You can do everything you’re “supposed to” do—ask the interviewers questions about the role and the company and its culture, read dozens of online employee reviews about the company, talk it out with your mentor—and still find yourself in a job you don’t like.
Or, you rushed through your job search because you had to get out of your last unhappy situation. Either way, you’re not the first person to want to leave a new job. So what do you do?
Trust your gut. If you feel like you’re in a bad situation, and you’re not just having a “bumpy start,” you can get out without damaging your reputation.
It might feel uncomfortable, but here’s how you can quit a job you just started.
Quitting a new job: How soon is too soon?
I asked life and career coach Letisha Bereola how long someone should stick around if they’re unhappy in a new position.
“I know a lot of people struggle with this because they don't want to burn bridges or disappoint their team,” says Bereola. “But, I want you to understand the whole world is having a conversation about our relationship with work and it's no longer taboo to stand up and say, ‘I want something different’ and make a move.”
This changing work relationship is why a record-high 47.4 million people quit their jobs in 2021. And not everyone sticks around that long.
Career data site Zippia reports that 17.4 percent of people who quit their job leave within the first month. And 16.5 percent of people who quit do so in the first week.
Leaving within weeks or months might feel like you’re bailing—but really it can mean you’re putting your health ahead of everything else.
“If you're miserable now, the longer you hold out, the more likely you'll experience burnout and that's a much harder condition to recover from,” says Bereola.
Actual burnout is much bigger than that “I could sure use a vacation” feeling we all get. Clinical psychologist Becky Tilahun, PhD, of the academic medical center Cleveland Clinic described burnout as “a feeling of constant emotional fatigue caused by chronic stress that makes you lose your passion and energy for your job, as well as the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that you get from your engagement.”
So don’t beat yourself up if you’re eager to quit a job you just started. And don’t add stress to the situation by giving yourself any grief over it.
“Don't feel bad. Life is short, you must feel like your work is worth showing up for,” says Bereola.
Once you start getting that “I don’t like this” feeling, where do you begin?
Quitting a job you just started: What to do
First off, if you find yourself in an awful workplace, do not feel guilty about leaving after a few short weeks. Use our guide on identifying and leaving a toxic work environment.
If your situation is more about the job not being the good fit you thought it was, you can follow these steps:
1. Get to know other teams and departments.
Bereola says to start by exploring your new company for better opportunities before you jump ship.
“Start where you are so there are no regrets about moving on. You're going to give your current position a shot before deciding it's not for you. Once you know for sure it's so much easier to leave without turning back. This will look like you asking yourself, how can I make where I am better fit my needs? What will bring more _____ into my current work? Fill in that blank with whatever you feel like you're missing. It could be more fun, spontaneity, structure, etc.”
Make sure you get to know your company and all it does, in case there’s a department or team that you fit better (or perfectly!) with.
2. Avoid going right to your new manager.
In most cases, this situation is about you finding the right fit for yourself, and isn’t a problem your new manager can solve. Bereola says only talk to them this early “if you know what could improve your time at work, or you have actual solutions that would help you be more effective and feel better doing the work.”
Otherwise, you’re just letting them know too soon that you might be leaving, and that can cause an awkward and ineffective dynamic. Give yourself time to be more confident in the decision that’s best for you.
3. Ask yourself key questions about what you need.
Maybe you were quick to leave your last role and didn’t spend much time asking yourself what you really value in a job (or maybe you did, but you’re starting to learn that’s not actually what you want). Make some time for an “exploration stage.” It could be that you’ve been looking for jobs that aren’t actually going to give you what you need.
Think about if you prefer independence vs. collaboration, or what challenges you’re okay with vs. which ones are deal-breakers, and if you want a manager you can learn from vs. one who will remain hands-off… If you didn’t use this list of questions to ask yourself while job-hunting, do it now. It could lead you to where you really want to be.
4. Make an exit plan.
When you’ve looked around and still feel it’s time to leave the company, it’s time to make an exit plan.
If you’re ready to go ASAP, your exit plan will focus on how you will financially survive in between jobs. How much money do you need in savings or how much side-job or part-time income can you rely on that allows you to quit without your next full-time gig lined up?
If you’re not in that much of a rush to leave, your exit plan details when you want to leave by, how much notice you want to give, and what you can do before your last day to help with training or recruitment.
“Really think about how you can soften the blow,” says Bereola. “This could look like offering remote support for six weeks after you leave, or taking on one last project that would really help clear your manager's schedule before you go. The point is, you want them to know you're here to help with the transition. It will be hard for them to paint you in a bad light if you do everything you can to make this an easy transition.”
Try to stay professional and continue to get your job done while you get everything in place for your exit.
“While you're developing your plan, you'll need to have one foot in (engaged employee) and one foot out (making plans to leave),” Bereola says. “It sounds tricky, but you can do it!”
5. Don’t get wrapped up in reactions.
It could be the hardest part of leaving a job you just started, but don’t focus too much on what others will say. You can do everything right and people can hold a grudge. You can only control your actions, not anyone else’s.
“You want to exit with as much grace, planning, and consideration for the people who just hired you, but there's no guarantee the company will have the same attitude toward you,” says Bereola.
The good news is that just deciding to quit your job makes your situation feel temporary, which can help alleviate some of your daily stress.
“You may have to stay [where you are] until you can find what's right for you, but the fact that you're taking action to change your work life will help you keep going with optimism you're going to find something better,” says Bereola.
Just remember that as tough as it feels in the moment, what really matters is you finding what makes you happy, and a place where you can thrive.
“I'm going to give you just one reason [that’s good enough for leaving a job], and it's the only reason that truly matters: You get to decide your reasons and your reasons are good enough,” says Bereola. “If you don't look forward to going to work everyday then it's time for you to think about why that is and if it's directly connected to the work environment itself, I'm giving you permission now to start finding what does light you up and energizes you.”
About our source
Letisha Bereola is a life and career coach helping women craft a career that lights them up. After Letisha spent more than 10 years as a television news anchor in Alabama and Florida - and receiving an Emmy nomination - she recognized that burnout was starting to set in. She was inspired to channel her experience and knowledge into her next bold move: starting her own coaching business. She now helps thousands of women curate their own careers and reach their goals. You can follow Letisha on her coaching site and on her podcast AUDACITY: Unlocking the secrets of the bold, where she interviews creatives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders about how they build out their dreams. She’s also a frequent contributor for TheGrio, where she coaches thousands of people every week in navigating their careers with clarity, audacity, and purpose.