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Should you leave that job you hate?

October 10, 2007

You don’t want to be labeled a job-hopper. You don’t want recruiters to shun you. You don’t want to ruin your resume. But you do want to leave.

Should you?

Well, if an employee doesn’t want to be termed a job-hopper, then generally speaking he or she needs to put in that minimum of 2-3 years in successive jobs. At junior levels that is. By the time an employee is a middle manager, its time to start thinking of staying put for at least 3-5 years, which by the way will be considered short by the standards of some industries.
That is how HR professionals and employers see it.

This site details the different kinds of job-hoppers
1. Those who change jobs for more money
2. Those who change jobs for new challenges and personal growth
3. Those who change because of some problems they perceive at the present job…most often because they feel they have suffered injustice.
Other reasons to leave a job can be because of loss of a job or personal reasons. In fact a job-hopper can fall victim to different reasons at different times.

But coming back to the question: Should one leave one’s job because of one of the above reasons, or a combination of the above reasons?
Well, it depends on your history, how many jobs you have been in earlier. Here are some aspects to keep in mind for would-be job leavers. (Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] and [5])

1. Job descriptions. Headhunters often paint a rosy picture of the new job. In fact there can be a fair amount of hype. At times job applicants are lured with glossy titles and attractive job descriptions, which in fact may not give the real picture.

2. Company culture. Going into a completely different work culture can be a shock. Work culture doesn’t just mean work pressure, but also the ethics and morals of the new company. Senior managers in particular can be asked to do some very unpalatable things.

3. Being clear about why you want to leave. The best reasons to leave are not necessarily more money, better growth, or even a challenge. Well okay, these reasons are great if you have been in your present job for a longish time, not otherwise. If you are leaving your present job within three years its advisable to leave only if you have a boss who is clearly hostile (and nothing has worked, not even going to his boss), and the poor relationship is hampering your functionality. Also think of leaving if you perceive that you have been demoted or sidelined. Otherwise, patience is best.

Patience is best because:
1. In your new job you will have to prove yourself all over again and build up all your contacts and relationships, all over again.
2. At every job you need to have learnt something, achieved something, or at least built up a set of skills. And 1-2 years is usually too short a period to do this in. In fact, its important to build your roots in at least one company. Ten years down the line an employer will look for that root, or at least a strong branch…
3. You could lose long term benefits like pension, gratuity etc.

Anyway, if you decide to quit, do it gracefully. Keep all your relationships intact because the word spreads, specially if you are moving within the same industry.

Changing jobs is good for personal development
If you take two people with similar track records, then those who have been in different jobs are seen to be better managers as compared to those who have never changed their job, or those who changed their jobs only at junior levels. (Sources: [1] and [2].)

The movers are seen to adjust better to new environments, seen to tackle new challenges better, and are overall seen to have a wider set of skills. One of the reasons for this is that changing a job at the right time and before one stagnates, keeps an employee’s learning curve up, and new challenges keep him or her fresh and motivated.

Ofcourse, these positive effects can be wiped out by too much moving… (at least from the point of view of employability) because the prospective employee can be perceived to be unstable, disloyal and incompetent.

Related Reading: Job Hopping and Blogging Trends

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. anuragsaurabh permalink
    October 10, 2007 8:22 am

    Hey morning🙂
    Another informative, enlightening article…
    i will send to my pal who is thinking of changing job after joining this june..in a core company…it will also save me hardship of doing that credit card story..
    You do a lot of research..everything is corroborated with facts and figure…
    have a nice day..🙂

  2. October 10, 2007 8:37 am

    Thanks Anurag. be sure to send the link, not the article!🙂

  3. October 10, 2007 8:43 am

    I personally have left jobs that I didn’t enjoy or became less challenging. I think it also depends on the responsibilities one has. If I had a younger brother/sister or my parents dependent on me, then I’d be more likely to take that into consideration along with my dissatisfaction/unhappiness with the current job, and the risks involved in leaving it. Though, I would try my best to find a better opportunity and then change when it’s there.

    OTOH, if I’m independent, then I’m much less likely to continue with a job that I don’t enjoy, assuming that my qualifications are good enough to get me a new job sooner than later.

  4. October 10, 2007 11:09 am

    Nita: I have to agree with Amit there broadly.

    There is a limit to the growth an organisation can give a person and while companies can find other employees, a person has only one life to live, achieve, contribute whatever.. So looking after number 1 should be priority.

