You’ve landed what you thought was going to be your dream job. Every stage of the interview went well – your skills and expertise positioned you as the top candidate, and your prospective boss sold you on the benefits and potential of joining their team. Everyone was excited about the seeming mutual win. Then with offer in hand, you gave notice to your now former job or excitedly tell your friends and family that you are at last employed after months of unemployment. Finally, you had the career you had worked hard for.
But then, after being there a couple of week… perhaps even a month, you’re not so sure you’ve made the right decision. The job that seemed like a perfect fit is slowly morphing into a nightmare. Maybe the job isn’t what you expected; it’s either too slow, too vague, not challenging enough, or more difficult than you imagined. Or perhaps the company culture isn’t living up to the promise you were shown during the interview phase. Or, maybe your boss and co-workers have stop being the caring, supportive team they portrayed themselves to be.
Confused and a little anxious, you wonder what to do now. Do you stick it out? How long should you stay? Or do you leave? And if you leave then what will you do? Many people, have been faced with a dilemma like this, I know I have. Here’s my story:
It was 2004 and I was basking in the glow of my newly landed “dream job” in New York City. After being flown in for an interview, then offered a huge salary increase (including relocation assistance), I was thrilled to be starting at Barnes & Noble as a training and development specialist. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love books, so working for the top bookseller, in their corporate office on 5th Avenue was what I expected to be my dream job come true.
It took just six weeks for the tide to change. The wonderful supportive culture, turned into a nightmare game of politics and protocol, and unending reviews and sign-offs. I dreaded meetings where you could never give your feedback directly and always had to be mindful of who you were talking to and who they were connected to. My suspicions about my prospective future were confirmed when one of my bosses (who was amazing) shared with me that the company would only ever use about 20% of what we had to offer. She was gone 3 months later.
The ultimate decision about how to handle a dream job that has turned into a nightmare is a solely a personal one. As everyone’s situation is unique, there is no right or wrong answer. To help you figure out your next best move, here are six questions to ask yourself:
Is the job still too new to decide?
Next to death, moving, and divorce, changing jobs is one of the top stressful situations you can face in life. In your previous job, you knew your way around – expectations were clear; you knew your duties; you knew your team; and you had a nicely carved out role. It takes some time to figure these things out in a new job. You not only have to learn the ropes, but the relationships too, in order to figure out the best way to add value and contribute. Tip: Don’t make a final decision about whether the job is right for you until you have time to get over the “newness.”
Can you live with your boss?
Chances are that the person who brought you on board, put their game face on in the interview and negotiation, and closing. Now that the deal is done, it may feel like they have done a complete 180 degree turn. In reality, your boss may not be the supportive leader you thought he/she would be, but can you live with who they really are? If you can, it’s probably a good idea to stay. But if you experience anxiety attacks every Sunday night just thinking about Monday morning, it may be wise to start looking elsewhere.
Can you manage the office politics?
Office politics can be a serious source of anxiety and stress at work impacting not only performance but your self-esteem as well. If you’ve been hired into a cyclone of politics and dysfunction, it’s important to be honest about your professional politics savvy to determine if you have the ability to make things work. If this is not one your strengths, it’s probably best to leave before you find yourself in a professional sink hole with limited opportunities to revive your career should it flatline. If you excel at communicating with and developing effective working relationships with all different types of people, and can create a “managing up” strategy, then it may make sense to stay and see if you can make a tough situation work.
Can you learn anything by staying in the job?
With a little strategic thinking, a seemingly wrong job can turn out to be the right opportunity. Is this a chance for you to learn new skills, gain experience with new technologies, or reach out to connections you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. In this scenario, think of this job as a stepping-stone to the next best move that propel your career forward? If this is the case you might be able to tolerate the negative items on the list because the benefits to you and your career outweigh them.
Can you renegotiate a work load that has increased in scope?
Maybe the actual work is a far cry from what was outlined in the job description and discussed during the interview process. If the culture and team are otherwise a fit, it’s worth it to talk to your manager to get a clear understanding of the change. If the position is too limiting be prepared with a list of additional responsibilities that you can take on? If the workload is more than what you bargained for, propose a plan to delegate or get more assistance from other team members? Sometimes, the job really is a step backwards and the work you are doing is a detriment to your career. Looking for a better fit to your skills, expertise, and caliber of performance is probably the best move for you.
Can you afford to leave without another job to go to?
If you find yourself in a hellish job, meaning your boss, the job, or the office politics are so dysfunctional that things begin to affect your mental, physical, and emotional health then it is best to leave sooner rather than later. The big question will be, “Can you afford it?” Before striking out, carefully look at your financial situation. Your goal it to make the wisest decision possible, so that you don’t have any regrets in the future. How easy will it be to resurrect your job search so that any unemployment time is minimized?
Regardless of the economy, deciding whether to stay or leave new job that isn’t working for you is difficult. Be mindful that you are not the only person to have ever been in this predicament. Some have left after two weeks without looking back. Unfortunately, some have stayed on far too long, only to regret wasting their time and destroying their career. And then there are those that have held on, struggled through, and ended up finding a way to make it work.
To make the right decision for you, start by answering the questions above honestly to find your way. Remember, only you can decide what’s best for you and your situation. Pay close attention to your feelings and the impact the job is having on your health, self-esteem and personal relationships.
You can also stay and look for a new job on the side. Make sure you properly assess what worked and didn’t work in your current job, boss, team, and culture so you can make a better choice next time around. One thing to remember: the longer you stay, the greater the requirement to include that job on your resume.
Talking with a mentor, your spouse, a trusted friend or a coach can be invaluable during this challenge time. Whatever you decide, to stick it out try to make things work, or to cut your losses and leave as soon as you can, trust your instincts that you made the right choice. Regardless of the turnout, the experience is an excellent learning opportunity that can help you better manage the next steps of your professional journey.