In a graduate career position but hate your job? Do you stay or go?
You put a lot of effort into getting on the career ladder, but if you’re in your 20’s and in a job that you really hate - or just bores you senseless - you definitely are not alone. Will it damage your future career prospects if you leave?
The nature of careers is different today from a generation ago, when the aim was to build a career with one employer. Today there is more opportunity for freedom and fulfilment and less guarantee of a lifelong career doing any one thing for any one employer. However, if you want to be taken seriously for future jobs, you need to make your career story a coherent one and not look like a game of hopscotch.
So, when should you stick with it and when should you jump ship? Here are some questions to consider first to help you make the right decision:
1. Will another job solve the problem?
When times are tough and you’re not getting on with your boss, colleagues or work, or you’re just plain fed up and bored, it’s easy to think that you’d be happier somewhere else. Whilst that may be true it’s important to note that every job has its ups and downs – and very few jobs are as fun as university! The most important thing to do is to honestly assess whether the problem is you, the job or the fit.
Assess your strengths and weaknesses and whether you are a fit for this job. What is it your dislike about this job and what will you look for that’s different in another? Before you jump ship, consider your career objectives and the part that your current job has in helping you achieve them.
If after this you decide it is time to move on, be sure that you target something that will actually be better for you. Be realistic though - you might not be able to get everything you want now in a job and knowing what to compromise on before you look will narrow the field.
2. How long should you stay in a job?
When I was a recruiter reviewing candidates for management positions, like any other recruiter I was constrained by what my client (the employer) was looking for. We looked for relevant recent career achievements and qualifications first but then at job history. If we saw a series of short job stays – 6 months, 1 year, 18 months - without clear progression or promotion we would discount the applicant as a lightweight who could not settle to achieve anything. Harsh? Yes, but that is how it is out there in the real world.
While leaving a job that clearly isn’t right for you makes sense once - perhaps twice - to do so repeatedly will harm your future career prospects. Be clear on these 3 questions:
- Is this role contributing to my long-term goals?
- Am I growing professionally?
- Will leaving now harm my future prospects?
You need the answer to all three to be “No” before deciding to move on. If it is less than two years since your last move, think very, very carefully.
3. Should you quit first and job-hunt later?
No! In general, your stock in the job market is much higher when you’re currently employed. You also earn more when you have a job! No matter how awful you find your current job, don’t resign in a huff and walk out. It may feel great on the day, but you’ll regret it in today’s employment climate.
Plan what you are going to do carefully. Looking for another job takes time and you may need to book time off work to do it properly. Don’t tell everyone that you are planning to leave. Be careful about job-hunting activities while you are at the office – it sends a terrible message and you will leave a bad taste behind when you go. Now is also the time to start building or repairing that relationship with your boss. Remember, you need your current employer to act as a referee.
You have every right to expect a rewarding, challenging and interesting job. But if that is not what you are getting right now, think carefully about how to reach that goal before taking drastic action that will hurt your prospects in the longer term.