job for 14 years and my second for nine. When I left this second job, I was very excited to join a larger, international corporation and carefully researched the firm. I asked all of the right questions at the interview. And then I started and realized how much they oversold the organization of Finance/Accounting and undersold how far behind they were technologically. Their software was at least 15 years out of date and their billing software was dreadful. After three months, I was looking and was gone after my six month anniversary there.

    Things are up and down where I am now and I’m already planning to move on in a few months, hopefully to be gone when I’ve been here around two years. Life is too short to waste time when you’re unhappy at a job but you’ve got to be prepared to justify your moves as I have and will be.

    1. TardyTardis

      Did you, by any chance, use Titan? Just checking to find out if anybody else has ever heard of it besides me (and all the other jolly inmates at my former company).

  10. Krackln

    This is purely based on my own experience and the experiences of many of my friends, but it seems like shorter stays are not as bad as they once were. I’ve had three and each time I left I was concerned it would damage my career/reputation, but it’s actually benefitted me so far. The companies I had short stays for were pretty clearly hiring millennials specifically so they could pay them very little and work them very hard. I had this happen at two law firms and one medical device company. Most of the work I was doing at these places could have easily been done by a computer and I figured once my bosses figured that out I would be gone in a heartbeat. I saw no benefit in committing years of my life to these places so I left ASAP. I plan on staying at my current job for awhile because the pay is decent, I’m treated well, and my job can’t be done by a computer, or at least it can’t be yet. My current employers were neither surprised nor concerned by my short stays.

    1. MissDisplaced

      I once worked for a startup and when I was asked I would say “X Company is a startup, and while it’s exciting, I find I’m looking for a little more stability.”

      They got it without me having to badmouth about 12 hour days, bounced paychecks and CrazyBoss!

    2. the_scientist

      Yup, I think this is a real cultural shift that has happened within the last decade or so. The new reality of work is casual, temporary, or contract work which by nature is time-limited and unstable–and this is especially true with people who are new to the workforce. The new reality is that people need to move around to get better salaries, or to land something that’s more long-term/stable. I think it looks increasingly out-of-touch for employers to be concerned about short job tenures. That said, if you’re repeatedly leaving jobs after 6-8 months, that is a potentially problematic pattern.

      I will also say that I started looking for new jobs at about the 8 month mark in my first job out of grad school and the search took WAY longer than expected. I was in that role about 15 months by the time I left and I found that I started getting way more job interviews as I got closer to having 12 months in that role. I don’t know if it’s because I was able to re-frame my cover letters/ resume, sheer luck, time of year (it was around the Christmas holidays that the interviews started pouring in), or whatever. But this OP might find that they will hit the 1 year mark before they get a good offer anyway, at which time I think it’s sort of moot.

      1. Krackln

        All but one of those short stays was about a year. And I had a few longer stays as well.

        The stay that was less than a year was at a law firm everyone else there had been working at for 10 years or more. Worst job I’ve ever had. They were SHOCKED that I would leave after less than a year.

    3. Same!

      Especially in certain industries such as advertising where there is a lot of hiring on a per-project basis, clients shopping around different agencies and people being laid off, etc.

      If you hadn’t stated that the company hiring millennials who would work for low wages ere law firms and/or a medical device company, I would’ve wondered if we worked for the same company. I started interviewing to leave my first job out of college around the 8 month mark thinking that it would take me awhile to find the next role but I ended up applying to three-four jobs, interviewing for the one I wanted most, and landing it. I was at the first job out of college for 9 months, but I was looking to leave at the one year mark. I also told myself that the job process could take even longer and I should be prepared to be at First Job for as long as necessary.

      I can’t recall if they asked me this in my interview, but I did come up with a reason for “Why do you want to leave First Job?” and it was because I wanted to be in Industry X which I had freelance experience in and First Job was not in Industry X, but rather Anything At All Related to My Field. (I didn’t say the last part of course)

    4. Life's too short

      + 1
      I honestly feel like this advice is a little outdated, and/or may not be as widely applicable as it was. I live in a city with a very high cost of living and very low unemployment. There are lots of opportunities and competition for employees in many fields. My last four positions have been under 1.5 years (though one of those was a contract period of one year only) and I just got recruited by another organization to come work for them.

