For most people the prospect of starting a new job brings on feelings of excitement, nervousness, and maybe a bit of anxiety. Diving into a new position can open up a whole world of opportunities and challenges and it goes without saying that any major life change comes with a series of pros and cons. However, for a surprisingly large number of people starting a new job can bring on a whole different kind of stress and as feelings of doubt and regret take center stage.
For a certain number of professionals the jump from one job to the next can turn out to be less than they’d hoped for or more than they bargained for and the end result can mean that in just a few short weeks that excitement has turned to misery. So for the recent hire now experiencing a serious case of buyer’s remorse what’s the solution? While there’s no “right” way to handle this situation there are a few important things to consider about your situation and considerations to make. This article will seek to cover some of the finer points of navigating this tricky situation.
You’re absolutely not alone in this situation
Typically when those nagging feelings of doubt, unhappiness, and regret begin sneaking in and the realization that maybe this job just isn’t right for you hits the immediate next emotions are fear and panic. Career-minded individuals tend to invest a great deal of focus in plotting their career moves and making smart choices about how and where they spend their time and energy. In these types of situations it can feel like a huge mistake or failure to suddenly realize that you wish you could walk your most recent job change back.
The very first thing to keep in mind is that this situation is not unique or even rare and it’s also not THAT big of a deal. Everyday thousands of people quit jobs, start jobs, decide they hate their job, and begin planning their next career move. The fact that you may have stumbled into the wrong gig and want to make a quick about-face doesn’t set you far apart from any of those other people. Short-term positions on a resume may earn you a bit of extra explanation during an interview but at the end of the day they’re not much of a dark mark or even a negative in the minds of recruiters unless there’s some kind of concerning pattern.
This first part is important because what happens next needs to be carefully thought out and approached with pragmatism and honest reflection. Rather than acting on those feelings of regret and panic it’s critical that you do some self-searching and move into these next sections with an inventory of your own feelings.
Inventory your current position and situation
This is an important exercise because it gives you the necessary perspective to evaluate the scenario and create a more objective audit that you can reflect on. To begin, keep notes each day for a week about how you’re feeling and try to categorize them into related groups. For example, your new position is frustrating you today but is it inherent to the position itself or is it because of a coworker or manager? You’re feeling exhausted with work the next day but that’s because of the hours you’re working while the company culture is actually a positive, etc. These notes should start to give you a sense for what the core issues you’re facing are and how many of them can be resolved.
After taking these notes you’ll want to put them down into a formal pro and con list and tag each item as being variable or static. Variable items in either the pro or con list are things that aren’t specific to this position and likely aren’t going to be consistent. Getting free cupcakes on a Friday afternoon may make the workday more positive but that’s highly variable and unpredictable. Meanwhile, having a short commute to the office is a great lifestyle perk that likely won’t change anytime soon unless you or the company relocates.
What works, what doesn’t, and what is it worth?
The next step is to review the list you’ve put together and ask the difficult questions. You’ll mostly want to focus on the static items of the list but the variables could be a lesser consideration as well. What you’re trying to suss out here is your own feelings about each of these items and how much each of them is weighted in your decision-making. Here are the key questions you’re trying to answer:
-How much does this aspect of my position affect my happiness?
-Do I believe that this is something I could change or work to improve?
-If this did not change is it something that I could deal with long term?
-Compared to the other items on this list, how important is this one?
This is the time to be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t ignore those nagging voices in your head. Regardless of how petty or small a grievance may be you need to level with your own feelings and admit when something simply isn’t acceptable or isn’t going to work for you. Trying to brush off the parts of your new job that are making you unhappy now will only ensure you’re miserable in the future.
The goal here is to further personalize the list you created to get a better sense of where your priorities are and how they rank in relation to each other. The items at the top of this list will ultimately be those that you take action on moving forward.
Understand Your Leverage
While it may feel like you’re some easily expendable new hire the reality is that recruiting costs in terms of both time and resources are incredibly high not to mention the lost output the company would suffer if you left before they could find a backfill. So in truth you actually have a great deal of leverage even as a newer employee as you represent someone who could potentially be appeased in short order to be maintained for a long time to come.
Keep this in mind when you consider your options about how to take your next steps.
Create Tangible Asks
Regardless of whether you plan to stick it out in your new role and try to improve the situation or go back on the market to find something that suits you better, this next step is important. There’s nothing more frustrating for a manager presented with a grievance than an employee who isn’t sure what they actually want in terms of resolution. Rather than force your manager to prompt you for next steps you need to come prepared with concrete asks that you’re looking to deliver upon and be prepared that if these requests are honored that you in turn will consider the issue resolved or at least improved.
This step is why we stressed being honest with yourself in the previous inventory section. Asking for less than you want and being unhappy when you receive what you requested is a guaranteed way to take a rough work situation and make it completely toxic for both you and your employer. So it’s important that you approach whatever your next step is with confidence and certainty that you’re bargaining with a complete hand.
When crafting your asks you’ll want to reflect back on those variable aspects of the job that you’d like to see changed. Perhaps you’re unhappy with the schedule you currently work or the number of hours you’re working. Those are reasonable complaints but you can’t approach a manager and simply say “I want more time off” as it’s far too vague and general. Every employee wants more time off but an employer can’t act on such a broad request. You’ll need to drill down into specific action items that your employer could reasonably deliver on. A more approachable negotiation could look like “I don’t want to work Saturdays anymore” or “The after-hours communication expectations aren’t working for me, can we come up with a compromise about emails after 7 pm?”.
You may not get the answer you want when pitching these requests but at the very least this sets a clear line for your employer in terms of what you want from them and it gives them a more transparent understanding of what they need to do if they want to retain you.
In the event that you opt to go back out on a job hunt this kind of information will allow you to be more thorough in your next interview and ensure these same issues don’t crop up in your next role.
Finally, you’ll need to lay a plan on how you want to take action. At this point you should be armed with enough reflection and groundwork to make an informed decision on whether you feel like your role can be salvaged with some adjustments or if it’s necessary to simply move on.
If you feel like there’s still a chance for this new position to click then it’s time to begin talking with your direct manager, HR rep, and anyone else within your company circle that would have actionable authority to impact your situation. Set up time for a formal meeting, lay out your position thoroughly, express your interest to continue in the role, and list your requests. It’s important to be flexible during these talks and try to come to a meaningful compromise that you think works for you.
In the event that you see no future in your current role then it’s time to begin looking elsewhere. Don’t wallow in a position you hate, it’s not only bad for your mental and physical health but it’s also not particularly good for your resume. Sticking with a position for one year instead of one month doesn’t mean much to a recruiter, especially if you have reasonable explanations for the short tenure. Arm yourself with your new learnings from the previous steps and begin scouting for a position that better meets your needs. When discussing your current (new) position make sure to not be overly negative or come across as unreasonable in your expectations. It’s important to stress that you don’t find the role itself to be problematic (unless you do) but rather that the position is simply not the right fit for you.
Anytime you take on a new role there’s going to be some obvious ups and downs with the position. Some aspects of your new job may fail to meet your expectations while others may surpass them. In these situations you should keep in mind that these experiences are normal and entirely common and that while it may feel frustrating and put you outside your comfort zone a bit there’s plenty of options on the table on how to proceed.
By keeping a level head and trying to be analytical and strategic in your approach you’ll find that you can easily navigate this scenario and may even come out better on the other end for it.