Why it’s fine to job-hop for a few years after college

job-hopYou’ve most likely heard this advice from parents, mentors or your most experienced colleagues:

Don’t change jobs too many times or you’ll risk being seen as unsettled, disloyal or untrustworthy.

That advice leaves workers torn between staying in lousy jobs longer than they would prefer and passing up potentially good opportunities just to show they’re capable of staying put.

That well-intentioned sentiment, while it may be true among some hiring managers, has diminished in importance, according to career counselors. Staying at a series of jobs for less than a year is probably fine — as long as you had good reasons for leaving.

“Nowadays it’s not as negative as it once was to move on to new job opportunities,” said John O’Neill, the assistant dean of career education for Stanford University. “It’s expected that people will move on to new opportunities, especially earlier in their career.”

Kristen Fitzpatrick, the managing director of career and professional development at Harvard Business School, said: “It’s just so much less common to stay. There’s no right or wrong. If you stay, it needs to be for the right reasons.”

Some hiring managers will remain skeptical of job-hoppers, and there are good and bad reasons to leave a company. The key is whether you can explain convincingly to potential employers that each move was made with your career development in mind.

When you should leave a job

Do you value challenging work? The opportunity to be trained and mentored? Learning new skills? A long-term path in the company? Work-life balance?

“Those are all different work values you might develop,” Mr. O’Neill said. “If you feel like your current opportunity isn’t meeting those values, it might be time to move on.”

Sure, it would be great to find a job for which you can check off all of those boxes, but it would also be great to win the lottery. You should focus on what’s most important to you, which is something you may discover as your current role fails to meet certain needs.

It’s important to understand why you’re itching to leave, Ms. Fitzpatrick said. Perhaps that restless feeling is related to a need for variety or more project-based work that exercises more of your mind. If you identify the issues, you can be more confident that you’re leaving for a reason that future employers will accept.

“It’s not a problem having multiple jobs as long as you are growing in each of them,” she said.

When you should stay

It can certainly be tempting, but no, Ms. Fitzpatrick does not recommend leaving because your boss drives you crazy. You can probably fix much of the problem without quitting, she said.

Chances are you’ll encounter a lot of supervisors throughout your career with whom you won’t see eye to eye. You can find ways to work on the relationship or work around it, like involving human resources or finding other mentors.

“That’s where you need to pause and ensure you’re doing it for the right reasons, not because you’re feeling conflict or afraid to confront what’s within that might be driving the problem,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said.

While your growth is important, you shouldn’t worry too soon about upward mobility in the company, Mr. O’Neill said. It may be worth staying in a job that lacks long-term prospects if you’re learning a lot and positioning yourself well for other jobs.

Rehearse your explanation

Before an interview or a networking encounter, practice your response to the inevitable question of why you’ve left your jobs, Mr. O’Neill recommended.

In a mirror or with friends, try focusing on what you learned about yourself in each position:

• Did you discover a particular environment was a poor fit?

• Did you identify values that were especially important to you?

• Did you acquire a new skill or new responsibilities?

The people who would hire you for your next job may be a bit skeptical if you’ve stayed at several jobs for short periods, but they can be convinced with a thoughtful explanation, Ms. Fitzpatrick said.

“You just want to be able to show you have a story, not that you’re burning out, or that you’re not a good fit for all these organizations,” she said.

Source: www.nytimes.com