How Soon Is Too Soon to Quit Your New Job?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Congratulations, you just took a new job, but then there is this reality: you hate it. You want to quit. Should you?

This is job hunter’s buyer’s remorse. Keith Rollag, a management professor at Babson College who has specialized in what he calls the newcomer experience, said he has heard his share of buyer’s remorse stories.

It’s not uncommon. Al Smith, managing partner at job search company Transition Sherpa pointed to research that says that perhaps half of all new employees expressed unhappiness in their decision to take their job.

Surprised? Don’t be.

“Job interviews are like dates," said Lynda Spiegel, an HR expert. "Everyone is on his or her best behavior. What do you do when you begin to see the unpleasant aspects of your new manager's personality? Or when you're asked to take on responsibilities that differ from what you expected?”

So true. Just as job applicants may gild their personal lily, hiring authorities often gild theirs - leaving out details such as everybody works 12-hour days and, by the way, bosses publicly humiliate underlings who goof up in a kind of tough love practice. Hiring authorities sell the prospects they want to hire every bit as much as job hunters sell themselves.

Hiring authorities often also downplay unpleasant - but essential - parts of the job that if made known might turn off a job seeker. Add it up and of course many new employees may quickly come to regret their decision to say “yes.”

“Changing jobs can be an adrenaline-filled time," said Leigh Steere, cofounder of Managing People Better. "And when the adrenaline wears off, it's not uncommon for an employee to experience a funk and begin to question, ‘What have I done? What have I gotten myself into?’"

Know too: you can quit and live to tell the tale. Employment lawyer Donna Ballman, author of Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired (Career Press, 2012), said she is living proof. Ballman elaborated: “When I first became a lawyer, I quit a job after 90 days or so. I accepted a job as a lawyer in an area of practice I thought I would enjoy. I both disliked the area of practice and my nightmare of a boss. But I had turned down an offer from another law firm and they said they really wanted me and if things didn't work out I should come back and talk to them. So I took them up on it.”

Ballman’s tale also underlines a point that should give the unhappy new employee cause for optimism. Searching for a job is a skill that is honed over time. The job seeker who lands an offer has refined the skill. But that means that skill is still on hand, to be tapped anew, at least in the near term. Don’t expect those skills to carryover for a search five years later -- much has been forgotten, plus the tactics may have changed. But three months later? You bet. You are good at this; be confident about going forth and doing it again.

Word of advice: don’t make impulsive, rash decisions.

“Unless something occurs that is absolutely beyond the pale, I advise people to give their new jobs at least three to six months before making any drastic moves," said Andrea Berkman-Donlon, founder of personal brand development company The Constant Professional. "This has nothing to do with how it will look on a resume, but everything to do with the learning curve.”


She’s right. New jobs bring new challenges. Anxiety can result. But don’t run from the anxiety -- if the job still seems like the fun growth opportunity you had thought it would be.

Also, now is the time to think about this: “What's your back-up plan? Can you stick it out while you keep looking for another opportunity?” said Liz D'Aloia, founder of HR Virtuoso, which develops tools for companies’ recruitment campaigns.

You have a back-up plan, and so you still want to quit? Even so, give the company a chance. There was something about it that prompted you to say “yes,” so maybe that magic can be found anew. Schedule a face-to-face with your boss. Be honest about your discontent.  Ask for input about what to do.

But before doing that, accept that the boss may tell you to pack up and head off to down the road motors, that is, new opportunities. As a short-timer on the job, in most states employment can be terminated with the flick of a pen -- and at least some bosses will respond that way. Schedule that meeting only if you can take the possible consequences.

Immediate termination is not likely, though. Most bosses will work hard to keep you - it’s a black mark in their personnel file when new hires bail fast or are fired before they have completed the new employee orientation.

Know what compromises you will make and where you will draw the line. Also know: in the 21st century it is on us to define our jobs, what’s acceptable, what isn’t. That is exactly what you are doing. It isn’t easy, but it is the path to meaningful, satisfying work. And isn’t that what you want?

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.

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