I’m 6 months into a new job and I *hate* it—can I quit?


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Never stay less than a year at any job is one of those golden rules of résumés, right up there with having no unexplained employment gaps or wild changes in industry. So, what’s a hardworking professional to do when they gave it the old college try, but know their new job isn’t right for them? In this week’s Good@Work column, career expert Amy Odell—whom you may know as the former editor of Cosmopolitan.com and founding blogger of New York magazine’s The Cut—explains why a short stint is only part of the picture.

Question:

I recently left my “comfortable” job and started a new one. I’m now six months in and realizing I completely regret leaving my old gig. I know I’m unhappy and have given it a decent amount of time and effort, yet nothing seems to change. I want to leave but I’m worried what other companies (and friends/family) might think if I leave too soon! How bad is it really to jump around jobs too much? Will potential hiring managers see it as a red flag?? My parents have been at the same company their entire career so I’m worried about not living up to those expectations!

Answer:

It sounds like your two big concerns about leaving are what your parents will think and what people who might hire you in the future will think. But this is your life and your career and the thoughts and feelings you should be most concerned with are your own.

If you feel you have given this job enough time—and I would agree that six months ought to give you a pretty clear picture of what a workplace is like—and you are not happy, you do not have to stay. I understand what you’re saying—that a year is usually the “safe” amount of time to stay somewhere for resume purposes. But staying somewhere a year doesn’t say nearly as much about your ability to be loyal to a company as the overall timeline of your résumé. I’ve hired people who have been working for five years and have worked at five companies knowing that I’ll probably only get a year out of them, which is exactly what happens. I’ve also hired people who spent four years somewhere, eight months somewhere else, and then three years at the next job, knowing the eight-month fluke was a fluke and not indicative of workplace commitment issues. And those people usually do stick around.

I’ve come across a few young people in my career who felt like every year, they needed something about their jobs to materially change. They expected a big promotion and raise and if they didn’t get those things they wanted a new job entirely. These people weren’t always unhappy with their jobs, they mostly seemed to feel like their career arcs should follow a prescribed pathway of rapid progression to alleviate any anxiety they might have about falling behind some lofty ideal of success.

I bring this up because I can tell that you are not this person. You are trying to find a place where you can marinate for maybe even the rest of your career. That is the opposite of jumping around, and anyone who interviews you for jobs in the future is likely to pick up on this. People are more transparent in job interviews, for better and worse, than they think they are.

That said, just because your parents spent their whole career at one company, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Do you do the same thing as your parents? Maybe they were tenured professors or lawyers on a partner track, in which case it makes sense that they were at one company for decades. But maybe you’re a graphic designer or a writer or an accountant in which case there’s not a whole lot of incentive for you to stay at one place for a long time. In many fields, the only way to get a significant raise is to take a job at another company trying to lure you away with a big salary.

It can also be valuable while you’re starting out to try doing different jobs and working for different kinds of people so you learn what kind of job you want to have long term. This experience of taking a job you didn’t like might scare you, but think of how much better positioned you now are to find a new job in the future. You had to have the job you didn’t like to realize what you didn’t like about it.

If your old position is open to you and you want to go back, then go back while you still can. That’s an amazing safety net to have and a sign your old company really values you. You owe it to yourself to take advantage of that before the opportunity goes away.

Amy Odell headshot Amy Odell is a journalist and author living in New York. She is the former editor of Cosmopolitan.com, which became one of the most popular and award-winning sites for millennial women during her tenure. She is passionate about mentoring people starting off in their careers. She is from Austin, Texas.

Follow her on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and sign up for her newsletter here.

Have a career question for Amy? Email us at goodwork@wellandgood.com.

More Good@Work:
I’m ready for a promotion—how can I convince my boss?
Why ‘constructive criticism’ is a lie, according to a career expert
My boss is texting me on nights and weekends—how can I take back my time?

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