You’re scrolling through LinkedIn, liking your old college buddy’s shared link, when you see a job posting for a company you’ve always dreamed of working for. What’s the harm in taking a quick peek? You click on it, and it’s perfect for you – better pay, better benefits, even a nice boost in ranking. But wait, what are you doing? You’ve barely been at your company for a year, and you’re perfectly happy where you’re at. Why should you be looking into a new job? But there's absolutely no reason to bring on any job hunt guilt by checking out other opportunities, whether you’ve been with a company for six months or six years.
As young professionals, we’re often told by the older generation that we’re not nearly as hard-working as they were at our age, or that we have too high of expectations for our employer. These accusations lead to frustration, anger, mental health issues, and many young professionals overworking themselves to prove their value, but both are complete BS.
In reality, this collective generation has realized that we don’t owe anything at all to our employers – including your guilt. Should you strive to be the best employee possible? Absolutely. Should you do great work during your work hours and be a reliable and responsible employee for your boss so that you can move up in the ranks of your job? Totally. But you should never settle for working at a company who bleeds you dry with work expectations, leaving you burnt out and taxing your own mental health for the benefit of someone else, nor should you use feeling content where you are as a decent excuse to not look at broadening your horizons.
My dad has changed his job a few times in the last few decades of his career, and it taught me a lot about what to expect out of my own professional career. He once quit his job in order to move to a new state where he and my mom wanted to live, and didn't find a new job until after the fact. Then he lost his job due to corporate cuts when I was in middle school. Even though it was an admittedly difficult time for our family, he always reminded me and my sister to work hard, but to not cause ourselves (and sometimes the family, too) severe emotional stress in order to impress a difficult employer. At the end of the day you’re simply a number to employers, and they'll do away with you if they must – no matter how many long nights and extra hours you put in. I remember watching him staying up late during the week, skipping out on family time and practically killing himself for a job that ultimately brought more stress than professional gain, and promised him that I would never do the same.
Likewise, he always told me to never feel guilty about doing something that was best for me and my career, even if I was happy where I was. I suppose his advice stuck with me, because after only one post-grad year of working at an advertising agency I was very hesitant to leave, I found myself applying to jobs that aligned more with my major in public relations.
When I first joined the agency after graduating in the midst of such a tumultuous time, I was so grateful to have found a job as an account coordinator halfway between my hometown and the college I attended. I couldn’t imagine moving far away at a time when I would likely be confined to my apartment, working remotely from a desk in my living room and communicating with co-workers I’d never met through a video camera day in and day out. But I always kept my dream of working in PR and moving further away alive. When the job market began improving and my boyfriend and I decided to relocate together, it felt like the right time to be branching out and considering something new, even if I was scared to leave my job after only a year – after all, what if hiring managers thought I was a flaky employee for leaving after working somewhere for such a short time?
Eva Cregger, Operations and Recruiting Analyst for JPI, assures job-seekers that switching a position after being there for a short amount of time doesn’t raise immediate red flags to recruiters. “I understand that sometimes a role may end up not being what someone expected, or a good fit for them,” she tells Her Campus. A one time quick switch likely won’t concern a hiring manager. “Now, when I see switching positions quickly is a pattern for the individual, it tends to be suspicious and I ask them for clarification,” Cregger adds.
There’s no exact formula for anyone’s career; we don’t all experience the same things. If you land the perfect role for you after graduation, of course you should stick with it if it’s what you want. If you have to take a more temporary role to get you where you want to be long term, that makes sense, too. No matter where you’re at, you want to make sure that you’re not feeling stuck working a job that makes you generally unhappy. You spend a third of your life at work, after all; don’t waste that precious time on being miserable.
Zachary Horton, who currently works as a Senior Financial Analyst for Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, received a job offer from his dream company only a year into his first job after graduating college, but turned it down out of fear that it would reflect poorly on his resume. “I was scared that leaving so soon would impact the rest of my career, and make people less inclined to hire me," he tells Her Campus. "Ironically, my current role was surprised to hear I’d stayed at my first job for four years, and asked why I chose to stay for so long.”
There’s no exact formula to success, and everyone’s career looks different. “Stay at a job for as long as you feel you’ve learned and gotten the most out of the position. That’s all you need from anywhere,” says Cregger.
We don’t owe our employers anything outside of the work we agreed to complete for them. There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking charge of your own career and doing what's best for you. A truly good employer will understand that, and if they don’t you’ve done yourself a favor by moving on to something new.
Eva Cregger, Operations and Recruiting Analyst for JPI
Zachary Horton, Senior Financial Analyst for Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative