Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Advice on explaining "job hopping"

Hey guys, I've stayed 2 years at each of my prior two job asssociate1205/29/17
Location seems a good enough reason. Are you moving to where vohod05/29/17
Honestly, at this point, you need a substantial reason. You' mrtor05/29/17
These aren't firm positions. Should I do a preemptive str asssociate1205/29/17
Can you provide more detail? I am in a similar position with mrtor05/30/17
my previous positions are gov and law firm. These positions asssociate1205/30/17
If you're going from a firm back to government or in-house, mrtor05/30/17
wait, this is going to be the third job you've left in 2 yea dingbat05/29/17
Yes. My previous 2 jobs were for a little over 2 years each. asssociate1205/29/17
That is completely normal. JDU has an insane obsession with vohod05/29/17
I agree with this, from the employee's perspective. The pro dingbat05/30/17
Depends on the job. Most law and JD advantage jobs have a st vohod05/30/17
Can you play the guitar? Bring one with you and if they ask therewillbeblood05/30/17
Can you not tell them what is driving you away from the prio jeffm05/30/17
Can you explain further? asssociate1205/30/17
You state you are unsatisfied with "fit" and "location." jeffm05/30/17
Bingo. What went wrong three times in the past? If you want mrtor05/30/17
I think it was a mix of location and biglaw. I don't think I asssociate1205/31/17
I get what you're saying, just make sure you polish it up. A mrtor05/31/17
On the flip-side, if you lead them to believe you have no pr jeffm05/31/17
Very true. It's a delicate balancing act. You need to convey mrtor05/31/17
My polished answer is being closer to the business side of asssociate1205/31/17
you have a plausible story, you just need to figure out how dingbat05/31/17

asssociate12 (May 29, 2017 - 8:05 pm)

Hey guys,

I've stayed 2 years at each of my prior two jobs. I've only been at my job for about a year and I am looking for a new job due to the fit and location of my firm. How should I explain my moves? Any advice?

I have a few interviews coming up the next week or two.

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vohod (May 29, 2017 - 8:07 pm)

Location seems a good enough reason. Are you moving to where this new firm is located?

If you are going for a small law job then your biggest issue will be salary. Partnerships are non-existent in these places unless blood or marriage relates you to the owner. They know that by year 5 no one is stupid enough to think they will become an equitable partner. But if you have 5 years of experience they will ding you because they want a workhorse 8a-7p for $40,000.

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mrtor (May 29, 2017 - 8:59 pm)

Honestly, at this point, you need a substantial reason. You're about five years out.. you should be settled and well on your way toward partnership. You really need to consider shaking things up. Since firms clearly have not worked out, you need to consider going in-house or government. It would be easier to explain your desire to get out of private practice at this point than to explain why these new firms are different than the past three.

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asssociate12 (May 29, 2017 - 9:12 pm)

These aren't firm positions.

Should I do a preemptive strike and mention it before the interviewer mentions it?

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mrtor (May 30, 2017 - 9:46 am)

Can you provide more detail? I am in a similar position with firms, which is why I'm transitioning out of private practice altogether. Explaining my desire to transition out of the field is far easier than trying to transfer to yet another similar job.

I was also fortunate to have a short enough stint at my first job that I dropped it off my resume. Do you have enough on your resume that you could do the same? Dropping your first two years would create a big gap, but if you have enough on your resume it can appear that you simply listed your most recent or relevant positions.

Honestly, I would not take the lead on discussing it. Some employers may not catch on. Others may choose to look the other way. If you can avoid discussing it, avoid it all costs. However, you need to prepare a speech in case you are ever asked about it. Emphasize how the positions differed from one another and how each successive one was a step up (dig deep if you have to). Ambition is less damaging than some inherent inability to perform the jobs. Make sure you distinguish the new job from the past ones in an effort to assure them that they're not going to be another temporary gig.

That being said, job hopping is far more common today than in past years. The notions of loyalty between employer and employee have essentially been abandoned by both parties. You can move around within reason, especially if you have the right credentials and experience. However, the further you get out of school, the more pressure there is to settle down for at least 5-10 years. Make sure the new job fulfills something you were missing in past settings.

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asssociate12 (May 30, 2017 - 9:52 am)

my previous positions are gov and law firm. These positions are all either gov or inhouse.

Honestly, I just don't like law firm life. I think it was a mistake going to biglaw again.

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mrtor (May 30, 2017 - 10:43 am)

If you're going from a firm back to government or in-house, simply explain that you did not enjoy the law firm environment. If you need to elaborate, you can take issue any number of things in private practice: pressure to bill, pressure to find billable tasks rather than working up a file properly, pressure to cut time and write down bills, trivial and unfulfilling legal disputes centered around money, etc. Make sure you take issue with private practice generally rather than bad mouthing your current firm.

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dingbat (May 29, 2017 - 9:11 pm)

wait, this is going to be the third job you've left in 2 years (or less)?
You're damaged goods. Either you couldn't hack it at your last 3 jobs, and are unhireable, or you're not going to stick around, and are unhireable.

You need a compelling explanation as to why you left each time, while still proving you're not gonna leave next time.

Maybe, you can spin the following:
1) left Firm A because Firm B offered much better opportunity
2) Firm B turned out to be a bad fit, so you went to Firm C
3) You have a compelling reason to relocate to a new location, and have to leave Firm C

But you need a very good reason for "needing" to relocate. merely not liking the area won't cut it.

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asssociate12 (May 29, 2017 - 9:12 pm)

Yes. My previous 2 jobs were for a little over 2 years each.

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vohod (May 29, 2017 - 9:22 pm)

That is completely normal. JDU has an insane obsession with working at your first job seemingly forever.

