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Summary: I am unemployed and was offered an entry-level software job. They expect me to stay for longer time but I want to find "ideal" job instead. I have few potential offers lined up over next 5-6 months which may/may not materialize. So I might quit right away in case they materialize, even within 6 months. Is it professional to accept such job knowing it is temporary? Is it lying?


I recently was offered an entry level position in a small software development company (~50 employees). The CEO said to me in discussion during interview that he wanted employees who will be able to stay long term in the company. He gave examples of most of his employees staying in the company for atleast 5-6 years. He also said that they are a very employee friendly company where the owners like to talk things out directly with employees, which ultimately results in employee satisfaction, and thus most of their employees stay there for long term.

But I don't think I will be able to stay long term in that company as it is not the ideal company I would like to work with. I want to work in bigger corporate kind of companies. I plan on giving interviews continuously and may decide to switch as soon as I get something better. Should I accept job offer in this company?

On one hand since I was jobless and wanted to start earning as soon as possible in my own domain on expertise, but on the other hand I have my career aspirations and will probably keep looking for better jobs right away and move to some better company as soon as I find a job in one of those (even within few months if possible). What should I do? Should I lie to him regarding my commitment, knowing most probably I won't be able to complete even 6 months there?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – DarkCygnus
    Jul 20 at 0:28
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    It's worth thinking about the consequences of writing a post such as this, seemingly using your real name, on a site known to the development community (and their bosses). You may have already told the CEO of your plans.
    – mcalex
    Jul 20 at 9:22
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    You could add to the question your level of seniority (I'm not assuming you are entry level just because the job is). There are many factors an employee would look at when taking a job, not just salary, but also learning potential, promotion possibilities, corporate culture, stability, work/life balance, distance from home, interesting/satisfying work, etc. The relative importance may differ depending on seniority (and personal circumstances). (I've seen small unknown shops do awesome work and pay well :-) )
    – frIT
    Jul 21 at 12:33
  • It's unclear whether the CEO directly said to you, "I want a commitment that you'll stay here for 5 years", or similar. Did he? Jul 22 at 1:15
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    I'd say it's unprofessional to take the job if you KNOW you're going to leave in 6 months (e.g. because you have firm plans to get married and move to a different continent). But it's not unprofessional to take the job on the basis that it's not exactly what you were looking for and you might move if something better turns up. At the same time, go into it with an open mind: it might turn out to be better than you think. My sister once took a temporary summer job and stayed for 30 years. Jul 22 at 10:09

11 Answers 11

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I would suggest that you take this job immediately if it is the only job offer you have right now and if you are currently unemployed.

The reason is that you don't know for sure when your next job offer may come.

If possible, please stay with this company for at least 1 year to earn meaningful working experiences. You don't have to tell them that you don't plan to work for them for 5 or 6 years. (BTW, after 1 year, if you like them, you may even want to stay with them longer.)

By working for this small company right now, you can earn experiences and improve your skills. After you have more experiences, it will be much easier to apply for and get better jobs. In addition, if you are currently employed, prospective employers often value your resume more than when you are unemployed.

However, I would strongly recommend that people should NOT change their jobs every 6 months or 12 months for 3 or more years in a row because the new prospective employers may think that these job applicants could belong to one of the following categories (even if it is not true in reality):

  1. They often have problems with coworkers at many previous companies, and have to change jobs frequently.
  2. They lack technical skills, and get criticized by the bosses, or get fired.
  3. They don't have long term commitment, and can't work on long term projects.
  4. They are just bad workers in general.
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Jul 21 at 15:43
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As a very general rule of thumb as to how I look at things (for permanent staff, contract roles are obviously different):

  • One short role you can explain in a sentence.
  • Two consecutive short roles I'll start wondering and ask a few questions.
  • Three consecutive short roles will really make me start thinking you're unlikely to stay in whatever role I'm hiring for.

Given that, there's nothing wrong with taking one role and leaving it - but be sure the role you move to next is one you're going to stay in longer term. That said, everyone needs to earn a living and "I was unemployed, I took that job because I needed the money even though I knew it wasn't right for me" is in my view one of the better reasons for having a short term role - but other people may not give you the same free pass on that as I would.

