I know government employees are lazy but this might be pushing it...
June 27, 2011 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Is it too soon to start looking for another job? Difficulty level: trying to go from government to the private sector after five months...

Yeah, I've been doing clerical work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the last five months. The pay sucks, the job is tedious, and there's a safety issue I have with the workplace. (It's the Department of Public Welfare. You do the math.)

Thing is, how is only working a job for five months even going to look on a résumé? Will it matter? Will someone raise an eyebrow at someone leaving a government job after that length of time?

I don't know what to do, but this ain't it.
posted by SansPoint to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As long as you have an appropriate reason to say why you took and left the job, it should be fine.

"While I enjoyed working at the Department of Public Welfare, it was a temporary position while I focused on finding work in X field."
posted by k8t at 11:03 AM on June 27, 2011

It will look better on a resume than saying that you were unemployed for the last 6 months.

If you are not happy with your job, then look for another one. No one's resume is perfect. And staying in a job you do not like just to make your resume look good is silly.
posted by Flood at 11:04 AM on June 27, 2011

"So it turned out that this job wasn't for me. That taught me to do more research the next time I looked for a job. And that's what led me to your company and this position."
posted by Etrigan at 11:04 AM on June 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Are you going to quit and then look for another job, or try to fit interviews into your schedule?
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on June 27, 2011

Response by poster: Griphus: might as well stick with this until I find something. I only just decided to start looking today. Haven't even updated my rèsumè yet.
posted by SansPoint at 11:18 AM on June 27, 2011

I have a different opinion than the other comments. I believe it would look bad, as you are indicating it is not a temporary position which is the only circumstance I believe would be considered "acceptable" to leave your current place of employment for another job. If I saw your resume I would think "what is it to say they wouldn't leave us after 5 months?"

From what I understand the job market is very tough right now. You are lucky to have a job compared to the thousands that do not and have been out of work for years.

If it is not a temporary employment, I would push through to a year then begin my job search. The issues you list are not necessarily "abusive", but rather frustrating. If it was an abusive situation - heck yea - look for another job and explain in interviews later. Honestly though, looking won't necessarily "hurt" you. Just don't be surprised you aren't getting call backs.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 11:24 AM on June 27, 2011

Response by poster: Oh the safety issue isn't with my co-workers. It's the people who come in for services that cause issues. We had a guy come in and attack the door to the back office where I work, with a chair from the waiting room. Not fun. It's not worth risking personal injury for a paycheck, at least not one as low at this one.
posted by SansPoint at 11:43 AM on June 27, 2011

Finding a new job is a numbers game, and interviewing well takes practice - so go for it. Even if you don't get a job until 12 months post-hire in your current job, it's not like interviewing now is going to kill your candidacy in another 6 months. Try it, see what kind of bites or feedback you get, and revise your resume and pitch to match. There's no permanent record of your job search out there that HR departments are checking against (unless you're applying to the same company over and over again). And in my experience, knowing I'm taking active steps towards finding a better-fit position makes me much less frustrated in my current one.

k8t has an okay tack to use in an interview. The flaw in Etrigan's approach is that an interviewer's next question will be about why the job wasn't for you. Better to start with the why first - and make it positive. I've had some good success talking about what things my current organization does very well, what I've learned from the experience, and what I'm looking for in a new position. Even though you're seeing all the negatives right now, you really want to highlight contrasts in organizational mission/specialty/approach, and why you think you're a better fit for the company you're applying for, without saying anything negative about your current employer. It's possible to do - but script it out, edit and re-edit ruthlessly. Then practice saying it until you get something that sounds like someone you would want to hire. In my case, my "reason for leaving" ends up being very different, even tangential, to anything I'd say candidly to a friend - but it's still true from a professional career path standpoint.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:43 AM on June 27, 2011

If you're sticking with the job until you find something else it should be fine. If it is too soon the worst case scenerio is that you won't get a new job straight away and will have to stay where you are a bit longer. It would only be a problem if you left your current job without something else lined up.
posted by Laura_J at 1:11 PM on June 27, 2011

It's not worth risking personal injury for a paycheck, at least not one as low at this one.

To me this says it all. I've participated in hiring at my last few jobs. If a candidate told me this as their reason for leaving, I would absolutely not hold it against them.
posted by chez shoes at 2:33 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not that unusual, especially when you're younger, especially if you stay in this job until you get a new one and leave without burning bridges. But you don't want a second short stint on your record, so make sure the next job is really a good fit.

And don't ignore other public sector opportunities - amongst other things, you can probably apply to transfer to another job within state government with just a few more months in your current position, depending on your classification. Amongst other things, moving from one state job to another after a short period looks less bad than moving from state government to something totally different.
posted by SMPA at 6:11 PM on June 27, 2011

You can look for a job whenever you want, but it's too soon for you to be competitive, in a
VERY competitive job market.

This job may be tedious and low-paying, but it's a foot in the door to get you some experience outside of the telemarketing that you hated so much. Believe me, you're not the only one who gets stuck "paying their dues" several times over before you get the opportunity to move on up.

Stick with it for one year. Be a calm, hardworking, polite employee. Make sure you're going to have a good reference from someone in a senior position. Then start applying for other public sector jobs and private sector jobs.
posted by desuetude at 7:18 PM on June 27, 2011

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