Job Hopper: How to Know When to Leave Your Entry-Level Gig

Job Hopping: How Millennials Can Remain Fulfilled and Pay Their Dues

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So you’ve worked at your first full-time gig for a significant amount of time, and you feel like you’ve mastered it. You know the ins and outs of your job, and you could probably complete assignments with your eyes closed. At this point in your not-so-new career, not only are your feet wet, you’re practically swaddling knee-deep and thinking, When is my next move going to be? How long do I have to stay in this entry-level position?

Lindsey Pollak, Gen Y career expert and bestselling author of Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World, offers key factors to consider when you’re thinking about moving on from your current position. Today’s millennials face the sometimes negative stereotype of being “job hoppers.” How long should a young professional stay in an entry-level position in order to avoid such a stereotype?

Lindsey Pollack: The traditional minimum for staying in a job is one year, but traditional employers may still see someone as a job hopper if that person takes a new job every single year. That said, I think since the global recession, employers are more forgiving of shorter job tenures on your resume as long as you can explain them. Just make sure you are not job hopping out of boredom or impatience.

Millennials sometimes leave really great jobs (and future opportunities for growth) just because they want a change. That can backfire, as the jobs out there may not be as good as the one you have.

How important is it to pay dues or earn stripes?

It is important to learn the basics of the industry or business that you are in so that, as you advance, you can deeply understand various issues. If you don’t like the term ‘paying your dues,’ then think of it as gaining the invaluable experience and depth of knowledge that you’ll need when you’re the big boss. Especially at the very beginning of your career, even if you’re “just” answering phones or proofreading PowerPoint presentations, you are learning essential things, such as your industry’s latest trends, products, and services, as well as key communication and leadership skills.

Should young professionals measure how long they should stay according to the amount of time they have been employed at their company, by the amount of experience they’ve gained, or by a little bit of both?

Experience and learning is more important than actual time. If you are still learning, then you should stay. If you have been totally stagnant (despite asking for more responsibility) for more than a few months, then it might be time to move on. Just remember, though, it is up to you to ask for more responsibly or additional projects. Your career development is 100% in your hands.

What are some of questions entry-level workers should ask themselves before seeking new employment?

What are my personal milestones and how do they affect this decision? Am I going through a life-changing experience (pregnancy, marriage, etc.) that might inform the timing of a job change? What benefits— traditional and unique—might I be losing or gaining with the new job? (For example, will you lose vacation days/paid-time off?) Will there be a period of time when I would go without benefits, and can I handle that financially? Why do I want to leave? Am I overlooking opportunities—with flexible arrangements, training, wellness programs, etc.— in my current position or company? These are all important things to consider before jumping ship.

Jamie Harrison (@JayNHarrison) is an award-winning freelancer whose work has been featured on, and a number of Florida newspapers and publications. When she’s not reviewing restaurants and vacation spots, she’s writing about medical advances. She frequently writes about health and wellness, professional development, social issues and travel. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the great University of Florida.