|  October 1, 2013

Q&A: Does it look bad if I quit my job before a year?

I’ve been participating as a mentor in the Levo League community lately and been getting some great questions (ask me one here). One question that recently came through was about how long you “have to” stay in a job before you move on to something new. Specifically, “Does it look bad if I quit my job before a year?”

Let me start by saying this. There is definitely a perception out there that if you leave a job before a year, it reflects negatively on you. The reason this perception is out there is because leaving a job quickly can lead people to believe a few things (many times incorrectly)…

  1. It’s not working out for them – Leaving a job before a year can indicate that it didn’t work out for the company, and that you had to leave (or got fired) because you weren’t able to perform in your role.
  2. It’s not working out for you – If you’re leaving on your own accord (and you’re doing your job just fine) it could imply that you weren’t very careful about your decision to join the company. What happened in less than a year that changed your mind and why you didn’t figure out in the interview process?
  3. You’re always looking for the next best thing – This is a reflection of loyalty and commitment. If you just made a commitment to step into a job and support a company, why are you leaving at the slightest blip in the road or because the “grass looks greener”?

Kind of scary, I know. Especially because sometimes it’s just not working out for whatever reason and it’s time to go. While I believe in giving things a fair chance and giving a yourself a grace period to truly get adjusted… 

  • I don’t believe in staying at a job you know is wrong for you.
  • I don’t believe the year-mark is in any way special – one year is the same as 10 months and the same as a year and 4 months – there is nothing special about being somewhere for exactly one year!
  • I don’t believe you can’t still be a strong candidate to another company. You can!

If you’re concerned about how to quit a job before a year but not let it hurt you in the interview process, keep these things in mind:

  • Understand that your shorter stints won’t count as much as your longer ones: The longer you stay with a company/in a role, the more of a chance you have to achieve really meaningful results. Since the first few months on the job are usually devoted to training, adjusting, and onboarding, most people don’t end up hitting their stride until later. If you don’t stick around long enough to get the hang of things, it will be tough to prove you’ve made a big impact. As long as you can play up your other experiences on your resume too, this doesn’t need to be detrimental.
  • Don’t make it a pattern: Leaving one job before a year is fine, but leaving every job you’ve had before a year isn’t viewed as positively. You want to come across as someone thoughtful and committed. If employers see a pattern of leaving jobs quickly, they may peg you as a job-hopper. That could hurt you in an interview process because no company wants to spend the time training and investing in someone who is going to be gone in a few months.
  • Have a really solid explanation of why you’re leaving/have left before a year: Remember all those things we just talked about that we don’t want your interviewer to assume? Get in front of this. Be able to articulately explain why you want to leave your job in a way that is thoughtful, reasonable, and professional.
  • Make sure they know why they’re different: Make sure you show your commitment and enthusiasm about the company you are interviewing with. Also ensure they know you can see yourself growing with the company over a longer period of time and that they fit into your “5 year plan”.

So is it ideal to leave a job before a year? Maybe not. But if something isn’t right for you, and it’s time to move on, this is in no way the end of the world. So don’t believe in the magical year-mark, weigh the consequences, and consider making a move.

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