Many years ago, I took a job as a film editor. I was excited by the opportunity to learn a new skill and, hopefully, begin to work my way into a new career. But within a few minutes of walking in the door on my very first day, I knew I took the wrong job.
I can still remember walking into that office with a smile and shaking my new boss’s hand. Yet the instant he mumbled a few words, barely looking at me, and then led me to my dark tiny workspace, I was gripped with fear. This was NOT the job for me!
How soon can you tell you took the wrong job?
As my example shows, there are times when you get an immediate feeling you took the wrong job. But it’s also good to remember there are jobs that don’t feel right in the beginning that can turn out ok — or even better than ok.
In the case of my film editing job, not only did I get an uncomfortable vibe from the boss, but I knew I could not work in that closed-in little room day after day without feeling claustrophobic and, eventually, depressed. I had to get out of there fast.
But, looking back, I admit that I just hightailed it and ran without even trying. Letting my fear rule, I was too afraid to sit down and discuss any of this with him. And that is something worth doing, even if the result is still that the job was not going to work out for me.
What could I have done to prevent this?
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. But the truth is I was so caught up in the idea of “show biz” in any form, that I didn’t ask enough questions in my interview. I didn’t even research similar jobs ahead of time. And I certainly didn’t ask to see where I would be working. Or notice how abrupt my potential boss was being when I did ask questions during our interview.
I was in what I call “wishful thinking mode.” And while it’s true I was very young and knew almost nothing about interviews and the real world, the best thing anyone can do for themselves is to do your work ahead of time. And make sure that you use the interview to get a good feel for the job and people — not just sell yourself and hope.
Signs the job is wrong for you
While, there is often no way to know for sure if a job might ever work out, there are things worth paying attention to. Here are some signs you may have taken the wrong job:
- Conditions would be impossible for you to handle (physical demands, working conditions).
- A boss and / or coworkers who are abusive on a regular basis.
- The job is not the one they promised.
- Your salary is not what they told you it would be.
- The new job is not what you expected / wanted / need at this stage of your career.
- You wake up depressed each work day (even though that is not your usual nature).
- The culture / requirements put you in uncomfortable situations that cause increasing anxiety
- You are being asked to do things for the job that feel wrong, dangerous, or are illegal.
Is the job worth trying to save?
Except in the case of danger, abuse, or serious health risks, even a job that may feel wrong right off can lead to other opportunities worth hanging in for.
So at least ask yourself:
- Is there any way to change any of the above signs through discussion or negotiation?
- Do you see anything worth learning for your career or other jobs to aim for down the road?
If you took the wrong job and need to leave
We all know the feeling of being trapped. But the idea of leaving a job so quickly sets off all kinds of signals. What about my resume? How can I explain this? How can I tell my new boss? How can I be out of a job again so soon???
If you can find a way to stay and make the best of it, great. But if not, your resume will survive. And you can find a way to minimize any harm. I’ve done it myself — more than once. Not that I suggest you make a habit of it. 🙂
When it comes to resumes, you can leave very short term jobs off (although they need to be included in a job application). And you can use what you learned to get yourself an even better job next time.
Most important takeaway: While any job can come with “I took the wrong job” surprises, use search engines, LinkedIn, and sites like Glassdoor to investigate a potential job & company. And ask good questions during interviews, keeping feelers up for any red flags. An interview goes both ways.
More posts to help
And just in case you do need to leave