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What to do when your dream job turns out to be a nightmare
You’ve finally arrived. You’ve landed in the job you always wanted – interesting work, good pay and benefits, great co-workers and a top-name company. It’s the job you’ve always dreamed of … and you HATE it.
It’s not an uncommon problem. Just like personal relationships, professional ones can fail to work out for many reasons. Perhaps the job didn’t turn out to be what you expected, or your employer didn’t effectively communicate what the job was really about when you interviewed. Sometimes unexpected life changes or personal circumstances can make you feel stifled in a job. And sometimes, you just can’t tell what a job is really going to be like until you’re actually doing it.
So what do you do when your dream job turns into a nightmare?
First, do a time check.
The first several months of any job can be overwhelming, even if you’re confident you can do the work. Have you given yourself enough time to get over that trial phase and settle in? If you’ve been in a job for only a few months, giving it a bit longer may make all the difference. A little more time could help you feel more comfortable and confident this job is the right one for you.
Talk it out with someone you trust.
If you’ve been in the job longer than that breaking-in phase and you still hate it, then it may be time to seek perspective from a trusted advisor or mentor. Sometimes, we build up issues in our heads, allowing manageable circumstances to evolve into something that looks much more serious. A conversation with an unbiased outsider may give you the insight you need to put everything in perspective – and see that things really aren’t unbearable.
Figure out what’s not working for you.
If you’ve given the job your best effort for a reasonable amount of time and you’re still not happy, try to figure out why the job isn’t feeling like a good fit. Is it the people or company? Do your job tasks not match your skill set? Does the work bore you or is it too difficult? Understanding the root cause of the issue can help you decide what to do next. Having trouble defining the problem? Consider journaling each day, and write down what you like and what you dislike. This can help you organize your thoughts.
Decide if you can – or should – try to salvage the situation.
Even if you have really good reasons for not liking your job, you still may be able to turn things around. Will a frank discussion with your boss and human resources help resolve your main issues? Might it be possible to make changes to your tasks or work day that would solve the problem? Is there another job within the company that may be a better fit for you? Could some workplace counseling help you improve relations with co-workers? If you think improvement might be possible, you have to decide if it’s worth it to stay and try to work things out. Will you be better off with this job, or better without it?
If it really is time to go …
… look for a new job and THEN quit. Yes, we’ve all heard the arguments in favor of pursuing your passion, but you need to be practical as well. Even if you hate the job, it’s still giving you a paycheck and benefits that you probably need in order to stay afloat financially. Plus, you want to avoid employment gaps that could blemish your resume.
Take the time to look back at your list of pros and cons, as well as your daily journal. Conduct a post-mortem to ensure you really understand what went wrong so you can avoid getting into a similar situation at your next job. It may help to write yourself a “statement of purpose” that defines what you want in a job and what your career objectives are. Use that statement to evaluate the suitability of future jobs you apply for.
Finally, as you’re making your way toward the exit, do it gracefully. While you’re looking for another job, continue to give your best at your current one; it’s the professional thing to do. Resist the temptation to slack off, and burn no bridges behind you. People do still check references, and word gets around within an industry. You want to ensure you leave behind an impression of goodwill and professionalism. Besides, you never know if some day that same company will have an opening for a job that’s a much better fit for you.