I’ve held five different jobs in five years. Which is bad. You aren’t supposed to change up professional jobs every year and you aren’t supposed to stay at a job less than a year.
Well, I’ve done it and I’ve lived to tell about it, and, in my situation, it turned out to be a very positive thing. Here is what happened, why it happened, and what I learned.
Jobbie No. 1 (2 years): I began working at a small law firm in Minnesota in 2008. I was a desperate grad school student looking for a job. I pulled out the yellow pages and sent a cover letter and my resume to EVERY LAW FIRM in the city. Only one bit, but it was the right one for me. I started as the front desk receptionist and worked part-time. It was a great place to get my bearings in the legal field and learn what a subpoena, affidavit of service and pleadings were. I worked there for two years, moving up from the receptionist role to a legal assistant/paralegal. I gained a ton of experience and was thrown into a hands-on learning environment. In May of 2010 I graduated from my grad school program and wanted to move back to Wisconsin, but I needed a job first…
Jobbie No. 2 (3 months): I made several trips from Mankato to Madison in April-May of 2010. I knew I needed to find a job before I quit my current one and my lease was running out. Luckily, I found one at another small law firm in downtown Madison. I would be the sole support staff to five attorneys, meaning I would be receptionist and paralegal. Promises were made that they would hire another support person and I would be the paralegal. They did hire a support person, but I still maintained all receptionist duties and was frustrated at the slow progress and lack of communication. I became very unhappy and felt like I took a step back and became resentful. After three months, I decided to start looking for another job, just on a whim, just to see…
Jobbie No. 3 (2 years): This was the big league, a huge law firm that handled every type of law with 50+ attorneys and 50+ staff. The next firm I interviewed at was very understanding about why I wanted to leave Jobbie No. 2. Of course, they said, I was being underutilized and no wonder I was unhappy. They gave me a 25% pay raise and a 401k and we were off. The time I spent there was pretty tumultuous. I shifted job assignments with regularity for a myriad of reasons, and grew increasingly stressed with each new assignment. I felt like a cog in a machine and it was hard for me to work in a big office where half the people didn’t know who I was, and certainly didn’t care. Most assistants had worked there for a very long time and it was difficult to gain any footing. I stuck it out for two years, and then started to look. At exactly the same time, I received job offers from a small firm and from the US Attorney’s Office. After weighing my options, I decided to go….
Jobbie No. 4 (7 months): Back to the small firm. I loved it. The staff became like family and there were a lot of people my age who wanted to hang out socially. I enjoyed the work and my co-workers and it finally seemed like I got it right. I put my resume in the bottom of my desk and didn’t want to look at it or think about it for a very long time. After I was there for seven months, I got a phone call out of the blue…
Jobbie No. 5(current): And it was one of my previous boss’s, from Jobbie No. 3. He had left the old firm and was at a different firm and he wanted to know if I wanted to come on board and fill an opening they had. This was a difficult choice. I was happy where I was and didn’t want to gamble that away. I interviewed for the job and was still on the fence, but decided to go for it after some long talks. This, I knew, would have to be my last job for a while. I would need to stay put because no one is going to hire me for a while. I’m very happy to report it has worked out and was the right choice.
From leaving Jobbie No. 2, I realize now that I should have spoken up sooner and let them know I was unhappy. I’m not sure what they would have done if they knew I was unhappy at the slow progress turning me from receptionist to paralegal, but now I will never know. It was an opportunity wasted. This is probably my biggest regret from all the job switching. It is also difficult to explain a job I held for only three months.
Another lesson: get lots of interview experience. I went on SO MANY GODDAMN interviews. I interviewed EVERYWHERE. Each rejection hurt, and I probably had ten rejections for every job offer, but the experience helped me become a better interviewee and more confident. At the very least, I stopped sweating so much and getting the ol’ shaky voice during interviews.
Throughout all of this, I learned to not be afraid to be new and start over. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but I’ve consistently been the ‘new girl’ and I’ve lived through it. By making that sacrifice, I’ve more than doubled my income in five years.
Above all, I’d say have a good reason to ditch your job. And don’t ditch it without another one lined up, but you already knew that because you’re smart.