Love vs. career - how hard will it be to maintain both?
June 12, 2011 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be moving around with my S.O. for a few years. Will having a few ~2 year jobs on my resume look bad?

I'm an engineer and I've had my current job for 1 year, 8 months. This is my first job out of university. Prior to that, I'd worked for the same supervisor in university for 4 years - 1 as a summer/p.t. student researcher, 2 as an grad student, and 1 as a research associate while the economy was bad.

Now my S.O. is moving to another city several hours away at the end of the month for work. I'm planning on going with him in the near future - going to try to find a job first and wrap up my responsibilities on my current projects so I leave this company on good terms. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to get a good reference from my current supervisor, on the basis of my good performance, commitment to my projects and I'm only leaving the company because they don't have a branch in my destination city.

He's probably going to move again in 2 years for a 1-year training course in another city... and then we'll get sent somewhere else permanently, when I'll be able to stay in a steady job again. It's possible we could shift the training course a year earlier or later, but I don't know what would be the best for my career - if I manage to find a job, that is. In any regard, I'm going for personal happiness first and am flexible in my general career path.

I'm wondering though... how will that look on my resume, if I have a couple of ~2 year jobs in different cities? What will potential employers think?
posted by ergo to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an engineering manager, and I think that the reason you give for those job changes (family) will make a big difference on how you're perceived. It also helps if you have concrete accomplishments to point to in each position you take. Signing onto a 4 year development project might not give you the opportunity to point to results, but being a sales, marketing, or production engineer where the timelines are typically shorter than in R&D should give you opportunity to finish several smaller projects.
posted by elmay at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm currently working for a consulting firm and have a few projects under my belt already.
posted by ergo at 11:28 AM on June 12, 2011

It's a red flag for me to see a bunch of 1 year jobs, but it won't prevent someone from getting an on-site interview. If it's 2 2 year jobs that you can explain because of moves, and reassure the new company that you won't be moving again quickly, it shouldn't make too much of a difference.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:57 AM on June 12, 2011

I'd go with the above as well. It's all about context.

The other thing would be to think about the advantages this could bring to a company. Phrase it in terms of exposure to different corporate cultures, and different methods of problem solving.
posted by MattWPBS at 2:22 PM on June 12, 2011

Explain it briefly on your resume. For your two next job searches, put a line after your last job like "left position because partner's training program required relocation to X." When he's done with the program, make sure your resume reflects that: change the wording to something like "geographical movement necessitated by partner's training program, now completed." That should mitigate the "hopping" problem. Do tell change the language when the training is over so they don't think you're going to continue to need to move every two years.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:18 PM on June 12, 2011

So you will have had your first job about 2 years. This is a good amount. Then you will do another 2 year job, then another 2 year job, then a 1 year job, all 4 in different cities? This is reasonable, but pushing it; you might want to reconsider moving for the 1 year training program. You want to consider personal happiness over the long term, and that might include one year of distance for less unhappiness in the long term.
posted by jeather at 6:39 PM on June 12, 2011

Their concern is likely to amount to wondering if you will quit in a year or so when your SO moves again, and corollary to that, how much of a PITA it will be for others to take over your project. Apply primarily for time-limited contracted positions with the option of renewal, and get good testimonials and references from supervisors (and clients, if you work with them directly); ensure that these testimonials directly address the quality of the documentation (and hence, takeover-ability) of your work.

You might even be able to get a testimonial or two from the person who took over from you, after they've been in the job six months or a year: "In my thirty years of engineering, I have never taken over a project in progress so easily as I have taken over this one from Ergo. She left me thorough documentation, a project schedule with all progress marked, a list of priorities and dependencies of upcoming tasks. She introduced me to major clients, suppliers, and important contacts. She has assured me that if I had any questions for her she would answer emails within a day, however the handover was so well prepared that it has been unnecessary for me to contact her at all! She even replaced her name with mine on the coffee list and the birthday list, and left me a box of chocolates! Five stars, and when she leaves your employ, please let me know so that I may interview for her previous position. There can be no warmer seat than Ergo's, and no more comfortable a pair of shoes to fill!"

There are plenty of other good reasons to stay in contact with your ex-employers too; every time your SO proposes to move again, call around your ex-employers and ask if they can recommend someone to meet with in your new city.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:18 PM on June 12, 2011

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