The one-year rule is often not explicitly written in any job contract, but many employees still follow it.
The rule — that an employee should stay in a job for at least one year before they switch — has become an unspoken standard of the professional world. But career coach Sarah Doody says the one-year mark is arbitrary.
“People need to get over this myth that I think is out there that if you leave a job before one year, it’s going to look bad on your resume,” Doody tells CNBC Make It. “It is an archaic belief.”
In fact, she says that leaving a job before a year can play to one’s advantage if done correctly: “I think it will actually make you come across as a more strategic, thoughtful, mindful individual rather than just coasting along for another nine months.”
Nancy Wang, a general manager at Amazon Web Services, agrees, as long as short stints do not become a pattern. Wang is the founder of Advancing Women in Tech, a nonprofit that offers career support and mentorship for underrepresented women in the tech field.
“What I truly look for is resilience. That’s actually the edge,” says Wang.
The two career experts both think that impact is more important than how long you stay at a company. Here are their tips on how to execute a successful job-hop:
Make a ‘career values criteria list’
Most people have a sense of what they want in a job. Doody wants you to write it down in what she calls a “career values criteria list.”
She says that having a list of job criteria can help a job hunter “identify those red flags” that signal a certain role might not be the right fit.
When constructing this list, Doody urges job seekers to include items beyond just salary, benefits and other “life-sustaining criteria.” She suggests that the list also have points related to how you work on a team, what managerial style fits you best, which industries you are passionate about or what workplace culture you want, for example.
“It’s really important because so many people get ‘Shiny Object Syndrome,’ where they just see a job title or salary range and they just pounce,” she says. “It isn’t until the third round of interviews or unfortunately for some people, after they’ve accepted the job and they’re there for two months that they realize, ‘I didn’t think about this.'”
If you end up in the latter situation, Doody says it’s not too late for a job criteria list to be helpful. It is ultimately an exercise in introspection — understanding your own values and how you want a company to align with them.
For the job seeker who left a position before the one-year mark, that reflection is essential to become, as Doody puts it, “dialed in for whatever job you apply to next.”
Tell the right story
The ability to narrate your career trajectory is essential for any job hunter to land a role, but especially when you’ve left a job quickly.
Wang says that when she interviews candidates, she is less concerned about the duration of time they spent at a company than the impact they made while they were there. Articulating that impact is a vital skill.
“Aside from the technical of one year versus two years versus three, it’s more about what is that story? That’s actually what I look for in an interview,” says Wang.
She recommends that all job hunters know how to answer the following questions before they hop into an interview:
- Why did you leave your last organization?
- What are you looking for in a future organization?
- Eventually, what do you want to do within that future organization?
Armed with a career criteria list, a job candidate might be more ready to explain why their past role was not a fit and why the current one is.
“That shows me introspection, that you are strategic about your decision and number three, that you also have that resilience,” Wang says.
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