leaving bad job

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Arghhh! My new position is terrible! How long do I have to stay in this bad job?

Define Terrible

If your health or safety is at risk, get out of Dodge as soon as possible. If you were hired to do X but are now doing Y, and you can’t get back to X, time to leave. If the terms of the position, pay, location, benefits, change dramatically from what you started with, see if you can renegotiate but start looking if you were the victim of a bait and switch. If it is a cultural issue, probably best to leave. If it is a personnel issue, make sure you can’t transfer or wait out someone else getting transferred before you leave what you thought was your ideal job just because of a personality clash.

Prepare Your Reason

Why you leave a bad job is more important than how long you have been in that position.

Bad reasons to share for leaving a bad job include personality clashes, inability to get along with your boss, your client or your co-workers, complaints about the benefits, pay raises or bonus structure and condemnation of the company culture or product. All of these reasons might be true, but giving those as the reason for leaving a bad job reflects the worst on you.

Acceptable reasons for leaving a bad job after a short tenure include, my dream job came up somewhere else, the location ended up being a bigger problem than I predicted, the product/reason I took the position ended up being changed before I even started or the company is becoming financially unstable. In a positive way, explain what you learned from this work experience and how it’s helped you to identify what you are looking for in your new employer and your next role.

Length of Stay

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median number of years for salaried workers is 4.2 years. Tenures of 4+ years can offset short stays. CNBC contributor, Suzy Welch, says, “Think of it as a kind of equation. You can ‘flit’ a bit, but only if you’ve stayed a bit, too.”

Everyone makes mistakes and you are allowed one or maybe two short tenures on your resume, if you have very good reasons for those short tenures. But if the short tenures keep happening it will be a red flag to potential employers. You will be viewed as someone who runs at the first sign of a problem and hiring managers are looking for people to stay and build something at their company.

Get a New Job Before Resigning

If you’ve decided to leave there is nothing magical about staying until your one year anniversary versus leaving at two months, both are short tenures. But do try to get a new position before leaving. The old acxiom of ‘It’s easier to find a job when you have a job’ is true. Topresume.com says, “Focus on finding the right job and work environment rather than getting out of your current situation as quickly as possible. The last thing you want to do is repeat the same mistakes you made during your last job search.”

Interested in doing a job search? Contact the Executive Recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates.


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