Earning

72% of workers have regrets about quitting an old job for a new one — what to do if you have second thoughts

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Key Points
  • About 3 in 4, or 72%, of workers who quit their job experienced either regret or surprise that their new position was different from what they thought it would be, according to a new survey.
  • "Shift shock" is "really normal," says a career services manager.
  • "If you can still find skills or opportunities to grow in the role, it may be worth staying in spite of it not meeting initial expectations," a career coach adds.

In February, 4.4 million people quit their jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a whopping 6.7 million people were hired into new roles.

Workers, not employers, have the upper-hand right now, and many are taking advantage of the job market being in their favor.

However, some aren't happy with the changes they are making. Almost three-quarters, 72%, of those who quit their job experienced either regret or surprise that their new position was different from what they thought it would be, according to a survey of 2,500 workers by The Muse.

This reaction to taking on a new job that doesn't meet expectations is called "shift shock," and it's not at all uncommon, says Louisa Tatum, career services manager at the New York Public Library. Sometimes it's that candidates were actually misled about the position — 29% of survey respondents said the job and the company were the problem.

And sometimes the problem is more internal. "It's really normal for people to experience this, especially after the pandemic," Tatum says. "The pandemic helped people, or forced people, to focus on fulfillment more and focus on what they want and need from their employers."

A vast majority of survey respondents, 80%, said it's acceptable to leave a new job before six months if it doesn't live up to their expectations. This isn't always a bad move, experts say, but before doing so, you should explore other options.

At the 30-day mark, check in with yourself about the job

"Within 30 days, you can get a clear assessment of the things you like and don't like, but you're still figuring things out," Tatum says.

Before you talk to a manger, engage in a conversation with yourself. "Essentially, the dissatisfaction is within self," she says. "A person desires more and they feel like they are not getting enough. You have to be able to articulate what it is you want."

To do this, try recording the following:

  • How you feel: "Don't let anyone make you feel like your instincts are wrong or you're wrong for not liking a job you took," Tatum says.
  • All your tasks: "Write down your daily responsibilities and categorize them between like and dislikes," she says.
  • Your high-level goals: Write your "hope and dreams for this role," she says.

Once you have all this written down, it could be easier to see why this job isn't measuring up to your initial expectations.

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At the 90-day mark, talk with your manager

"You really would know in the first three months whether a job is for you," Tatum says. "A routine will start to set in at the 90-day mark."

At this point, you can speak with your manager about what you need from them or the job that you aren't currently getting. Don't be accusatory, though.

"It's not an indictment of the company or your manger, it's more about asking questions and seeing where they stand on a particular topic and getting information," Tatum says.

You really would know in the first three months whether a job is for you.
Louisa Tatum
Career services manager, New York Public Library

If the role is very different from the job description, it's okay to mention that, says Angelina Darrisaw, a career coach and founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach.

"You can present the job description and any other written materials provided to highlight the discrepancies," she says. "Engage them and any other hiring managers and challenge them to explain or adjust for the disconnect."

Your team might be willing to make changes you suggest. Or the conversation could shift your own perspective.

"If you can still find skills or opportunities to grow in the role, it may be worth staying in spite of it not meeting initial expectations," she says.

Before you quit, assess your options

If it doesn't look like your role is going to be fulfilling or tolerable any time soon, you have a few options. One is to look for other roles within the company that might better suit you.

Ask yourself, "Are there other opportunities within the company that might be more attractive or that might upskill you and make you more competitive for your next opportunity?" Darrisaw says.

Another is to identify one goal and give it deadline, Tatum says. You can do this while you actively hunt for a new role. "If you know you want to leave and are looking at other companies, what do you want to be able to say you can execute in three months or six months?" she says.

This way, you are working toward a goal in your current position and setting yourself up for future opportunities. This can help you feel less stuck and more excited for what's to come.

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