Bullish Q&A: When to Break Up With Your Job

disappointment-2I cannot emphasize enough that the only constant in life is change.

It’s a cliche, to be sure. So is the idea that women are all about finding “security,” be it financial or romantic.

But “security” is relative, at best. Even if you pledge to spend the rest of your life with someone, one of you is going to die first. Even if you have a very nice place to live, there are kinds of natural disasters you can’t even buy insurance for. If you are an employee, with all your advancement pinned on one job, it is only a matter of time before your manager moves on, you are transferred to some new manager, conditions become unbearable, your job disappears entirely, or — good times ahead — the opposite of one those things happens.

In Bullish: Responding to Disappointment with Awesomeness, I wrote about replacing fear of change withexcitement. The way to do this is to have plans in your back pocket that are mutually exclusive with what you’re doing now. For employees, this requires extreme comfort with job hunting and job hopping, and the social skills to keep networks intact while doing it.

Here’s a question about when to break up with a job.

I have a question that I hope you might be able to help me with. I read your columns all the time and think your brand of super clever advice might be what I need here. I can’t see the wood for the trees at the moment.

I recently left a good job in a [bonsai horticulture] agency in London to take another job in another [bonsai horticulture] agency. The new one approached me and we went through a process of 6 interviews before I agreed to join them. I’m one step below director level so managed a team and did high value work which I loved in my old role. I thought I was being hired to do the same in the new place. My only reason for leaving was that I thought the process of transferring my skills and working with a new team/clients would help me grow professionally. I’ve been given a good pay rise (£15k) but have the same job title.

Turns out, my expectations of the role are different to what they had seen me doing. I may or may not have been hired against the wrong job profile: the one I got given during interview is not the one HR hold certainly but I can’t tell what’s happened. Also, my new bosses seem not to understand my experience and skill set which makes me wonder if they looked at my CV or listened in the interviews. When I asked politely about the discrepancy and what their plans for me were, they looked very confused and seemed to have no answer. I’ve had a few more weird conversations full of leading questions and am more confused than ever. I’m worried that trying to resolve it further will mean I will start to sound pushy or arrogant. I’m conscious that they don’t know me well so won’t fully trust me yet.

I know that these kind of kinks are what probation periods are meant to help you resolve but I can’t help feeling I’ve made a mistake and it’s constantly on my mind. I feel like they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to settling and working with senior people and that my experience was something they were unaware of. I have a hunch that I make my new boss uncomfortable as we’re actually very close in terms of level. He’s definitely not made himself available to orientate me and after the initial rush of enthusiasm they had when trying to hire me, I’m left feeling shut out. Most of all, I just want to work hard and be allowed to do the kind of work I did before.

The question is: shall I just grin and bear it for the next two months until the end of my probation or should I keep trying to work out what my remit is meant to be? I’ve never disliked work or had Sunday night work fear but I do now and my days are miserable. Even though I get paid a lot now (£70,000), being unhappy is not worth it for that. I don’t think I would have a problem getting another job if I had to, but don’t know how long to give it before deciding what to do. What would you do?

Hmmn, what an interesting problem. Congratulations, at least, on negotiating yourself a hefty raise! (See Bullish: How to Ask for More Money Part I and Part II.)

Let’s look at the positives: If you start looking for another job, you can truthfully list £70,000 rather than £55,000 on your salary history, which, quite frankly, is a huge deal. I know that money isn’t your primary motivation — you’re much more concerned in this letter with professional growth and enjoying your work — but £15,000 more at this stage of your life could mean £1M more over the course of your career if you get pay raises based off that £70,000 and if you’re investing wisely. So, well done!

That said, wow. It doesn’t sound like a single competent thing has happened anywhere in your hiring and orientation process. You appear to have no real allies at this place. It’s kind of weird that they hired you and gave you a big raise, since they have no idea what you actually do for a living.

What are the advantages of staying and trying to work this out? I don’t think there are many, but let’s brainstorm. Maybe you could craft some new and interesting role for yourself. Maybe you could really impress everyone, since the expectations for you seem to be way too low. What else? Make a list.

You say, though, that it wouldn’t be too hard to get a new job. That’s good.

If getting hired elsewhere seems to be the solution, would it be better to do that now, within your probationary period, or after you’ve given the job a good six months or a year? I think now might really be better. If you call it quits now, well … that’s what probationary periods are for, right? If you wait a year, that’s enough time to fail. Not due to any fault of your own, but when you have no idea what the expectations are and you don’t have a team to manage like you expected, well … how can you succeed? And if you’re not succeeding, you’re failing; neutral doesn’t cut it.

To finish reading this post, head on over to Jen Dziura’s site.
To finish reading this post, head on over to Jen Dziura’s site.


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