2016 update: Check out our latest discussion on job hopping.
How does job hopping affect your career prospects? If you take a job with the intention of quitting soon, how bad is that? Reader T writes in with an interesting question about job loyalty…
I am leaving my current company as a result of my discovery of some unethical practices. I had originally hoped to move to a job abroad after my stint here, but I had banked on a having a longer timeline to work with.
I am now looking for a new job in my current (States-side) area. However, I’m also still clinging to hope of that job abroad. My question is, assuming I can quickly find a new job in my current location, how many bridges would I inevitably burn if I were to jump ship after a couple of months? For that matter, would international companies be unwilling to hire me if I’ve only been at Interim Job for less than a year? Not to mention, I would have to leave International Job after 2 years anyway in order to pursue my MBA. Finally, would I be reducing my chances of getting into a good business school by possibly sending the (false) impression that I’m flighty? In sum, how do I make this transition as non-destructive as possible?
Wow… my first impression is that I’m tired just reading your plans! Ultimately, I think you should avoid taking a permanent job for as short a period of time as “a couple of months,” but taking a job with the expectation of going to business school down the line is fine (with the understanding that the adage, “God laughs when you make a plan,” is often true.) Let’s discuss more — I’m curious to hear what readers say, particularly about whether multiple jobs in a short period of time will hurt your b-school prospects. (Photo credit: -RejiK.) A few more quick thoughts:
a) Taking a permanent job with the expectation that you will “jump ship after a couple of months” seems unethical to me. Job hunts take time and money for the company, and there’s a breaking-in process whenever someone starts. Yes, I think, you can expect to burn those bridges at your hypothetical Interim Job — but also, I suspect, with any people from your current job (presumably in the same market) who recommended you for the future job. Furthermore: why stay States-side now? Why not just accelerate things and look for the job abroad? You don’t say why you want “a longer timeline” by just a few months — is it money-related? Partner-related? Lease related? I think almost all of those are things that can be worked with (e.g., borrow money from your parents, live apart from your partner for a few months, or break your lease) far more simply than actively taking a permanent job with the intention of leaving before, at least, a year. If you really must stay States-side, there are plenty of contract-based jobs, consultant work, and more — even paid internships — that are only expected to last for a few months, which I think would be a much better situation if you really don’t want to look for a permanent job abroad right now. Even moving to International City to gather more experience while waiting for the right moment to apply to International Job would be preferable to burning all of your bridges in your current city.
b) “I would have to leave International Job after 2 years anyway to pursue my MBA.” Maybe I’m daft here, but: why? Because this is your Life Plan? Unless you’ve already been admitted to business school in 2014 — which is probably something you should tell Future Employer about anyway, whether States-side or International — you should stop thinking about this as a plan written in ink. You can say to yourself, “I really would like to go to Business School X in 2014.” You can even say to yourself, “I’m not buying an apartment or signing a 5-year lease because I plan to go to Business School X in 2014.” But… realistically speaking, life has a way of happening despite your plans. Maybe you’ll love International Job. Maybe you’ll decide business school isn’t for you. Maybe you’ll quit your business job, start a calligraphy business, and then decide to go back to school to become an oncologist. (True story from one of my friends.) I suppose my point here is that, in my mind, taking a job with the intention of going to business school down the line is a very different animal than taking a job with the intention of quitting two months later. I suppose life could intervene even in the few months at your proposed Interim Job, but so much can happen in two years that, as an employer, I’d be willing to take a chance on you (and not regret it even if you did go to business school two years later).
c) Now, finally: how many jobs can you take before you’re seen as flighty as far as business schools and future employers are concerned? I poked around a bit to see what other advice has been given. Far from the old advice that job hopping was the way to get ahead, nowadays people aren’t so sure. Ask Men notes that there may be a perception of volatility, incompetence, impropriety, and/or a lack of structure and growth in your life — as well as a fear of commitment. Ouch. Over at Forbes Woman, J. Maureen Henderson advises that you shouldn’t switch jobs unless you’re moving up, “you’ve milked your current gig dry,” and you can tie all of your jobs together as part of some grand plan. Meanwhile, a recent Catalyst report found that the most successful women primarily rose through the ranks at one company, something that I could see being useful if we talk about “building the bank of credibility” that’s necessary if you want to take maternity leave and the like. Similarly, a recent article in FT notes anecdotal evidence that successful women tend to be more loyal with companies. I think for all those reasons, I would caution you against changing jobs willy-nilly — but to keep your eyes open to opportunities that materially advance your career and/or your skillset. Here, I think that means focusing your job search on International Job if that’s the career and connections you want down the line, and forgetting about a potential Interim Job.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Do you think it’s wrong to take a permanent job with the expectation that you’ll leave in a couple of months? Do you think employers and admission committees are more suspicious of people who’ve had multiple jobs in a short period of time? Do you think actively job hopping is a bad move, in general, for women?