Are you having regrets about your recent career move? You’re not alone. Plenty of employees in new jobs, companies or careers wish they could turn back—but the experts say you shouldn’t make any impulsive moves.
“It is very common for an employee to make a big career change, sit at their new desk on the first day, and think, ‘What have I done?’” says Rebecca Thorman, a speaker, blogger, and careers writer at Kontrary.com. “We all go through a transition period when changing jobs, simply because we need to acclimate to a new environment, new people and new tasks and responsibilities. The beginning is usually the toughest.”
Mark Strong, a life, career and executive coach based in New York, says: “I certainly do encounter people who find that they’ve made a career move that they regret. Either they’ve misjudged a situation or company, or hastily jumped at an offer because of money or status.”
Anna Sidana, Founder and CEO of One Million Lights, agrees. “I believe the biggest reason someone would regret changing careers or jobs is because they expected something other than what they got,” she explains. Perhaps they didn’t ask the right questions in the interview or job search process—or didn’t do all of their research on the company, job or career before making the change. “It is also possible that they were not aware of their own capabilities and over-reached for a position that they might not be ready for.”
A big career move could constitute all sorts of changes, including moving to a new city, taking on new responsibilities, or even changing professions completely. With all these variables at play, there is a lot of room for missed expectations. “In addition, the real nature of a job is only revealed once someone is in it,” Sidana says. “So there are definitely times when people might regret a big career move after the fact.”
Why else might an employee have doubts about his or her new job?
Sometimes employees start looking through rose-colored glasses once they’re removed from a situation, says David Shindler, author of Learning to Leap, A Guide to Being More Employable, and founder of social learning site, The Employability Hub. “They might start to think their previous role wasn’t as bad as they thought.”
C. Roberts, author of Trying Isn’t Losing, says people typically seek change in their careers for new opportunities (such as the ability to advance), a better quality of life, and more money–so if an employee takes a new job and realizes opportunities are limited or quality of life is diminished (maybe they’re asked to work weekends, longer hours, or have issues with the boss or co-workers), then money will likely not fill that gap, he says. “If one or more of these items are inferior to the previous employer, then regret is natural.”
Finally, there are those who have regrets because they don’t adapt well to change. “At an old job, an employee is used to the way things are done and most likely, has developed a system for getting the desired results in that position,” Thorman says. “A new job is filled with the great unknown.”
If the new job isn’t all it was hyped up to be (or you realize your previous situation wasn’t so bad after all) and you want to go back, here’s what you should do:
Don’t have regrets.
If you’re unhappy or have doubts; fine–but don’t have regrets. “I believe regret is an unhealthy state of mind as it eats away at your soul and prevents you from living in the present,” Shindler says. “When you make a decision, there are always consequences, new opportunities and realities.” Rather than beat yourself up over your decision to change jobs or careers, you need to look forward and make a plan.
Remember that starting a new job is hard.
Everyone struggles in the first few months to make connections, understand the company, and develop relationships, Strong says. “It takes time to feel at home in your new job. People who have changed jobs before know that well. But it’s hard for everyone the first time.” Try to have realistic expectations for the transition.
Give it time.
Don’t make any irrational decisions. Unless you’re in an unsafe situation, there’s no reason to give up on the new job immediately.
“I always advise people to give it six months if they can,” Strong says. “Change is hard and can be very uncomfortable. Most of the time, people figure things out and get comfortable enough to stay long-term.”
Thorman agrees. She says it takes time to learn and conquer a new position and company. “Most likely, you changed jobs for that exact challenge. But if after a few months you’re still not feeling it, there’s no reason to stay at a job for any period of prescribed time. Get searching for a new job, and don’t look back.”