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Background

I worked at Company X for about 5 years and left to work at Company Y in the middle of 2021. For the first 4.5 years of working at Company X, it was amazing -- a total dream job working with really talented folks on really cool projects. The pandemic hit Company X very hard and we saw lots of furloughs and employees voluntarily quitting. By early 2021, I was completely overworked, my team had shrunk down to about half its size so I was pulling double duty, working late nights and some weekends.

I was extremely stressed at the tail end of working at Company X and it was negatively impacting my marriage. I decided to go apply for other jobs mostly because I saw how quickly my mental health had deteriorated and I didn't like where it was going. I just wanted out.

I accepted an offer from and currently work at Company Y, where I have been for about 6 months.

The Problem

Initially it was okay, but after long reflective sessions I am very unhappy working at Company Y. I came to realize that both Company X and Y are in the digital media/entertainment/streaming industry and I do not find this fulfilling anymore. I don't feel like I work on anything meaningful and am eager to move on to a different sector, particularly ones where I like to volunteer with such as education, the environment and healthcare (mission driven companies).

There isn't anything particularly bad about Company Y. My teammates are good people and I like my manager and the work is technically challenging (I'm a software dev). I just don't find the work fulfilling and I don't think I'm a good fit -- it doesn't make me happy and I feel like I'm wasting my time here. I'm not excited to work here like I was initially at Company X. Each day feels like more a of a drag and I've started to see a therapist to deal with related issues.

It is a remote job, but I am in the same city as the company and occasionally go to the office. My wife is finishing up school and will be starting a new job in a new city in May, and I'm having a hard time convincing myself to hang on until then.

At this point, I'm even willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a more fulfilling role.

My Question

Is it too soon to start looking for a new job? If not, what are some ways I can spin this brief stint into a positive on my resume? I don't have any real history of job hopping (before Company X, I was at the previous job for 2.5 years, and before that was basically college and job searching).

EDIT 1

I saw the suggestion from Dave Gremlin and although related, don't feel like that really answers my question. That question is about a serial job hopper who doesn't know what they want. I don't have a track record of hopping and also I know what I want that this job doesn't provide: work that helps people and has a direct positive impact in an area that I personally find meaningful (like education, healthcare, etc.).

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    What happens if your next job is also un-fulfilling?
    – sf02
    Jan 11 at 20:32
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    Anyone seeking to take on an experienced software developer is unlikely to be concerned about one six-month stint. Just be honest, your settled job was changed beyond recognition by Covid, with most colleagues leaving due to the ensuing disruption and intensification. You've taken another equivalent job, but you've realised that the work is stale and you want to branch out. There's nothing unusual about this - many people start a job with enthusiasm, but what then keeps them in place is their settlement in an organisation. Once that is disrupted, they usually want something fresh.
    – Steve
    Jan 12 at 10:25
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    @sf02 That is an interesting question, but can't that be applied to any post on this site about switching jobs? What if your next boss is toxic? What if your next job has mandatory overtime? What if you next job withholds your paycheck? What if your next job has racist coworkers? I guess in my case, to avoid my particular "what if," I need to do more thorough research on a potential company and the work they do as well has get input from others that know me well (my friends, family) and former employees, and consider if it would be a good fit and I can see myself working here long term. Jan 13 at 13:33
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The evaluation of a candidate is entirely subjective, and it is possible that a hiring manager could view your 6 month tenure as a red flag and discard your application immediately. However, given that your history isn't full of job-hopping, I imagine that the vast majority of hiring managers will ask you about your reasons for leaving, and then evaluate you based on your answer. Therefore, I don't think it is too soon to start looking for a new job.

You shouldn't think of "spinning" your answer. Rather, your answer should truthful, but truthful in a way that alleviates any concerns that the hiring manager might have. What are some concerns that he or she might have: they might be concerned that you are going to move on again in 6 months, essentially wasting their time. They might be concerned that you are hard to please, or don't get along with others, or can't take direction, etc., so it is very important that you answer this question in a way that makes it clear that none of their concerns are warranted.

So how do you do that? One important thing, I think, is to make it clear that you are "considering" looking for a new role - you're not scrambling because you're about to be fired, or put on a PIP (performance improvement plan), but rather you are evaluating the options around you. You're on a passive job search, and this opportunity came your way, and you decided to check it out.

Another important thing is to mention, as you stated, that "My teammates are good people and I like my manager and the work is technically challenging". All of this shows that you can get along with others, that you can take direction, and that you aren't hard to please.

If you are interviewing at a "mission driven company", I think it is relatively easy to explain why you are interested. It would be highly beneficial to mention that one of the things you are considering is exactly how you get your work efforts to align with the things you think are important - in this case, it isn't so much that your current role is unfulfilling, it is that you know that this new role will be much more so. Explain how you just came across this opportunity, how it aligns with your passions, and how you really had no real plan to leave your current place, but suddenly you came across this perfectly matched opportunity, and you just had to check it out.

If you are interviewing at a non-mission driven company, it will be slightly harder, as essentially you'll need to draw a distinction between the industry you were in, and the industry you are applying to. You will need to point how the two industries are different, how the current one is unfulfilling, but how this new one will be - how this new one will make you excited to come to work, and all that.

You should explain why you moved from X to Y in the first place (and all the reasons you mentioned are perfectly legitimate), but then explain that your gradual disillusion with the industry you are in got solidified when you got to Y. It would be fine, I think, to say how some things you thought were issues at company X, you now realize are industry wide. Again, mention that you aren't scrambling to leave, but that you are just starting to consider how you can do work which is more fulfilling, more meaningful, more interesting - and how this new place is offering just that.

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No, it is not too soon to start looking.

You describe yourself as "very unhappy", even to the point of seeing a therapist. That sounds unhealthy, and no fun at all. There is no rule anywhere that says you must suffer unhappiness for some minimum length of time, and you have no obligation to your employer to endure unhappiness because making a positive change in your life would inconvenience them. It's your life, and you only get one.

With that said, there are some considerations:

  • "Looking" may take some time. If you look immediately, you don't have to leave as soon as you get your next offer, but you'll have options. On the other hand, if you wait to start looking, you may reach a point where you can no longer tolerate another moment of it, before you find something else. So look sooner rather than later.

  • Most reasonable employers won't worry too much about one short job, especially in and since the pandemic (and you wouldn't want to work for an unreasonable one anyway, right?). But if you find yourself in the same situation again, you may find that it starts to look like a pattern, and then people will have more questions. It would still be possible to give good answers to those questions, but they will be asked.

  • For that reason and others, try to understand in as much detail as possible your reasons for wanting to leave, to maximise the chance of your next move succeeding. Is it this company/job that is the problem, or the industry, or this career - or something even more fundamental than that? Since you mention that you'd like your work to be something you consider more noble, what opportunities are there in those fields, and what will you do if you get there and find the grass wasn't really greener? What do the people in your life who you might genuinely have obligations to (e.g. your family) think? And so on.

For what it's worth, I'm in a very similar situation to yours: six months in a new job; the company is... y'know... fine, but it just isn't what I want to do; and I'd rather be working on meaningful problems (like climate change) than what I'm doing now. I don't yet have a happy ending to this story that will inspire you to go forth and live the life of your dreams, but I will say this: I'm definitely looking around with very serious intent, and nothing anyone might say would convince me it's "too soon". Your life is different to mine, what you might do next is up to you, but no, it is not "too soon".

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