New Job Is Horrible! Is It OK To Quit A Job You Just Started?
You worked so hard to get there, and finally you are in a new job. And you're excited. And then after just a few short weeks in the realization dawns on you … you've made the worst mistake of your life! Your new boss doesn't know you exist. Your co-workers are living brain donors. And the work you are being asked to do is so tedious you feel your eyeballs screaming. Or your co-workers are all apparent geniuses, and the work is so difficult you realize that you are way out of your league.
Are these good enough reasons to quit? We'll get to that soon, but whatever the reasons, you know you made a horrible mistake. Now what?
How can you quit a job you just began?
First, it's important to assess if you know enough yet to have the full picture. How much of what you're feeling is about things that can be worked on? Are you feeling nervous and therefore inadequate about so many new things being thrown at you so quickly? Or are they feeding work to you slower than you can handle and worry that's all there is?
Or maybe, as the new kid on the block, you're feeling like an outsider, which often triggers all kinds of feelings from way back when that aren't even about the job. I know it can be hard to sort this out sometimes, but please take the time to make sure that old habits of self-doubt or feeling discomfort in new situations isn't what's really behind your desire to quit. There are times when you push through the initial phases of "oh no!" and find that things are way better than you at first thought.
What you need to do before you quit
No matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel, it's important to carefully think through what is going on for you, making a list if that helps. Then sit down with your boss and let him or her know. If you're ready to quit anyway, there's nothing to lose by trying. Speak to your boss without blaming or putting down the job or people. Instead, talk about the things that surprised you and / or make you feel that this may not be the right job after all. Say that you want to make it work, and ask for any advice and / or help understanding what the long-term picture might look like for you.
A WORD OF CAUTION: If you suspect you may get fired for simply speaking up and can't afford that, then make all the more effort to emphasize you really want this to work and need the boss's help to make sure you start off right. But if you are willing to let the job go, then be respectful but as honest as possible. You might even be pleasantly surprised by the response.
When it makes sense to quit right away
A reader recently left a comment about being out of work with occasional low-paying, short-term jobs for a long time. So when he finally got a job that looked like it had a good career path for him, he was thrilled. But he feels constantly over his head and the hours are longer than he was told – some unpaid. His boss shows sympathy, but nothing changes. And yet, he really needs the money for himself and his family. So he stays. But it's eating at his self-confidence as well as starting to take a toll on his health. My heart goes out to him. Only he knows what he and his family can live with. At the very least, my strong advice for anyone in this situation is to start looking, while also trying to make it work. In the end, only you know what you can live with.
Good reasons to quit a new job
With all that in mind, here are some good reasons to quit your new job sooner rather than later:
- The job is NOT what you signed up for, and it's something you know you will never want to do – and there are no other jobs in the company you would ever want.
- You thought you might want this, but realize it's a very wrong step that won't help your career at all.
- They lied to you about the job and / or conditions and it's not something you can accept.
- The boss is horribly abusive and, although you've tried to approach him or her, there is no change in how you're being treated.
- The conditions are unsafe without adequate protection.
- You would rather eat raw worms for the rest of your life than spend one more day at the job.
- You find out you're being asked to do something that is morally or ethically against your principles.
- You simply know that this is a big mistake and can live with the consequences of quitting.
How will quitting affect your next job search?
People worry that a short stint will hurt their chances of getting the next job. But so will being in the wrong job to begin with, especially if it doesn't lead to where you want to go with your career. It's true that it's often harder to get a job when you're unemployed and being unemployed for too long can be a red flag for employers, so it's best to try to get the new job asap – while still employed if at all possible. But if you've done the hard thinking and tried your best to make it work, then the fact that you had a short-term job shouldn't get in the way of your next job. You just have to tell it right in the interviews:
A few more thoughts
There is no way to know for sure if a job we don't like may, down the road, lead to an unexpected opportunity or connection that gets us something wonderful. I had that happen once with a job I knew wasn't quite right for me. A Board member who liked me got me to the exact place I had been wanting for a long time. So please take the time to see if there is at least something you can learn that will help you down the road or something else about this job that adds to your later career possibilities, even if it isn't all you would wish.
Careers evolve from seemingly non-linear building blocks, so look hard for what else you might get from or create out of this situation. Sometimes you wind up with far more than you first imagine. But I've also done the "hard quit" myself and eventually got working again – not that it was easy. Still, if you really in your gut know that you made a serious mistake, don't let embarrassment or fear of what this "job hop" will do to your resume stand in your way. It's still best to keep working if you can – but at least start looking immediately!