The Pros and Cons of Quitting Your Job After Less Than a Year

The Pros and Cons of Quitting Your Job After Less Than a YearThis week we welcome guest writer Marissa Geannette to talk about what to do if you want to quit your job quickly.

After you graduate from law school and take the bar, it’s time to start your first legal job. For most, it’s an exciting beginning of a new career. For some, though, that first job is not exactly what they were hoping it would be.

There’s almost always an adjustment period when starting something new. Working at a law firm or other legal job is no different. What happens, though, if, almost from the get-go, your shiny new job is not at all what you were hoping it would be? Can you quit shortly after starting, or will that sink your legal career before it’s even had time to get off the ground? Let’s explore.

Is quitting after less than a year at a job too soon?

The legal industry, especially law firms, can feel pretty old school. There are lots of unspoken rules and norms that most lawyers follow. One of those norms is that you shouldn’t leave your job after less than a year, at a minimum. But just because that’s a norm doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Here are some pros and cons to consider before quitting your legal job after less than a year.

The Pros
1. You get just one life

This sounds simple, but it’s worth the reminder and is the most important pro or con of this whole list. We all get just one life. Do you want to spend it at a job you hate because you think that’s what you’re “supposed” to do?

Try to forget the societal pressure to do what others expect of you if that expectation is making you miserable. Have the confidence in yourself that you will find something better. Quitting your job when you’re ready to, even if it’s after just a short time, is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a young lawyer.

2. A better fit awaits

The first legal job you land will almost surely not be your last. Instead of sticking around, unhappy, for three years because you think that’s how long you should stay, make a move now. There’s no harm in jumping ship as soon as you know where you are is not right for you. You are going to leave eventually, anyway.

Whether you are looking for something that is fully remote, has greater flexibility, friendlier coworkers, offers better pay and better benefits, or is in a new location – trust me, that something better exists. Don’t waste another moment in a job that isn’t right for you because one that is right for you is out there.

3. You’ll prove to yourself early on in your career that you can rely on your instincts

Lots of lawyers stay stuck in jobs they dislike for many years. Why does this happen? For many reasons, but a common one is that they don’t feel capable of leaving. After being at one place for so long, it seems too daunting to find something new, so they stay.

If you follow your gut and leave when it feels right to you, even if it’s after just a few months or so, you’ll prove to yourself that you can land on your own two feet. It may be scary at first, but after that first job change, you’ll know that you can rely on yourself to make whatever change you want in the future.

The Cons
1. Future employers may question you

Some employers view short stays at a job as a red flag. By itself, a brief stint at one place doesn’t automatically call into question your loyalty or willingness to stick to something. But be prepared to be asked about why you left.

This isn’t a reason not to leave, but it’s something to keep in mind so you are prepared to answer the inevitable question about why you left your job so soon after starting it.

2. You might have to explain a gap

Unless you have something else lined up right away, you might have to explain a resumé gap in future interviews. Some employers don’t like to see unemployment gaps.

But this, too, is a little bit more of an old-school way of thinking. And, even if they do question it, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to explain yourself. Most will understand your reasoning as long as you explain yourself.

3. It might be hard to get references from that job

You might have trouble getting references for a future job for a couple of reasons. First, if you leave after a short period, you might not have been there long enough to do much. At a law firm, especially, you might only have been on a few deals or projects over the course of a year. If so, people might not know enough about your work to provide any sort of quality reference.

Second, depending on the lawyers you worked with, they might not approve of you leaving so soon. Again, the legal industry can be a bit stuffy at times, and older partners might look upon your leaving so soon as something negative, and might not be willing to provide a reference.

The Bottom Line

There are lots of things to consider when deciding whether to leave a job – especially if it’s your first job and especially if it’s after less than a year. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before you make your decision, but always remember – it’s up to you and what you want for your life.

You don’t have to explain your decision to anyone! Sure, there might be some cons, like the ones we discussed above, but nothing is worth sticking out if it’s not fulfilling, so it’s up to you to decide whether you are going to leave sooner rather than later.


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About Marissa Geannette

Marissa graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 2009 where she was a member of the Law Review. She began her career in the corporate department of White & Case LLP in NYC and spent 8 years as an associate there. Marissa is passionate about educating law students and recent law grads about Biglaw and career paths one can take after law school (both traditional and non-traditional). She wrote her book, “Behind the Biglaw Curtain” to help demystify Biglaw for those beginning their careers. Whether it’s in Biglaw or not, she believes that there is a satisfying career out there for everyone (even if it’s not the traditional one you thought you were “supposed” to have).

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