These aren't firms so I'd straight up say Fit and Location. Explain what you DO fit into though. At this point you want to move because it works, not move because you think you need to move.

So what if it takes a while to find that good fit? Don't rush into another sucky job--cause honestly most jobs suck.

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dingbat (May 30, 2017 - 9:04 am)

I agree with this, from the employee's perspective. The problem is convincing the prospective employer. Job-hopping for the third time in 5 years sets off a lot of red flags. Nobody wants to hire someone who will just leave in a year or two, so the onus is on associate12 to prove it was the former employers, not him/her, that was the problem. he/she is already starting at a disadvantage

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vohod (May 30, 2017 - 11:01 am)

Depends on the job. Most law and JD advantage jobs have a steep initial 3-4 month learning curve followed by a rapid plateau. If OP is doing office drudgery like many of us, the employer won't really care. By year 3 they are itching to dump us for someone who will start back at entry level pay.

If OP is doing Bet the Company Litigation, or Transnational Business Transactions, then yeah he is in trouble. But I don't get that impression.

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therewillbeblood (May 30, 2017 - 10:00 am)

Can you play the guitar? Bring one with you and if they ask the question, break it out and play the Allman Brothers' Ramblin' Man. Your job hinges on you getting the guitar solo part right.

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jeffm (May 30, 2017 - 10:01 am)

Can you not tell them what is driving you away from the prior job and toward this one? Sometimes, you can't, but if you can, it's always easier to just be open about it.

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asssociate12 (May 30, 2017 - 10:03 am)

Can you explain further?

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jeffm (May 30, 2017 - 10:07 am)

You state you are unsatisfied with "fit" and "location."

What's wrong with the current "fit?" What do you mean by that? Boss is bad? Firm's too busy? Pay's too low? What's the problem?

Was "fit" a problem with the previous jobs as well? What was the problem?

Why don't you like the location? Why did you take that job if you didn't like the location? Or did you not know you wouldn't like it when you sought the job?

What makes you think this new location will satisfy you?

You might not be asked all these questions, but if you appear otherwise qualified, these are things they will likely be thinking.

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mrtor (May 30, 2017 - 11:04 am)

Bingo. What went wrong three times in the past? If you want them to seriously consider you, you also need to demonstrate that something has changed this time. Otherwise, why is this new employer any different than the past ones?

If you're moving job-to-job for the same reason(s), you need to examine whether there is a personal issue rather than professional ones (i.e., if you'be been chasing higher paychecks or the excitement of new work/environments, this could become an issue). If you have been working toward positioning yourself for a better long term opportunity (what is that opportunity and why does this new job fulfill it?), it is not as damaging.

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asssociate12 (May 31, 2017 - 8:38 am)

I think it was a mix of location and biglaw. I don't think I function well in a biglaw setting. My boss in my non-biglaw job loved me and thought I was doing an awesome job. When I left he told me to let him know if I ever wanted to go back. Unfortunately, due to politics, he eventually was forced to retire. I actually regret leaving that job so early due to the fact that everyone really liked me. My other previous job the problem was that I was working for a huge asshole partner. Associates usually only last for 1 year before quitting. I lasted for a little over 2.

When I was working my non-biglaw job, I was tempted by a recruiter to try "real biglaw." I had a pretty marketable niche skillset. Unfortunately, the recruiter oversold me a bit and the partners don't feel like I have the expertise of a 5-6th year but rather of a junior midlevel/midlevel. Like most people, no one wants to do any training.

The theme in all these jobs was that they were all in locations that don't really fit me. I kept on going to the best job I could find versus looking at location. I think I also made a mistake with my non-biglaw job by leaving it way too early. The boss was going to promote me. I was a little naive and thought I was doing such a good job that I could do even better at a biglaw shop and make 30k more. Guess I was wrong.... Now I know 100% that biglaw is not for me. There are no more "romantic notions" of being at a biglaw firm.

I think over the past year I've done some soul searching to find out what my real "strengths" are. I realised that my strength is NOT providing technical legal advice and working 60 hours a week on technical legal stuff. My strength is having a somewhat likable personality where business people see me as providing practical advice and a person who is dependable, likable, and trustworthy.

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mrtor (May 31, 2017 - 9:29 am)

I get what you're saying, just make sure you polish it up. At first blush, all of your strengths sound like code words for someone who has burned out and doesn't want to work hard. Dependable, likable, trustworthy.. they're all soft factors. You need to sell your hard skills.

If you're going to take issue with BigLaw as part of your pitch, take issue with something objectively terrible like billing. You could write a book about how outdated, inefficient, and ineffective that model is. Do not emphasize how much you had to work or how difficult it was to perform at the level they expected.. neither complaint will be well received.

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jeffm (May 31, 2017 - 9:36 am)

On the flip-side, if you lead them to believe you have no problem with 60-hour work weeks, don't be surprised if they are disappointed when they find out you do.

IMO, don't be afraid to tell them what you are after. You should have every incentive for them to be honest, too. The interview process ought to work both ways - i.e., you should also be asking them questions as well so that you can see if it's a good fit.

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mrtor (May 31, 2017 - 10:04 am)

Very true. It's a delicate balancing act. You need to convey that you will do the job properly, but do not want significant overtime to be a regularly expected aspect of the job.

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asssociate12 (May 31, 2017 - 1:28 pm)

My polished answer is being closer to the business side of things and to be more open to give opinions on business matters. Also add in a few words on billable hour model.

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dingbat (May 31, 2017 - 2:31 pm)

you have a plausible story, you just need to figure out how to convey it succinctly.
Here's the essence of it "I was given an opportunity to do big corporate blah, and even though I had some misgivings, it was too good/rare an offer to refuse; unfortunately, it turned out that my misgivings were right, and it's not a good fit. Here's why your opportunity is a much better fit....

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