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Are Short-Term Jobs A Career Liability?

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Short-term jobs are less of a liability now.

It is more accepted to change employers (or careers altogether). It is sometimes even desirable to have multiple stints – you show transferability, you can bring best practices of different companies or industries to your new employer, you have a wide network.

That said, red flags are raised with frequent job changes or a string of short tenures (two years or less). Employers look for reliability – will you stick around when your track record shows you haven’t? Career progression is unclear over short periods of time – can you grow into roles with bigger scope and scale? Your professional judgment also becomes questionable – why do you choose companies with no staying power, or can you just not sit still?

Since a career history with short-term jobs can be viewed either positively or negatively, it is critical for you to frame your history around the positive:

Why are your jobs short-term? When you tell your story, have a compelling reason for why you selected each job and why you left. Ideally, you went towards each successive job, rather than away from the former job. You want to demonstrate that you exercised prudence and due diligence and were empowered in your career choices.

What did you accomplish in each job and in your career overall? Evidence of career progress is important to prospective employers, and with short tenures you have less time to show results. Therefore, take extra care to itemize and quantify what you did accomplish. You also will need to show that the arc of your entire career makes sense – i.e., that each successive job built upon what you learned and accomplished previously.

What does your career to date mean for the prospective employer?

Regardless of whether you have a series of short stints or a long-term stay in one company, the real question is what your experience will mean to the company hiring you. Viewed negatively, short-term jobs may make employers think you’ll leave them quickly too. Viewed positively, employers may think your short-term jobs will give them a breadth of competitor knowledge. You need to make your case based on what you specifically bring to the table to that specific employer.

Short-term jobs in and of themselves are less influential than why you took them, what you accomplished, and what the experience means to your next employer. Focus less on justifying your past and more on driving successfully towards your future.


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart® (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and other leading business authors) of "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" from Two Harbors Press, 2010. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for leading companies in media, financial services, consulting, technology and healthcare.

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