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After graduating from university in the UK, I have heard multiple careers advisors say that it is inadvisable to leave your first career role before you have gained at least two years experience.

However I feel my current role is currently holding back my career progress as I am unable to properly learn industry standard technologies, and is affecting my health due to unbearable amount of stress caused by poor management.

I have worked nearly a year and a half at this company but it is still my first career job. Will this look bad to future employers? I work in a sector that currently has lots of job opportunities.

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As with any rule of thumb, it's a rough guideline. It's very unlikely that anyone is going to categorically reject an applicant if their first job lasted 18 months rather than 24 months. On the other hand, short stays (where "short stay" is highly dependent on the type of job, the location, the local norms, etc.) certainly don't look good to future employers since it makes future employers suspect that you'll be leaving the new job relatively quickly.

Depending on the type of job, it can also mean that you've missed out on certain aspects of the job. For example, since your profile indicates that you may be a developer, in software development, you generally need to be in a role for a few years before you're in a position that you're trying to support a bunch of code that you wrote long enough ego to have forgotten lots of the details where you really learn which shortcuts you kick yourself for taking and which frameworks you made way more complicated than they needed to be. That sort of feedback loop is an important part of the learning process for new developers. You sometimes hear people talk about folks that "got 1 year of experience 5 times" rather than getting 5 years of experience. They're often referring to people that didn't stick around long enough to really do a lot of support of code they wrote and who therefore didn't learn a lot of lessons that you would expect someone with 5 years of experience to have.

If you do decide to look for other opportunities, I'd suggest that you be careful to only accept a position that you're willing to stay in for a while. Most people are willing to overlook a single short stint (particularly where the employer is known to be problematic). If you accumulate two or three short stays, however, you're creating a pattern that future employers are unlikely to ignore.

  • I agree. A year and a half on your first job is not too bad at all. Multiple short term jobs are a red flag. Basically if you feel the job is holding you back, don't wait 6 months to improve your situation just for the sake of it. – Kilisi Sep 18 '15 at 0:03
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    You can actually turn it into a selling point, if you get as far as having an interview with a possible new employer. "Why are you seeking to move on after only 18 months?" "I've come to learn that certain techniques, which are standard in the industry, are not used here. I'd like to work in a place that gives me exposure to those techniques, so I can learn to apply them well." Be prepared to talk about some of those techniques in detail! – Bill Michell Sep 18 '15 at 9:24
  • Love, love, love your second paragraph. It is exactly the problem I see in many devs, they never had to live with the consequences of their poor design choices, so they continue to bild bad systems. Such devs don't grasp that things have to work over time not just on the deployment day. – HLGEM Sep 18 '15 at 13:49
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Some context: I'm building out a software development team right now, and I've rejected almost every candidate thus far. I've spent my entire career in the US.

I think it depends on the nature of the transition. If you go from "Software Engineer" to "Software Engineer" at a different company in a short span of time, that would raise the possibility of "job hopping" to me and I would ask about it. It wouldn't be an immediate disqualification in my mind, and a well-considered explanation would make me think no more of it. Some jobs just don't work out. Some jobs will use really underhanded tactics to get you on board, and then abuse you or just provide terrible work/environment.

However, if you're taking an obvious step up then I would completely ignore the short period of time at the prior job. My first job was a miserable one at a biotech startup, where I had a position much below my qualifications. I left that job less than a year later for a much more technical and satisfying job. It didn't cause any problems then, and to my knowledge it hasn't caused me any difficulties in finding new employment.

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There are no true "rules" when it comes to jobs and job hunting. I left my first job out of school almost exactly 6 months after starting.

I felt the same as you. My position was very unfulfilling, involved managing the maintenance of equipment built before I was born. If felt that if I stayed, it would impact my future career prospects.

I ended up changing jobs and my career has not suffered at all. I even left the company I moved too after only 2 1/2 years, which led to a series of company/title changes due to my company constantly getting bought and sold (2 sales in 5+ years I was there). After 5 years in the same role though, I interviewed with a massive corporation that has very strict hiring policies, and I got the position. So despite the job/companies changes after 8 years of my career, I have not had any issues, nor have I ever been asked "why did you leave you first job after 6 months".

In short, frequently changing jobs can be a red flag, it usually will not be an issue if you show that you do not make a habit of it. Leaving 1 job (even if it is your first) after 18 months is not a significant problem, but if you change every job after 18 months, it could be an issue later in your career.

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The problem is giving off the perception of someone who will likely ditch the job soon, for whatever reason. While you can usually explain the short stays during the interview, that's not much use if you don't even get invited to the interview due to the CV.

In your case it's perfectly fine to look for a new job. There are lots of bad jobs and everyone with some experience is aware of that.

The problem comes after changing the job. Now you've got one relatively short job on the CV, which isn't much of a problem. But if the new job sucks and you'll quit the new job or are let go after say 6 months, the combination of the 2 will look rather bad. If you stayed on for 2-3 years in the first job it's less likely that the 6 month job afterwards would be seen as a red flag.

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If someone is willing to offer you a better job, then you should take it. However, you need to make sure your next position is better.

unable to properly learn industry standard technologies,

Be a little more diligent during the interview process and ask questions not just about what they use, but why they use it. Do they offer training? What processes to they use and how will you know if they really follow them? Are there good mentors?

and is affecting my health due to unbearable amount of stress caused by poor management.

This is going to be difficult to make sure your next job doesn't have poor management or something else you're not able to cope with. Maybe there are some telltale signs you've discovered in this job that you can recognize in the next.

You should consider networking with other developers in your area and get some inside information on how various companies and teams operate. You may find that most have problems in one form or another, so why hinder your career by leaving a job too soon only to take another one that is just as bad.

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Don't worry about it. If you receive an attractive offer take it. Lots of people are unhappy in their first job. But be careful not to just jump from one position to the next one that is slightly more attractive. Think about what you want and try to find a position that matches.

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