emotional control

How to get over a bad career move? Get a practical guide with a Plan B

July 1, 2021

How to recover from a bad career move and bring your career back on track? Get tips based on real cases

Sometimes we end up in situations where what we once wanted the most has now got us in a bind, and there seems to be no out. Fear not! as you are not alone in this situation. Many professionals have ended in a situation of winner’s curse and have detested and disliked that job that they have landed in.

There are times when the new job seems very good from the outside but when you land there you figure out that the situation is very different. What happens if the company culture is very different, you have a horrible manager, you have a change of heart about your role, or the culture is toxic?

Let’s look at a practical guide of what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

1. Take Control of Your Self

There Are No Right or Wrong Career Decisions

First, remember that regardless of what others tell you there are No Right or Wrong Career Decisions. We all make our career decisions on the basis of some information that we get from recruiters or others around us. Often this information is limited – and while there are ways to validate it that we will cover in a separate post – so we could go wrong in our decision.

Take the case of Sarah, where her hiring manager communicated that she will have a big marketing budget to manage but when she entered her new job she figured out that in her past job her remit was much bigger. She was now in a bind. Or take the case of Mark, he figured out that the company he joined was going through activist investor pressure and hence morale was very low. We figure out some things that Sarah and Mark could do in the coming sections but at this stage remember:

A single career move doesn’t define your career

Make sure you are not overreacting

We have seen this many times, you love your job yet you are looking for a new adventure and once you get there you automatically start comparing the new workplace to the old one. Your mind is sending you signals reminding you of your old workplace whether it’s that bond that you shared with your colleagues or simple things like the activities that HR arranged.

Many times one bad interaction with a new colleague or a rogue comment made by one may be so off-putting that you question your decision to change altogether.

Give your new job some time

Remember how excited you were when you finally got that job offer? You have now waited at least a month to get to your new job and in the first few days/weeks itself, you feel it’s not a good decision. Give your new job or new role at least a quarter to understand that your thinking is correct. There are several times when people give it a go for a while and figure out the undiscovered benefits of working in a new system.

Remember, change is not easy and it’s also not easy to give up on your comfort zone. No pain, no gain.

Control your emotions

In such situations, our mind often goes into a spin and creates a negative whirlpool. A simple piece of advice is “Do not complain”, as doing so will create that whirlpool around you and attract the attention of all others who are facing similar situations around you rather than the successful people you want to learn from.

A good resource here is the Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck. Carol helps us deal with many similar situations in our lives and this is definitely a good read for you – but first finishing this guide and stay on track.

emotional control


2. Take Control of Your Situation

Don’t let depression disrupt your life and work

This one is extremely important. So far we have been advocating taking it slow and ensuring that you have given your new job enough time and a chance to be successful. What if you are in a situation where you are either being harassed or being bullied? Remember no job is worth it’s salt if you are going through a situation that is impacting your mental health.

The limitation of advice in writing is that it doesn’t take into account your context. We have several times come across people who are stuck in a bad place but need to continue. Take the case of Mark, who joined his company in a specialist role and figured that the pressure was very high owing to activist investor actions being prescribed to the board. He was at the center of it being in a communications role. As the sole-earner of his family, Mark couldn’t just quit until he found another job. What do you do if you are stuck in a situation like this? Read on for our suggestions.

Get a coach, if required

Sometimes you need professional help and there is the support of a coach available through various platforms these days. Having an external sounding board lets you guide your path to success by trying new things to solve the situation at hand. Consider this approach if you think an additional resource could be helpful to you.

Speak to managers manager

This is another option that works sometimes if approached right. In the case of Sarah, approaching her manager’s manager turned out to be a good option. She was careful in her to ask for a meeting and wanted to create a direct connection to the super-boss, which he welcomed. As a part of that meeting, she worded her ask more around the growth mindset and expressed her desire to do more as she had prior experience of handling larger media budgets and a 360-degree marketing facet. Sarah also balanced the meeting by bringing out the positives in the new job including the great work environment.

Our assumption here is that companies are willing to use available talent well and it’s your responsibility to speak up for your career. After that, if the company is not willing to use your talent well your direction is clear.

Don’t make it worse

Like they say don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire. Many times in such situations you would want to jump at the next available opportunity and it will seem the world is not fair and that you should escape the situation as soon as you can. The harsh reality is that if you go wrong twice you would have dug yourself deeper into that hole. So sit back and think carefully as you go into developing your Plan B.

3. Look for Plan B

Look at your options

Take a piece of paper and list all your available options whether it’s lateral, vertical, or those that include taking a step back. While we are not saying that you exercise those it is important that you know what your options are and how they compare to what you have right now.

Remember “A career is not a straight line or a hockey stick for most of the people, it’s a zig-zag curve over a long period.”

Also when you think of the situation you are in evaluate if it is a good time or a bad time to look for jobs in your field and what does the job market looks like? Several jobs have a seasonality effect and demand is higher in certain quarters as compared to the rest of the year.

plan your options

Explore going back to your previous employer

Should you ever go back to a job you left? Why not? You worked with your employer for a while and enjoyed working there. Companies love boomerangers as they return. It could be a good idea to check if they have been able to hire for your position, is that person doing well? Hiring you back might be a way for the company to short circuit their way back to success as you will not have any learning curve. If this is an option you want to take then don’t take it with pessimism or fear because if they really want to you back then they could be willing to offer you a salary higher than before as well.

The other thing this research might help you with is where did your replacement (if hired) quit from? And if their position is still open?

Prepare for next job

How can you describe your most recent move and the motivation for your present job search? Create your story well as a short tenure is likely to create that question in the mind of your future employer.

You may also create a spin that’s believable but does not over justify your looking out; as confidence in communicating your ability and strength is key. Remember the other person is also human and a professional and will understand your situation and figure out if you will do it again. It is important to see what does the rest of your job history looks like? You should not be seen as someone who is a very frequent switcher.

Most importantly let this be a learning experience.

Think of what you will do if you quit?

Despite all this, there could be a situation where you may just need to quit your job and take a gap. Don’t let it go to waste and think of what you will do? This could include traveling, studying, volunteering for a cause.

Would upskilling help you

It’s important to figure out what have you learned that adds value to your next employer? See if upskilling will help you to get to your future role faster and build that bridge to the future. If your heart and mind are not in your current job you might as well use any extra time to focus on building your skills for the future. It might even help you do better in your current job. It’s time to think of your personal growth development.

upskill yourself

Evaluate yourself

Check your strengths and evaluate your CV, both standalone and against that job that you want to apply to at Sukiru, your career GPS. It’s free to use and gives real, actionable insights that allow you to get on the right career path and reach your goals. Whatever career stage you are at.

Final words

Keep trying and Hang in there.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any – Alice Walker

Image Credits:

  1. Cottonbro on Pexels
  2. Estee Janssens on Unsplash
  3. Sora Shimazaki on Pexels


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