What to do when your new job isn’t what you expected

Nothing beats the excitement of landing a new job, right? Well, maybe the burst bubble feeling of finding out your new job isn’t what it was cracked up to be. Now that feeling is hard to beat. For all the wrong reasons.

As I mentioned in my 5 Lessons I Learnt in 2017 post, I had a really bad experience last year when I excitedly signed up for a role that turned out to be nothing like what the employer had described to me. Since that happened, I’ve encountered other Career Catfish stories, like a guy who left a lucrative tech job for what seemed a bigger role, only to discover he was in fact back in a more junior sales role. Or the woman who took a ‘Marketing Manager’ job only to find out she was a glorified receptionist with minimal marketing responsibilities. So what do you do when your new job is a disappointment?

1. Read the job description/contract carefully.

What exactly is disappointing you in the role? How does it not match up to what you were told at the job interview? Unfortunately, job descriptions are often really just a flavour of what a role really entails so, if your main tasks are still in line with the job spec, but you’re doing additional work like covering reception at lunch time, you don’t really have a strong argument for being catfished into your job. If extra duties are the problem, ask yourself if they are extra duties you can live with? As the author of this Forbes piece advises, remind yourself why you took the job in the first place. For example, did you take it because you’ll be leading a team or will be in charge of a new website? Thinking of what you’ll gain from the role – despite your misgivings – is a good way to get some clarity on the situation. In future, always ask for a detailed job description before you accept a role.

  1. Speak to HR or your manager.

While some say HR is not always your friend, as this Monster article points out, HR should be there to help and, given that it’s their job to retain good employees, they should try to work some magic to make things work for you. Before your meeting, make a list of examples that illustrate why your job isn’t matching your expectation. Importantly, come with evidence. You really don’t want to end up in a situation where things aren’t what you anticipated just because you approached the job with rose-tinted glasses. Or worse, coming across like your gripe is just because you’re unwilling do extra work. Cite the job spec or contract or if you can quote from your interview sessions to back up your case, even better. If you want to really make your point, keep a diary of your daily activities for two weeks to show how you’re spending your time compared to what you were told you’d be doing. You need to show that the position was presented in a way that’s different from reality.

3. Wait.

The worst thing you can do is make a hasty decision because you’re in a panic. Most career experts say it’s better to stick with a job for a year at least so trying to fix the problem is recommended. In my first job I remember my supervisor telling me it takes 6 months to really grow into a new role but other experts suggest that 90 days is a fair amount of time to give yourself in a new job. Unless you’re moving into a role that’s exactly the same as your previous one (why?!) there will always be a transition period so, depending on the problems you have with the position, there’s a chance your issues are just kinks that’ll be ironed out once you’re more at home in the job. However, if those kinks persist…

4. Cut your losses and look for a new job.

Staying in a job you hate, seething with disappointment, can really knock your confidence so sometimes the best move is out the door. If you’ve given the new job as much time as you need to get a sense of what you’ll be doing every day and it’s still not up your street, start looking elsewhere. If you can do this within your probation period, even better because you won’t have such a big gap to fill in your CV. Whatever you do, no matter how angry you are about being misled about the job, DON’T do an Andy in The Devil Wears Prada (the book, not the film) and keep it professional when you quit. For advice on quitting your job, here’s a helpful podcast.

5. Learn from it.

Whether you stay or go, there’s always something you can learn from a new experience, even a negative one. What questions could you have asked at the interview stage to get a clearer picture of the actual job? In my case, what I was told at the interview was completely at odds with my real experience on the job so I know there was nothing I could have asked that would’ve enlightened me about the realities of the role. But maybe you could have asked for clarification about what an average day would look like? If your new job turned out to be too junior, maybe you could have asked questions about the responsibilities or who you would be reporting to? Even if your job doesn’t work out, chances are you gained a skill or two; learning to navigate difficult company culture, dealing with a demanding boss or you found yourself in a customer-facing role for the first time. Whatever it is, reminding yourself that you got something of value out of an awful experience is one way to lessen the blow.

If you’ve experienced a new job not living up to your expectations or if you’ve got advice on what to do in this situation, let me know in the comments or tweet me.

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