Life at Work

Comings and Goings

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 8, 2007

Clip and save this one, folks.

Each week job hunters write me, and each week the same questions crop up. While there aren't always hard and fast answers because every person and situation is different, I've rounded up experts to help me with some of the most frequently asked questions.

· I hate my new job. How soon can I leave without ruining future prospects?

That job you took because you were desperate or that opportunity you thought was just right turned out to be a nightmare. And a few weeks in, you want out. Will leaving keep you from future jobs because you'll be seen as a job hopper?

If you have a history of frequent job changes -- usually jobs you kept for less than a year -- beware. "I look for a geographical change or if a company was acquired. If there wasn't some catalyst like that, I put it in a no or maybe pile. And the maybe pile rarely gets looked at," said Paul Villella, president and chief executive of HireStrategy, a recruiting firm in Reston.

There are reasons for skipping out quickly, and sometimes that's fine by future employers. Just make sure not to blame the company. Instead, say you misjudged the opportunity. "Own the issue," Villella said. "You'll come across much better, and someone will be able to move past it much better."

But also think about your situation -- carefully -- before you decide to jump ship. Maybe you haven't spent enough time at this job to figure out how you fit in. Maybe that opportunity just will take some time to earn. Don't let yourself leave before you are sure you must. Otherwise, your résumé will look like a quilt.

"We always talk about red flags. But a red flag I'd differentiate from a derailer," said Lee Burbage, vice president of human resources for Motley Fool in Alexandria. If there is just one job that was a short stint, he'll still consider an interview. But he will ask why you left so soon.

So should you stay for a year just to get a year on the résumé? It all depends on your history. Figure out what yours is.

· What is an informational interview? Will a company take me seriously if I ask for one?

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