    I have had bosses who were excellent (I am still friends with them) to mediocre (in touch; their wives were nicer) and two downright SOBs (needless to say I could not care less about their existence). Never has a boss been a reason to leave, although bad bosses provide great excuse to do so.

    Sometimes when great opportunities present themselves, one must get over oneself and take the risk. Someone I know was headhunted 3 years ago from consulting into a banking strategy job. He has subsequently delivered great growth and heads corp dev in the bank’s most profitable business now. His rewards? Having on his CV the honour of being part of the winning team and now the great task of integrating after the mother of all takeovers (ABN Amro) was settled in their favour. Did I say he came to the UK just 8 years ago?

    On one thing I disagree with Amit. About dependents.

    Much as it sounds like a good reason to stay put in a bad job, dependents normally do not care what you do for a living. Remember Valmiki? So one might as well take a job that makes one happy, has prospects (which sometimes emerge if you are happy) and has the possibility to afford a living without selling one’s soul.

    Thanks, my 2p

  5. October 10, 2007 12:47 pm

    Amit, thanks. I guess dependents sort of make you think twice…I think a lot of people get stuck because of that though. There is always the right time to leave…if one waits, that opportunity might go forever…and like shefaly says, basically the job change benefits dependents in the long run. ofcourse leaving a job without having one in hand is the worst thing to do!
    Shefaly, thanks for sharing your experience. I agree with the risk taking. In fact I think it takes guts to switch, and this is a great quality!

  6. October 10, 2007 12:58 pm

    Nita:

    “.. of course leaving a job without having one in hand is the worst thing to do!”

    I think all of us “service class” children think that as the model.🙂 But I see how enterprising my father is – he is over 70 and had a job oriented career – and I realise that inside every corporate job person, there is an entrepreneur waiting to claim freedom. My father is busy advising a business on their international contracts and tenders; he loves teaching maths and English to children, some of whom have gone on to IITs and to their first jobs now; he also listens to his favourite music and wants to start blogging soon.

    Sometimes lack of back-ups creates opportunities one did not consider or did not have time to consider (given how everyone works long hours).

    Having clocked my corporate time – and I worked in very interesting corp venturing roles creating new businesses – I have now worked freelance for some years in addition to pursuing the PhD. Yes, it is not easy in the beginning but gradually you get a good stream of work from old and new clients, and there is a lot of time to develop one’s other interests. It is much harder work than a ‘job’ because of constant networking, developing leads, and so on. And it is tiring because one has to a lot of paperwork for taxes, expenses etc. But there is a sense of freedom.

    That said however I may be seeking a corporate role sometime after the PhD. They provide labels with which one can step up the networking possibilities. Then who knows where it takes me?🙂

  7. October 10, 2007 1:22 pm

    Shefaly, the problem is that here companies have started to pay well only now, and that too not for all jobs. Mostly 99 % of salary is spent on food and travel. We had zero savings until about 3-4 years ago! And even now we do not have that much! Without a job there are no medical benefits either.
    Its great to start a business but one needs some back-up money to survive until things start doing well.
    About getting into corporate life, that PhD will definitely help.🙂
    I really hope you come to India though!

  8. October 10, 2007 3:26 pm

    Hello Nita, Amit, Shefaly, and Folks: this is an interesting discussion, and because its very close to the work I do every day as a director for three companies , I wanted to share my point here.

    There is only one question you should ask in any job at any time: “Am I feeling fully satisfied with what I am doing, and is my job getting the best out of me?”

    A yes means stay, and a no means you must search something that you enjoy. Having helped over 500 professionals worldwide in career questions, I can say one this with surety: you will earn a lot more when you do what you enjoy.

    In fact, to share examples and tips, we also put a website: CageBreak.com – hope it helps you in your career. Best Wishes/Shankar

  9. October 10, 2007 6:02 pm

    @Shankar

    //You will earn a lot more when you do what you enjoy//

    Well said..

    and in some cases Sadly employee held back by “golden handcuffs” meaning they are so well compensated – through salary, company stocks, pensions, or other benefits – they believe they cannot afford to quit their job and may always have fear that leaving their job will lead to financial loss.

  10. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    October 10, 2007 6:47 pm

    Bharath,

    At the risk of being accused of being afflicted by the Sour Grapes syndrome, may I humbly suggest that employees who feel bound by “golden handcuffs” are probably overcompensated, and they know it?

  11. October 10, 2007 6:57 pm

    Bharath: Those who appear to have golden handcuffs almost always are able to negotiate much better deals – and bigger, newer, shinier golden handcuffs, perhaps even diamond-encrusted ones – in their next job hop.

