The Short Job Stint

Businessman Reaching for HandshakeOn occasion a PR pro makes the wrong decision about taking a job. Whether it was the money, or the potential opportunity for growth, changing jobs might not always end up how you envisioned. I know this all to well from past experiences.

Let’s say you have taken a job you’ve come to now realize was the wrong move, and you have only been there a short few months.  Or you recently took a position and the company was forced to do layoffs and you end up on the cutting room floor. More than likely your next step is to look for another job ASAP.

Obviously a short job stint isn’t necessarily a great thing for the resume, and it also could be a red flag to potential employers. How do you approach short job stints? Do you remove the position from your resume? Is it something you can address in the cover letter?

When this happened to me in the past, I had no idea what to do. I was lucky enough to land a new job fairly quickly, but I realize this might not be the case for everyone. To get you real answers, I turned to Jami Secchi, Vice President of PR Talent, a public relations recruiting agency.

Here are Jami’s best tips on dealing with short job stints:

  • One vs. 10 – A lot depends on if you have just one short stint or ten of them.  If you have ten, you might want to create a summary resume where you highlight all of your experience up front and then just list your jobs and dates of employment at the end. But be careful, because it’s not always the best way to do a resume, especially in the PR industry.
  • Beyond Your Control – If you left for reason beyond your control, another option is to briefly describe the reason in parenthesis next to or below the dates of employment like (company bankruptcy) or (merger) or (HQ moved to another city).

  • On or Off the Resume – The choice to leave it a short job stint on or off your resume depends on what you did in the job.  If that experience is relevant to a position you are applying for, it could be beneficial to leave it on, even if it was only for five months.  But, if you are going to remove a job from your resume, regardless of how long you were there, you just need to be able to explain the gaps.  Employers will most definitely ask about it and you will have to respond.

  • The Cover Letter – It’s not a good idea to ever address a short stint in a cover letter. Your cover letter is a brief introduction of you and should always remain concise, positive and to the point.  If you are insecure about a short job stint, putting it in the cover letter only draws attention to it.

  • Explain Yourself – So, how can a PR professional best answer the question about why he/she was only at a certain company for such a short period of time?  As long as you don’t bad-mouth the company or anyone that works there, you will not seem negative. Sometimes things just don’t work out for whatever the reason and most recruiters understand that.  Be honest about it and, of course, let the employer know you’ve learned a lot from the experience.  Answer the question and move on.
  • Avoid Being Seen as a “Job Hopper” – The best way to avoid being seen as a job hopper is to not job hop.  However, sometimes that’s unavoidable.  Try to stay in a position for at least one to two years, and if you are unhappy in a position, see if there are other opportunities for you within your company.  That way, you can say you’ve been with a company for a certain period of time, but your professional growth strategy was to hold a couple of different positions.  Also, if you’ve freelanced between jobs at various points in your career, you should list them under one section in your resume and indicate the different dates under that one section.

  • Always Tell the Truth On Your Resume – Do not fabricate or exaggerate to cover up a short job stint.  Most employers appreciate the honesty and do realize things happen.  They themselves might have been in a similar situation at some point and may even be able to relate!

Readers, what do you think? Have you had a positive/negative experience in dealing with a short job stint? How did you rebound?

PRBC would like to thank Jami Secchi for her time and invaluable advice.

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  • mikeschaffer

    Great advice here! In my career, I had a 4-month stop at Company B in between two long stretches with Company A. The downside is that it looks like I left and immediately regretted the decision. But the upside is that I took a risk and gained a valuable new skillset in a different capacity.

    While Company B and I didn't work out for many reasons, I still include them on my resume and in conversations. Yes, they have been a blip on my career radar, but I'm proud of the work I did there.

  • I lived in Seoul, S. Korea for just over two years while my husband's company did computer systems for the new airport they were building. I left my marketing job and enjoyed a couple years of planning vacations (we got an obscene amount of travel bonus time) and teaching English to neighborhood kids. It was great!

    When I returned, I was honest about the break — and tried to highlight the experience that I gained while living overseas and being exposed to different cultures. I DID wind up with a pretty hefty pay cut returning to the workforce, but it is still an experience I wouldn't trade! — Tara

  • KA

    How does one stay active in the PR/marketing world and keep up their skills when they're unemployed?

    This may be a bit off topic, but I was late to the other unemployment posting, so I thought I'd ask here since it's somewhat relevant.

    I'm currently unemployed, and I really want to keep my PR and writing skills active while I continue to search for work. I would appreciate any tips that others have tried during periods of unemployment to keep their skills current and continue doing what they love (and it would also be great to be able to share what I did to keep on top of things while unemployed with potential employers).

    Thanks in advance for any tips!

  • marieveebee

    Hi KA, Thanks for your question. Actually we have a “Dear Flack” column and what I'm going to do is take this question and do a post about it. I think a lot of people would be interested in this topic. You can also reach us at dearflack@gmail.com for any other questions. Thanks so much!

  • marieveebee

    Thanks Mike for your comment!

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  • Courtney Day

    This is a great article! I appreciate the advice!