Want to quit but don't want to look like a jerk on my resume.
July 18, 2013 6:42 PM   Subscribe

I was going to write a long explanation of why I want to quit, but really, none of it matters. I'm a PM in Advertising - I have worked at small agencies and probably never want a long term, real FT gig at a big shop. I would be okay contracting at a place like that. If I decide to quit this job, I will likely do so in favor of a contract, and will likely avoid a real FT gig for some time due to agency burn out (unless I get an offer from a known quantity, which is a possibility but not a certainty). All in all, I'd much rather be without anything to do and the option to do what I'd like instead, rather than where I am now, which is nothing to do and ready to lose my mind.

My questions:
1. The gig before this was just over a year, and I get good references from it. This one is just crossing the 6 month mark. I started out as a contractor. I'm not sure how to handle "why you are leaving" in an interview, because the answer is "I am bored // lack of work" but that's unkosher to bring up -- you don't run around town telling people your agency is low on work.

2. I am so worried I am making myself look like a job hopper, even in this city where everyone has worked for everyone and probably has done so within the last two years, easily. Valid? Should I stick it out instead?

3. I am worried I am crazy thinking I can put together enough PM gigs on a contract basis to hold up my side of the marital income agreement, if you will. Am I nuts?

Have you done this as a PM/Program manager? Advice? Thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
1. "Well, (previous gig) wasn't a good fit; it turned out not be what I signed up for." Don't share specifics: "out of respect for my previous coworkers, I can share specifics."

2. Job hopping is basically the norm these days. I had six jobs in three years, and it never came up in interviews.

3. There's no way to answer this: contracting is a crapshoot. If you've got a strong personal network, and if you've got some irons in the fire already, and if you're good at what you do... yeah, it could work out. There are great things about contracting - being your own boss, getting to say "no" to crappy gigs, lots of variety, etc.

On the other hand, you could spend months — or years! — between paying gigs.

Contracting is stressful and uncertain. If you don't have the guts and the financial stability to ride out the down times, don't do it. And if you do, always have an exit strategy. For me, it was 3 months of living expenses in the bank: if my buffer ever dropped that low, it would have been time to look for a job (the reasoning being I could find a new job within 3 months). At one point (2008-2009, after the financial crisis), I went without work for nearly six months and was days away from sending out resumes when a contract finally came through. If you don't think you and your spouse could deal with that uncertainty and stress, don't put yourselves through it.

Good luck!
posted by jacobian at 7:26 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

PS: I did this in a technical management role, not program/project management, but I think the risks/rewards are about the same in either case.
posted by jacobian at 7:27 PM on July 18, 2013

Also an advertising PM. Contracting may be an option but I feel like it's a little more shaky when you aren't a creative or technical resource. I guess it depends on the project but I feel like a lot of places would rather have FT people who know their processes and kinks over temp PMs. If I have some print or banners that need designing, it's easy and straight forward to call a contractor and get that specific thing done. PM work is a lot less clear cut these days.

I don't think 6 months is too short if you have a compelling resume and a compelling explanation for wanting to leave. it's fairly common in this industry. Assuming you haven't done it a ton of times and have a few 2-3 year gigs represented I think your safe.

I don't think there's anything wrong with saying you didn't feel fully utilized or adequately tasked. There's a ton of reasons that could happen that don't have anything to do with how much work the agency has.
posted by amycup at 7:48 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

"My current position is a contracting gig that has turned out not to be the best fit for me personally, so I'm looking to move on." No harm, no foul, no reason to question that, and you just politely and truthfully answered two common interview questions ("What are you doing now?" and "Why are you looking to leave your current position?") in one honest response.
posted by erst at 8:01 PM on July 18, 2013

People want you to have an explanation that makes sense, but I very much doubt they are going to care beyond that.
posted by gryftir at 8:58 PM on July 18, 2013

Sounds like you have some soul-searching to do about your career. Often when I have met job hoppers, they have some larger ambition or dream that they both can't let go of, and that they refuse to accept.

There's a lot of good advice here about how to make the changes you are looking for. I would proffer that if your disconnection continues, you start looking at why. The key indicator here was that you have a laundry list of the things you don't want to do, and seem to be defining your career on that basis.

If you were in the right field, it might look more like, I don't care where I am, I just want to climb. Small agency, big agency. Doesn't matter, because I'm on the way up!

That is not what I heard.
posted by nickrussell at 1:56 AM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Job hopping isn't so terrible these days, it's the norm. I too have to wrap my head around it, but there it is.

You need to have a narrative of WHY you want the next job, not why you want to leave the job you have.

Run towards something, not away from it. What is your career trajectory? Not to sound like a fool, but what do you see yourself doing 5 years from now? How does the new job you want, fit into that plan?

If your narrative is: "I enjoy changing things up, I like working on different projects, with different teams and I like staying busy." Then find a way to package that into something palatable to your next employer.

If your narrative is: "I only want to do enough work to keep me in beer and skittles." Well, no one wants to hire that guy.

I'm with nickrussel, I think you need to figure our what is you really want from your work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:02 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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