Dear 40-somethings: How long should you stay at a job before you know you don’t like it? I currently have been at my job for 2 months but I hate it. Do I have to stay a year?
Today’s answers offer a few perspectives…one from a woman who hated her job at 2 months and ended up loving it at 6 months. Another from a woman who hated a job at 2 months and still hated it at 2 years. A woman who regrets not leaving earlier and another who had seen the affects of an unhappy employee. The issue comes down to whether it’s the people you don’t like or the fundamental nature of the work. And since the the workplace today is faster (as one 40-something said “9 years then would equate to more like 5 years for today’s 20-somethings”) I also got a headhunter to weigh in. The bottom line…there are certainly options ot leave you just need to make sure it’s for the right reasons.
“Yes. It is too soon. The standard thinking is that 90 days is your ramping up and on-boarding period. You’re really not going to know a corporate culture in 2 months. You’re not going to know the people you are working with. You’re not really going to be immersed in a project. You are not going to know the results of an output. It’s going to take longer than two months to build a relationship, to see the results, to experience the culture. I would at least give it six months before thinking that you have invested too much.
I was miserable in my second month of my new job. But now I’m there longer and I have experienced milestones and some success and built relationships. It was just really challenging and hard and I was miserable and I wasn’t sleeping. It wasn’t because the culture wasn’t the right fit or I didn’t like the people or the work was wrong…it was that it was really hard and challenging and I wasn’t getting it and I wasn’t getting it as fast as I thought I should be getting it. I put pressure on myself that I should have been farther along in 2 months than I was.
Getting a mentor helped tremendously. It was a completely different culture than my last job. I walked into a completely different environment. I learned how to speak their language.
I guess it depends on where they are in their career but I think if you are twenty something you are too young. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Experience the culture and chalk it up to a learning experience. Two months is not a huge investment. In your forties, two months may seem like too long of an investment but at 20-something, just stick it out learn experience grow. Two months to just quit and leave seems premature because there are too many variables that you haven’t experienced.” – 40-something, marketing director, private banking
“I think if you hate a job after two months it’s usually because the people are really toxic. You kind of know it…but you feel like you have to ride it out. I was in a similar situation and I did stick it out for two years but I think there is another option. Ask yourself – was your previous job a decent situation where you could go back?
At about age 30 (in the Bay Area at the height of the dot com boom) I left a good situation working as a PR manager at a major technology company to become VP of media relations at a boutique PR firm in San Francisco. The first environment was professional and positive and I was doing well but the new job paid tens of thousands more, had a much better title and eliminated my long commute to Silicon Valley.
Once at the new job I was unpleasantly surprised to find myself surrounded mostly by inexperienced and in a couple cases untalented, toxic and nasty colleagues. I was even exposed to drug use and sleazy behavior.
I stuck it out and made the most of the experience though parts of it were miserable. One silver lining – one of our clients helped me land my next job heading PR for the retail division of another major technology company. Looking back I am pretty sure I could have returned to my previous job, told them the story and gotten re-hired and probably been happy. But sticking it out did eventually lead somewhere positive. But I think people don’t consider the option of going back.
In the end I think one has to weigh the options and consider how bad the two month job is. Is there any way to improve it? Are you getting any valuable experience despite the short term pain?”- 40-something, PR Director
“Get out now. It will only get worse. You have a good track record now with your last job but if you stay and you’re miserable you will not only waste your time, you will risk poor performance, leaving on bad terms or worse getting fired. I’ve had both happen. But first ask yourself why you’re miserable. Take inventory of what you want and need to be happy at your next job. Maybe even work with a career coach who can help guide you.” – 40-something, wellness coach, business owner
“I would say if they have a solid background and they already know that they are unhappy and that it really is a mismatch, then it’s okay to leave. You don’t even have to put it on your resume after two months. As long as you have a solid background and don’t look like someone who can’t hold down a job, I think it’s okay. If you know it’s wrong and it can’t be changed, then move on.” – Headhunter, NYC
“Being unhappy is never positive and when you’re unhappy at a job. It’s always more visible than you believe it to be. No company wants an unhappy employee. It can result in a lack of productivity and negative attitudes that affect the whole staff. If you’re not committed to this job in terms of a career, than by all means start looking for something that makes you happy and then leave on good terms with a 2 week notice.
If this job is part of a career focus, you may want to look deeper and see what it is that is unappealing about it. It is not great to quit after 2 months and have that on your resume. You will forever be explaining it. Industries are smaller than you think and you want to preserve your reputation.
Assuming you wanted this job, there must have been an initial draw for you. Expectations of what you thought you would be doing and what you actually are doing do not always line up. Many times this can be corrected after a manager gets to know you and feels comfortable giving you more responsibility. You can always ask for a 6-month evaluation which will give you a better idea of where you stand.
Not liking the environment or the people is a more difficult issue and one that should have been obvious in the course of interviewing. Best advice in a career related job would be to stick it out for a year and do your best. If something better comes along in the interim, leave on good terms (always with a 2 week notice) and be more focused on the criteria you have to be happy. – 40-something, management positions in fashion industry