Leaving a job is scary at the best of times, and with the world in a constant state of flux, we often feel lucky to be employed at all. I remember being told two things long before I was of working-age in regards to building a career: if you don’t go to college, you won’t get a job, and when you do get a job, you must stay for several years to ensure you don’t stifle your chances of getting another. Both of these are patently false. But today, I’m only tackling the latter -- the fallacy that job-hopping will “ruin” your resume and make you unemployable.
The world has changed, folks. Job-hopping is no longer the career-killer as was previously believed. Having had five different jobs since the start of the pandemic, I now see resigning as an act of self-care which can help put you on a new path to success if you’re smart about it. Here are five lessons I learned about career-building (and demolishing) during my year of hopping jobs.
Lesson #1: It’s okay to be wrong. It’s not okay to ignore it.
This is arguably the most important lesson on this list. Admitting that you made the wrong choice in accepting a new job was something I never learned from any mentor or career advice article. My understanding was that adults worked the same jobs until they retired because that was largely the work style that was modeled (or at least that I noticed). Early in my career, I remember the incredulous buzz that would stir up when a longtimer put in their notice, further cementing the message that moving on was unacceptable.
So when I started feeling like I was already itching to leave my brand new role, I ignored it. Pretending to be happy in a role that doesn’t fit you can do more harm than good. I suffered for it and so did my productivity. I wasted countless hours trying to convince myself that I should be grateful to be employed instead of acknowledging the fact that I made the wrong choice and taking actions to rectify it.
Lesson #2: Be honest with yourself about what you want in your next job.
Starting over is exhausting. I never accepted an offer intending to leave in a few months, but it kept happening. So I became resolute in the ideology that I should focus on figuring out what would and wouldn’t work for me. Knowing what I wanted (and needed) in a role and from a company and a team was a trial and error process.
Coming out of a position where I had been for nearly four years, I wasn’t entirely sure what was possible in terms of benefits. Initially, I used perks offered by organizations I wasn’t necessarily considering for employment for inspiration. While four-day-work-weeks, lavish company retreats, and gym reimbursements only made it onto my nice-to-have list, they helped clarify my must-haves and deal-breakers. Then I took a critical look at what about the companies I was leaving didn’t suit me. Taking care to examine the team dynamics, company culture, and feedback style during the interview process helped tremendously and I got better at it every time.
I decided that I would pass on any opportunities that didn’t meet my minimum requirements. The front-running necessity became a remote-first position, so I declined offers that would expect me to eventually come into the office, and for other reasons as well. I fully acknowledge that being able to pass on job offers is a luxury, but I think it’s one we should all strive to be able to afford. Saying no can feel so good, especially when you already know it’s not a good fit.
Lesson #3: Own the fact that you’re leaving early.
It’s going to come up. The question; “why are you looking to leave your current role” and you need to have something prepared, preferably the truth. The person interviewing you will already have seen how long you’ve been in the role. Do not wait for them to bring it up. If you own it and are open and honest about your reasoning, you’ll come across as responsible and trustworthy. But don’t just end it there. Punctuate this discussion point with a note about your accomplishments and the skills you acquired in your time in the role, even if that skill was to sharpen your eye for future opportunities that won’t be a good fit for you.
Lesson #4: Acknowledge the red flags. They’re there.
You may encounter an opportunity with obvious red flags, such as unclear expectations for the role or being ghosted by the recruiter, but it doesn’t have to be that glaring to raise an eyebrow. Even the most subtle warning signs are worth your attention and consideration. These warning signs you notice in the job description or interview process will only become amplified once you’re on the job, so decide before accepting the offer if it’s a deal-breaker or something you can live with long term. If you’re uncertain, you can often get the clarity you need in the interview or a follow-up email.
Lesson #5: Gather the data, but listen to your gut.
When interviewing for multiple positions, I found it helpful to track data points for each opportunity to make the process less overwhelming. Adding categories like title, salary range, even the vibe I got from the hiring manager or social pages, and weighting them in a spreadsheet according to my priority list helped me make the objectively correct choice. And then came an offer that was, on paper, the right choice. And I took the offer even though something told me it wasn’t the right fit. I decided based entirely on the data and ended up leaving that position within a few months. Intuition can tell you a lot, but it’s imperative to take the next step of getting into the practice of acknowledging our instincts.
Today, I’m at my 5th company since the start of the pandemic, and I like to think I’ve made the right choice, but now, I’m allowing myself the grace to reorient if necessary. My priorities and requirements for employment have shifted tremendously in that I now have them and am willing to turn down offers in a preemptive attempt to protect my peace.
Things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been, and I doubt they’ll ever be the same. So let’s normalize changing your mind, addressing vibes that don’t feel quite right, and negotiating for terms that will suit you. It’s not about finding the perfect job, but waiting for the one that’s best for you and being able to recognize it when it comes along. And if at first (or fourth) you don’t succeed, try again.