Your New Job is a Bad Fit. Now What?

Published: Aug 22, 2011

By Angela Rose,

When you buy a pair of shoes, you have the opportunity to inspect them. You can try them on, even walk around a bit to assess the fit. If you decide later that they pinch your toes or aren’t your style, you can return them. You can then take your money and go about finding and buying a better pair. All you’ve lost is time. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to return a poorly fitting job.

Many of us have had a job that was a bad fit for our personality, skills or goals. Job fit can suffer over time (as the work environment changes) or it can be bad from the beginning. You can spend hours researching a company, ask all the right questions in your interviews, speak with the manager and your future co-workers and still end up taking a position that’s too small, too large or just not right. So what do you do?

Start by expecting bad days, or at least rough ones, at any new job. As a new employee, there is always a learning curve. You may have held a similar job before. You may have all the software and business skills required for this one. But you don’t know the people yet. You have to learn how to interact with your supervisor. You have to learn how your co-workers work before you can determine the best way to work with them. This never happens overnight; it can take months. If you’ve been at your new job for less than three months, you may not have walked around in it enough to assess the true fit.

If you still feel like the job is a bad fit after you’ve learned the ropes, you can ramp up your networking efforts and begin circulating your resume again. You didn’t sign your life away when you signed on, but it may make financial sense to bide your time rather than jump ship. You’re collecting a paycheck after all. As long as you’re not in eminent physical or psychological danger, a paycheck is better than no paycheck. It’s also better to look for a job while you’re still employed.

Try to look at the situation objectively. There must be something you can gain from the experience. Is the job too easy? Well then, that leaves you with more energy after business hours to pursue a lifelong dream, enroll in classes to gain additional skills, or take on freelance work. Have you discovered certain skills that are not up to par? You now have a great opportunity to improve them! Is the boss a nightmare to work with but well respected as a genius in the industry? You might have to endure a little misery, but it may also be an invaluable stepping stone.

If you cannot find a reason to stay, then you may have to make the decision to leave. If you left another position for the new job, perhaps your old boss will take you back (if you resigned gracefully). If you’ve been dreaming about starting your own business, maybe this bad job is just the push you need to get out there and make it happen. If you’ve been networking, sending resumes and interviewing, you may have another job offer coming. Whenever you leave, be honest with your employer about your reasons. Give the customary notice and try to leave on good terms.

A job that is a bad fit is not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the work environment or culture that will best suit you in your next job. Even better, you’re getting paid while you do it.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for

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