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    "but other people may not give you the same free pass on that as I would." and you'd probably do well to be avoiding those types of employers anyway.
    – musefan
    Jul 19 at 12:27
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    This seems reasonable on the face of it, but even for permies, definitions of "short" will vary a lot. There are still people who can remember jobs for life, after all
    – Chris H
    Jul 19 at 13:51
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    'one of the better reasons' -> one of the less bad reasons
    – Neil_UK
    Jul 20 at 13:57
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    @Kevin If your jobs were freelance projects, with a well defined time-frame, that's good and justifiable. If these were "generic" long term jobs, where you were given the opportunity of developing a career in a company without tying you to a specific project, that doesn't look so great, especially if you are not a senior or top-notch SW developer (who can afford to aim for better positions all the time since they are a scarce resource). Jul 22 at 15:43
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Kevin
    Jul 22 at 17:11
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If they aren’t asking you to commit to a long period in writing, you should not feel at all guilty about taking the job. It is not unprofessional to put your career ahead of what the company would prefer. It would be unethical to lie and say you intended to stay for years, but there’s no need to bring up that you may take a better offer in 6 months if it comes up. There is still some doubt that you will get a more attractive offer, and there’s nothing wrong with earning a living while you’re looking for your next step forward career-wise. If you make a habit of job-hopping, it could make it harder to land the next job, but in general it’s better to be employed than not.

It’s good to be on the lookout for better opportunities, but you should also approach the opportunities you have with the attitude that you’re going to learn as much from them as possible before moving on. Every company has its own culture, and while size does have a big effect on that, it’s not the only factor. You might find you like this job more than you thought you would.

Regardless, you should not take the job if you are unwilling to stick around long enough to learn how to do it well. In my opinion, the bare minimum for every job you take should be to do your best to have someone there be willing give you a great reference when you leave for a better opportunity. If you can’t bring yourself to give this job at least a little time before you start interviewing for something else, you should probably hold out for something better. Right now you can start a job immediately, and the one you want may call you to set up an interview the day after you accept this one. If you take a job, it will make it more difficult to interview, and you will have to give some notice before you quit if you don’t want to burn any bridges.

Only you can decide whether the risk that you may not be able to find a better opportunity any time soon is worth taking on a job you don’t really want and which might cause you to miss out on something better.

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    This exactly. They're fully aware that you can leave at any time and if that was a significant problem, they'd be offering you a contract with a minimum duration. They'd prefer if you stuck around but if you choose to leave, it will only be a short-term hiccup for them.
    – bta
    Jul 19 at 22:39
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Beggars can't be choosers

You need a job. You've been offered one. It's not your ideal job, but if you're willing to take it, your need for a job outweighs your need for the perfect job. And as others have said, you don't know you won't want to stay there long term unless you've gotten enough red flags that you should probably just pass. Otherwise I'd strongly consider 1) taking the job, and 2) adopting the attitude of someone who has just received a great opportunity and who will do their best to make the most of it, i.e. stop eyeing the exit, lean in and do your best assuming you will stay for a long time. If you can't bring yourself to do that, then this isn't the job for you and you need to pass. But before you do that, I'd take a long hard, brutally honest look at your attitude. You might just be surprised...

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    I had his attitude when I graduated, passed on a low pay entry level position because it was 30-40% lower than what my classmates were making. It took me a year to find something, and it was the same lower pay. Many of those classmates ended up laid off quickly due to the economy, but they at least had some experience to land another job quickly.
    – rtaft
    Jul 20 at 19:18
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Contractors are often hired for shorter stints, but they are usually given tasks that can be done without understanding the full picture and the expectancy often is they bring sufficient skills so that they can be productive enough in that timeframe.

As an Internal, you will be onboarded extensively. (Not all companies do this, but companies with an average stay of 5-6 years usually do). You will learn a lot of different systems, who is responsible for what, etc... Your first task will likely take you a week or so where somebody who is already working there would take a day or less. Just because you have to learn so much and ask so many questions. This not also costs your time, but also the time of people explaining things to you. Point being: The first few months are a pure investment of the company into you. You will have to stay a year or two so that it's worthwhile for the company. If you start there with the plan on working 2-3 years, and super really don't like it and quit earlier: That's part of business, and risk as usuall.

