You've heard about it: the warnings against being a job hopper. The people who tell you that you need to stay where you are and if you have too many jobs, you'll be seen as unreliable or someone who can't commit. "I once knew a recruiter who counted the number of jobs on your resume and if there were too many, he wouldn't even consider the candidate for the role," the rumor goes. Are these people right? Do you need to stay in the job you're in? Even if you hate it?
When to leave
First of all, if your environment is abusive, or you are at risk of significant health impacts as a result of your work, you should leave. So if that's you, you can stop reading, go quit, and then come back and we'll figure out what to do next.
If it's not abusive, but you still want to leave, here is a 7 step framework that will help.
- The Hates. What specifically about the job is not working for you? Make a list, or describe for yourself in detail. If it helps you to free-write rant for a bit, go for it, but then go back over your writing to look for key words or themes.
- The Loves. What is good about it, what would you miss if you left? There must be something, so make sure you account for the parts of it that you really actually do like. Make a list. Again, if it helps you to free write first and then find the key words and themes, do that.
- The Opportunities. Are there any opportunities that this job could present to you to grow your career in some way? Is there anything you could do to make this a growth or learning experience that will create other opportunities for you later? Identify these ideas for possible hidden opportunities in the role that you might not have taken advantage of yet. It could be forming a networking or mentoring relationship with a person you admire there, or the chance to work on a project that will grow a skill or be something to put on your resume/portfolio.
- The Vision. What's the positive vision of what you would like to have in your work instead? What would your ideal job description include? Look back over the list of things you like about the role, so that you can keep the ones on the list that are important to you, and think about what you could have instead of the things you don't like. Create a detailed, very specific, descriptive vision of what you might want instead. If you're artistically inclined, you can literally create a picture or visual representation, if words or analytics are your thing, use a spreadsheet or list to log all the elements in your vision of what you want instead.
- The Conversation. Have a conversation with your manager, and ideally at least one other leader or mentor in your life, about what you would like to change and what you want to be doing instead. How receptive are they to helping you change your role? Are they open to supporting you working on the opportunities you see? Are changes possible that will make you happier and keep you learning? Try pitching an idea for how you could change the role to make it better, and see what the response is like.
- The Try. Based on that conversation, try out any changes that are proposed or agreed to by you or your manager, and notice whether they improve your experience. Give it a timeline so that you can genuinely have enough time for it to change, and see that timeline through.
- The Move. If this creative exploration of how to change your role to include more of what you want, less of what you don't want, and opportunities to grow and develop fails, then it's time to move on! Start exploring for other opportunities that might better meet your needs. But at least now you know for sure that nothing could be done, and you can move on with a lot less doubt and regret than if you jumped ship right away.
The bottom line is: you might be surprised by how often jobs can change if you put in the effort to edit them. Managers often say they are surprised that they didn't know someone wanted to do something different, so make sure you speak up to ask for more of what you think would make you happier before you jump ship. Then, if you can't see a way forward in your current role, it's a lot easier to explain what you're looking for and why as you move on to your next opportunity, and in your next interview, what you did to try to solve the problems there.
Still uncertain about what you should do? Reach out to me!