      Each time I’ve switched jobs it has been an obvious step up in pay/responsibilities, so it’s clear I’m not moving laterally or just being indecisive in my career path. I do plan to stay at my next org for longer, but honestly switching jobs the way I have has led me to getting to do more challenging, better paying work much more quickly, and I can’t say I regret that–or that I wish I had prioritized companies’ needs over my own.

      1. Blue Anne

        This discussion is really encouraging. My resume since college is 3 years, 1.5 years, 1.75 years, 1 year (present). Even though I’ve had good reasons to move each time, I’ve been worried about being seen as a job hopper. I have an application in at a potential dream job right now, and if I don’t get it, I’m planning to stay here for at least 3 years to repair my resume. But then… I’m also getting calls from recruiters, and every time I’ve searched I’ve been in a new, better position within two months. My field is accounting, which is fairly conservative. Just in my experience it seems like the “job hopper” warning is mostly coming from career blogs.

      2. Auddish

        I agree, and I would add that I’m noticing that more Baby Boomers are staying in mid-career positions longer than expected or planned for (aka past “normal” retirement age). At my previous job, it was difficult to predict whether or not I would be able to move up from my entry-level position when most of the mid-level positions were occupied by people in their 50s and 60s that didn’t expect to leave for another 20 years and weren’t interested in vying for a promotion or making a lateral move at that point in their career. It was in my best interest to switch companies to further my career, gain more experience and increase my pay.

        1. TardyTardis

          Yes, a lot of people that age have houses and kids in college–they know they’re not going up, but desperately need the paycheck and the health insurance policies, because a lot of companies won’t hire people that age to save on their insurance scoring. A lot of the time, they *can’t* move without severe financial hardship for them or their families–and some of them lost their jobs in the Great Recession–if they happen to have something they can live with, they’re going to hang onto it tooth and nail. Did I mention health insurance? (which can cost a LOT if you buy on the individual market without a job).

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        It really depends on the roles you’re applying for. If I’m hiring for a role of great responsibility, there is a near zero chance I will consider someone who mostly has 1-2 year stints for the last 10 years, unless there is a very compelling explanation.

    5. Not Today Satan

      Yep. My salary has doubled in 5 years thanks in part to “job hopping.”That almost never happens if you stay at the same place. (Although I did get some internal promotions in the middle–but most people are stuck with their 4% raises.)

    6. Anon for Now

      I think it depends on the job hopping. Staying in a role a year or two and then leaving for a position with more responsibility and doing that a few times, makes a ton of sense, especially early on in your career. However, there will come a point where staying in a place for only a year or two will become an issue. At least where I work, a project can take several years to take from development to delivery, and not having experience in the issues that you run into at all stages of that project will hurt your career long-term.

      I also think once you get out of the early career stage (which I’d classify as the first 5-7 years of your career), that if you are only making lateral moves it really hurts you.

      1. Welp

        Regarding only lateral moves: What if you just don’t care for the increasing responsibility/stress?

    7. Lynne879

      I agree! A friend of mine has had twice as many jobs as I have & would be considered a job hopper, but someone they’ve always managed to find a job fairly quickly.

    8. Kristine

      My husband and I (millennials in our early 30’s) have experienced this as well. He’s worked for 5 companies in the past 8 years. Three of those companies dissolved his team within 6-18 months of him starting because their project was done and they wanted to hire fresh meat for the next project, and one of the companies was a startup that went under during his first year there. I’ve worked for 4 companies in the past 8 years. One company was acquired during my second year and laid off every non-senior employee, one was a startup that went under after I’d been there 6 months, and one I left after 18 months because of persistent sexual harassment that the company refused to address.

      Neither of us wanted to have a bunch of short stints, but it’s tough out there!

