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Ask HN: Early in career – is it a bad idea to change jobs after six months?

For some context: I am in my mid-twenties, have a computer science degree from a top ten American university and moderate experience developing software applications. After graduation I did a bit of research and worked as a bartender/waiter while going through the whole post-grad thing.

I eventually decided on taking a white collar job in technology. I was hired into a subsidiary of a well known CPG company as an Information Systems Specialist. When I was brought on board, I was told that I would be assisting the head of the IS department in documenting ERP customizations, developing/optimizing SQL, and working closely with other departments in order to build customizations and automations. It sounded great.However, my boss wasn't located in the same office as me and only spent 6 days on location "training" me. My "training" was consistently interrupted as my boss had to go put out fires multiple times per day.

Four weeks later I was brought in to HR and told that my boss resigned without notice and that I was to fly to the HQs the next week to do a knowledge transfer.

The parent company, of course, stepped in and said they would "allocate resources". So far I have had little assistance from them. What little assistance I have from them, ironically, ends up being more work.

Now I'm drowning in work, with no one to give me priority or direction. I have politely let my new boss in the parent company know that there is too much work and that I don't have priorities to work within and I am told that I should just say no whenever someone asks me to do something. The work I am asked to do is important and I don't feel comfortable telling individuals high up in the subsidiary no.

I was given a decent raise in light of my situation. But I'm finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the stress of managing all of this. I am very seriously considering finding a new job, but am concerned that my short tenure in this position will look bad. Thoughts?

30 pointsmountainApe22 posted a month ago33 Comments
33 Comments:
dragonwriter said a month ago:

> The work I am asked to do is important and I don't feel comfortable telling individuals high up in the subsidiary no.

Your boss told you to say no. You tell people “no”, and refer them to your boss, and keep your boss informed of what your current workload is.

You are drowning in work because even after being directed to do so you refuse to stop accepting new requests when you are overloaded.

Saying “no” is an important skill.

trimboffle said a month ago:

Agreed.

Learning to do what you are told by your manager is an important skill at the start of your career and some people find it hard to learn.

I once had a new employee at the start of his career and he simply could not bring himself to do as he was told to do.

After his first 8 weeks or so I said “you’ve got a week to start doing what you’re asked or you’re fired”.

He started doing what he was asked and became a star employee.

heelix said a month ago:

It is funny... this is such an important trait we screen for it in the interview process. The requests/scenarios become more and more absurd until they should say no.

sethammons said a month ago:

Sounds like an adversarial game and a great way to start breaking trust with the candidate.

Gustomaximus said a month ago:

I think the 'refer to boss' is a great option if you have trouble saying no directly.

Also if you don't already keep a job list, start. When people, especially your boss, look to add something, say you are full capacity and they have to decide what to remove to offset. It helps 1) keep requests in check 2) will force managers to prioritise 3) Creates agree trails what doesn't get delivered.

Unfortunatly admin like this further reduces your working hours but usually is the best way.

davismwfl said a month ago:

Welcome to software engineering.

I am only partially joking. These types of situations are not uncommon and can actually work out to your benefit if you can take advantage of it. Your new boss told you to say no more often, he/she is giving you a lifeline and you are saying you're scared to take it? Instead of a direct no try saying it as, "I really would like to work on your issue and you have expressed its importance but I am limited in how much I can accomplish and right now my schedule is full. I may be able to get to it in X time period, but I can't make any promises today. However, if you'd like to have this prioritized then you can feel free to speak with Mr X who is my boss." And then you document the details either just to yourself, or you can send a heads up email to your boss.

This happens a lot in companies of all sizes, people make requests of engineers (generally young/new ones) and see just how much they can sneak around the system. One of the most important skills as you mature in your career is to say no. Saying "no" but getting your work done will not get your fired, saying "yes" and failing to keep up on your work will. Think of it this way, if these are higher level people then you that are making requests and their compliant about you is you said no because your schedule is full, it really won't go too far. If instead their compliant is you told them yes and then you never did it, their complaint will be valid.

commandlinefan said a month ago:

Yep, exactly. I’ve been doing this now going on 30 years, and I felt like OP at my first job back in ’92, so I bailed on it. I found another quickly and immediately felt the same way. I bailed on that one, too, thinking I was just picking the wrong jobs. After four job changes in four years I realized this is just how professional software development feels - and that’s part of the reason it’s such a high-paying profession.

