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I had a job in the US, in a Dept of Energy National Lab. The activity was so much affected by covid-19 that I had to leave (my supervisor did the same too). It was a painful choice but the project was completely stalled and for budgeting reasons there was no way to redirect the activity to a more productive direction.

I had to leave (after 6 months) and accepted a job in Europe, with 35/40% salary cut, on a topic that is not really my dream job, and with a time schedule which looks more like slavery. The alternative (at that time) was being jobless. I received other offers in the US but it was to late since I had already moved to Europe and started the new job.

I know many episodes like mine in the research field (but this is another long story, let’s just focus on my situation).

Now I want to apply to many places in back in the US, including some that offered me a job when I moved to EU.

The problem is that I have only been here 1 year. I actually have a 1 year probation contract, but they have already told me that they intend to extend the it. The policy here is doing two probation contracts (1 year each) and then getting the position). So I am going to be offered another 1-year probation.

I don’t want to look like a job hopper, or someone that changes job as soon as he sees another opportunity. I don’t want to job-hop, I just want to get back to the US and return to my pre covid standards (in terms of salary, job topic and time schedule). Once I get to that point I would not plan to change job again.

How to address this when applying? Stating my story in the cover letter, in a separate email to the recruiting manager, or what else?

EDIT - to reformulate: from my CV, cover letter, etc., I should not appear as a job hopper changing job once a year (e.g., at the first difficulty, or whenever a better salary is available). This is not representative of what I want. I just wanna go back to my field and possibly to the US and remain stable in the new job.

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  • A note on semantics: I suspect your current contract is not probationary, but simply fixed-term. During a probationary contract, both you and your employer have a significantly reduced or no notice period. If you have a one-month notice period, your contract is probably fixed-term.
    – MvZ
    May 2 at 14:35
  • Thanks for pointing this out: here they call it probation (in their local language) but it is actually a fixed term contract with a 1-month notice period.
    – Porsche911
    May 2 at 15:03
  • I don't think it is relevant for this question whether you like your current job or not, so you could improve the question by removing those parts. Besides that, if your user name is referring to an employer in Germany, then calling that "probation" would probably be illegal and you could sue yourself into the company. In addition if it's in Germany, loans are not comparable with US, because German employers pay an invisible part on benefits you would have to pay yourself in US, e.g. health insurance.
    – Chris
    May 2 at 19:23
  • That does not look like a job hopper to me. It is the pandemic that causes the issue, and everyone understands that. You should not worry about that. Just explain the reason in the interviews and the interviewers will understand. May 2 at 19:54

3 Answers 3

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Well, stick to the facts. Your current contract ends. You are looking for a new job.

Please note that what they told you, that you get a one year probation and then another year probation and then they maybe hire you is simply the most exploitative work contract that Europe will allow. It is not allowed to hire someone for a fixed term three years in a row, that is considered dodging labor laws. The third contract has to be permanent, or not at all.

So as a matter of fact, because that is what the company get get away with legally, you have a one-year fixed contract with no strings attached, then maybe another one year contract with no strings attached and then maybe permanent employment.

Don't feel like you are quitting early. You don't. Your contract runs out and you are just as justified in not entering into a new one as they are. If the company had wanted to hire you permanent, they could have skipped the exploitative 2 fixed term contracts that cheat you out of specific labor law protections for the first two years.

If someone asks you, just say that your one-year contract came to an end and you are looking for new employment. A contract that ends because of the end date of the contract (instead of you quiting on your own) is never considered job hopping.

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  • "It is not allowed to hire someone for a fixed term three years in a row". That depends on the country, there is no such universal law in Europe, not even in the EU. May 3 at 6:50
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    You are right. There are no "european laws". Not even "EU" laws. They only issue guidelines and member states have to put them into local laws. More precise would have been "many EU member states have put this into laws and therefore when setting up working contracts this has been the lowest common denominator legal in all countries".
    – nvoigt
    May 3 at 6:52
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Don't be afraid to look like a job-hopper.

You could add a note to the DoE entry on your CV: 'Project terminated due to COVID-related budget constraints.'

And yes, they'll ask you why you're interviewing. An honest answer is best.

There are many, many reasons why a new job doesn't work out. You might miss being away from friends and family. The job may not be as advertised. You may have difficulty settling in in the new place, or fitting in with the company culture. Management might suck, funding can be pulled, a reorganisation may be coming up.

Whatever the reason - one bad match explains two hops.

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  • Thank you for replying. If I get to an interview stage, I will sure have a honest answer. However, in addition to my words, I have plenty of documentation that shows that I was seriously committed to my DoE job. First, working my way to a clearance, second, some important expenses (car, housing, etc.) that clearly prove I thinking on the long term. Such expenses would have been totally foolish if I was not 100% committed. Do you think I should mention about the availability of such documentation during the interview? (Of course, I am not showing anything confidential)
    – Porsche911
    May 2 at 17:41
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You're job searching because your contract is ending

It's normal to search for a job when your current contract is ending. That's why it's contract work. Contract work is not supposed to be long-term.

Having a year long contract end doesn't make you a job hopper.

Not accepting another "probationary contract" doesn't make you a job hopper.

Wanting to come back to the US doesn't make you a job hopper.

Wanting some control over work hours doesn't make you a job hopper.

When you interview, don't worry about being a job hopper. Most people will relate to your story. I know several people "in your boat" who recently switched jobs for many of the same reasons.

When asked why you're looking, you can be mostly honest.

I really enjoyed my job at DOE but budget cuts meant I had to find another job. My contract is ending at my current job and I'd really like to go back to the U.S.A. and have more control over my work and hours.

They may press to find out exactly what you don't like. Stick to the facts, and don't bad mouth your current company. Answers like "At the DOE I was allowed to set hours so long as I was there for all the meetings, and put in 40 hours a week." are good.

Getting a better job isn't job hopping.

Having a single, or even a few short stays at companies doesn't translate to job-hopper. Some jobs don't work out, that's true even without a global pandemic. Job-hopping is a pattern of short stays across several jobs over several years.

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  • Well, the only aspect which is objectively negative is the amount of work (12-14 hours on weekdays and at least 8 hours on weekends), but I don’t really need to mention it at an interview. The topic is not my favorite but it has nothing wrong in itself. The working culture is fine and colleagues are nice as well. The most sincere answer is that the US are much more assertive than Europe in some aspects of defense science and technology (one in particular, which is DoE related). Therefore the US are more suitable to my long-term life goals and my background is more useful there than in EU.
    – Porsche911
    May 2 at 20:13
  • @Porsche911 - I'd say being on probation for 2 years is a negative. You can explicitly mention the hours worked. Don't focus on it, but it's ok to say "12-14 hour days and weekends" as a reason for switching jobs. May 2 at 20:19

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