Why staying too long at a job for the resume boost is the stupidest thing you can do
And how you can leverage leaving a job even more than you think.
I must have had this argument over a hundred times by now. It goes something like this:
Me: “If you feel like you’re not getting what you want from this job why don’t you quit?
Friend: “Quit? I can’t quit, I’ve only been here for 7 months.”
Friend: “So that’s going to look terrible on a resume. I need to stay at least a year or two, otherwise I’ll seem like a flake you know?”
No, I don’t know. I’ve gotten and left more jobs by age 26 than most people have by age 40. I’ve been through all sorts of hiring processes and I’ve never been asked, “So why did you stay so briefly at your previous job?”
I have been asked, “why did you leave your last job?” which is one of my favorite questions to answer. How an interviewer responds to my answer tells me more about that company than any tail-chasing on LinkedIn ever can.
My response might go something like this:
“I felt that I had outgrown the position and there was no more room for growth because the company was so much smaller and narrow-minded than what you guys have here (subtle compliment ftw!). They would ask me to do X and I felt I could do X, Y, Z. I want to contribute in bigger ways.”
But why quit? It’s just an extra year…
Your time is your most precious resource on earth and nothing, I repeat,
Nothing is more important than time.
Okay that’s pretty true, but what else do you get by quitting a job?
Yes, you can get just as much experience from quitting a job as you can by staying at it (often you get way more from quitting a job actually) it’s just about how you leverage your time.
First, your time between jobs:
- Use this time to level up. Sign up for some online classes. Online education has come a long way recently and you can get an amazing education (often for free). I enjoy using Creative Live or One Month but there are many others. Just because you’re out of college doesn’t mean you should start slacking and falling behind on the latest & greatest. While your ex-colleagues are stuck in the doldrums of repetitive 9–5 work you can be leveling up your skills to overtake them in the future.
- Take a trip. Not a trip for shits and giggles, but a meaningful trip. Use the time to make yourself more interesting. This is described at length in the Filling the Void Chapter of the 4-Hour Workweek so I won’t go into length about it here. But use this time to gain perspective, crazy stories, and most importantly, life experience. The stories and experience you gain from your travels should be something you proudly show off, especially when…
When you’re interviewing
- Practice interviewing. Most people hate interviewing because it sucks and because we don’t get much experience doing it. It’s like if you never learn to swim and you come across a river, you’ll be reduced to either doggy paddling across or, as most people who sit at their jobs do, you’ll just stand there saying, “I wish I could get to the other side.” Interviewing can get better over time, trust me I’ve done plenty. By practicing interviewing more often you’ll gain long-term freedom. Going through the job shopping process a few times quickly teaches you the Do’s & Dont’s and you’ll be able to wow your interviewees on command. This will earn you so much more freedom in the long-term than you can possibly imagine. Just picture being able to get a job on the first try anytime you want… woah. (Note: I’m not quite that pro yet, but at least I don’t sweat interviews anymore which feels amazing!)
- Deal with the resume problem easily. Want to know how to avoid being asked why you quit that job so quickly? Here’s a hack… delete the dates. There’s no grand jury out there that will convict you. You can make your resume however you want to. I deleted the dates, or just put the years (for example: Project Manager 2013–2014) and no one has ever asked for the specific months. Problem solved.
Jobs are like travel, the more places you go, the better you become.
Every company is different and sometimes we forget that. We assume that the problems we’re facing at our company are everywhere, but that’s not true. While it’s certainly true that every company has its problems, how many and how big they are varies greatly. But you’ll never know how yours compares until you try.
I’m sure you’re nodding your head right now and saying, “that’s great and all but easier said than done.” And you’re right. It’s very hard to do, but most worthwhile things are.
If it wasn’t hard, everybody would be doing it.
But this post, as with all my posts, is about getting better, not taking the easy way out.
I’ve been working since I was 13 years old, my jobs list includes: (chronologically)
- Dog walker
- Laser Tag attendant
- Teacher (science camps)
- Late-night cook
- Bodyshop mechanic
- Video game design teacher
- Production Assistant for reality TV
- Social Media coordinator
- Director of Photography
- Creative Director
That’s 12 jobs in 13 years. Some of which I stayed at for 4 years, some of which I did for 4 months. It all depended on the value I was getting from the job. And that’s what this post is all about, how much value are you getting on a daily basis from your job? A lot? A little? None? Your answer will determine the urgency with which you need to take action.
Time is limited so don’t limit yourself.
As always, I hope this post gave you some nuggets to think about and I’m happy to answer your questions in the comments below or on the twitters at @BogdanYZ