When your dream job turns out to be a nightmare

After months of interviews, follow-ups and negotiations, ...

Posted: Oct 10, 2018 2:58 PM
Updated: Oct 10, 2018 2:58 PM

After months of interviews, follow-ups and negotiations, you've finally landed the job of your dreams. But now that you've started, it's not at all what you thought it would be.

"All of the sudden, the honeymoon is over and you realize this is the job," said Kerry Hannon, an expert on career transitions and author of "Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness."

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"Work is not a four-letter word, but work is work. It's not always dreamy. There is a nuts and bolts aspect to it."

Not all is lost if your dream job isn't the dream you thought it would be.

Give yourself time to grieve

Even if you hated your last job, it was familiar and you had established connections and a reputation.

"You are the new kid again," said Hannon.

Give yourself at least six months with the transition, she advised. And try to stick it out for at least a year before moving on.

"I like to tell people to stay three to five years and then keep moving." Staying for less than a year at a job likely means explaining the situation to future employers, she added.

It can also take time to get the necessary training and background before getting fully immersed in your new role and responsibilities, so avoid making knee-jerk reactions.

Identify the problem

Sit down and list what you do and don't like about your new role.

Maybe all the travel that came with the new job sounded like a dream. But being in an airport four times a week and living out of a suitcase can take a toll.

Sometimes your dislike for a new job has nothing to do with your role. It could be the commute, the hours or even not having people to eat lunch with.

Now that you have identified exactly what it is that's making you miserable, request a meeting with your boss to explore solutions.

The key is to avoid sounding like you're complaining.

"Have that conversation in a solutions-oriented way," said Anna Bray, executive and career coach at Jody Michael Associates. "Be thoughtful about it and point to specifics."

For instance, maybe you thought the job was going to include more client interactions, but you find yourself sitting alone at your desk more often than not. "Tell them one-on-one time with clients inspires you and that you feel like it's missing and is there a way to build it in more."

Regain your confidence

New hires can suffer from impostor syndrome when they start a new job. They doubt their ability to perform their required duties, feel inadequate and worry that they faked their way into getting hired.

If you were a superstar at your old job, starting over at a new gig can be tough.

"You are now back at the bottom starting from scratch, and you probably want to go in and make some really good impressions," said Bray. "But keep in mind that it is going to take some time to get there."

Remember that hiring managers do their research, and you got through the interview process and were hired for a reason.

However, if there is an aspect to your new job you feel unprepared to handle, look for training opportunities and online seminars to help fill the knowledge gap.

If you feel lost with your new responsibilities, don't be shy to ask for help, advised Hannon.

"They want you to succeed," she said. "They spent time and money on the hiring process. They don't want you to fail."

Find a mentor

Get some help with onboarding at your new job.

Some companies have formal mentor programs that pair a veteran worker with a new hire, but if that doesn't exist, look for an experienced colleague with a similar position and reach out for some help and guidance.

It helps to have a person to ask questions about protocol, bounce ideas off of and answer more general questions about the company and work life.

"You want to be perfect when you arrive and show what a superstar you are, but you have to get over yourself a little bit," said Hannon.

Get a life outside of work

If you are struggling at work, it helps to have other activities that bring you happiness.

Learn a new language, volunteer, start a new hobby or fitness routine or schedule a catchup with friends.

"You can do things to move the needle a little outside of work that have a much bigger impact on work experience," said Mike Lewis, author of "When to Jump: If The Job You Have Isn't The Life You Want."

It's also important to stay healthy and avoid letting work stress overtake everything.

"Protect your sleep. People in new roles put in long days. Protect that time," said Bray. "You know you need to recharge and come back fresh."

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