Jennifer Mellon is the co-founder and chief revenue officer of Trustify, the world's first technology platform to connect clients across the U.S. with a network of highly trained and qualified private investigators.
As the co-founder and chief revenue officer of Trustify, a platform that offers private investigator services on demand, I regularly spend time with each potential new candidate for hire. Reviewing hundreds of applications for a few key roles allows me to bring in the best talent for each position. The most interesting discovery in reviewing applications is the prevalence of very short tenures at multiple places of employment. Sometimes, these potential candidates have been in the workforce for just three years, yet have over six workplaces listed on their resume since graduation. My C-level colleagues and I found this shocking at first. After dozens of interviews over the past year, I am no longer surprised by their multiple under-one-year stints, but instead am more shocked when I see a recent graduate staying at a single company or organization for more than a year.
When I graduated from Bucknell in 2004, I was told by multiple mentors, advisors and professors, as well as my parents, that I needed to stay at my first job for as long as possible. That seemed easy. I accepted a position in my dream career role. Every day I did the work I had hoped to do since I was a teenager. Why wouldn't I stay as long as possible? I was lucky to just have a job in the post-9/11 recession.
Reality set in fast. I starting working many nights until 2 a.m., making less than $12,000 in a fellowship role. I was exhausted and had no friends, living in a city that was not my home. The unhappy days outnumbered the days when I left work loving my job. I became disenfranchised. However, I remembered those early graduation send-off pieces of advice to stick it out, and so I stayed. My investment paid off. Two years later I was recruited to become the youngest executive director in the 40-year history of a leading international child welfare organization. I am now running my third successful startup. I look back at that first year and see that I am where I am today because of the lessons I learned then. Here are a few pieces of advice for recent college graduates.
Go Where You Can Learn
Many of my fellow graduates took the job they believed would get them the greatest return on their investment. Huge college loans, the desire to finally make money, and ambition to rise the ladder quickly are all strong motivators for any job seeker. However, the jobs they accepted led to little exposure, redundancy in their roles and responsibilities, and an inability to grow their skill set. Accepting a career at a startup, nonprofit or small business may not prove fruitful financially in the short term. However, learning to be flexible, fulfilling many roles and responsibilities and getting exposure to parts of an organization more quickly than you would at a larger company reaps larger rewards in the long term. Companies want employees with extensive experience. And when time is not on your side, exposure to various aspects of your organization is incredibly beneficial.
Don't Confuse Hard Work With Unfulfilling Work
In interviews with candidates early in their career path, they often share that they left their last place of employment because they were unhappy. Without valid explanation, this is a clear red flag in an interview. Work does not always bring happiness -- it is just that: work. That is not to say you cannot love what you do, but the likelihood of loving your job every day of your life, especially early on in your career, is highly unlikely. Recent graduates should look at these early experiences as opportunities to add to your base of skill sets. Recognize that the difficult days are the ones where you gain the value of working under pressure, being a leader and finding solutions where ones may not be evident.
Lead by Example, No Matter the Circumstance
When I see multiple short stints on a resum, I am often most curious about the candidate's respective five- or 10-year career plan. These individuals often have impressive talent and ambitions. However, the inability to stay at one place of employment long leaves potential employers skeptical of the potential hire's ability to stay when the days are long, the work is tedious or the going gets tough. Being diligent and resilient are two of the qualities I look for most in a new hire. Staying for less than 12 months at multiple companies doesn't speak to your resiliency. Employers choose leaders in their company who are willing to roll up their sleeves, work with them in the trenches and plant deep roots in a company. It is difficult to invest in talent and look to them to fulfill leadership roles when they show a tendency to leave when they are less than satisfied. That is not how a true leader would act.
Know That It's a Marathon
Recognize your worth and your ability to persevere when faced with obstacles. The best talent on my team are leaders who take the time to unplug, share what resources they need to reach success in their role and reach out for feedback. Trusting in your ability to get through the rough days -- as there will be at every company and experience -- is what will make you a better leader. Trust that you made the right decision when you joined the company. If you truly believe it is not a place where you can grow and learn, then by all means trust that too. Just never make decisions after a bad day or a rough week. Recognize the patterns of hopping from place to place: after all, your career is a marathon, not a sprint. One day, you will look back 12 years from now and see that the hardest days were the ones where you grew most as an employee and as a person.