When You Think You’ve Made a Big Mistake
During a long career, everyone at one time or another is likely to have made a bad choice — taking an internship, job or promotion that ends up being a mistake. Sometimes you just didn’t do as much research as you should have on the organization or the position. Other times, the hiring manager may not have been entirely honest and may have left out some key details about the job (or alternately, may have oversold the “opportunity”). And sometimes it’s not your fault or theirs — it’s just not the right position for you.
If you get that nagging feeling that you have accepted a position that’s a bad fit, you’re faced with a hard choice: Do you tough it out and hope things get better, for the sake of your resume and career (not to mention a paycheck), or do you figure it’s time to cut your losses and start sending out resumes like mad in the hopes of landing something else?
Obviously, this is a highly personal decision and will be based on a number of factors including the stage of your career, how long you had been looking for a job before you found this one, how tough you think it would be to land another position and whether you have other means to support yourself (you won’t get severance if you quit) while you look again.
Yet here are some common-sense suggestions on what to do when you think you may have made a big mistake:
*Determine whether it’s as bad as it seems. Sometimes, especially if you haven’t had a lot of work experience (or were with one employer for a long time before this job so you don’t have much comparative experience) things that may be concerning you could just be early-in-a-new-job wrinkles. It can be tougher than expected to gain the respect of your new boss and colleagues, learn the language and work flow of the place, and figure out how to prioritize your job duties. Ask others on your team whether they had these jitters, too, and if so, how they got past them. Yet if there seems to be more of a fundamental mismatch — if you don’t feel competent to perform the job you’ve ended up in, for instance, or if you feel you’re being expected to work ridiculous hours — be honest with yourself right away. It’s better to determine whether there is a real problem early on rather than masking it.
*See if things can be fixed. If you’re handling different duties than you thought you’d have, you need to sit down with your supervisor and discuss what’s going on. If you don’t get satisfaction there, you may need to take your concerns to their supervisor. (Be careful about going over their head. Though if they won’t deal with it, you should take further action.) Perhaps there are some things that can be adjusted such as hours or job duties. And if you don’t bring this up early on, there never will be a chance to rectify things. Always have a solution to the problems you bring up to your boss. And if you can’t think of a solution, perhaps that’s your answer right there — it’s a sign this job isn’t right for you and you should get out when you can.
*It’s better to leave early than to wait. Though this situation is hardly ideal, the advice of several career experts I consulted on this issue is that it’s preferable to treat the wound right away rather than wait until it will be much more complicated to treat and will take longer to heal. If you leave — or start another job search in an attempt to leave quickly — you’ll likely do less damage to your career in the long run than if you perform poorly and risk being fired or laid off, or if you quit in a huff. Gaps in your resume can be explained away these days and if you get another job quickly, you may not even want to list this short-term job on your resume. Also, if you had other “irons in the fire” left over from your recent hunt, you still may be able to be considered for those openings. (Yet be careful about a “rebound” jump into a position — or you may end up repeating this scenario all over again.) This also shows why it’s important to keep doors open and to turn down offers with grace — you never know when you may need to go back to that organization again.
*Develop a strategy if you stay. Set a deadline for when you’ll make a decision about leaving if things don’t improve — and stick to it. If you languish in a job that’s not right for you, you’ll hurt your career — and your self-esteem — in the long run. You’ll need to maintain a positive attitude and try to learn your new job even as you look for another one, which could be exhausting. Seek out support from contacts you trust and tap your network to help you find another position.