This Is Not What I Expected

A friend of mine spent the summer months gushing about the new job she was about to begin. She was ecstatic over having landed a strategic role free of the annoying day-to-day operational issues and money pressures she had dealt with in her last role. “I will get paid to think!” she exclaimed.

All did not go as she planned, however. Week 1 had her sounding tentative. In Week 2 she started sounding nervous. By Week 3 she looked drained as she laid out her situation to a group of us who met after work for what turned out to be a sad hour rather than the happy hour we had planned. She was miserable.

Instead of working for someone recognized as innovative, there was a last-minute and allegedly “just temporary” switch to someone else, who clearly didn’t like her. Instead of doing strategic work, she was assigned detailed-oriented projects. Despite being promised autonomy, her schedule was tightly managed and monitored.

When my friend asked her post-work brain trust what to do next and noted that she felt fortunate to have enough money in the bank to weather a few months of unemployment, feedback was mixed. About half of the group suggested she cut her losses immediately and resign. I was in the camp that suggested patience and asked, “Who can make a reasonable assessment about a new job after just three weeks?”

I have to admit that I am a pretty cautious person because it’s hard to buy groceries with a fistful of principles, but my advice to her in this case was based on more than economics. Quitting a job after three weeks when working retail or serving pizzas is one thing, but quitting a decent-level professional position before a month had passed struck me as petulant and irresponsible.

“Make yourself valuable while expressing confusion about your situation,” I suggested. “Making a statement by storming out isn’t going to get you anything and isn’t really fair to the people who chose you over everyone else.”

She is back at work and trying to negotiate a better situation. I hope it works out, but I recognize it may not. Our next conversation may well focus on how she might explain a regrettable career decision.

Have you ever started a job that was nothing like you expected? Have you ever hired someone who expressed almost immediate disappointment?

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