If you plan to quit as soon as possible, be aware that you will cost the company money, and this will burn bridges. If you really need that money, it's on you to decide if you are willing to do that. I would say: Don't.

You might want to stay for a year or two. This gives the company the chance to make good on the money invested in you. And this gives you the chance to gain deeper learning and more usefull skills when applying to a big company.

As a sort of middleground, you can be honest about this: This will impact your chances. But most people will appreciate your honesty. You could say something like: I'd rather work for a big company, but till I get such an offer, I would work for you in the meantime if that's ok for you.

They might say yes if they are very optimistic they can convince you to stay longer once you joined. Or they might try to negotiate kind of agentlemens agreement which timeframe they would see as minimum. or they might give you shorter term tasks and skip the full onboarding... Most likely, they will say no and wish you good luck in your search.

That way, you didn't lie and you kept your integrity.

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  • When the employer states that they want the employee to stay long term, does it imply that they won't fire the employee before, say, at least 5-6 years?
    – nicola
    Jul 19 at 9:19
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    To me it implies they intend to keep the employee long term which might include finding other work within the company if projects shut down and helping them advance in their career. The company may encounter financial problems and have to let people go or discover the employee isn't working out, the same as the employee might get offered a far better opportunity or realise the company was dishonest about the working environment. The equivalent of what he asker wants to do is if the company was to keep interviewing for the role and fire the employee as soon as they found a better candidate.
    – Eric Nolan
    Jul 19 at 11:03
  • @EricNolan and that's the point. If a company needs to fill quickly a position they will, even if they keep searching for a better candidate in the meanwhile. Why an employee can't do the same? It looks like we require a higher moral bar for the employee than the employer and this is absurd.
    – nicola
    Jul 19 at 14:09
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    @nicola Maybe this depends on culture, but I never experienced that an employer search for a replacement imediatly after hiring that person. They may search a replacement after they realise they are not happy with that person, but never immediatly. It makes no business sense to invest in somebody you want to get rid of. If you want shortterm work, you get a contractor... Even if this happend, to moral description of such a company would be scumbag. I try not to work for scumbag companies.
    – Benjamin
    Jul 19 at 14:21
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    Also, read this answer carefully. The message is: "refuse the job because you are not convenient for the employer". Isn't it strange? Everyone should do what's convenient for theirselves, and if it matches we have a deal. If you reverse the logic, a lot of employers should hire just because it's convenient for the candidate.
    – nicola
    Jul 19 at 15:15
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...an entry-level software job. ... I want to work in bigger corporate kind of companies.

Being a Software Developer for 30+ years, I would advise on not adopting this mindset. Generally the larger the company, the less you can learn and the more vertical you will find your career.

I have found the mid-to smaller companies generally give one more opportunities to learn differing tools which can help when on your next job/assignment.

...5-6 months which may/may not materialize. ... Is it professional to accept such job knowing it is temporary? Is it lying?

There is a real need for a job now for you and you should take it.

Because if this company truly wants to persuade you/your peers not to leave, their pay structure and opportunities should be such that you would not want to leave.


The Future

What you should be concerned about is the future interview where they may ask you,

"Why only six months at that company?".

It is not as prevalent as it use to be in the software industry, but it does happen; and if one does not have other longer term jobs buffering the job, it could be an issue. Also if the next job happens to be six months or less, it could look like a red flag, which would be even more of an issue.

Same with more than two months of not working will be an issue.

So tread lightly.

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The CEO said to me in discussion during interview that he wanted employees who will be able to stay long term in the company. He gave examples of most of his employees staying in the company for at least 5-6 years.

This sentence is a pure declaration of intent which is not binding in any way: if the company loses a project for which you are hired, or your manager is not satisfied with you, the CEO will not wait for 5 years before letting you go. Likewise, accepting this offer is not binding for you either, unless the contract you sign says otherwise, and even then, clauses requiring you to stay with a company for several years are most often illegal and unenforceable.

So I might quit right away in case they materialize, even within 6 months. Is it professional to accept such job knowing it is temporary?

Saying you don't plan to stay for several years, or that this is not really your dream job, will greatly harm your chances, and you cannot be expected to volunteer such information. Again, the company will not give you such information either: e.g. nobody will tell you that your soon-to-be manager is an unpleasant person, or the project you are being hired for is not 100% certain to take place.