JohnFen said a month ago:

I don't think you need to worry. What would make short stints a red flag is if they're common -- having a single short stint early in your career is unlikely cause you difficulties.

Remember, the people considering your application are well aware of the realities of the workplace, and one of those realities is that every so often a job is just a bad fit. In those cases, leaving it sooner rather than later is a good thing for everybody concerned. When I'm looking over resumes, if I see someone who has generally worked for years at each position, but has a couple that only lasted a few months, I see that as perfectly normal.

gwbas1c said a month ago:

I just had something happen that reminded me of this thread. Hopefully this helps:

Often, in our ticketing system, some random person assigns me a ticket. In these situations, I just assign the ticket back. In general, my rule is that: I only take assignments from my direct manager or someone I'm working closely with. All tickets (tasks) that come from outside my small working group must be triaged with my direct manager's involvement.

(I created an email rule for Jira just so I can see these situations.)

There's many reasons why random people try to rope me into their tickets. Sometimes it's laziness. Other times it's entitlement. (You're such-and-such a role so obviously you'll solve my problem for me.) Sometimes it's just passing the buck. Rarely, it's a genuine ask for help; but in those cases I hold firm that whoever is asking for help must retain ownership of the ticket. (Basically, I'll look at someone else's ticket as a favor, but not as my deliverable.)

In the worst case, there are managers who try to rope people into their work as a means of playing power or political games. I don't understand why people do this, but that's when I rope my manager in if some bozo tries to get me to do their work for them.

gwbas1c said a month ago:

1-2 short stints early in your career don't mean much.

What's important is that you leave for a better job. Focus on where you're going, not where you're leaving. (I once took a job with a few too many warning signs, and in hindsight I should have stayed put.)

Honestly, every person filtering resumes has different things they look for. For every person who filters you out because you had a short stint, there will be someone who filters you in because your new job looks so much better.

Oh, and good jobs have ups and downs. If you generally like the work, believe in the company, and like the people you're working with, you can figure it out.

blackrock said a month ago:

Don’t list that you worked for that company. It’s not your fault that the company is full of idiots.

Every company is full of self serving idiots that will throw you under the bus for their own personal gain. The trick is to avoid these useless idiots, and to defend yourself when you have to deal with them.

Also, the only way to climb the ladder and make more money is to jump ship. You will never earn a decent amount of money by sticking around, and accepting the company’s pathetic 2% COLA raise, if you even get that. Meanwhile, they just paid their executives $100+ millions in performance bonuses. And they claim there isn’t any money left over for you.

el_dev_hell said a month ago:

> Also, the only way to climb the ladder and make more money is to jump ship. You will never earn a decent amount of money by sticking around, and accepting the company’s pathetic 2% COLA raise, if you even get that.

It sucks so much how true this is.

I've been in the same job for 3 years. I've received a nice 5% bump every year. The work I do today compared to 2 years ago is easily 30% more beneficial to the company, but it's insane to ask for a 30% payrise in the same role.

I'm in the final stages with a new company. They're offering me a 30% higher salary bump and a direct channel into a more interesting sub-niche.

I'm leaving a company where I've passed the barrier of "figure out our internal sludge" and the culture fit challenge, but I have to jump ship to get more money. How did this become the norm?

jiveturkey said a month ago:

It won't look bad, but you do have other things to consider. You got a quick raise -- that's good. The company sounds understaffed in IT and perhaps is less than competent. Crisis can become opportunity.

kls said a month ago:

Was thinking the same thing, I don't know what the original posters career goals are but this is a perfect opportunity to launch into management. If one where so inclined they could explain to the management at the subsidiary as well as their boss that they need funds to hire and build a team to manage the workflow. Prioritize said workflow by getting agreement by all parties and then managing that workflow out to the team.

ManlyBread said a month ago:

Stop wondering and go find out if these six months will be a problem for a new employer. The worst thing that could happen is that you'll be rejected. I've switched jobs after 2 months and the next one after 9 months and so far I had no issues looking for an another job. Sometimes I got questions about the company I was 2 months in so I just removed it from my resume because it was annoying.

jbotz said a month ago:

For getting interviews, your resume will only look better with more variety of experience. Most people scanning resumes to pick candidates for interviews are just looking for relevant experience and bullet points... the more the better, they aren't going to think a lot about why you were at a specific job only for 6 months.

