Employers are desperate to hire these days, and they’re more willing to overlook a short stint or even a gap in your work history.
That’s good news for young workers who feel their new jobs have been overhyped during the Great Resignation. A recent survey from The Muse found 80% of millennial and Gen Z jobseekers say it’s acceptable to leave a new job before six months if it doesn’t live up to your expectations.
If you’re preparing to jump back into job-search mode after just a short time away, here are a few ways to talk about it throughout the hiring process.
Prepare an explanation for leaving so soon
There are ways to be honest and diplomatic about a short tenure if the job or company turned out to be different from what you expected, says The Muse founder and CEO Kathryn Minshew.
If possible, discuss how the scope of the job changed between the time you interviewed, when you accepted it and when you began working. Did the responsibilities change? Did your hiring manager or colleagues quit? Were there other organizational changes that impacted how you feel about the company or leadership?
Minshew suggests saying something along the lines of: “Obviously, it’s not ideal to have such a short stint at a company. When I was interviewing for that position, some of the things that I was looking for were XYZ. There was a lot that was communicated to me about the role and the type of work environment that I was really excited for. But when I joined the team, there were some really key differences in what I experienced compared with what was advertised. It wasn’t the right move professionally, so I left.”
Show your impact
If you made an impact even with just a few months on the job, that’s something to highlight, says career coach Chelsea Jay.
Did you hit the ground running to meet important deadlines for your team? Or overhaul a workflow the company will continue using moving forward? Talk about how quickly you were able to adapt into a new work setting (even though it’s one you ultimately didn’t enjoy) and how you were able to help the business 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 were quick to see the other organization wasn’t delivering on it.
“You can tell them you’re big on self-awareness, that you recognized the job was a bad fit and you wanted to get out in time for someone else who would truly enjoy it,” Jay says.
Then, focus on how the experience reaffirmed what you want in a job or company — values like flexibility, innovation, or the ability to help people, for example — and that you know how to look for it in interviews. Instill some confidence by adding these values are ”[things] I’m really focused on in my next role, and I really want to find a company where I can stay for a long time,” Minshew adds.
Discuss what you’re hoping to avoid
Job interviews aren’t a good place to drag a former employer, even if you feel they misled you in the hiring process. Keep it honest and professional.
If you want, you could frame a bad experience as something you hope 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’m given a lot of information about the various areas of the company, colleagues want to help each other out and there’s a minimum of politics or gossip.”
Keep the conversation focused on the future
You also don’t have to go into every single detail about a bad work experience if it doesn’t serve the interview, Jay adds. “Your goal in interviews is to take everything you learned and accomplished to reason why you would be perfect for the new company and what you can do for their bottom line,” Jay says.
Keep the conversation simple and future-focused, she says: The past work environment was no longer for me, and this is what I’m looking for going forward.
Talk about a side project
If you worked on a side business or project while at your last job, focus on what you learned while on your own.
If your side hustle directly relates to the job you’re applying for, that’s extra experience and skills you can talk about. Even if the skillsets don’t totally line up, bring out the soft skills that make you a good employee and leader, like time management or the ability to delegate.
Leave it off
Finally, you also have the option to leave an old job off your resume entirely, especially if it only lasted a few weeks or months and it isn’t related to the work you want to do.
“If the stint is short enough,” Minshew says, “it is perfectly acceptable to remove it from your resume.”