You worked hard in your job search to get your new job. You’ve started and now, after being in your new role, you begin to realize that the job isn’t working out for you. Let’s talk about what you should do next and on what timing.
If it’s early in the life cycle of the job, especially the first 90 days, you need to keep in mind that most new jobs have a sink-or-swim element to them. Employers may provide some training and guidance, but for the most part, you may be on your own trying to figure things out. This can be particularly intimidating if you are a new college grad. You can feel like you are expected to know something which you clearly do not know or understand. So you end up spending all day trying to figure something out which one of your coworkers could have solved in hours or perhaps even minutes.
If you are struggling with elements in your new job, it’s important to know where to go to get help. Some employers will have a formal mentor program and your assigned mentor would be the first person to ask. That person can help you navigate the waters quickly to get you back on track for productivity. If your employer does not have a formal mentor program, take it upon yourself to start one for yourself. Find a person who can help with the myriad of questions and issues which may come up. Good potential nominees are those who have already successfully come through what you are now facing. So if you are a new grad, look to an employee who started as a new grad within the last year or two. It could be someone on your team or it could be someone who graduated from your same university. Or another coworker on your team. Simply ask if they are willing to mentor you in your role. Look to make the connection and ask for assistance early.
What if you aren’t in sick-or-swim mode, but rather facing the opposite? Specifically, that you are not being adequately challenged in your new role. There will always be an element of unproductive work associated with being a new employee. Just think about the initial paperwork, system setup, logins that are all part of the onboarding process. But what if you are past the initial onboarding and are still not being fully utilized? Reach out to your boss/supervisor and let her/him know right away that you can and want to do higher level work. You may be on the standard track for someone coming out with your degree, but you’re completing work quicker than anticipated. This is a good thing and often an early sign of a high potential (referred to internally as a “hipo”) employee. That said, it sometimes happens that other members of the team slough off the grunt work on the new team member. The “newbie” gets all the work that others don’t want to do. Yes, there is a certain element of paying your dues to work your way into the team and up the ladder, but that newness element plays only so far. At some point, make sure your boss/supervisor knows that you are ready, willing and able to do higher level work.
So what if you’ve done all of the above and it’s still not working out? First, you may want to talk to your boss, if you haven’t done so already. Be specific about what you would like to see changed and be part of the solution. Don’t just present a problem without a potential solution. One other possibility you may want to explore is making an internal move to another team and/or another role.
If your boss is unwilling or unable to make a change, then what? Then it may be time to look at options externally. You need to keep in mind that you might negatively impact your resume to leave a job before putting in a full year. Does that mean you need to simply slog it out for the full year? No, but understand the risks if you do decide to make a change. It will be carried with you on your resume for life (or at least until you are a few more positions down the line and can drop this one), so it may come up as a red flag in future interviews. You need to be able to answer that you did everything in your power to try to work things out, but were unable to do so on your own.
Most employees learn 80-90% of what they can learn in a role within 18-24 months. That is why you see the more natural turnover at 2-3 years as employees get restless for new challenges. But if that time for change comes early for you, consider all of your options and weigh out the risks before making a move.