Career Advice

October 16, 2013

Career advice: How long do I need to stay in a job I don't like?

Q: I have been in an entry-level administrative job for five months. In most ways, it’s good -- fair pay, great benefits, reputable company, decent learning and growth opportunities.

But the truth is that I’m not really passionate about, or even interested in, the position or the field. I am already thinking about switching to another field. But I don’t want to look as if I am job-hopping, and I want to be able to demonstrate that I have gained significant skills and performed well in my current position before leaving it behind. How long should I stay before I move on?

A: Start looking immediately, and aggressively. If you’re certain that your current field is merely a way station, there’s no reason to delay. Particularly when it’s early in your career -- where it seems you are now -- there’s no huge penalty for realizing your calling lies elsewhere.

Do your current job as well as you can while you explore other options. You’ll stay in your employer’s good graces, and give yourself the time you need to find your proper path as best you can.

If you put this off until your current job feels intolerable, you’ll end up making a move that’s more about getting out, as opposed to moving ahead. And there is certainly no reward for being able to declare, “I knew this field wasn’t for me, but I dispassionately fulfilled my duties for years anyway.”

Submit questions to Rob Walker at workologist@nytimes.com.

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