Did you once think you had landed the job of your dreams, but the reality turned out to be closer to a rude awakening? For recent graduates and seasoned professionals alike, finding the perfect fit can be tough. It’s almost impossible to know how a new job will pan out until you’ve got stuck in. When the reality of a new situation doesn’t live up to expectations, however, you can end up seriously disappointed with your lot. Some people decide to switch careers if they are not happy, but others simply switch companies.
If the honeymoon is over with your new employer, what is the best course of action? Welcome to the Jungle has advice for escaping a difficult situation and managing any suspicions that sneak in during your probation.
Eight questions to help you determine if you were right—or wrong—to accept the new job
What kinds of tasks would I be happy to perform every day? Am I looking for a general, specialized, creative, administrative, operational, or strategic position?
What are my dealbreakers? For example, would I be uncomfortable spending a lot of time cold calling or being alone in the office?
What do I want to learn? What skills do I want to strengthen or gain?
What is the company culture? Is the company’s vision short, medium, or long-term? Does the vision match what I’m looking for?
What work processes does my team follow? What kind of management is in place at team, department, and company levels?
What is the size of the company? Has it recently raised funds?
What is the work environment like? How is the workplace? Is the team put under a lot of pressure?
How much does the salary matter to me? What kind of perks are offered? Are there immediate opportunities for advancement?
How can you respond to those sneaking suspicions?
Take a deep breath and give yourself time to think.
The first thing to do is to take a step back to gain some perspective. Use this time to carefully examine the situation and ask yourself the right questions. Be aware that in the UK about 20% of employees leave their new job during the probation period. If you’re having second thoughts, keep your cool and remember you are not alone. An initial adjustment period is perfectly normal: it takes time to fully get to grips with your new job and colleagues.
It’s not you, it’s me: during the trial period, employers are also being tested by their new employees. And it might happen that both parties are responsible—mistakes happen!
Ask the right questions, find out what went wrong
Carefully analyze the recruitment process leading up to your decision to join the company. Did you consciously avoid asking too many questions in the initial interview? Could the stress of your job search have pushed you into the job? Did you idealize the role or company?
Zoom out to get the big picture. Consider factors beyond the office that may potentially be contributing to your stress levels. Are you going through anything difficult in your personal life? Do you have money problems? It is common for a change in one aspect of our lives to unconsciously affect other aspects.
Pinpoint the problem. It’s important to identify your pressure points. Are you a creative person stuck doing repetitive menial or administrative tasks? Is there no sense of unity among your team? Do you not get on with management? Is the corporate culture totally out of sync with who you are? Is the workload already sending up red flags? Does your department have insufficient resources? Is the issue related to your specific company, or is it the wider profession or business sector? While some may seem unrelated at first, it’s important to identify the sources of your misgivings. Writing them down is a great way to organize your thoughts and better understand the whole situation
Stick to your values and needs. What job criteria are most important to you? What do you want to focus on right now? Prioritizing job criteria is an essential part of moving through a crisis. For this, consider the importance of salary, work-life balance, hours, advancement, and training opportunities, as well as the company’s products or services.
There may be many different reasons. Maybe you just dislike the company in general. Or maybe it’s more the team you are working with or perhaps the role itself? Not only is understanding the source of your misgivings essential, but it also helps you to avoid making the same mistake again when job searching.
Should I stay or should I go?
Consider your options
If you are not 100% sure you want to call it quits, try to be patient and avoid making any impulsive decisions you may immediately regret. Focus on the best tactics and strategies.
Is there a chance the company will let you change teams, location, or even your role? Would that settle things? Or is it the company itself that you find intolerable? That can be a hard question for new hires to answer. Consider gathering more information during your trial period and demonstrate solid motivation and commitment before making an official request.
Communicate. Try to build transparent relationships with your manager and HR. Open up about your concerns and expectations, and discuss any obstacles or grey areas. Raise relevant issues so that you can have informative and fruitful discussions. It will then be easier to talk about your misgivings and look for the best solution. What’s more, your comments may end up helping the company to make much-needed improvements.
All this information will help you to determine the right questions to ask in future interviews so you can land that dream job.
Take advantage of the situation and keep focused on the positives. Consider any skills and experience you will gain by staying where you are. You could also work on building your professional network and strengthening your relationships with colleagues.
Set a deadline. Whether you choose one month or six months, it’s important to set a deadline that matches your goals. Are you still having doubts? Has management acted on your concerns? Have I got the intended results? As the old adage goes, “Only time will tell.”
Throwing in the towel
First and foremost, don’t blame yourself: In the UK, it is estimated that about 18% of employees do not pass their probation period, according to a survey by Opinion Matters published in HR Magazine.
As taking risks involves making mistakes, fear of failure earns you nothing. Failure offers a chance to reflect and can be a personal and professional learning opportunity. You can use some aspects, such as constructive criticism, in future interviews to show your professional maturity and perseverance.
Don’t linger if you decide to leave. If you take your time leaving, you could end up stuck in a job that makes you unhappy. At the same time, you are doing the right thing by your employer: taking on new staff uses up a lot of time, energy, and money.
Bear in mind that it is often easier to stay motivated and find a new job while still employed. However, if the situation threatens your psychological well-being or you need a genuine break to refocus and get back on track, leave as soon as you can.
From a practical point of view, remember to go over the contractual terms of your trial period. According to the terms of most employment contracts, the amount of notice you must give during your trial period is short, which makes it the ideal time to end the working relationship on good terms.
When actively looking for another job, make the most of your research by learning about other companies in the same city, country, or farther afield if you crave a new adventure. You can also delve deeper into your professional network to help you find interesting new fields or companies where their values match yours.
Leave in a professional manner. Begin by telling those who first placed their faith in you, such as the HR people or manager in charge of hiring you. Be as honest as possible but stay respectful. For example, if you encountered any nasty surprises during your time there, suggest that they could have told you about them in the recruitment phase. Your predecessor may have shared your misgivings and your replacement may encounter the same issues. Take a win-win approach to the situation, so everyone learns through their mistakes.
Fully perform your role until the very last day, unless doing so threatens your psychological health. You then have nothing to lose and everything to gain, such as new skills and relationships. Meanwhile, reach out to your social circle, approach recruiters, work on your social media presence, and rebuild old contacts. In a nutshell, be proactive and test the job market to see how you can best position yourself.
Whatever happens, put your best foot forward until the end, even if you are already focused on finding another job. It’s important to remember that you will be remembered more for the way you left than for the reasons you began. Not to mention that building good relationships pays off at both the personal and professional levels.
Translated by Andrea Schwam
Photo: Welcome to the Jungle
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