How quickly is it acceptable to leave a new job if the role isn’t what you expected, you get a better offer or you find yourself in a toxic workplace?
The urge to quit a relatively new job can be an uncomfortable feeling, but it is not uncommon. According to a 2018 survey from the recruiting service Jobvite, 30% of new employees leave their jobs within the first 90 days of getting hired.
The top three reasons quitters gave were that the role did not meet expectations from the job interview process (43%), a one-time incident that made them want to leave (34%), and bad company culture (32%).
During the Great Resignation, more of us may be saying our farewells sooner. “Talent has a little bit more of an upper hand,” and old-school rules of sticking it out at a hard job may no longer apply in certain cases, said Mary Abbajay, president of the leadership development consultancy Careerstone Group and author of “Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss.”
But before you give notice and join the league of early quitters, consider why you want to leave so soon after starting. Sometimes it can take a few months to feel comfortable in a new role and with new colleagues. And if you’re at the beginning of your career, it’s helpful to know that first-job blues are typical.
“You want to make sure you are not leaving just because you don’t like working, as you are getting used to the difference to being in school and being at work,” Abbajay said. If it is indeed the first-job blues, she recommends sticking it out for a year to gain experience you can talk about in future interviews.
But you should also trust your gut if something feels off.
“We have to dispel this myth that we have to sit in agony if it’s not working out,” said career coach Jasmine Escalera, who does not subscribe to the “stick it out” mentality.
Here are three scenarios in which it is definitely not too soon to quit a job:
1. You find yourself in a toxic job.
Nothing drives people out quicker than a toxic work environment. According to a FlexJobs survey from February and March of more than 2,000 U.S. employees, “toxic company culture” was the top reason people cited who felt they had to quit their jobs in the past six months.
This is for good reason. A difficult boss like a micromanager can be annoying to deal with, but they can be managed. A toxic boss, on the other hand, will corrode your soul and is an active threat to your health.
Abbajay noted that a difficult boss “may be impulsive, they may be poor communicators. Their style of working just isn’t aligned with your style of working. A toxic boss is a boss that is dehumanizing, a boss that is abusive, a boss that is screamer, a shouter… [With] a toxic boss, you are going to start to feel less than, you are going to be consumed with the stress of dealing with this person.”
If you feel stuck with toxic bosses and colleagues, don’t linger. “Once you recognize the toxicity, or the organization’s toxicity, you should think about getting out,” Abbajay said.
Escalera agreed with this assessment. Having escaped a toxic work environment in the past, she finds that toxic work cultures cause trauma and make it impossible for you to be confident and capable in your professional life.
“The longer you are there, the deeper those cuts are going to be, and the harder it is going to be to leave, because you start to change the perspective of how you think about yourself,” she said.
2. The job is a radical mismatch with what you were promised in interviews.
You shouldn’t wait too long for circumstances to improve if the job you were sold by recruiters and hiring managers is radically different in reality. This likely means there’ll be no learning opportunities ahead, no internal mobility and no alignment with your planned career future.
If you believe a mismatch in roles is fixable, talk to your manager and colleagues about what you feel you deserve and what you need to see change, Escalera advised. But don’t put undue pressure on yourself to stay in a job that isn’t suitable.
Escalera said she experienced a mismatch when a leadership and mentorship role she interviewed for at a hospital turned out to be different than what was discussed. She tried to talk with her supervisor to get her responsibilities more aligned with the expectations she had from the interview process but was basically told, “‘This is what it is,’” she said.
She left the job within five months and has no regrets: “If I could’ve left in five days, I would have.”
3. You get a better offer that aligns with your goals.
If you get a dream job offer soon after you start a new job, you should reflect on whether the new opportunity is the better choice for your future career success, regardless of how short your current tenure is, Escalera said.
If the new opportunity is “going to get you to that end goal quicker and faster, you have to do what’s in best service to you,” she said.
Abbajay warned, however, that too many one-year-and-under stints on your resume can be a bad look to prospective employers. Your next potential employer may think, “Why should I invest in you if you’re not going to invest in me?” she said.
Still, there’s a way to positively spin this in job interviews. When Escalera was asked in interviews about her short stint in the mismatched hospital job, she was candid about how the role was different than promised and didn’t align with where she wanted to go. Her advice to job seekers is to be transparent about past mismatches, while also being clear that as a result of the experience, you now know that this new opportunity is the best role for you, she said.
“You have to be internally very strong and internally have a purpose to move your career in the direction that you want.”
If you are wrestling with guilt about bailing on a relatively new job for something better, that’s normal. Escalera said she has experienced this guilt as a Latina who grew up in public housing and whose parents wanted safety and stability for her career.
“It puts a ceiling on what you believe is possible for you when you come from backgrounds like that. It makes you feel like, ‘If I got this, then I should just settle in it, and I should just keep it… because this is better than where I came from, this is better than even what my parents have at the age of 60 years old, and I am 40,’” she said. “You have to be internally very strong and internally have a purpose to move your career in the direction that you want, and you have to make decisions coming from that purpose, but that is really hard when there are really a lot of external voices.”
In the end, you are in the driver’s seat of your career — not your new boss, or your new company, or your family. If you have a gut feeling that a job is not going to be good for your well-being or future, you should listen to that feeling, regardless of whether the warning comes in the first few months of the job.
Often, there are times “when you knew something wasn’t right, and instead of connecting with that feeling, you tried to push that feeling down,” Escalera said, noting that’s a mode of thinking she has moved away from. “What I try to do now is entertain the feeling.
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