Here's all you need to know about when it's ok to leave a job quickly.

Are you asking yourself, “How long should you stay at a job before leaving?” If so, there's a good chance you're in a job situation that you've quickly come to realize isn't for you. So, are you stuck for a period of time, or not? What are your options, and when is it okay to leave? Read on to learn more. 

How long should you stay at a job before leaving?

There's nothing worse than starting a new job full of anticipation, only to quickly realize the role is NOT what you expected. If you feel as though employers misled you, sadly, you're not alone.

According to a JobVite Insights Report, 36% of respondents indicated that they felt candidates left their jobs within the first 90 days of employment due to the new job not aligning with the job description or expectations set during the interview process. Another 56% indicated it was because the candidate was the wrong fit for the position. 

However, quitting a job is easier said than done, and leaving a job early on has the potential to negatively affect your future employment options. Before you decide to hand in your resignation, here's what you need to know.

Related reading: How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

How long do people stay in their jobs?

The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current job was 4.1 years in January 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the number varied based on age – for example, the median tenure for workers between the ages of 25 and 34 was 2.8 years – and occupation, it's clear that the typical employee stuck with their employer for at least three years.

When you're working in a nightmare job, three to four years can feel like a lifetime. So how long do you really need to stick it out at a job you hate?

How long should you stay at a job before switching?

So, how long should you stay at a job before leaving? In an ideal world, you should stay at each job for a minimum of two years. However, if you quickly come to realize you made the wrong choice when accepting a position, don't feel obligated to stay at the company until your two-year anniversary.

If your job is putting your mental or physical health at risk, if you truly hate what you're doing and the job isn't a necessary step to reaching your dream career, if you're a complete mismatch with the company culture, or if the company is financially unstable, start looking for another job immediately.

Will you be labeled as a job hopper?

For many who are considering how long you should stay at a job before leaving, a concern is being labeled as a job hopper. If you have one short-lived permanent job in your employment history, it's fairly easy for a hiring manager to overlook this short tenure, provided you can address your reasons for leaving – or being asked to leave – the job. Layoffs happen. Everyone makes a mistake from time to time.

However, if your resume is riddled with brief stints of employment and the jobs were not short-term contract positions, you can expect employers to regard you as a job hopper and question your judgment, career goals, and your ability to perform at work.

Other reasons people are concerned about leaving jobs quickly

Aside from being concerned that you'll be labeled as a job hopper, there are some additional reasons people are concerned about when they're leaving their current jobs after a short period of time. Here are a few of them:

  • I'm letting my current employer down. Often, people feel bad and concerned about leaving their job soon after they start it. They don't want to let anyone down, and especially the person that employed them. However, at the end of the day, you need to do what's best for you. If you're staying in a position out of guilt, it's not serving anyone, including your employer. 

  • I might be perceived as disloyal. In the same vein of not wanting to feel like you're a job hopper, it's understandable that you don't want employers to assume you're disloyal. Though, as previously mentioned, if you have a good reason for leaving your job in a short period of time, and it's not a common occurrence on your resume, you can overcome any concern of appearing disloyal. 

  • It could get better, and I might be missing out on opportunities if it does. It's understandable that you might be concerned that you're missing out on opportunities if you leave your job too early. That said, if you're currently unhappy and clear that it's not the job for you, and it's unclear as to the opportunities that might be available, it's okay to choose to leave (and in many instances, is the best choice). You'll have new opportunities with your next employer that, hopefully, are accompanied by excitement. 

Reasons to leave a job quickly

There are several reasons why you might come to realize your new job isn't for you. Any of the following can be valid reasons to leave your job only a short period of time after starting. 

  • Your health and wellbeing are impacted. Nothing is worth your health and wellbeing. If it's clear that your health is taking a hit, especially in a short period of time, it's in your best interest to move on.

  • The work environment is toxic. If it's clear that a work environment is toxic, it can definitely be detrimental to your wellbeing. Not to mention, it makes it difficult to perform at a high level. It's okay to say “no” to a toxic work environment. 

  • You were misled. Let's say you started a job to find out that you were misled. Maybe the job duties and responsibilities are different or the work environment isn't what you were promised. In these types of cases, you have a valid reason to look for employment elsewhere, regardless of how long you've been in your current position.  

  • You receive a better offer. If you're unhappy where you're at and eventually receive a better offer elsewhere, it makes perfect sense that you'd accept the better offer. 

  • You don't get along with your manager. Even though the manager you work for was likely part of the hiring process, it's still possible you realize it's not a good fit after you begin working for them. Positive relationships at work matter, so if you feel that the relationship is going to take more effort than it's worth to make it work, it could be a sign to move on sooner than later. 

To reiterate, when thinking through how long you should stay at a job before leaving, any of the above factors are valid reasons to leave a job sooner than later. 

How to make the most of a short-lived job

Be prepared to explain what you learned from this work experience and how it's helped you to identify what you're looking for in your next employer and role.

Highlight your wish to find an organization that you can truly call home. Then, explain why you believe this particular company and job 0pportunity is the right fit — and why you're the right candidate for the job.

Related reading: How to Successfully Conduct a Confidential Job Search

What you should do once you decide to quit

If you decide to quit your job, try to secure a new position first. It's much easier to get a job when you're already employed. Focus on finding the right job and work environment rather than getting out of your current situation as quickly as possible.

The last thing you want to do is repeat the same mistakes you made during your last job search and end up working for a company and in a position that's not a good match.

How long should you stay at a job before leaving: it's okay to leave quickly!

Now you know the answer to the question: How long should you stay at a job before leaving? Depending on your circumstances, as discussed above, it's okay to leave a position quickly. No job is worth your health and wellbeing. Be clear as to why you're leaving and make sure you can explain that during interviews with prospective employers. When you're clear, they're likely to appreciate your self-awareness and honesty about pursuing a new job.  

Ready to look for a new job? Kick things off with a free resume review.

This blog was originally written by Amanda Augustine and has been updated by Ronda Suder. 

Recommended Reading:

Related Articles: