Ask LH: How Do I Quit A Job I Just Started?

Dear Lifehacker,

I started a new job a month ago and now realise it’s not really a good fit for me. Even after a month I’m still not comfortable and I dread going in every morning. Can I quit without looking like a total jerk?


Anxious About Quitting

Image: Quinn Dombrowski.

Dear Anxious,

Ouch. We’ve all had that sinking feeling. You get home from work and realise you’re unhappy and it dawns on you: You may have made a bad job decision. It is possible to leave without screwing everyone over, but you should consider a few things before you make your choice.

How To Know It’s Time To Quit

Starting a new job is jarring. Your schedule changes, your workday is mixed around, and you’re bombarded with new information around every corner. You have to learn the politics, people’s names, your boss’ quirks and new systems for everything. For the first few days or weeks, you might be anxious and confused. If a month or two goes by and you still feel uncomfortable, it might be time to think about leaving. Career coach Jeanne Knight suggests asking yourself a few questions first.

  • Is it just the newness of the job?
  • What will I learn if I stay in this job?
  • If the scope of the job has changed, can it be renegotiated?

Answering these questions can shed some light on why you feel the need to leave. If the workload is more than you expected, you can try to renegotiate your pay or benefits accordingly. Think about the schedule change and the newness of the job as well. Did you go from waiting tables to a nine-to-five office job? It might take longer to grow accustomed to a new routine.

Sometimes, though, you just know in your gut a job isn’t right for you. I once worked at a Papa John’s restaurant for a single evening and knew within the first hour I was never going back. My solution? Like the pompous teenage jerk I was, I no-called, no-showed. Don’t do that. Instead, let’s look at a few of the best ways to make a respectable exit. Image: Rusty Haskell.

How To Give Your Notice

If you answered the questions above and decided your new job isn’t right for you, it’s time to give your notice. It’s easy to just stop showing up (it’s not like you’ve formed any lasting bonds), but it will burn the bridges you made with the company and your coworkers and, frankly, it’s just poor form.

I talked with Julia Nelson, lead recruiter at First Western Trust Bank to see how a human resources department prefers to handle a situation like this. She has two suggestions for two different types of circumstances:

Once you start, if something about the job, your manager, or the company comes as a surprise and clashes with your moral or other values (for example, they’re asking you to steal puppies, never mentioned puppy-stealing before, and stealing puppies makes you feel terrible), give a courtesy four-week notice, but mention that you would feel more comfortable quitting right now.

The above advice can also be applied if you’re feeling overwhelmed at a position where you’re relied on for the safety of others. Whether it’s caring for senior citizens or teaching snowboarding to children, if you don’t feel like you can do the job right, ask to leave immediately. But what about when you just think the job sucks and it’s not what you want? Julia offers this advice:

If it is something more than boredom and uncertainty, speak to your manager openly about your concerns. Maybe you can unearth why they weren’t brought up in the interview process and move forward on better footing. Maybe you will mutually decide this is just not a good fit. In this instance you can offer four-weeks notice, but they may ask you to leave sooner. I suggest offering notice because you don’t want to burn any bridges, but exhaust all options before you come to the conclusion to leave.

Finally, if it’s absolutely time to drop the position, job search engine Monster adds that you should be completely honest and apologetic when giving your notice in person. Don’t lie about the reasons or make excuses, just tell your employer how it is. Leaving is beneficial for them in the long run if you’re not a good fit, so don’t feel guilty or make excuses. Image: CedarBendDrive.

Don’t Forget To Sweat The Small Stuff

No matter how rough a job is, don’t forget to factor in the income and benefits you lose when you leave. If you don’t have another job lined up, make sure you have enough cash tucked away to cover your living expenses before you put in your notice.

Prevent It From Happening Again

Hopefully you learned from your mistake, but if you decide to leave, chances are you’re already planning on interviewing again. Julia has one simple suggestion for preventing the situation from reoccurring:

As a job seeker, you have the right to ask many, many questions of the hiring manager and HR team before you decide if you would like to take a position. You are interviewing a company just as much as they are interviewing you. Before you accept a position you should be able to envision yourself in the office, know some of the team you would be working with, understand what is expected of you in the role and have a good “gut” feeling about going to that job everyday.

It’s good advice regardless of when you’re interviewing, but if you’re coming hot off the heels of a poor job choice, it’s a solid technique to assure yourself you’re making the right decision. Hopefully you’re comfortable with your decision to leave (or stay), and good luck in your next job search! Image: Samuel Mann.



PS. Have you walked out of a job right after starting? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

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