I Just Started A Horrible Job! Now What?

 We need this completed in the next ten minutes! (iStockphoto.com/shironosov)

We need this completed in the next ten minutes! (iStockphoto.com/shironosov)

Great news! You know that company you've been interviewing with? The recruiter just called and extended you the offer!

The pay they're offering is great – in fact, the salary is 20% higher than what you're currently making. The job title's better, too - you were a manager in your last job, this company's going to make you a director, and with an even bigger team and more responsibility. And they really seem to want you - the company's even offering a $10,000 signing bonus to send you the message that they value you. It's a dream come true!

Or is it? You've spoken with a headhunter who is intimately familiar with the company, and she tells you to run the other way - the company's a madhouse. There was an exposé in the newspaper recently about the gaping deficiencies in the company culture, which detailed massive amounts of unpaid overtime, endless piles of work, and a backstabbing culture compounded by massive turnover and attrition. Oh – by the way, the employer reviews on Glassdoor are overwhelmingly negative.

But how bad can the company be? The people who interviewed you all seemed engaged and happy. You ask the recruiter about the article in the paper and the Glassdoor reviews, and she tells you things have improved substantially since then.

You accept the job. The money's just too good to pass up, and besides – when are you going to get this opportunity again anytime soon?

Day one arrives. You show up to work, and you realize all that negative feedback you heard about the company is true. Absolutely true.

Those people you interviewed with who seemed really happy at the time? They bark at you. Your boss dumps you off in your cubicle, and you find a gigantic pile of work with your name on it. It needs to be dealt with. Now. And that team of people they told you you would have to help you deal with this workload? Only one of those employees still works in the department, there are five open positions, and there's enough work to keep more than twenty people busy for six months. You're expected to make a serious dent in the pile within two weeks – it's all labeled top priority, and the situation is completely unrealistic. Your stomach sinks. You've never been on blood pressure or ulcer medications before, but now seems like a good time to start.

Now what?

Although you may not have much time to think about yourself while facing this insurmountable work situation, you need to make some decisions, and prepare for the future.

Meet With Your Manager To Gain Alignment. It may be beneficial to speak with your manager about the job that was presented to you during the interviews, the actual conditions you walked into, and what can be done to remedy the situation so that you can determine if things are fixable. This isn't without risk, however; your manager may quickly decide that you're a discontent and it would be easier to part ways with you, effective now. Decide whether such a conversation would make sense, or if the risk outweighs the reward.

Decide Whether Stay Or Split. Take a deep breath, then consider the consequences of staying or cutting your losses. The old rule of thumb used to be that it's best to tough it out for two years into a job before heading for the door. Truthfully, people aren't staying in jobs as long as they used to. Likewise, volatile organizations can spit people out who don't meet their perceived performance criteria increasingly quickly. Make a decision about what you want to do. Potential employers are often willing to hire somebody who decides to leave a job quickly shortly after starting if it's clearly not a match, with little ill effect – so long as it's not a pattern in their work history. Then again, you may decide you have too much invested in the situation and you need to make it work. If you're a specialist in a specific industry and the company made you sign a non-competition agreement, your options outside the company may be limited.

If You Decide To Leave, Get Your Financial House In Order. Bank that sign-on bonus and forget about it – under your employment agreement you may be required to pay it back if you leave within a year or two; ditto for any sort of relocation expenses. Consider delaying any major purchases including that tempting move up to a larger house paid for with that increased salary. Leverage your financial freedom - if your finances allow you to take a step back to your prior pay level, you'll have much more flexibility in the job opportunities you consider.

Get Your Resume And LinkedIn Profile Ready, and Work Your Network. These are your best marketing tools, ensure that they are current and properly show your the value you've demonstrated throughout your career. And make sure they're modulated for the appropriate level you're seeking. In order to make a quick exit, it may be required that you step back to your previous job title and level.

Maybe You CAN Go Home Again. It's highly likely that the job you left hasn't been filled yet. Presuming you left your last employer on pleasant terms, it's possible that they may be willing to consider taking you back into your old job. It's not unheard of. Reach out to your old manager, and ask if the door might still be open for your return. Just don't expect them to meet your current salary and title. If the door is in fact still open, you'll likely come back at your old rank and salary – and it's possible, depending upon company policy, that you'll miss the next raise or bonus cycle due to the fact that you weren't there the full year and would be treated like a new employee.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.