      1. ChanceTime

        This is also not applicable in my experience. A lot of my jobs have been shorter term due to contracts or layoffs – eight jobs in seven years. Functionally, it meant I had a broader pool of experience on which employers were able to draw connections to the roles they’re recruiting for, and I’ve found it very easy to get to the interview process since passing the four year mark. Luckily I’ve done enough interviews by now that that part is easy.

        I also think this advice isn’t great for women in male-dominated fields. We’re often passed over for promotions, and the only way other female engineers that mentored me were able to work their way up the chain, or to find places that were less entrenched in sexism, was by job hopping. I certainly wouldn’t have more than 2/3 of the salary I have now without doing so.

        I usually love the AAM columns but this one I’d probably suggest deciding based on your industry and your experience range if it’s good for you to follow. If you hate the job, it’s not worth enduring two more years of it when that has a strong impact on your mental health or love for the career. For every interviewer who’d pass over you, there’s another who will see the experience you gained from multiple roles as having relevancy.

  11. De Minimis

    I’m possibly going to be leaving my current job around the seven month mark. It’s not ideal, but when things just aren’t a fit they aren’t a fit, and I think it’s okay to leave when it’s a position that is way more in line with one’s abilities and career goals. My situation is very much like the LW’s, not fitting in at all, and frustrated by the overall work culture/environment. Also, my position by design has no growth potential.

    Honestly even if I don’t leave sooner I’m probably going to leave around the year mark, even if it means not having a job lined up.

  12. Database Developer Dude

    I transitioned off active duty (Army) in mid-2001. Since that time, I’ve had ten employers, nine of which are on my resume. I haven’t had too much trouble getting jobs because of the northern Virginia/DC area and what I do for a living. I’ve had jobs lasting six months (one from which my entire team got laid off)…and my current job (where I’m in no danger of getting laid off at the moment) is at five years.

    Your mileage may vary.

  13. pegster

    One thing that stuck out to me in the original letter: “this organization I had admired for years” vs “don’t feel connected to our mission”. I think if I were to leave early on, knowing that doing this frequently could be detrimental to finding future jobs, I’d try to learn as much as possible from this experience so this type of disconnect (perception vs reality) is less likely to happen again.

  14. The Man, Becky Lynch

    Yes, it’s all about “patterns” that appear in your job history not the weird one-offs that may happen. Thank you for explaining that so well.

    I left after a year in my last position, after a solid history of staying many years each other position. It was to escape an abusive, terrible, no good, very bad boss/company. Nobody even flinched at the fact I was leaving after a year given my track record, they knew that it just wasn’t a fit.

    See not fitting one place makes sense to most people, not fitting anywhere makes people think that it’s a “you not them” problem. Which isn’t always fair of course, I’ve seen people who just take jobs to have the income and get burned over and over again. Then it’s hard to break that cycle. It’s about being mindful of your departure and what it will signal to a reasonable employer. Yes there are weird quirky people out there that may think differently but you don’t want to work for them anyways, its all about the “reasonable” person who is hiring for a position.

    I’m going into a strong second year at the job I escaped from my old employer to, I’ll be here for a few more years as long as life permits or no major overhauls are put into place. Everyone I interview for or am recruited by always mentions “wow, you have a track record of staying put in places” and are impressed by it, they don’t dwell on spot that I cut and run on.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        To some people there will be. I did run into “why would you leave after all that time?” but thankfully now the place has been sold and I can point to the fact that “it was up for sale and I was donezo.” and then left the city so that was another really great get-out-of-prying-questions land for me.

      2. Anon for Now

        It probably depends on your role and career path.

        If you want to advance and you’ve been in the same position at the same organization for 10-15 years, then I wonder why you didn’t leave and/or why you weren’t promoted.

        1. TardyTardis

          If someone is relocating from a rural area, be aware that any job in those areas that actually has benefits is considered top of the heap, even if it doesn’t pay much. And circumstances change, to where someone who was stuck there can finally move (or if Something Weird Happens, *has* to move).

