Employers these days are desperate for employees and are more willing to overlook a short stint or even a gap in your career.
This is good news for young workers who feel their new jobs have been over-hyped during the Great Retirement. A recent survey by The Muse found that 80% of Millennial and Gen Z job seekers say it’s acceptable to quit a new job six months ago if it doesn’t meet your expectations.
If you’re preparing to jump back into job hunting mode after just a short while, here are some ways to talk about it during the hiring process.
Prepare an explanation of why you left so early
There are ways to be honest and diplomatic about a short tenure when the job or company turns out to be different than expected, says Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of The Muse.
If possible, discuss how the scope of the job changed between the interview, acceptance, and starting work. Have responsibilities changed? Has your hiring manager or colleagues resigned? Have there been other organizational changes that have impacted your attitude towards the company or leadership?
Minshew suggests saying something along the lines of, “Obviously, having such a short stint at a company isn’t ideal. When I applied for this position, some of the things I was looking for were XYZ. There was a lot of it that shared with me about the role and the type of work environment that I was really looking forward to. But when I got on the team, there were some really key differences in what I experienced versus what was advertised. It wasn’t the right move professionally, so I left.”
Show your impact
When you’ve made an impact even after just a few months on the job, that’s special, says career coach Chelsea Jay.
Have you set out to meet important deadlines for your team? Or revise a workflow that the company will continue to use in the future? Talk about how quickly you were able to adapt to a new work environment (even if you ended up not liking it) and how you were able to help the company in a short amount of time.
Focus on what you learned from the experience
Self-awareness goes a long way, and you can even play it to your strengths. Lean on the fact that you stood up for yourself and what you want in a job or company and that you quickly realized the other organization didn’t.
“You can tell them that you have a lot of self-confidence, that you realized the job wasn’t for you, and that you wanted to get out in time for someone who would really enjoy it,” says Jay.
Then focus on how experience has validated what you want in a job or company—for example, values like flexibility, innovation, or the ability to help people—and how you know how to look for them in interviews. Build some confidence by adding these values: “[things] I’m very focused on my next role and I’m dying to find a company that I can stay with for a long time,” added Minshew.
Discuss what you want to avoid
Job interviews are not a good place to drag a former employer, even if you feel they misled you in the hiring process. Be honest and professional.
If you like, you can label a bad experience as something you want to avoid in the future. For example, if you didn’t like the competitive nature of a previous company, Minshew suggests saying something like, “I thrive best in a really collaborative environment where I get a lot of information about different parts of the company, colleagues want each other help and there is a minimum of politics or gossip.”
When talking, focus on the future
You also don’t have to go into every detail of a bad work experience if it doesn’t help the interview, Jay adds. “Your goal in interviews is to justify everything you’ve learned and accomplished, why you would be perfect for the new company, and what you can do to help the bottom line,” says Jay.
Keeping the conversation simple and forward-looking, she says: The previous work environment was no longer for me, and that’s what I’m looking for going forward.
Talk about a side project
If you worked on a side hustle or project during your last job, focus on what you learned while starting your own business.
If your side hustle is directly related to the position you are applying for, those are additional experiences and skills to talk about. Even if the skills don’t quite match, highlight the soft skills that make you a good employee and leader, like time management or the ability to delegate.