Many people endure less-than-stellar jobs for fear that leaving would ruin their career.
When should you stick it out, and when is it time to move on? Of course, there is no full-proof formula for knowing exactly when to leave, but here are four popular misconceptions that are worth avoiding:
1. You owe the company X # of years
Many recommend employees spend at least two years at a company, or, for those later in their careers, three to five years. For a first job I’ve often heard there’s a one year minimum, but, after my first job wasn’t quite what I expected, I knew it was time to move on after nine months. Does that make me irresponsible or self-aware?
According to career expert Emily Bennington, there are exceptions to the rules regarding how long to stay in a job. “I usually recommend at least a year, but sometimes you just know when an opportunity isn’t right,” she said in a recent Facebook post. Bennington suggests asking yourself three questions:
- Is this position contributing to my long-term goals?
- Am I growing professionally?
- Am I free to do my best work?
“If the answers are no, no, no, then you need to search for something else,” she emphasizes.
2. The professional grass is always greener across town
When you’re miserable, it’s easy to assume you’d be happier and more productive somewhere — anywhere! — else. Every job has pros and cons, and it’s important to evaluate your career goals rather than accept the first offer you receive.
Know your strengths when searching for the right position, says blogger Penelope Trunk. Make a list of priorities and deal breakers. Reflect on why you dislike your current job and what you would enjoy doing instead.
However, be careful about being too picky, Trunk says in a post on BNET. Be willing to make some sacrifices and set realistic expectations. For instance, you might agree to a longer commute or a pay cut to do something genuinely engaging.
Despite doubling my commute when I accepted my first writing job, I so enjoyed my time in the office that it was well worth it. There is no perfect job, so be realistic in your evaluations. Stick to your absolute needs and be willing to compromise on the rest.
3. Don’t quit your job until you’ve got another in place
Though many people will discourage you from taking time off, because it will send the wrong message to future employers, don’t believe them. That’s what resumes, cover letters and interviews are for. Use those opportunities to shed light on why you made the decisions to extradite yourself from a harmful situation and how you had the courage to boldly move on even without a parachute.
But that doesn’t mean you should waste your time. Use your career break to freelance, volunteer or further your education, and highlight these successes to potential employers.
According to a post on Briefcase to Backpack, a break can actually help your career—especially if you use your time off to acquire new skills, recharge your batteries, gain perspective, volunteer or travel. Looking for some tips on how to land an awesome job after a career break? Check out a post by Alexis Grant.
4. Rules are there for a reason
Don’t follow the so-called rules just because you think you should. Follow your own drum’s beat.
Your passions are a great place to start. When you are enthusiastic about a position, you’re much more likely to stand out in the crowd during the interview process–a necessity during tough economic times.
Interviewing for my current position, I was just one year out of college with a background in public affairs. Others were more qualified, but I landed the job, because I highlighted my passion for writing and told my future boss I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.
Haven’t found your passion yet? Don’t worry. Just keep searching, says Zen Habits. Experiment, try new things and ask questions.
The most important takeaway is this: if you are unhappy at your current position, don’t necessarily listen to all the people telling you to wait it out. Make a commitment to take action. Whether that means searching for a job immediately, taking a break or simply staying positive, it is your decision to make. Own it.
Alyssa Martino is a writer and editor based just outside the nation’s capital. She loves digging for stories that connect people, place and possibility. Click your way over to her website to learn more.