What It's Like Leaving A Bad Job for A Worse Job (And How to Avoid That Mistake)

By Marina Krivonossova on September 2, 2022

When you’re unhappy at work, it’s only natural to start looking for other opportunities. Opportunities where you see potential for career growth, personal development, more money, fun colleagues – the whole package. But sometimes, the new job where you see so much potential for improvement from your current negative situation proves to be nothing more than an even greater disappointment. How do I know? Because there was a point in time where I found myself in such a situation.

I want to share one of my stories with you – not for the sake of complaining, but rather so that you have the chance to learn from my mistakes that led me to leaving a bad job for a worse job. And, the added bonus? I’m going to show you exactly how you can avoid making the same mistakes.

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Problem at the original job: When I was unhappy at my original job, one of the things that led me to feeling that way was the lack of professional growth. My responsibilities were set in stone, and there was no room for expansion based on my interests. It got boring really quickly, with every week feeling like the previous. I was ready to move to a company where I could take on more responsibility and learn new things based on my professional interests and experiences.

Expectation vs. reality at the new job: The new job promised to fill that void in my professional life. I was told that the job description was vague on purpose, as I could find my own place in the company, building my own career trajectory in a way that aligned with my interests and background. And, in their defense, it was partially true – there were no originally set responsibilities, and there was a lot of room to do something new every day. But what they failed to mention was that the vague job description also meant that my boss could spontaneously load me with more responsibilities than I could handle, expecting me to deliver projects in the blink of an eye. And, as we never agreed on what my day-to-day tasks would look like, I found myself bouncing between random work on a regular basis – starting new things, getting halfway through, and being pulled from the project before I could finish what I was doing.

How it could have been avoided: In retrospect, I should have been more inquisitive about my day-to-day tasks during the interview process. I should have initiated the conversation about expectation management to better understand what my new boss would expect from someone in my position. I should have asked how often I’d be expected to stay at work beyond the officially outlined hours, and I should have been more curious about how much freedom I’d have to say “no” to my boss’ spontaneous requests.

(Image via unsplash.com)

Problem at the original job: At my original job, there was little to no regard for people’s feelings. A senior colleague could yell at you and insult you, and they would see no repercussions for such unjust behavior. It stemmed from a hierarchical structure, where junior and medior employees were expected to essentially take orders from those above them in the professional hierarchy.

Expectation vs. reality at the new job: The new job held promise of a better place in terms of authority. When I first spoke to my new boss, they assured me that the organization was flat, with the CEO having the exact same rights as the intern. No individual was perceived as better than the other, and everyone had to treat each other with the same dignity and respect. However, the reality proved otherwise when my boss failed to control their temper when they found themselves in even moderately stressful situations (which happened to arise on a semi-regular basis). The stress on my colleagues’ faces when these situations arose was always notable.

How it could have been avoided: In retrospect, there are two things that I would have focused on in the interview process to try and find out if such behavior from management would be an issue. First, I would ask for a meeting with junior team members (without the presence of management) where I could ask them about some things that have recently gone very well or very poorly within the organization. I would have then asked them how management handled the situation, and what the general reaction was within the team. Second, I would have asked one of the most senior team members what their experiences were in the aforementioned situations. It’s important to gauge how well the responses of people align based on their seniority level, as well as to look beyond what’s being said, interpreting the body language of respondents. I know it sounds rather analytical, but it’s really important for discovering how people are treated within the team.

(Image via unsplash.com)

Problem at the original job: There’s not too much to elaborate on here, but I felt that when it came to financial compensation for my work, I was being cheated in my original position. I was regularly told by colleagues that I should be grateful to have a job, even if it’s not a well-paying job, and it didn’t feel right (especially knowing how much they were making while saying that to me).

Expectation vs. reality at the new job: At the new job, I was offered a fair bit more money than at the original one. That alone made the transition feel worth it. Both jobs were officially offered to me on a salaried basis, so the hourly rate appeared to make a huge jump when I switched roles. However, the reality proved otherwise, when I found out just how many hours of work were expected from me. The new job promised a work week of one length, while I realistically ended up working 1.5x that. So, while the salary I was promised seemed to be higher there than at the original job, the real hourly earnings were rather on par with the original job.

How it could have been avoided: Something that I always bring up at interviews (from that moment on) is the topic of “How many hours of work does this role actually require per week on average?” Even if the role is outlined in the vacancy as a full-time role requiring 40 hours a week, I like to bring that topic to the table to learn about extra side projects that may be expected of me, spontaneous weekend activities that require my presence, and so on, and so forth. Even if it seems repetitive to bring it up, it’s a topic well worth discussing during the interview process.

At the end of the day, there’s no way to 100% know if the expectations at the job of your choice will perfectly align with the reality that comes your way. But you can do yourself a huge favor by doing research in advance (on the company and the staff members), as well as coming to the interview prepared with specific questions that you want answered. No job is worth destroying your mental or physical health for – that’s a fact. But you won’t be doing yourself any favors by jumping from one horrible job to another. Take it from someone who’s been there. So, whether you’re looking for your next part-time gig, or if you’re in the world of full-time work, put in the time and effort to ensure that you’re actively pursuing a position that will truly be beneficial to you.

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