      3. JanetM

        A thankfully former CIO — at a university where turnover is traditionally low — made the statement to an all-hands IT staff meeting that anyone who’d been working for the same company for more than two years was deadwood. We lost more people during his less-than-two-year tenure than we had in the previous 10 years total.

      4. Someone Else

        There are some very entry level jobs in my industry (and I’m sure others) where it’s normal and expected that people in those roles should outgrow them in 1-2 years, 3 at most. So if your resume showed you were in one such role for 5 years, yeah we might perceive that as “too long” because by then you should really have mastered that level and be either bored to tears in that role or it means you’ve somehow only just recently mastered that level which would not look good. But it wouldn’t get you rejected out of hand. We’d probably talk to you to try to get a sense of whether there were other circumstances, like maybe you were doing higher level work but for whatever reason didn’t get the title or whatever. But there are definitely roles that are normal to outgrow quickly so when someone doesn’t it begs some questions.

    1. TardyTardis

      Plus, some companies have reputations where you would be considered a fool or a saint to stay longer than that. Many industries are smaller than they look like, and people do gossip.

  15. irene adler

    I was so traumatized about the “one year rule” that I feared I would be toast because I left my job 10 days short of a year. And, to make it worse, I ended one job on 30 July and started the new job on 02 Aug. I feared folks would think I was out of work for a whole month if I used just month and year for the resume. So I put down the complete dates.

    Sheesh!
    These days, I know better.

    1. Tinker

      Heh, I had a similar thing with a job that I had for… I think literally 364 days, with the same sort of split over the end of the month.

      Nowadays in most cases I’d be hard pressed to name the day I started a given job, or really even the month.

  16. Miss Astoria Platenclear

    Supporting a cause doesn’t necessarily mean you should earn a living working on that cause.
    You can have a safe, lower- stress day job and volunteer and advocate for the cause in your off time.

    1. RandomU...

      I think this was a case of burying the lede. I’d be less concerned about a candidate with a couple of short term jobs in their history vs. one that is going into a company with unrealistic expectations. Especially one in the non-profit world since there is so much more mission/passion baggage, but still applicable to every other

      Don’t get me wrong nobody should have to work in dysfunction or for crappy employers, but understanding that even employers that you feel are better somehow because of what they do are still at the end of the day things run by people which can have all the warts and flaws that are brought by people.

      Re-calibration may be the better thing for the OP to have focused on vs. tenure at the position.

  17. RabbitRabbit

    How you frame it makes all the difference, agreed. On the interviewing side – my team got to help interview our new grand-boss (mid-level supervisor above us, then the grand boss) once they were whittled down to two candidates. Both candidates met with the higher-ups, from the C-suites down, before interviewing with our team, and had been briefed about our team’s structure, status, etc in the institution. Both had about the same frequency of job shifting. We asked both about their reasoning behind the job/career changes.

    One candidate mentioned that her current job role had been shifting in ways that she wasn’t really a fan of; she wanted to stick with the sort of area we were in. Let’s say her role was llama breeding techniques manager, and her Llamas Inc management wanted her to take on llama breeding budget oversight as well, while we worked in livestock breeding techniques and regulation. She didn’t want to deal with the finances and the other issues they wanted to heap on her shoulders, but get down to the basics, which is what we were in. She had good explanations for the other moves too, but that was the one that stuck in my head and was about her current position at the time.

    The other candidate had always worked in (again, let’s frame it as) livestock breeding regulation, but her explanation for her different job shifts was that essentially one megafarm would call her up and say ‘help, you’re great at this and we’re a huge mess’ and she’d go bail them out and set up their structures so they’d function well. Then she’d move on to the next disaster once she got another recruiter call and fix their mess. And she obviously really loved the ‘getting stuff fixed’ part and not so much the ‘day to day operations.’

    Well, we weren’t a disaster, and basically everyone she had talked to knew that and talked up the stability of our team. Her background experience was more precise for our work than the “Llamas Inc” candidate, but we figured we can train that knowledge. We couldn’t train wanting to settle in with an established and stable team and let us do our thing while guiding us to better functioning as needed, expanding our operations, etc.

    The “Llamas Inc candidate” has been our grandboss for nearly a year now and has been great.

    1. the_scientist

      This is a really good example! I think it’s also a really powerful case study of how people can have similar backgrounds/areas of knowledge but different strengths. Some people thrive in that disaster management setting, and others don’t. It sounds like your team did a really good job interviewing and selecting for long term fit.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Doh! It makes total sense why the Llama’s Inc person got the job over the other one!

      I had the opposite experience once, I had to find a way to tell people I was so over fixing disasters and wanted the stability. It took some convincing that no really, I’m ready to settle down and stop working in over the top situations. I expect it’ll take time to also get back into disaster clean-up when the time comes that itch starts to act up but I’m more ready for it after my first rodeo at least.

      It’s all about listening and being able to find out what the company is and wants, prior to selling yourself. I bob and weave really easily, it’s one of my selling points in the end as well. I don’t need to learn new tricks, I know all of them…tell me which ones you want and here you go!

      1. Bulbasaur

        I have been in that spot as well. I framed it as something like: “I really enjoy being working with people who are good at what they do, so I can learn from them and grow professionally.”

        That’s interview code for: I don’t want a role where I’m thrown onto a team where nobody has the first idea what they’re doing, and expected to fix everything up. If it was a later interview round I might just say it in those terms, but in the early ones you’re more concerned about putting yourself in the best possible light.

    3. SusanIvanova

      The second candidate should consider being a consultant – nobody blinks at a consultant who specializes in putting out fires and then moving on.

      1. RabbitRabbit

        That was my thought – our great-grand-boss had been a consultant for a major firm in the field, he came on temporarily to help get our larger department rearranged/etc., and then when the job opened up, he threw his hat in and was hired. The candidate we passed on would have absolutely been a fantastic “hired gun” type.

  18. TootsNYC

    Re: the “you can only do it once”…

    I had a stretch of 9-month jobs in my career. Most of them were situations where the magazine folded or the staff was reorganized and I didn’t have the skills for the new, higher-level job they needed.

    That was the time period where I *did* put the reason I left my jobs on my resume.

    I remember talking about why I’d had so many short stints with a recruiter, and once I was done explaining that it was mostly bad luck, or I’d taken jobs at startups because I needed the job, he said, “Well, I wouldn’t ask you to pick a horse for me!”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      LOL Me too. A few years after I was hired here, the company was bought and the corporate owners had everyone write down every job they’d ever had. When I turned in my sheet, our usually very professional HR rep blurted out “Oh my!” I grinned and said “I graduated at the height of the recession. It happens.” She looked so thoughtful I wondered if I changed her mind on the definition of job hopper.

  19. Tammy

    I think this is like a lot of things with job-seeking – leaving a job before a year isn’t a dealbreaker (usually), but it’s something that a hiring manager is going to be curious/concerned about and so it’s good to give some thought to proactively addressing that concern.

    It’s kind of like not having a college degree – in some jobs/industries, that’s an obvious dealbreaker, but even in industries where it’s not, you should be prepared to speak to it. I’m in software/tech, so degrees are often desirable but usually not mandatory. Still, when I interviewed for my first role at CurrentCompany, the CIO who took part in my interview asked me “why shouldn’t I be concerned that you don’t have a college degree.” I was able to tell a compelling story about the reasons I hadn’t finished my degree, the track record of achievements I’ve had in my career, and why I don’t feel that the ROI on the time/money I’d spend finishing my degree at this point is worth it. At the end of that conversation, he said “you’ve addressed my concerns”, and they hired me.