Once you have an Interview (or a phone screen) they may ask about it, but then you can explain and it's unlikely to be held against you.

shepptech said a month ago:

Generally, you want to secure around a year if you are intentionally working the career ladder. It can be difficult to convince an employer that you will stick around long enough to make them money if you jump job to job.

That said, you need to consider your long term goals. If you are job hopping for experience, you might want to consider contract work, or independent work first. As an employer though, I don't consider a 6 month stint to be a bad thing. You need to be prepared to tell me why you're jumping ship, and what you are looking to achieve at my place of business.

Nobody can tell you a "right" answer though. It is entirely dependent on your own goals and ethics. You don't owe anybody anything in your journey to the top, so do what feels right and keep moving forward.

saradhi said a month ago:

> Now I'm drowning in work, with no one to give me priority or direction.

When you feel that "drowning", probably you are not enjoying the work load, which is quite important for the happy-you. I understand you are in the early days, did you try to make your decisions on the priority? Sometimes, you may be better, who knows. Give it a try.

> The work I am asked to do is important and I don't feel comfortable telling individuals high up in the subsidiary no.

This is the situation you've to face in your life, every day. Saying "no" is perfectly "yes", be bold enough to say "no". But just give a thought on the after-effects, if those do not put you in trouble, it is perfectly alright.

Good luck.

brailsafe said a month ago:

I've been through 7 or 8ish companies in 7 or 8ish years, have burnt out horribly, have at times sacrifices my mental health for that of my employer, amd have been fire or otherwise let go from 6 companies. I think the gaps in employment may be an issue, but otherwise I think it's less that my record is bad and more that finding good work is grueling in tech. So if you quit and find a new job or if you stay for longer and find a new job, it is probably going to be difficult. Also, never sacrifice yourself for your company beyond reason.

jklein11 said a month ago:

If the comp and work are good and there is just too much of it I wouldn’t look for another job. It’s hard to find interesting work. It’s even harder to find interesting work that pays well.

This sounds like a process problem that your current manager has inherited from your previous manager. This problem also probably caused your previous manager to get so burnt out they quit.

It sounds like there is no process to intake new work and prioritize it. Talk to your manager about this. If you want brownie points propose how you can implement this process.

superdeeda said a month ago:

I’d say look for a new job. Sounds like the IT department at your company is poorly run. Especially at the start of your career I think it is important to work at a well-run company so that you can learn from the best and not start to resent your career choice.

Most decent companies and interviewers will give you a chance to explain your reasons for leaving after only six months. It’s quite normal for devs, especially for recent graduates, to move around before finding their niche.

Aperocky said a month ago:

It really depend on what you're doing. From what I'm seeing, documenting ERP customizations, developing/optimizing SQL is not a place you want to be.

Move out if you can, granted, a lot of places on these kind of things tend to be easier on the task load, but it's not true in your case. Have you tried to automate? Are you drawning in powerpoint presentation and word documents? All of these are important to know.

CodeWriter23 said a month ago:

Put yourself in an interviewer’s position hiring you. “So you were given more responsibilities and a decent raise. And you bailed before you really spent any time seeing what that was like?”

My suggestion, try to find opportunity here. Successful technology implementations are much more about building relationships and understanding people’s roles, responsibilities and workloads and a lot less about SQL, code, gear, etc.

ManlyBread said a month ago:

It is easy to dodge that question, all that you need to do is to imply that the workload was impacting your work/life balance or that the new set of responsibilties does not match the market rate even after the "decent" raise. I remember saying something similar during interviews after a company that gave me a 10% raise expected me to handle twice the amount of work and responsibility.

yashvanth said a month ago:

I switched to a new job after 6 months into it because the management wasn't good. I knew why I was doing it. Firstly, justify it to yourself and it'll be easier to answer when the question of "why" arises!

jasonblurb said a month ago:

Engineering manager here.

As other commenters have said, this situation is common. That's not to say it's okay - it isn't. The question I'd ask you is, "before you bail, what can you learn from this experience?"

One of the primary duties of a manager is to act as a diffuser of potential stressors. Given your experience level, all the inputs you are receiving should be landing on your managers desk first. Those inputs should then be filtered, grouped, prioritized, contextualized (to whatever extent is necessary for you to understand what you're being asked to do) and then handed to you at a rate that enables you to complete work and learn the systems you're interacting with.

