The New Job Didn’t Work Out. Now What?

February 17th, 2012

It was a whirlwind romance. They wooed you, you wowed them. Fine, you had a couple of misgivings, but you ignored them because this employer liked you. They really, really liked you. And who can afford to turn away an offer in today’s job market, right? You tell all your friends about your great new job. You let your parents/spouse/therapist know they can stop worrying about you. You buy new clothes, new must-have-for-the-new-job accessories.

But within the first couple of days of starting the exciting new stage of your career, your “uh oh” signals kick into high gear. This job isn’t quite what you were imagining it would be.

Maybe the corporate culture has some unhealthy undercurrents. Maybe your new colleagues or staff aren’t welcoming, or the small “p” political atmosphere is toxic. Perhaps the skills you thought you were “good enough” at or could learn on the job, they need you to be exceptional at from day one. Or the training you were promised never materializes. Or the challenges that were described as minor in the interview, turn out to be a huge cesspool of issues that will take more than one person to fix, and there is no corporate willingness to acknowledge this reality.

Whatever the reason, the job is a miss-fit, and you decide to leave, or you get pushed out.

You now face the challenge of putting yourself back into the job search arena.  It can feel overwhelming, and more than a little bit humiliating, to have to start all over again. Before you start recirculating your resume, take some time to take stock. There are valuable lessons in every career miss-fit.

 How to Find the Pony in the Pile of Fertilizer

  • With as much honesty and objectivity as you can muster, inventory what didn’t work, and what did work, in that job. Was the job different than advertised? Did they think that you were different then advertised – were they assuming that you had knowledge and skills that you didn’t have? Was it a culture misfit or a personality misfit?
  • Whatever the reasons are that the position was a miss-fit, own your share of it. Create a list of 10 to 15 “truths” or take-away lessons. Structure them as “I learned” statements. For example, “The position required me to do ABC. I learned that I need to get more training before I take a job that requires  ABC.” “The manager didn’t give me enough direction. I learned that I need to be clear at the outset in asking for direction.” “The position was completely different than advertised. I learned that I need to do more due diligence before I accept an offer.” “The position required me to develop strategy. I learned that I am better playing a tactical role.”
  • For each take-away lesson, create an action plan. What specific steps are you going to take now to help yourself feel more confident and successful if such as situation were to arise again? Try to make the action specific, measurable, and with a deadline. “I will take the Color of Communications workshop within the next three weeks so that I can better understand my communication style and learn how to communicate with people who’s style is different from my own. ” “I will practice asking the right kinds of questions in interviews so that I can better gauge culture fit.” “I will rewrite my resume to focus on my strengths as a tactician, and target my job search to positions that call for strong day-to-day leadership.”
  • Develop a communications plan. You are going to have to explain this misstep, not only to your friends/parents/spouse/therapist, but also to your network of contacts and perhaps to potential employers during job interviews (yes, there will be other interviews). Use the lessons-learned and action plan to craft a message that not only demonstrates that you understand why the job didn’t work out, but that you have the maturity and professionalism to own your share of it.
  • Decide how you will handle this position in your career marketing collateral. Will you feature it front and center in your resume, list it under “additional experience includes”, or exclude it altogether? What about on your LinkedIn profile?

Job Miss-Fits Aren’t Career Ending

There are any number of reasons why a new job turns out to be a bad fit, and it happens more often than you might think. One leadership study found that 64% of new leaders hired from the outside don’t make it past the first year. Another found that 35% of American workers quit within the first six months of taking a new job.

Hiring managers know that failure happens. They won’t judge you on the fail, they’ll judge you on how you handled it. “Weaker candidates are able to analyze failure, but they are more reluctant to acknowledge their role in it. Stronger candidates are able to analyze failure and success – and acknowledge their role in both.”

The good news is that you know you have a resume that gets noticed, and with some fine-tuning you can make sure that it is showcasing you as the perfect solution for the right kind of problem. You also know that you have the skills for managing a job search, even if you were hoping you wouldn’t have to do it quite so soon.  Armed with some new self-awareness and a plan of action, you can get back into the job search arena with confidence that you will be able to find the right-fit job for you.

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Meet Karen Siwak

An award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen has crafted top calibre career transition packages for thousands of clients. Her specialty is helping people identify and articulate their unique brands and value propositions, and she is passionate about empowering clients with the tools, strategies and confidence to take control of their career search. Read more...

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