person in office leaning on desk and looking out window
Bailey Zelena; Westend61/Getty Images

Most people know what it’s like to feel somewhat or completely catfished by a new job. And most people these days would tell you it’s just fine to get out before you’ve served an arbitrary year or two in the position. In 2022, a survey of 1,500 Muse users showed that 72% of workers have experienced “Shift Shock”—that feeling when you start a new job only to find out it wasn’t what you expected. And 80% said it’s acceptable to leave said new job within six months.

So if you hate your new job and you’re considering quitting, you’re in good—or at least plentiful—company, and you might relate to this anonymous Muse user who described the phenomenon long before The Muse’s CEO coined the term “Shift Shock”:

“In March, I started a new job. As I’ve been here a couple of months, I’m realizing it might not be the right fit for me. The culture is actually quite stiff, there’s very little collaboration, and the work is more tedious than I expected.”

Then, the user said, a new opportunity presented itself:

“Recently, a friend encouraged me to check out a new position at another organization. The new job seems like it would align much more closely with my skill set as well as improve the skills I hope to develop long-term. It also pays better and presents a stronger opportunity for advancement.”

When they began interviewing and it seemed likely that they would get an offer, the Muse user reached out to ask if it was “OK” to jump ship after just a few months.

The good news is we have a simple answer for them and for anyone who’s considering leaving a job they just started—plus answers to other questions that are likely to come up in these situations.

Can I leave a job after three to six months?

Yes.

When it comes to any career consideration, my motto is: “What’s best for you is often best for the company in the long run.”

In other words, you being happy, satisfied, and motivated in your role serves everyone well. Whether you have a better opportunity lined up or not, the company where you end up will be better off for having you and your current employer will ultimately be better off if they fill your position with someone who will be happier in it. 

Will leaving a job after a few months affect my career?

It’s not terrible form to leave one job after a few months; just don’t make such short stints a habit—red flags arise if this behavior seems to be chronic. Repeated job-hopping can convey an inability to assess a company or role, demonstrate a lack of focus, or raise concern around what led to your departures. For example, many companies have 60- or 90-day probation periods, and if you leave during this time, future employers might wonder whose choice that really was.

But again, you can rest assured that having one short stint on a resume is not a cause for concern, as long as you can explain it openly and with sound reason.

How do I talk about a shorter job stint in an interview?

If you’re job hunting while working at a job you just started, be ready to tell your interviewers why you’re leaving. Or if you end up with a larger gap on your resume due to leaving this job, be ready to explain it.

Be up front with any future interviewers who ask why you were in this position for such a short time. Maybe you realized early on that the job wasn’t a great fit or perhaps you were presented with a better opportunity you couldn’t turn down. Honesty (with tact and with respect to your former employer, of course) is the best policy.

If you go straight from one job to the next, you may even choose to leave your short-term gig off your resume going forward. You should still be honest in any background checks or if you’re asked directly about the small employment gap.

How do I quit a job after three months?

Again, honesty is the best policy. If you’re equally truthful and forthcoming with the company you’re leaving as you are with future employers, your colleagues will likely respect your approach. Just be sure to resign in a professional way and leave on good terms. The current employer may even give you a reference on how well you handled the situation and your performance during your short stay with the company.

And who knows? If your employer is open-minded, the company may well try to fix some of the issues that led to your departure so other applicants won’t experience what you did.

How do I find a job I’ll want to stay at for a longer time?

If a potential employer misleads you about the job or work environment you’re in for, there’s not much you can do about that. But here are a few pointers for your future job hunts that’ll increase the chances of ending up somewhere you’ll be happy for more than a few months:

  • Make sure you’re clear on the job responsibilities and benefits package. Interviewers don’t ask if you have any questions at the end of the interview as a formality—they actually want you to ask questions. Be sure you’re asking about things like title, job responsibilities, salary, benefits, and vacation time before you sign an offer.
  • Learn about the work environment. It’s crucial to find out details like: What time do people generally arrive and leave? What kind of corporate events do they have? How are company-wide issues handled? Are there weekly or monthly staff meetings? How do people dress? Are there any unique policies? Asking these questions early on will help you to gauge the company’s personality and decide if it's the right place for you.
  • Ask for a tour of the office (or accept one if offered). It’s important for you to see employees in action with your own two eyes. If what you’re hearing from your interviewers doesn’t match what you actually experience, that’s telling.
  • Find out about employees’ personal experiences at the company. Ask the people you meet with what they love about the company. Why do they like working there? Are there things about the company that frustrate them? How would they define the company culture? Is there room for advancement? Does the company tend to promote from within? Is there a mentoring program?
  • See if you can meet with employees beyond the hiring manager and recruiters. Oftentimes, this means meeting individuals beyond those the company requires you to interview with. If they don’t offer interviews with other people on your team, feel free to ask.

Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.

Updated 10/28/2022