It's okay to push back on requests. It's also a good idea to develop a system for doing so.

One of the things I repeat often with my direct reports is, "everything has a place." Every request, every escalation, every task we're asked to work on - it all goes into a ticket system. Everyone on my team knows to accept the input and inform the source of the input (often another engineering manager) that their requests will go into our work queue and will be prioritized against our other objectives at the appropriate time.

You seem to be operating without those systems in place. What I'd suggest is that you develop a queuing and prioritization system for yourself. The next time someone asks you to do something, maybe try saying:

"I'll be happy to dig in. Let me get a few pieces of information from you and I'll put this in my queue. Mind if I follow up with you next week?"

A couple things could happen in response. They could escalate and use their coercive power (they outrank you) to force you to do the work immediately. This is when you can invoke your manager. You could respond with,

"Understood. I will inform my manager and we will prioritize accordingly."

Usually these situations won't escalate. If you appear to have your act together, others will recognize that. If you have a system of note cards or an issue tracker you're using to capture their requests, they may be more inclined to leave you to manage your own work queue. If you're also equipped with a prioritization rubric (it can be arbitrary, just start with org chart hierarchy of the requestor if you don't have anything else to go on), even better.

As the saying goes, "manage your time or others will do it for you." No matter how stressful this may seem now, this may be an opportunity to learn some time and work queue management skills. The earlier in your career you begin cultivating these skills, the better.

I'm happy to elaborate on any of the above.

kwiromeo said a month ago:

I agree with this. Definitely learn to push back. I've been in a similar situation albeit in aviation systems engineering. The way I dealt with a lot of incoming request was to always point out that I had things that were already on the back burner. I would phrase it along the lines of: "I am currently doing Y, and was planning to do X and Z next. Is A you're asking me to do urgent? If yes, I can do it after Y of you're okay with X and Z being delayed." This usually got me a response that indicated want the priority was. I would also really try not to let the current work I was doing being stopped. Stopping something midtask would always make the same item I was working on take longer, so I would push back if they tried to stop current work midstream. I would say: "I'm X hours away from accomplish this task. Can item A your asking wait until then?" That usually got me some good relief.

One item to note that this is also an opportunity to request some training, either formal or informal. Find the skill that if improved would easily increase your task output, find formal training for it in the area or nearby. If you can put a cost benefit analysis on a 1 page word doc, you might be able to take this opportunity to improve your skills as well.

samstave said a month ago:

>It's okay to push back on requests. It's also a good idea to develop a system for doing so.

THIS is important, and understated.

There is a lot of oppotunity to learn from the situation you are in, but this skill in particular will last you a lifetime if you learn it well.

Specifically later in your career when you are looked upon to lead a team, manage THEIR workload and be able to accurately communicate priorities, load, risk etc upstream.

As an example, at the director/eng mgr level, a very common interview question set will be around "how do you manage competing priorities or requirements for your team" and even better "How do you say no".

Get a solid system of tracking requests, priority and decisions. Take the next while at this current position to find your voice in structuring the flow of how these requests come to you - and build relationships with your boss and other team-leads who either depend on you downstream, or are making requests of you.

JSeymourATL said a month ago:

> But I'm finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the stress of managing all of this.

What's the REAL challenge here for you?

Any Bozo can quit and find a new job. It takes BRAINS to learn how to Manage Yourself.

On this subject, Drucker is brilliant. > https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2477223.Managing_Oneself

jiveturkey said a month ago:

> while going through the whole post-grad thing.

OT, but what is the whole "post-grad thing"? You earned a PhD?

7532yahoogmail said a month ago:

Dear OP: here's some career advice: you're not thinking right or doing right if you can't figure this out for yourself. Just like I've said on reddit's lpt form reality is you gotta figure it out for yourself and stop shopping your life around on the internet

tashi said a month ago:

"Don't ask for help and just figure it out yourself."

Seems like terrible career advice and terrible life advice to me, but I'm no expert on either.

JSeymourATL said a month ago:

> stop shopping your life around on the internet...

Evidence that Advice Porn is really bad.

In another era -- one might have solicited perspective from smart friends, family, senior colleagues. Even read a self-help book.

TODAY It's still reasonable that someone, somewhere on HN might have a sound, practical take on your situation. I could be wrong.