You accepted a new job and it's a disaster. What next?

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"This is not what I signed up for."

You’ve recently accepted a job offer and joined a new firm. It’s supposed to be the honeymoon phase where you make a good first impression, get to know your boss and colleagues, settle into your new role. However, even though you made the move recently, you’re experiencing a sinking feeling in your stomach as the realization dawns on you: You’ve made a mistake. You hate your new job. What to do?

1. Don't rush to judgement 

First of all, take a deep breath and give yourself some time to adjust.

“Generally speaking, it takes three months to get used to a new environment, so don’t rush to conclude that you should quit right away,” says Hallie Crawford, the founder of Career Coaching.

Don’t confuse the discomfort of being new with dissatisfaction on the job. If you’re within the first three months, then the disastrous feelings might just be the fact that you’re overwhelmed with the newness of the role. Resolve to push through your first quarter with an open mind.

“Don’t expend too much energy second-guessing your choice,” said Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career expert at SixFigureStart. “Decide that you’re staying – at least that first quarter – and focus on getting used to your new manager, your new responsibilities and your new work environment.

“Then when you hit your 90-day mark, see how you feel and decide again for the next quarter,” she said.

2. Check in with your old employer

If you had a job that you liked well enough and were on good terms when you left, then you can contact your old boss and explore the possibility of a return. You have to have a good story for why you made a bad decision to leave in the first place.

“A number of people go back to companies that they’ve worked for previously,” said Roy Cohen, career counselor, executive coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “They left because they felt the grass was greener, but it really wasn’t.”

Also, reach out to colleagues at former employers without a specific agenda. Check in, ask how they’ve been, project positivity and keep those professional relationships strong.

There's no shame in becoming a boomerang employee as long as you can live with the negative aspects of your previous employer.

3. Step up your communication efforts

Whenever you’re in a troubling career situation, the key is communication.

When evaluating a job, can you see ways it can be improved? Do you say to yourself “If these three things were better, could I stay here and really thrive?”

“If so, share this with your boss or with HR and propose solutions that may make the opportunity more enjoyable for you,” said Laura Mazzullo, HR recruitment specialist at East Side Staffing.

If you have analyzed all of those potential scenarios and recognize that leaving is the only option, then begin a new search.

4. Make the right choices 

When searching after a negative experience self-awareness is of paramount importance. Work on gaining clarity before you search. Do you know what you want? Can you articulate what type of corporate environment suits you best? Do you recognize what was missing from the last job? What didn’t work?

You don’t want to repeat the same bad decision, so you have to figure out what needs to improve in the future.

5. It’s not you, it’s me – well, actually, it is you

Is it that you don’t like your new job, or is it that they don’t like you? If they don’t like you, then it may be that you have no choice but to consider an immediate exit strategy. Polish up your resume and start sending it out.

“Often when we join new companies, there’s a misunderstanding, a miscommunication or there’s a different boss than who we initially interviewed with, and sometimes due to political events at the firm, they’re not committed to the new employee,” Cohen said. “In that case, you have to spring into action and have a more immediate reaction to a bad situation.”

6. Ask whether this is a pattern 

If you don’t like the new job, ask yourself, “Have I ever not liked a new job before – is this a pattern?” You have to consider whether it’s in your best interest to stick it out for a reasonable period of time before looking for something else.

Cohen said he once worked with a “runaway job candidate” who experienced chronic “buyers’ remorse.” The candidate in question interviewed well: he attended multiple interviews and hiring managers loved him; he always got an offer. However, with an offer in-hand, he started having second thoughts and started looking at another company he’d interviewed with earlier. Then he'd go back to the first company, restart negotiations and tell them, “I understand why I was reluctant before, but I’ve reconsidered and I want to accept your offer.” He joined, regretted his decision and asked Cohen to help him out.

“He has a history of doing that sort of thing,” Cohen said. “It damaged his reputation, because they thought he was acting like a nutcase.

7. Start preparing for your next interview

If after analyzing and giving yourself time to adjust you really still hate your job, it would be wise to analyze what you want out of your career. What fulfills you and what kind of job would make you excited to work every day?

The next time you land an interview, make sure you’re ready to ask the right questions to evaluate the appropriateness of the fit.

“The best advice I can give you is to specifically identify what wasn’t working, so you know what to evaluate on interviews going forward,” Mazzullo said. “So often, when candidates tell me a career move was a disaster, they say ‘I wish I asked XYZ on the interview.’”

8. Trust your gut

“I’ll hear candidates say ‘My gut was concerned about XYZ, but I said yes to the offer anyway,’” Mazzullo said.

Address those instinctual concerns on an interview and give the employer a chance to explain something further for you; you may learn that you want to walk away from the process or that you feel better about joining the firm.

9. Take a vacation

If you've given yourself a fair amount of time to settle into your new gig and you're still at your wit's end, then find out how many vacation personal days you've accrued and request some time off. Hit the reset button, unplug from work and come back refreshed. Coming back into the office with a positive mindset could help you turn the situation around into a more positive one.

10. Quitting outright should be a last resort

Avoid quitting before you have another job offer just to be able to say you have left voluntarily. These days, there isn’t as much stigma to losing a job, and on Wall Street it’s quite common for people to be displaced multiple time.

11. Consider an outside-the-box career change

Maybe it's not that your new employer isn't a good fit. There's a chance you're burnt out on the financial services industry altogether. Have you ever dreamed of becoming a Hollywood agent or pastry chef, starting your own craft brewery or winery, or designing swimwear or robots? If so, then now may be the time to take the plunge and go for it.

Photo credit: ErmanCivici/iStock/Thinkstock

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