The Best Time to Quit Your Terrible Job is Now

Dec 17, 2014 9:00 AM ET

The Best Time to Quit Your Terrible Job is Now

Susie Poppick from Time recently shared her thoughts on why it’s okay for millennials to quit a terrible job. I’ve mentored many young professionals through the years, and I have to say, she’s spot on with her insights. Many counselors tell young professionals that they should stay in that first job for at least two years, but sometimes the situation requires action.

Like Susie, I was very lucky. I loved my first job, had a kind boss and fair pay for what I was doing. But many first time employees have different experiences. The job is different than described or they face an unkind or unsympathetic manager. Sometimes people are just bored to tears. Read the entire article if you get a chance, but I’m going to highlight a few of her insights to remind you that life’s too short to stay in a job you hate.

Recent research suggests that an increasing number of millennials are spending less time at their first jobs after graduation than young people have in the past. That trend has accelerated even within the last year, with fewer graduates staying at jobs past the one-year mark—and a growing number leaving after three months (or less).

But millennials aren’t just feeling unfulfilled because they are low on the totem pole; the current job market is also to blame. More than 40% of recent college graduates say they weren’t able to find a job in their desired field, according to a recent McKinsey study. The survey also found that almost half of graduates from four-year colleges report being in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

“Many in the millennial generation are taking jobs that they are over-qualified for and thus are eager to move on when something better appears,” says Bob Funk, CEO of Express, the firm that conducted the job duration survey. Plus, he adds, “we’ve seen a decrease in employees’ commitment to employers as a higher value is placed on personal advancement.”

Still, figuring out when and how to make a move is tricky. Here are three tips on making a smooth switch, from former hiring manager Alison Green, author of

  1. Be honest with yourself. Green has spoken with workers who have stuck around in bad jobs, despite serious problems at work like sexual harassment, because of fears about money, security, and student loans. “If you are truly miserable, you should trust your gut and not be too afraid to lean on savings, a spouse, family, or part-time work instead,” says Green. “For those who don’t have that luxury, keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel and direct your energy into finding a better job in the meantime.”
  2. Line up another job before you quit—but not just any job. When you quit a first job out of college, says Green, very few future employers are going to hold that against you, especially if you’re able to articulate what you learned from the experience. The danger, however, is that when you’re desperate to leave a job, you might be tempted to take the first new offer you get, even if it’s wrong for you, too. “It’s okay to quit once, ” Green says. “You kind of get one freebie. But you can’t let it become a pattern.”

One thing you can do immediately is to create a profile on 1stGig, a recruitment service that helps you make career connections. It’s a great way to learn about new opportunities and get your name out there so companies seeking someone with your skills can find you.

  1. Leave gracefully. It’s important to be upfront with your employer and give the company time to prepare for your departure. If you are respectful and help out with the transition, you should be fine. “A good employer shouldn’t want you to stay if you’re unhappy with the fit,” says Green.  As for questions from future prospective bosses, post-college jobs of six months or less need not to be added to your resume, says Green. More than that and employers might wonder about the gap.