How Long Do I Need to Stay in a Job That I Don’t Like?

Here’s a scenario that no one wants to transpire. You’ve taken a job that turns out to be different than you expected, and you’re unhappy right away. Immediately, you realize you’ve made the wrong decision, and now you’re afraid you’re stuck in a position that’s totally wrong for you.

Certainly, this kind of job mistake can happen to anyone. According to a recent survey from The Muse, 72% of the nearly 2,500 millennial and Gen-Z professionals experienced “shift shock,” where they felt like the job they’d taken bore little resemblance to the position conveyed in the interview. 

So, if this has happened to you, know you’re not alone. But if you do find yourself in a role that you don’t like, how long do you have to stick it out for the sake of your resume? Here, we’ll examine three factors many career experts suggest considering before quitting a job soon after being hired.

1. Consider whether you really don’t like your new job or you’re just resistant to change. 

Sometimes the excitement of getting offered a new job and preparing to start can make the actual position feel, well, anticlimactic. Specifically, when you’re anticipating a new role, you’re likely focused on the most exciting elements of the position, but when you start, you actually have to do the job.

“[Preparing for a new job] can create a motivational state called a promotion focus, which makes you more sensitive to positive things in your environment. But once you start work and there are responsibilities you have to deal with, you’re more likely to adopt a prevention focus, which naturally focuses on the negative things,” said Art Markman. 

In other words, when you start a job, you’re tasked with new, unfamiliar responsibilities that can make you feel less competent and, in turn, feel less satisfied with the position. So, it’s important to give yourself at least a few months in your new role to make sure it’s not what you want.

2. Assess the tenures of your jobs to date.

If you’ve quit several jobs after less than a year, then your resume will likely have some red flags on it for recruiters and hiring managers. Specifically, most experts suggest that the shortest tenure that doesn’t raise alarm bells is about two years. 

However, companies recognize that some jobs simply don’t work out, and they aren’t likely to fault you if you stay in one job you don’t like for less than a year. 

However, if you’re quitting your job after less than a year over and over again, your pattern has definitely turned into a problem. 

“If you’ve held three jobs in 10 years, you’re more than likely in the clear. Most companies will want to see that you held at least one job for at least three to five years because it indicates you’re somewhat stable,” said job search platform Monster.

3. Identify your career path and determine which generation of leaders might be offering you your next role. 

Younger managers and leaders are more likely than their older colleagues to understand why a candidate might have stayed in a role for only a short time.

Specifically, millennials and Gen-Z professionals believe that it’s not necessary to stay in a job that’s a bad fit for longer than six months. For example, 80% percent of respondents in The Muse poll said they would quit before six months if they had taken a job they didn’t like. Certainly, this attitude would translate to those they hire, too.

“This is a generational shift, driven by Gen Z and millennial candidates who are more likely to believe the employer-employee relationship should be a two-way street. On top of this, the pandemic has emphasized for many that ‘life is short,’ which means candidates are less likely to stick around in unfulfilling jobs,” Kathryn Minshew, The Muse’s co-founder and CEO, said. 

How to Make Sure You’re Taking a Job You Like 

Ideally, you want to make sure you understand what you’re getting into when you accept a job offer. Sometimes, job seekers don’t know what they want in their next position, accepting whatever position comes along. Other times, they don’t have a strong understanding of how a company’s culture and values align with their own. 

If you’re unsure about your ideal position and company, consider consulting with Paul Wigglesworth, CPA and the founder and CEO of Career Moves. He has helped more than 600 finance professionals identify and land satisfying new roles.