Not so long ago, even minimal job hopping could spell the coup de grâce for your professional career (even for younger workers). But over the past several years, the stigma of holding a certain number of jobs before a certain age has started to fade.
But while job hopping is (slowly) becoming the new norm, how soon is too soon to leave your current role for greener pastures? Here are some tips to help you gracefully exit a post on good terms, even if it’s only been a few months on the job.
When Is It OK?
As a general rule of thumb, you should still try and follow the old adage of sticking out a job for at least a year. However, employers today are more likely than in previous generations to not be surprised if you leave a job sooner than the one-year mark (outside of medical or family reasons). With that said, here are some times when it’s OK to leave a job earlier than a year:
1) Your dream job comes calling.
This is one of the more common reasons recruiters see promising employees leave after only a few months on the job. If your dream company is courting you or extending an offer, then you don’t have to explain the situation to them since they already want you. Your current employer may be a little sour at the thought of losing a great asset after they invested in you, but there are ways to handle your early exit with tact and grace (more on this later).
2) The job might not even make it onto your resume.
Job seekers (especially younger ones) often mistakenly think of the resume as some sort of legally binding document, when it’s actually more akin to marketing material. You certainly shouldn’t lie to bolster your application, but if the three months you spent at this or that company doesn’t define your work experience or value as a candidate, then you’re not bound by law to put it on your resume.
The major question to consider when thinking about leaving a job experience off your resume is this: If you don’t disclose it and your potential employer finds out later, could it impact your role? This is particularly important if you’ve been terminated from a position. But if you don’t think employers will care about that time you gave up on being a snowboarding instructor three weeks in, then you probably don’t need to put it on your resume.
3) It just isn’t working out.
For any number of reasons, sometimes a job doesn’t shape up to be everything you hoped it would. There are instances where it has nothing to do with you at all – such as if the person who hired you has now left the company or you identify a moral objection to a company practice that you didn’t discover prior to joining the organization.
How to Give Notice
If you’ve done some soul-searching and decided you’re ready to move on, then it’s time to start thinking about your exit strategy. Sure, you could just stop showing up for work (after all, you’ve only been there for two months), but that’s not the type of reputation you want to leave in your wake. Don’t underestimate the size of your network.
Two weeks notice is still standard for avoiding any serious damage to your professional reputation for most roles. And if you’re certain that the job isn’t right for you, create an open dialogue with your manager immediately to see if there is any sort of transition plan that can benefit both parties.
Offering to stay on until someone else can be hired is the best way to alleviate the awkwardness, salvage any relationships you’ve developed and show that you’re genuinely contrite about the situation. After all, if you’re floundering in your duties, it’s just as beneficial for your employer to create a smooth transition so that they can find a better fit for the role.
Don’t Make It a Habit
When it comes to your resume, it’s best to think of it as a one-strike policy. As long as you’re qualified, recruiters generally will give you a pass on one item. So if you just accepted a job that it turns out you don’t like (and are hoping to leave sooner, rather than later), don’t fret too much. Most recruiters won’t disqualify a resume on the count of one change of heart.
Multiple transactions, however, is where the waters start to get murky. Even early on in a career, recruiters can sniff out the difference between a person making bold career moves versus one struggling to commit to a job. You can avoid making early departures a habit by focusing less on salary and benefits and more on the type of work you’ll be doing and work environments that you thrive best in. And it’s equally important to vet companies for personal and cultural fit, especially if you’ve already had one rotten experience.
The fear of making a professional misstep that will forever brand you as a red flag to potential employers is something we all share in common. The good news for job seekers is becoming that unmarketable can rarely be done with only one mistake. It’s not impossible, but you’d really have to go out of your way to make it happen.
It’s helpful to keep these rules in mind as a guide for approaching your career, but they’re certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. If your gut is telling you something different, follow your intuition and carve your own path.