When you've chosen the wrong job

You have several paths to take when it becomes evident that the job you have started is not the right fit.
When you've chosen the wrong job

You start in a new position, full of energy and enthusiasm. But soon you realise something is wrong. And then, as the weeks pass, a horrible realisation dawns. This isn't the great new job you thought it was. In fact, your old job is starting to look pretty good and you're in a role that is completely wrong for you. So, how do you deal with this situation?

Give it time, but not too much time

Although you may have your suspicions after a few weeks, you owe it to both your employer and yourself to spend a month or so in the role. Many jobs can seem overwhelming and baffling while you're settling in. However, depending on where you are working (both company and country), your job may have a probation period, where it is easy to quit with little notice. If you do decide to leave, you want to do so before this period passes.

Ask yourself what is wrong

Is the role not what you were led to expect? Or have you discovered that what looked exciting on paper is unpleasant in reality? Or is it something else? Does the company have a culture you don't fit into? Is it your boss? Is it the commute? Brainstorm all the problems you have with the job and make a list.

Assess what may have changed and why

If the job has changed between your accepting the offer and starting employment, think about why this might have happened. It could have nothing to do with the company. For example, the market for your services may have changed. Remember, too, that jobs evolve all the time. If the role has changed in four months, it might change again in another four months. Moreover, if this takes you out of your comfort zone, that's a good thing. We learn by doing things that are unfamiliar.

Talk to the company

Both of you have a vested interest in an amicable solution — and ideally one where you remain at the business. See if you can work it out. If, for example, the job is somewhat different to your expectations, and the commute is maddening, you might ask if you can work from home two days a week and if it is possible to dial up certain parts of the role and dial down others. The company may be entirely amenable to these suggestions — and you should not approach these discussions in an adversarial frame of mind.

Consider asking for support

Particularly if you have not moved jobs for a while, you might be having trouble making the transition. Could a coach or mentor help? Other options include talking things through with your manager once a week or asking if the company has other opportunities. (Don't forget the organisation will have spent a great deal of money and/or time recruiting you and will not want to lose you.) You might also ask for an extension of your probation or induction period. Show that you are trying to make it work.

If you're thinking of quitting, look at your CV

We all make mistakes and, if this is your first short stint at a company, it won't be a problem. However, if this will be your third role that has lasted three months, it may look like you are the problem. In this situation, you might consider toughing it out for a year. After this, you can spin it very differently — for instance, as a move to plug a gap in your experience. Remember, too, that it is much easier to find a job when you already have a job — because you look far more desirable to would-be employers.

If you really hate the job and cannot change it, you should leave

"Unchangeables" include areas such as company culture. If you are used to a nurturing, supportive workplace but discover the new business is a cut-throat, take-no-prisoners outfit, you are unlikely to be able to change this. What's more, working somewhere you genuinely hate can have a negative effect on your personal life and your mental health. In this case, you should go as quickly as you reasonably can, considering factors such as your reputation and your financial position.

When you interview with other companies, be honest

Explain that you are looking to leave your present role because you now realise it isn't the job for you. Don't criticise the company. Just give an honest, fair account of what happened. You may even be able to frame it as a positive thing.

Avoid short-termism

If you have short stints with multiple employers, you will have more of a problem. However, there are ways around this. You could spend a year or so doing contract-based work or consulting. As well as cleaning up your CV, this will give you an opportunity to try different roles and find out which suits you best. These may also be a route into a permanent role.

Don't repeat the mistake

Whenever you next apply for a permanent job, do your homework and ensure that it really is the job for you. This is not a mistake you want to make again.

Rhymer Rigby is an FM magazine contributor and the author of The Careerist: Over 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Neil Amato, an FM magazine senior editor, at