Whether it’s been days, weeks, or months in your new gig, you feel it in your bones: This place isn't right. But you went through a long interview process, accepted the job offer, gave notice to your previous employer, and signed up for new health insurance. That's a big knot to untangle.
If you’re unsure what to do next, it’s because, according to a 2022 Muse survey, you’re in a form of shock. It’s called Shift Shock—that feeling when you realize your new job isn’t at all what you expected. Don’t beat yourself up, because it’s quite common: 72% of survey respondents said they’ve experienced Shift Shock at some point in their career.
And you do have options. You can decide the issues are insurmountable and cut bait. But with some further examination, they may also be fixable. This article will help you determine what’s turning you off about your new job and how to move forward once and for all.
1. Pinpoint the problem
When someone says they hate their new job, I ask what, specifically, they hate about it. After all, when you start any new role, you tend to feel clumsy and ungainly, simply because everything’s new. You’re used to feeling competent, and now you don’t. This sense of discomfort might feel like failure—and that might be the source of your less-than-stellar feelings about your new gig. But it’s also a sign that things will improve as you adjust. Remember, jobs—and the success that comes with them—are an acquired taste that require time, practice, and learning.
On the other hand, it could also be that the work wasn’t what was promised, your manager is useless, or the company culture totally sucks—or some combination of the three. In the same 2022 Muse survey, 29% of workers said their Shift Shock was due to both their job and their new employer. Or maybe the job is exactly as advertised, but it turns out it just isn’t for you. These are things that may not get better over time.
Maybe the problem isn’t about the change or the position, but something more logistical. Are your hours different? Has your commute become unbearable? Do you have different or fewer options for remote work? Give it some serious thought.
2. Compare the pros and cons
It’s easy to focus on the negatives when you’re struggling, but don’t forget to look at what is working about your new job. Maybe there’s lots of potential for advancement. There might be great mentors on your team to learn from. Perhaps you really enjoy the work you’re doing now or you really enjoy the vibe of the team. And let’s be real, your new salary and/or benefits could be seriously improving your quality of life.
After you assess what’s working and what’s not, consider if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. If they do, it doesn’t mean you need to slog through the parts of your new job you dislike; it will just help you decide if the situation is worth trying to salvage. Once you’re clear on what needs to change and what doesn’t, your next steps will become more obvious.
3. Talk to your manager
Remember that it's a big hassle for organizations to recruit and hire employees, only to lose them a few weeks later. That means, as a new hire, you have leverage. Use it!
For example, my client Vivian thought she'd landed the job of her dreams at a nonprofit. A week after starting, however, her boss went on vacation and left her with a big list of to-dos. By the time her boss returned, Vivian was overwhelmed, unnerved, and ready to quit, thinking she had made a huge mistake and was going to be awful at the job.
Though her first instinct was to gloss over the situation with her boss back in the office, Vivian met with her manager to explain what happened and how it made her feel. She shared her desire to do well, but reported feeling lost and unsupported in those early weeks.
Her boss listened and apologized. She arranged for Vivian to receive training and coaching on the company’s software and other processes. She thanked her for being brave and forthcoming about her experience so they could remedy it together. Contrary to her first days on the job, Vivian moved forward feeling welcomed, valued, and supported. Resignation averted!
It’s not always easy to say you need help—especially in a new job where you want to be seen as a competent high performer. But by asking for what you need, you may be able to change the course of your situation. Set up a one-on-one meeting with your boss and go in with a clearly laid-out plan of what you’d like to cover, including the issues you’re facing and possible solutions.
4. Give yourself a deadline
We’ve established that you need time to get used to your new job and that there are steps you can take to try and further improve the situation. Next, you need to figure out how long you want this trial period to last. Create a timeline for when you’ll revisit your stay-or-go decision—and during that period, commit to learning the job and the work processes.
Get a mentor, too. Meet weekly with your manager. Build relationships with the colleagues and teams around you. Do everything in your power to make the job the best experience possible.
If, at the end of your trial period, nothing’s better and you don’t believe you’re moving forward, consider putting your termination plan into place.
5. Make your move
Recently, another one of my clients, Emma, called with great news: She’d gotten a job offer at a big company in New York with more money and a better title.
But a few weeks later, I got another call. “How long do I have to stay here before I can quit?” she asked.
She loved the work, but the 20-something Emma hated the environment. No one left before the boss, and the boss didn’t leave until nearly 8 p.m. each evening.
In Emma’s case, she called her former employer and asked if she could return. Though her specific job wasn’t available, her old boss referred her to another department where she is now happily employed.
Going back to your last job isn’t always the best choice, of course, but if you left on good terms, it’s worth considering as an option. (This is why it always helps to leave on amicable terms and keep your relationships current.)
Even if you can’t or don’t want to go back to your most recent employer, you can still leave a job that’s not living up to your expectations. But use this as a learning experience: Taking a job and wanting to quit immediately is a story I hear far too frequently. It reinforces how critical due diligence is in the job search. “I should have asked more, better questions before I took that job,” is a common observation.
If you leave, remember that your next job search is a two-way street. Sure, that company is looking for talent. But you need to look for the place that’s right for you.
Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.