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Dear Career Coach,

I’ve only been at my current job for a few months, but I know for certain that it’s just not right for me. How do I apply for new jobs without looking bad or unmotivated?

Not a Job Hopper

Hi Not a Job Hopper,

I know the feeling of excitement over a new job offer only to have that enthusiasm quickly dissipate when expectations and reality don’t quite match up.

As a first step, I’d encourage you to do what you can to make the most of your current position (and this article is a great resource for doing that). However, it sounds like you’ve done that and are ready to move on. So, what do you do if you know it’s time to call it quits?

If you’re leaving before a year, there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t get labeled as a “job hopper” during your search for a new position.

1. Make Sure Your Next Role’s a Long-Term One

By long-term, I mean you need to devote yourself to the next company for over a year. Be cautious as you select your next opportunity to ensure it’s a place you can see yourself for more than just a few months.

One of the biggest fears of employers is that they’ll hire you, train you, and you’ll leave before they see a return. Hiring someone costs tens of thousands of dollars. You want to give employers peace of mind that this is not a regular habit or occurrence—and the best way to do that is let the experience speak for itself.

Years from now, this quick departure is going to be nothing but a blip. You might even remove it from your resume in the future once you have longer-term positions that can speak to greater accomplishments.

2. Market Yourself as a Passive Candidate

You might feel weird about aggressively pursuing new jobs when you’re still so new in your current position. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to get your name out there as a passive candidate—someone who’s open to new opportunities, but not actively job searching.

The first method is to create a strong personal brand in which employers identify and then reach out to you about positions and gauge your interest. This allows you to tell your future employer something like, “When [Recruiter] reached out to me about this role, it was too intriguing to pass up.”

The second common option is to partner with headhunting and staffing agency recruiters. They can present you to the companies they represent and you can again explain to your existing company that you’re leaving because you were presented with an opportunity that is aligned with your current goals.

3. Have a Compelling Reason for Leaving

Let’s say you go through job searching the traditional way and an employer does call you back regarding your application. Be prepared to answer the question, “Why are you looking to leave so soon?”

You shouldn’t speak ill of the company or your boss, and instead focus on the future and what this new opportunity you’re interviewing for provides.

For example, rather than saying, “This job is so boring and they only ever give me busy work,” you could state something like, “I know I have a lot to offer, and I’m eager to find an opportunity where I can leverage my skills and make an impact.”

Every employer is human and can understand your desire to leave early if the current role or company is lacking. But, because they are human, they want to make sure you’re tactful in your presentation. If you bash the current company, they will naturally wonder if you will say something similar about them in future interviews.

While leaving positions before a year is not ideal, it happens. The best thing you can do is get clear on your career goals, make sure you are evaluating a role and company carefully before accepting an offer, and brush up your presentation and personal branding skills so you are irresistible to future employers—despite this short blip on your resume.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Credible Career Coach in the subject line.

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Updated 6/19/2020