I Want to Nicely Change Jobs

I am an ‘06 graduate.  After graduating and passing the bar, I temped for a while until I landed a full-time job at a civil litigation firm.  I have been there for two years, mostly good, but lately I’m starting to wonder if it might be time to see what else is out there. 

What is the proper etiquette for job changes, and are the rules different if I were to go to a government position vs. going to another private firm? I would like to leave for “greener” pastures (let’s be honest, I have bills to pay), but I don’t want to develop a reputation as a hired gun.  How often is it acceptable to switch firms?

I appreciate your concern, but you’re over-thinking this.  Yes, it’s not great to change jobs every two weeks, but that’s not what you’re doing.  Besides, this is the real world we’re talking about here. Like you said, you have to bills pay, which means you need to worry about yourself—and not some imagined, hyper-judgmental third-party perception of yourself.  In other words, if you find a better job, jump.  With both feet.  Especially in this environment.

In the past, a lawyer with “too many jobs in too short a period of time” was considered a malcontent or incompetent.  Given today’s economy, there’s probably less of a stigma.  Employers understand there is less job stability and more of a need to bounce from job to job.  But in your case, this would be your second “real” job in three years.  (The temp thing shouldn’t really count.  Prospective employers will understand that you were doing what you needed to do until you found a real job.) So if you find a greener pasture, go for it.  Don’t worry about being a hired gun—that’s what lawyers are.

Good luck.

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  • Anonymous

    You have to go where you can work, and earn money.  When I graduated in 2001, there was a problem, too.  I couldn’t get a job for a year.  Then I got one, and stayed there until 2003.  I then took a year off, and got another job in 2004.  I quit that job within 3 months, and took a job with the government.  I have been here ever since, have never worked less, and enjoyed my life more.  Of course, there isn’t much money here, but the work is easy, and my boss is lazy.

  • BL1Y

    What sort of job do you have where going to work for the government makes paying the bills easier?

  • Dari

    This is probably not a great time to change jobs. go to a private firm.

  • LMark

    Small firms in small markets generally pay less than government scale.  The cost of living difference in pay that the feds make for different locations (ie. they pay more in New York or D.C.) doesn’t come close to the actual difference in cost of living.  Thus, if you can get a job with the feds in East Bumblefuck, USA, you’re doing pretty well.

  • also looking for greener pastures

    The writer above has been in her job for about 2 years.  I’ve been at my job for about 6 months but I hate it and want out.  Should I just suck it up for a little bit longer or would it be just as acceptable for me to jump to greener pastures (if I can find one)?

  • DB

    I would quit if I could guarantee gettng paid from someone.  I need money to pay the rent and go out on dates.

  • Anon

    hard call. if you have only been there six months probably worth waiting a little longer.

  • Anon

    BL1Y – Working for the government doesn’t automatically mean you’re working for peanuts.  I make 150K, as do most people in my department.  Anyone with a couple years at a big firm is making more, of course, but there are plenty of private-sector lawyers out there who make less than I do.
    To the person wanting to switch jobs after 6 months – I would suggest that you stick it out a bit longer, at least a year, preferably 2.  I’m on the hiring committee at work and we definitely look askance at people who leave a job in less than a year, particularly if it happens more than once.  I’ve been in your position, so I know it isn’t easy.

  • Desi

    Anon makes a good point.

  • manda

    don’t leave until you have something lined up, and as a private attorney you can definitely dress and leave for interviews by doing just that–leaving.  ostensibly, you’re doing something for your firm.  if you have something lined up, then go.  don’t worry about not being somewhere long enough.  and remember, they would fire you in an instant if they felt you weren’t performing for them, so don’t think you owe them anything.

  • Quentin Compson

    Side note: No matter how ethically you change jobs, some former employers will hate you for leaving. They think it makes them look bad (which it kinda does). There is nothing you can do about it.