    There are employers in my industry who ARE oddly rigid about requiring degrees. (I think it’s a terrible idea that has disparate impact on women and minorities, but that’s as may be.) But the culture of those employers makes them, for the most part, not places I’d want to work. I suspect it’d be the same for this issue. There are probably employers who will see a 9-month stay at a job as an instant disqualifier, but that says something about their culture that I think would make them (at least for me) not a place I’d want to work in any case. But if you speak to the reasons why you left, and frame them so that an employer’s concerns that you might leave after a very short time again are addressed, most employers should accept that.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Ah the places that are rigid with requiring degrees make me belly laugh at this stage in life.

      I cannot get a job doing even accounting clerk work for some mega corps in this city but I can run entire accounting departments and make twice as much without one at other places, that actually value my experience and skills.

      It all boils down to “I don’t want any of THOSE apples anyways” because their standards are my version of little green worms, tbh.

  20. Sleepytime Tea

    So I have left multiple jobs that I was at from around 2-3 years. When job hunting this last time, I did get asked about why I left my last several jobs after 2ish years. The thing is, is this really such a fair question any more? I know that companies want to hire people who they think will stick around, because of the cost of onboarding and training and it just takes time before a person is truly productive. But that said, companies are giving tiny raises nowadays. Benefit costs constantly go up and/or benefits are being cut. If I stay in the same place too long, I actually end up taking a pay cut because these 2% raises that seem pretty standard don’t even match up to inflation. The only way to get a real pay raise is to get a new job.

    That said, the reasons I left my last several jobs didn’t have anything to do with that. My boyfriend got a job in another state and I moved with him. We had a mass management changeover at one job and the new management was absolutely horrible. One job I was working 80+ hour weeks (salaried) with zero appreciation, support, or anything else that would make me want to stay there longer than the 2 1/2 years I had when I got recruited to a much better situation. When asked why I left, these are all acceptable answers, but I worry that my resume will start getting thrown in the trash because of my last 4 jobs all I left between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years.

    Companies don’t have loyalty to their employees (most of the time) but seem to expect loyalty from them. Like I should stick around and get crappy raises and pay more for less benefits and be happy about it. Then when you get to the point where you need to advance, you have to go elsewhere, but it’s held against you.

    1. Very anon for this one

      I’ve never heard of it being held against you if you switch jobs and have an increase in title/responsibility.

    1. De Minimis

      Ha! I’m not the LW but in the same situation. It has a good side…I’m left alone for the most part, but I need my coworkers in order to do my job [they’re the keepers of information, past processes, etc.] and they don’t seem all that inclined to help me that much.

  21. BurritoBB

    Canvassing opinions here – do people think this is something that changes in significance at different stages of your life, or in different types of roles?

    I’m 25 and on my third job out of uni, where I’ve been for about ten months. My previous jobs were about a year each. These have all been quite low-paid reception/admin-type jobs, and for various reasons I’m considering looking for something else but I also feel like I ought to try to stick it out for longer than my previous jobs. Will this type of pattern be as big of a problem early on and in this type of role? For context, my friends advise against it but are all in “job for life” type roles (doctor, civil servant, teacher). I just worry about people looking at my CV and wondering how I can get to 25 without finding something I can stick at.

    1. irene adler

      You’ll need to provide compelling reasons for leaving each job. Or explain that you took the job intending it to be short-term-just to meet bills. Segue into why the position you are interviewing for, is so attractive to you.

    2. seller of teapots

      I think it’s more likely to be ok when you’re entry level, but you want to be moving on for more responsibility/a step up. Then it reads as ambitious. I’d be concerned about someone who keeps making lateral moves in a short time; that would read to me as restless.

  22. Decima Dewey

    I like the picture that went with the article. Hope the guy sprinting away from his job ends up in a better one!

  23. Not Today Satan

    My philosophy about many of the professional faux pas (leaving after a year, quitting without a job lined up, career hopping, etc.): You only get one life on earth. You gotta do what’s best for you. And generally, people who are self conscious about those types of things aren’t the ones who need to worry about looking flaky.

