Q: I’ve been at my new job as an executive assistant and I’m already feeling very miserable. How soon can I quit without looking bad?
I made the mistake of taking a job that’s heavier on the administrative side and it’s just not the right fit for me. I was desperate because I’ve been job searching for nine months while relying on a contract job for money and that offer was the only one that came through. I also received negative feedback on my performance review today, and I’m trying my best to fix them now while fearing that I could get fired in two weeks.
If I somehow make it through this job, how many months until I start looking for another position? What is the minimum to stay in a job that the length looks desirable to HR?
A: It depends on the rest of your job history and your overall situation.
If you’ve had a pretty solid job history before this point, then I wouldn’t worry about this at all — start looking for something else right now. Having one short-term job, or leaving it off your resume entirely if you’re only there a few months, isn’t a big deal. Patterns of short-term jobs (when they weren’t intended to be short-term, like a contract position) are what can be an issue — that’s when employers start worrying about job hopping.
But if your resume is already littered with short-term stays (in most fields, that means less than a couple of years), then yeah, there’s more reason to try to make this work. If that’s the case, then you’re in a situation where you need to try to repair a spotty job history, and you do that by racking up several stays of at least a few years each.
However, staying in a job that you’re not doing well at won’t necessarily help you — especially if you get fired after, say, 10 months (at which point it’s harder to leave it off your resume altogether) or if you can’t get a good reference from them. So you need to factor that in too.
Other cases where it could make sense to leave now even if it will add to an already job-hopperish resume are if the job is making you truly miserable for a sustained period of time or endangering your health or safety.
There are worse things in the world than having a spotty job history. It’s something that makes future job searches harder, which is why you want to avoid it, but please don’t feel it’s supposed to trump absolutely everything else going on.
Q: My coworker makes rude remarks about my work and my quietness
I started in my current workplace doing quite a technical job which involved very little interaction with colleagues. After about a year, I got a new manager and a promotion to a job that involves substantially more work with colleagues.
I get reasonably good feedback, but a member of my team who does not report to me comments a lot about my quietness, etc. For example, if I am about to go into a meeting, she will comment about whether I am going to talk enough. Or when I chaired a meeting recently, seven to eight times she mentioned that I wasn’t moving things on as quickly as she would have liked. Afterwards she commented to the whole team that some people “just aren’t cut out for it.”
I don’t really know how to handle this; it’s going against the grain for me to speak out anyway, and I think this makes it a more challenging environment. In our hierarchy, she is more junior to me but older.
A: Your coworker is a jerk — seriously. Even if she has legitimate concerns about the things she’s raising, she’s raising them in a rude and obnoxious way. Her comments aren’t okay, and someone needs to shut them down, either you or her own manager. Ideally it would be you, because it will strengthen your standing if you take it on yourself. Ideally, you’d do two things: First, in the moment when she makes a rude comment, call it out — for example, “Jane, your comments aren’t constructive. If you have a concern, please come talk to me after this meeting.” Second, talk to her in private and say this: “You’ve made a number of comments questioning my work. If you have a legitimate concern, please raise it directly with me or with your manager. Can you do that?”
If it continues after that, let her manager know what’s going on. She’s way over the line, and her manager should want to rein her in. (And if the reality is that you can’t bring yourself to talk to the coworker directly — which I realize might be the case, although I hope it’s not — then go straight to the manager. But do get it shut down.)