    Golden handcuffs have great signalling value in the job market. They indicate the ‘value’ as well as the ‘scarcity value’ of a person. So potential employers – rightly or otherwise – do clamour to negotiate with them and to attract them at ridiculous costs.

    Thanks.

  12. October 10, 2007 6:59 pm

    Nita:

    “About getting into corporate life, that PhD will definitely help. I really hope you come to India though!”

    Alas, the truth of the matter is that a PhD is the fastest route to becoming unemployable and I am depending on the hope of finding just one enlightened employer🙂

    Whatever the outcome, I plan to enhance my involvement in India, in the Middle East and the US greatly, especially if no corporate wishes to hire me (since they have read all that I said here…).

    Thanks.

  13. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    October 10, 2007 7:13 pm

    Shefaly,

    Possibly you should be thinking of the UN/WB/IMF route rather than corporate. They are not necessarily any more enlightened, but they do love to have PhDs around. It would also suit your global ambitions much better.

  14. October 10, 2007 10:26 pm

    Shefaly, I didn’t imply that one should continue with an unsatisfactory job indefinitely because of dependents. That would be unhealthy for all in the long-term. Sorry if that wasn’t clear from my comment.

    What I meant was that if there are dependents, and where bi-weekly/monthly paycheck is of importance (and a fact of life), then for the short-term, one has to weigh that factor in when making a decision to leave an unhappy job before finding the next one. As I said in my original comment:

    “Though, I would try my best to find a better opportunity and then change when it’s there.”

    If there is already a new and better opportunity available, then of course, one should take it instead of sticking with the unhappy job, dependents or no dependents.

  15. October 10, 2007 11:06 pm

    I had written this comment in morning..but due to some problem with internet at work could not post this😦

    Though more or less same conclusions have already been drawn, I am posting my own experience…

    Hey..Nita you make a valid point there..when you say moving too much….it might kill the reputation of a professional..and you miss out on long-term rewards…like pension and gratuity…but sometimes moving is very important…like I worked in this big MNC…I sweated for two years..got a promotion…but it was not enough..my supervisors recognized that I was ready for next role…but you see there are processes and policies that say..so it would have taken me another year…till then juggling with my current role..with which I was frankly bored..challenge was overcome..and juggling with half-baked newer responsibilities (of the next role)…I did not mind it initially…but I was left with no personal life of my own..so much to do everyday…So one fine day…to get out of partial boredom and get more recognition….i updated my cv on job portals…got this offer to start my own division in this small company..gave up my comforts of transport, perks. I received to be here at this smaller company..I chose it over other offers from MNC to make a difference..I dont regret it..If I had stayed in MNC, I would have stagnated..here I am still learning..I know I am not going to stay here for life..but whenever I decide to go…I will have this satisfaction of having made a huge difference to a place..🙂

  16. October 11, 2007 12:09 am

    I’ve been in 3 different jobs in 24 months and in 4 cities and i’ve felt the tangible weight of explaining each move to the next employer. But if you have the reasons to back up each move then its better to move rather than stay and have bad memories.

    One reason i’ve personally seen people move is because they lose confidence in their employer. Confidence that the company is on the right track. Though this would be applicable only to small firms or start-ups i guess.

  17. madhurisinha permalink
    October 11, 2007 12:38 am

    Slightly moving off to the academic job sector in India (scientific institutes and universities).
    Many of my Postdoc friends are trying to go back to India but the situation is very grim.
    The university selection committee members have their own panel of prospective candidates who are either their direct PhD students or forced on them by their superiors. Even if the short list of applicants contain many meritorious students, they are ultimately not selected.
    The excuse they give to prospective over seas candidate is ‘You live abroad, you wont really come back right?’
    Additionally, there are other problems like,
    One of friends who is a postdoc in the US was short listed for a scientist job at CCMB, Hyderabad (a reputed CSIR institute), and was aghast to see that the selection committee members were chatting on cell phones during the interview.
    So for us it is not an option of quiting here and going back to India before getting a job there. We simply cant risk it. This is especially true in the Biology sector.
    Connection is the real merit.

  18. Padmini permalink
    October 11, 2007 2:32 am

    I think changing jobs has its pros and cons like most issues. The plus points are that you may be going to a better work place, better prospects for the future, better perks, more benefits etc. The cons: the new place and people may not be what you necessarily like. Also, the seniority you may have had will now have to be earned all over again. My two cents on this is, if you’re getting paid well, have good benefits, have a good work environment, do not jump for a few more thousands unless you’re in desperate circumstances. The few thousands are not going to make much of a difference overall and you can negotiate with your current boss for what you think your value to the company is.

  19. October 11, 2007 8:29 am

    Poonam, thanks very much for sharing your personal experience. You did great and I think it just shows that those who change jobs are definitely of a superior caliber!

    Sreejith, if one makes the wrong choice of a company then one has to face the bitterness later. The main thing is not to make that same mistake again! As far as my limited knowledge goes though, one learns hugely in a start-up and you must have built up very good skills. With the good exposure that you have had maybe now you can put it to good use by settling down at least for 2 years! Just my 2 cents worth.

    Madhuri I am shocked to hear that! Thanks for telling us this! Considering that there is a such a tremendous shortage of academics here I am absolutely aghast!! One needs to go deeper into the reasons for this casual attitude of the interviewers. I think it is possible that they are incompetent themselves. Perhaps they want to create an artificial shortage, are scared of competition, or simply want to push their not so well qualified and non-meritorious students!

    Padmini, I agree with that, the effect of more money tends to wear off very quickly, and what the individual always craves for is recognition and respect.
    Thanks.

  20. October 11, 2007 10:55 am

    Madhuri: This does not surprise me in the least. Many other academic recruiting practices – as you might have seen on the Evans/ Lasker thread y’day – outside India are similar. You have to be “like them”. Whichever way “like” is defined. It helps if you do not come across as a smart-arse either. In your case, I recall you have lived in LA and are now in NY. It does not matter what you did; to someone in a low-paid job LA/ NY still sound like glamorous places no matter how badly post-docs really get paid. There is a wide chasm of misunderstanding and poor understanding. Then there are vested interests.

    Some good b-schools and other faculties around the world do not hire their own PhDs. They force them to get some experience elsewhere first. But in science, where a post-doc is significant, it also counts as ‘experience’ hence the perpetuation of incestuous hiring..

    If you are not into only academic jobs, then NY has a bustling biotech programme. I shall dig out some cards and mail you some contacts. I-banking is also an option./ The latter will take you out fully from science academia though..

    Thanks.

  21. October 11, 2007 5:58 pm

    Hi Nita and others,

    I got the link to this lively discussion from the WordPress home site, good thing I did !

    Very good points discussed here, and the commonality of the Indian outlook is very valuable. I tend to agree overall with a lot of points – one should strive to find what is closest to him/her in a job, achieve good satisfaction in the job and if the current job is not giving that, find the right job.

    Said that, done that, sometimes the ‘right’ job will always be elusive. It does not matter how qualified you are or how hard you try, you may never land in that ‘perfect’ job in which you won’t be ‘working’ but ‘living’. And perhaps, just perhaps, there is a point where you draw the line and differentiate your career from your life and say that career is only 30% of my life, I can still live a life and enjoy it without worrying too much about my career…..

    Shift in gears, another thought.

    Sometimes, you see the perfect role for you within your company, but there are reasons (known /unknown to you) why you won’t get that role. In those situations, it is better to leave the company, prove yourself outside of it and then, if you still want your role, come back to your company for that ‘dream’ role. This is my latest mantra, and I am about to experiment it myself, if I remember this site, I shall come back and post a message🙂

    Good day to all !

    Venkatesh.

  22. madhurisinha permalink
    October 11, 2007 6:07 pm

    Yes Nita, even though the Indian government is opening up new institutes and universities, the job situation is more or less same. You have to have contacts otherwise its really tough.
    Though the biotech sector in India is rapidly progressing. Some of my friends here have been able to secure jobs in Indian Biotech companies and have moved back. So i guess the situation is slightly better there than academics.
    Thanks

    @Shefaly,
    Thanks.
    Yes you understand the post doc community very well. We are highly underpaid for the work we put in (at least 10-11 hours everyday including weekends). But mostly because we love the research work we do, so i cant really blame the faculty supervisors there. However it is a fact that we are underpaid and most of the universities do not even provide subsidized housing for the postdocs.

  23. vasudev permalink
    March 27, 2009 5:25 pm

    nita…
    an excellent article and well commented upon by your highly enlightened readers. all together i was able to get a fair grip on myself this evening.
    one point though: a person can be faced with a dilema of power or money. some jobs are highly powerful though poorly compensating. for people in such a situation sometimes life might offer only a hobson’s choice…

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