Is it okay to leave a new job after only a week or two?

Matthew • April 26, 2021

Hello Friends,

A job seeker asked me the other day if it was okay to leave a new job after a week or two. I'll generalize this question to "is it okay to leave a new job within a month, within six months, or under eighteen months?"

It's understandable why someone would ask this. In my eyes, changing jobs is a Life Event. That is, it's on par with buying a house, having a child, and so on. It's a big, infrequent decision that has a material impact on your life.

Accepting a job offer (and making a job offer) is a pretty low data decision! And this is generously assuming that both parties have their act together. (In my experience, Dear Reader, they do not.) Mistakes will be made!

Since it is such a low-data decision, I think it's acceptable to leave a job within the first six months of taking it. If you've figured out that it's not for you, then you'll be doing yourself a favor. My guess is your employer will also feel like it's not working, and everyone will be satisfied with the outcome.

After several months, say three to six, you'll have a lot more data. You'll understand if you align culturally with your new employer. You'll know if you have the right vocational skills for the job and if they're valued. If it turns out you're not a fit, then you have the good fortune to be a computer programmer in the early 21st century. There's another employer who is already dying to meet you.

I'm assuming, too, that you've talked to your manager about all of this during one-on-ones. Managers aren't mind readers. Bringing up concerns as you give notice doesn't count!

If you're seriously considering leaving a job within two weeks before you've walked in the door, you should take that job. If you're breezily trying it on, you're just wasting everyone's time (including yours.) The exception is if you encounter something extreme in your first days: that you've been lied to, something illegal or unethical is happening, or etc.

As a rule of thumb, you should find that you need to leave early like this, at most, once a decade. If you find this happening to yourself a lot, you might want to ask yourself why. I'm guessing you need to experience some personal or professional growth. Or maybe you need to reset your expectations somewhat. (There's something messed up everywhere.)

"How will I explain this on my resume?" you might ask. Put this truncated stint on your resume or don't. If you don't and anyone asks, you took some time off and were careful in your job search.

Based on my rule of thumb above, I discount one short tenure every decade when reading resumes. And the older I get, the less interested I am in gaps in people's employment history.

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Matthew Bellantoni is a seasoned technology manager experienced growing teams from 0 people to under 100 people, from $0 to $100M in revenue, at companies in SaaS, eCommerce, marketplace, and enterprise software. His time has typically been at fast-growing VC-backed companies, mainly using Ruby on Rails, where he's been senior management usually reporting to the CEO. (He's also written a Ruby on Rails gem with over a million downloads.) You can contact him at matthew@rubyjobboard.com or at @mjbellantoni.