My friend Mike, an accountant in San Francisco, makes some valuable comments on our previous discussions, here and here, of how long young professionals “should” be looking to stay in any given job or with a particular organization:
Mark, I think your questions are what goes through a lot minds in our generation. At the firm I work for (not in IR), we consider the new college graduates to be from even a newer generation, where these questions/concerns are even on shorter timelines. Companies are aware that their younger employees aren’t planning on punching the clock for 40 years and then retire with a pension. That said, I think it’s fair game for a company to review a resume and ask why you’ve changed jobs every 2 years. If there is a good reason, then that should be acceptable to the company if they are interested in hiring you. If a better opportunity comes along after 1 year or 2 years at a job, then you can’t consider the future scrutiny of your resume in your decision to move on. I personally think there is no hard and fast rule, but I would advise someone to not settle for a job (or stay in one) when their passion or happiness is at stake. But it might be a whole other discussion as to whether that is easy to do considering the state of our economy. Thanks Mark, and keep up the good work…
It’s great to get Mike’s take on this issue, one that comes from outside the international affairs field but is also completely applicable to all fields, I think. His point about it being fair game for a potential employer to ask about your job switches is a great one and makes for an interesting exercise: if you’re unsure about making a career change/leaving the job you’ve been in for only a short time, ask yourself how you would respond to an interviewer’s question about your job trajectory. Can you clearly and compellingly lay out the reasons why you left your current job for another one after only 6 months or a year or two years? If so, then it is probably a solid career move and no future employer would fault you for jumping up and taking a better opportunity. But if you can’t clearly lay out those reasons, if it’s not evident to you why you are leaving one job for another, then maybe that move isn’t the best idea after all.
Of course, as Mike says, there is no hard and fast rule, and this is all just an exercise in discussion and conjecture, which is not a bad thing but certainly never ends with one final answer. I agree with Mike that I would never encourage you to refrain from making a career move because you worry how a mythical future interviewer might interpret your resume. Mike hits on a key theme of Working World, a theme I was just posting on, when he says, “I would advise someone to not settle for a job (or stay in one) when their passion or happiness is at stake.” Of course he’s also right when he points out that the state of the economy throws a wrench in everything and perhaps might make it necessary to hold on to a stable though not awesome job for longer than you might want, mainly for the paycheck. I’m all for passion and idealism, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve also got way too much of my dad in me not to argue for practicality too.