Careers advice

What to do when your new job isn’t what you expected

Is it time to move on again?

What you’ll learn:

  • How to work out what you aren’t enjoying.
  • How you should act if you aren’t enjoying your new job.
  • Who you need to talk to.
  • What to do to get ready for your next job hunt.

Your first week in a new role is normally such a whirlwind of new faces, places and systems that it’s unlikely you’ll get much of a feel for what the reality of the position is like.

But what do you do if, as the days turn into weeks, you find out your job isn’t what you expected? It can be a seriously unsettling feeling – after all, you left the familiarity of your old role and went through the often stressful job hunting process to get somewhere that you hoped would be a step up. 

To help you move forward constructively if you find yourself in this position, we’ve compiled some top tips and recommendations.

What to do if you’re not enjoying your new job

1. Don’t panic

We know this is easier said than done, but panicking about how you’ll deal with the situation is only going to make things worse. It can be very easy to get yourself into a negative spiral where you overreact about what it might mean for your career.

Ultimately, as we hope the rest of this article will show you, there are a number of options for what you can do next, so all is definitely not lost!

If things aren't working out as planned, don't panic.

2. Give it a chance

Change can be very unnerving, even when it’s a change that you chose. Try to articulate to yourself exactly what it is that you’re not enjoying about the new job. If there’s not a single reason that springs to mind (a micromanaging boss, for example), it could well be that you’re simply finding the overall transition tough. This is totally fine, and very normal, but, if this is the case, chances are that you’ll start to feel a whole lot more confident in your decision as time goes on.

If you can think of a specific reason for your uneasiness, the next consideration is whether you think it’s a one-off, or something that’s likely to last. For example, a negative meeting where you felt out of your depth might be colouring your perception of the whole gig – but this isn’t something that’s likely to last too long. However, if you’re finding that the day-to-day tasks aren’t challenging enough and you're bored, this might be more of a problem.

3. Stay professional

No matter how you’re feeling on the inside, it’s crucial that you remain purely professional on the outside. You’ll lose the moral high ground if you let your frustrations get the best of you and start venting. 

Even in situations where you’re feeling that the role isn’t challenging enough for you, you need to keep putting in 100%. It’ll be hard for you to argue that you need more demanding work if you’ve not done these more basic tasks well.

4. Talk to your manager

If, after you’ve given the role time, you’re still not happy, it’s time to talk to your manager. It’s important that you approach this conversation in the right way, and with the right attitude. Saying things like, “I’m bored” or, “this role isn’t what you said it would be” (even if the latter is true) are likely to put your manager on the defensive, and won’t solve your problem.

If things don't improve, it's time to have a chat with your manager.

The best thing you can do is come armed with some specific points. Review the original job advert – are there specific duties you can refer to in this document that haven’t materialised. For example, if the job advert says that you’ll be spearheading the promotion of a new product, and that hasn’t happened, you can ask about this. When making these points, don’t be accusatory – don’t ask, ‘why hasn’t this moved forward’, but instead ask when they expect the project to get underway. This is more diplomatic, but still gets across the point that things aren’t quite living up to your expectations. 

At the same time, don’t let the manager talk you out of how you’re feeling. Be firm if you think that the job doesn’t fit the picture the advert painted, and show that you’re willing to work collaboratively to find a solution that benefits you both.

5. Start looking for new opportunities

If you’ve tried everything on this list, and nothing is changing, it might be time to look for a new role. Some people worry about how it will look to future employers if they have a really short stint with a firm on their CV, and this is fair enough – lots of very short-lived roles on a CV can be a red flag to interviewers. However, seasoned recruiters and hiring managers will know that not every job works out as planned, and one or two small blips like this is no big deal. What’s more, if you’re able to explain in future job interviews that you moved on because the role wasn’t the right fit for your career plan, this shows that you know what you want, which is an attractive trait for most employers.

While it can be disheartening to be back in the job market again so soon, try to see what happened as a learning opportunity. While it wasn’t your fault if the job you left was poorly represented, you might have a better radar for the warning signs of roles that won’t suit you in future. 

Another option, depending on what you’re looking for and the circumstances in which you left your previous role, it could be worth checking if your old role is still open, or if your former employer has other job vacancies. If you were sad to say goodbye to your old team and company, there’s no shame in going back somewhere you know you were happy.