You were really excited to take this new job. The interviews went well, and you were sold on this company. It has a great culture, cares about work-life balance and has a path outlined for advancement — all things you love. You were head over heels.
But now it’s been a month and the culture isn’t as great as they said, you’ve been swamped with work and you’re not sure you’d ever want to advance here. In short, you hate it. Now what? Are you doomed to work at this place for two more years? If you leave, will you be branded a job-hopper and never be hired again?
First off, take a step back and re-evaluate, says Katrina Kibben, an employer branding expert and writer for Randstad. “Thirty to 60 days is not enough time to decide you hate a job,” she says. In your first month or two, you won’t get a raise, be promoted or possibly even work with anyone outside your team. You’ll probably be too busy training to take part in any of the perks or culture positive things like volunteering or get-togethers, she says. You’re still the newbie, but it may get better as you settle in.
Kibben recommends taking a full six months to decide how you feel about the company as a whole, even if you don’t love your specific job. If you’re unhappy after six months, you have a few options: stay, go, or stay and then go. Here’s how Kibben says to handle each one.
If You Decide to Stay
Maybe this job is at a fancy tech company and the name will look good on your résumé. Maybe your dad called in a few favors or you’re just really afraid of that job-hopper label. Whatever your reasons, deciding to stay is a valid option. But should you just put in your time, or try and make it better?
It’s always worth a discussion to try to make things better, Kibben says. It may be just a slight miscommunication that can be easily fixed. Whatever you do, she says, make the conversation with your manager about you, without blaming her. “Don’t go into it with ‘Well you said that I would only be working till 4 p.m. and I’m here until 4:30’ and act angry. Instead, try something like ‘I’ve been experiencing challenges with getting the kids on time. I was understanding I would be working until 4 p.m.’ and see what happens. By framing this about you and your goals and issues, you’re likely to get a better result,” she says.
You could also tell your manager you’d like to be considered for an internal transfer if you like the company but feel like you’d fit better elsewhere, she says. One caveat: If you do this before the six-month mark, you risk looking like a troublemaker who can’t get along with people, she says. After six months, you can make the case you’re doing it for the company’s benefit.
If You Decide to Leave
If you’re being harassed or you were blatantly lied to in your interviews and this company is an absolute train wreck, leaving quickly may be your best option. But the good news is that you likely won’t face the job-hopping stigma you’re afraid of, Kibben says.
“That ugly label of job-hopper? We should give that up. It’s not real. I’ve never heard of an HR manager who sees the résumé of someone qualified who’s had two jobs in the last three years and doesn’t want to hire them,” she says. The reality of low unemployment is that job seekers have a lot of power, and if you’re qualified, you’ll get noticed, Kibben says.
You can even leave this job off your résumé if you have to leave really soon. Sure, there will be a gap on your résumé, but Kibben says you can explain that in interviews by saying “I had a short-term job that wasn’t applicable to this position.” Don’t ignore it entirely, especially if asked, and don’t say bad things about the previous employer.
If you simply hate the job but aren’t in any kind of danger or enduring harassment, try to give as much notice as possible. “This company did invest time and money in hiring you and you should give them a chance to properly do that again,” she says. Try to leave gracefully. Honestly, if you hate it that much, they may realize it’s not a good fit and want you gone anyway, she says, but they’ll appreciate your efforts to help them get everything covered and find a replacement.
The Ideal Plan: Stay for Now, but Keep Looking
The best plan, if you can stick it out, is to stay at the job you dislike but keep looking on the side for something that’s better. Not only will this help you earn some money while you look, but recruiters and hiring managers will give you the “already employed” advantage when you’re looking, Kibben says. It’s unfortunate this is a thing — and it unfairly penalizes some great candidates who aren’t currently employed — but it is real, so you may as well use it.
Of course, look on your own time and not while at the office. Remain professional and respectful of your current employer, but definitely keep all your job board profiles active and look at any matches or emails you receive, she says.
Also, “think of five people you liked working with at previous jobs and would want to work with again. Tell those five people that you’re looking, and if there’s an opening, or even if not, maybe they tell their boss they would love to work with you again,” Kibben says. You’d be surprised how effective this can be, especially since these people know you from work. They can be better professional advocates for you than your best friend in another field or someone you know from church, she says.
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