You shouldn't lie when asked factual questions about present, such as "are you considering other job offers at the moment". Questions about the future always imply that you might change your mind later on.

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  • "clauses requiring you to stay with a company for several years are most often illegal and unenforceable", I'm not sure this is completely true worldwide. I know for sure in several jurisdictions you can legally sign a binding contract that provides some benefits or payment level only if you stay for at least some given time. Of course they can't legally force you to stay, but If you leave before the agreed period expires, you can lose part of your salary or your exit bonus or other benefits. They probably can't sue you for breach of contract if you are an employee, though. Jul 22 at 15:29
  • A different situation is if you are hired as a freelance, where some amount of work is required during an agreed upon time frame. Then they could potentially sue you if they demonstrate your early termination caused damage to the project. Jul 22 at 15:32
  • I didn't object to your post in general (I upvoted it), but just to the quoted sentence, which may give a reader a false sense of security about their rights. Maybe you didn't mean exactly what you wrote, but clauses requiring to stay with a company with a given time in many jurisdiction are legal and enforceable. Jul 22 at 16:27
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Maybe. Find out what career advances people who have been at the company for 5 years have made. See if that lines up with what you want to be doing in 5 years. At any rate the company owner isn't asking you to marry him/the company. You'll be free to leave any time you want. It's up to the company to do things that make you want to be loyal. You would find out what you really think about the company while working there & the owner knows this.

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the owners like to talk things out directly with employees, which ultimately results in employee satisfaction, and thus most of their employees stay there for long term.

Well there's your answer. Just go to the employer and tell them openly you are unsure of how long you will stay. They will understand and you can work through to a satisfactory compromise together, as equals.

No? You don't fancy doing that?

Well maybe deep down you know that this employer is spouting bulls**t. Ignore what they say, just take the job if it is something you want.

The last company I worked at talked at length about long-term and being a "family". Within 6 months they admitted that the intension all along was to make the entire office redundant and move overseas. They even hired one poor sucker one week before they shut down.

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There’s an easy way to find out how long a commitment they really expect from you. Just look at how long a commitment they’re making to you — i.e. what is the notice period in the contract. If they’re expecting you to commit to them for years while retaining the ability for themselves to terminate the relationship within a few weeks, then they’re obviously not acting in good faith.

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  • I'm not sure this is exactly the right way to look at it. I agree that employees don't owe companies some kind of loyalty, and companies often view commitment as a one way street. That said there are more factors to how long you should keep a job aside from the "loyalty" the two parties might feel obligated to, which the other answers are better at addressing
    – Kevin
    Jul 23 at 15:37
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Take the job immediately.

In software it's completely, totally, normal to have jobs for short times.

Regarding the blah-blah from the owner - empty words.

I'm sure he'll also be telling you:

  • I really like employees who will work for low pay

  • I really like employees who have no outside life

  • I really like employees who make coffee for me.

Who gives a toss what he says?

He will be making tens of millions of dollars off your back whiel you make a salary.

Ignore the gum-flap from a multi-millionaire founder, take the job, work hard 35 hours a week, take the pay, go home, and the INSTANT you find a better job take that.


Please note this exceptional comment:

"Ask him if he will guarantee, in writing, that he won't fire you, lay you off, or downsize you for at least five years"

  • from user @Kevin
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    Yeah, tens of millions seems kind of low on the back of an entry-level software engineer. I think you meant billions of dollars. Jul 20 at 7:01
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    Any source of such accusations? And those "short time jobs" are what DESTROYED IT job market. Companies are unlikely to hire and invest in a fresh graduate, since he'll most like take the free training and leave shortly after.
    – Trang Oul
    Jul 20 at 8:52
  • Which employer in their right mind would employ entry level employee with the 5-year clause? Would that even have any legal power or would that be just a piece of paper? Jul 21 at 12:41
  • @MarekStejskal The suggestion to ask for that in writing if facetious. It is pointing out that the employer would never make that kind of long term commitment, so it would be silly for them to actually expect that commitment from the employee. Of course they hope for new employees to stay and be productive for a long period of time, but they shouldn't be surprised when at least some people leave after only a year or two
    – Kevin
    Jul 21 at 21:41

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