  24. MoonWizard

    I could have written this about a year ago. I was absolutely miserable at something I was so excited to start. I had been at my first job after college for just over 6 years, and I left something very stable. It became apparently quickly that the place was a MESS. I experienced more stress and frustration than I ever had before…I started looking 7 months after I started, and put my notice in at about 8 months. My new job is AMAZING and I’ve not once regretted leaving so soon. I researched my brains out about leaving before hitting a year, and it seemed like the general consensus was you can really do this once without raising eyebrows. Whether or not that’s really true, I took my one time lol.

    1. seller of teapots

      That was my husband—worked one company for 6 years out of college, left and wound up sonewhere terrible for 10 months and ended up leaving without the next thing lined up even. He’s now been at his current company for 5 years. That one short stint is sandwiched between serious long-term commitment so I can’t imagine it will ever matter in an interview.

      I have mostly 2-3 year stays, so I’m really planning on staying at my current job for longer than that— to build up that stability and also because I love it.

  25. SusanIvanova

    20 years ago I worked at a job 3 months and then left – it was the right company but not the right team. I’m now back at the same company. I didn’t leave it off my resume because those 3 months led to other things that led to being here now.

    Also it’s amusing that my badge number is lower than nearly everyone else I work with :)

  26. Slartibartfast

    You know it’s not right. Get out. ASAP. Anything else is just wasted time. I speak from experience, landed what I THOUGHT was a dream job and rare opportunity, only to find out that the company was totally different from the inside than what they portrayed to the public. “The job wasn’t as advertised/wasn’t what I thought it would be”. (Truth be told there was serious dysfunction but I digress)

  27. londonedit

    My employment history goes:

    Company 1: 3.5 years
    Company 2: 6 months (made redundant)
    Company 3: 4 months
    Company 2 (again): 5 years
    Company 4: 6 months
    Freelance: 4 years
    Company 5 (current): 9 months (1-year contract)

    So it all looks a bit of a mess, and I’m always asked to explain what went on. The good thing is that I do have a good explanation – I was made redundant (that’s 2008 for you), got a job elsewhere, then everyone left the company that made me redundant and they asked me to go back. Which I did, and it was great for a few years until the same old problems cropped up again. So I threw myself out of the frying pan and into the fire of another job with a terrible commute, which also turned out to be nothing like the job I’d signed up for – so I explain that in interviews, and say that the six months in that role was the impetus I needed to take the leap into freelancing. Now, I’m on a fixed one-year contract, so that won’t need explaining away in the future, but if anyone asks then I took this contract as a way to see whether I wanted to go back to a full-time in-house job. At this point I’m considering taking the redundancy/back to the same company bit off my CV and just forgetting about the 4 months in the middle, as I think I’m far enough removed from all of that (it was 11 years ago!) but interviewers have never had a problem with my explanation of what happened.

  28. Bookworm

    I disagree with Alison’s response that you only get one freebie. It can very much depend on the field you’re in where the work is seasonal or highly dependent on certain outside events. Sometimes this can certainly make things difficult if you leave the field and don’t have strong connections (as I’ve found) but I don’t think the “one freebie” rule fits, especially if you can explain.

    And honestly? It’s not worth it. I’ve had multiple instances where it was clear it wasn’t a good fit. One I knew 3 weeks into the job (but the economy had tanked so I tried tried tried to make it work) and the other didn’t become clear to me until after 6 months had passed. I was miserable in both cases and had to leave because I couldn’t cope. Your health/mental wellness isn’t worth that sacrifice because that 2 month or so difference isn’t going to be that big of a deal, other than dragging out your suffering.

  29. FinancialAnalyst

    I think Alison’s point about job-hopping not looking that great is not about the action in and of itself, but what it might indicate about how well the candidate can gauge his/her own needs and even his/her patience. I personally wouldn’t want to hire a manager who had job-hopped without hearing the reasons. Lay-offs and businesses going bankrupt happen, but if the hopping is due to the candidate not realizing what each job or company was all about, I’d seriously question their judgment and decision-making abilities. Especially for a manager-level or higher position.

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