Dear Matt: I've heard it's best to stay at a job for at least one-and-a-half years. Do employers look at how long you have stayed at previous jobs, and does that hold value? What if you decided to go in an entirely new career direction and then decide it's not really the career you thought it would be? Will it look bad if you leave right away? I'm in this position and I don't know what to do, and I don't want to make another mistake, but I was happier in my previous job.

Matt: Jumping from job to job raises red flags. Always has, and always will.

Craig Lindell, president of Craig Lindell & Associates, Inc., a Twin Cities retained search firm, agrees with me. "Employers still pay attention to how long you stay at a job. Even in today's market companies will pass on job-hoppers. They want a significant return on their investment. Normally, that's not done in a year and a half."

If you change careers and decide you don't like it, that can also reflect negatively because it will show poor planning on your part. It will show that you didn't do enough research about your new career path before making a change.

Proof Of Performance

Because you have frequently changed jobs, the main thing you need to focus on now when applying for jobs is performance at the job and not necessarily length of time at the job. Employers are most concerned about your results and contributions to a company while you worked there. By showing employers - in your résumé and during an interview - that you were an asset to previous employers you can help overcome the stigma of being labeled a job-hopper.

Assess The Situation

Also, ask yourself why you are not happy at these positions. Is it really job-related or are there outside factors making you miserable? Have you discussed your concerns with your boss or employer? They may not even know you aren't happy. In most cases they'd rather help you succeed than find someone else. After all, they hired you, so they must see some value.

Moving forward, the best thing would be to dedicate yourself to finding a company and position in a field in which you really think you can find success, and then learn as much as possible at that company over a period of time.

Maybe the more success you have at a job, the more happiness you will find.


Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to askmatt@startribune.com.