Chances are you know someone who has quit their job in the past two years.
Due to wages not keeping up with the rising costs of inflation and companies starting to end remote working opportunities, among other reasons, we’ve seen a lot of people jump ship. Studies have shown that, on average, 4 million people have quit their jobs every month in 2022 alone. So many people have quit their jobs that economists even devised a new term to describe the current workforce, called The Great Resignation.
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But what happens when you quit your job for a better opportunity and find out that it's…not what you wanted? Or worse, not even what you signed up for?
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There’s now a term to describe just how you and others may currently feel: shift shock.
Kathryn Minshew, CEO and cofounder of The Muse, describes shift shock as “that feeling when you start a new job and realize, with either surprise or regret, that the position or company is very different from what you were led to believe.” It’s normal for roles in companies to change or fluctuate over time once your employer realizes your strengths. But to be bamboozled?
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“Although it seems to be happening more often, it isn't new,” says Amanda Kay, career expert at My Life, I Guess. As an employment specialist, Amanda sees this happen all the time.
It’s tough to advertise for a job listing correctly because the person posting an ad may have incorrect information and leave out key information. But there is deceit among employers as well. “In today's job market, many employers are so desperate for staff that they purposefully mislead candidates just to get someone to fill the role. They add buzzwords and promise benefits solely to attract more applicants, hoping that whoever they hire will stay despite being misled.”
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So, shift shock can turn your new job into a total nightmare. But if you don’t have a backup plan or have incredible benefits and pay you can’t walk away from, it doesn’t have to be.
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So what can you do about it? I got 4 expert suggestions:
1. Ask yourself, is it really not them, but you?
If you've broken up with someone before, you may have used the line "It's not you, it's me," when we all know the real reason is that they eat with their mouth open. What if it's the same with shift shock?
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First, think about what’s going on.
“Being honest with ourselves and our situation is one of the hardest things to do,” says Hassan Thomas, CEO and founder of FYI FLI. So if we realize we’re not currently hyped up on our current work situation, we need to be honest about the severity and what is bothering us. Is it the work schedule? Are you doing tasks you’re unprepared for? By assessing a situation and identifying what is going on, “the progression that will come from it can be astonishing,” Thomas says.
Make a list of your issues and assess why they are bothering you. Some issues may be about work, but some may pertain to you personally. Being told you were going to work 8 hours and it ends up being 12? Misled by work! Deciding you’d rather work remotely so you can listen to TV in the background because you find the work boring? Personal!
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2. Track your work progress for 30 days.
They say it takes 30 days to make something a habit, so I’m going to say it takes 30 days to decide you like something, including a new job. Keep track of your tasks on a calendar or in a journal, then assess at the end of the day if it is aligned with what you agreed to do. Make notes and highlight anything important for you to address or fix.
You may realize that while you’re not doing the tasks advertised, they may be tasks still related to the role or department. As a side note, you are not obligated to stay if you are being abused.
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3. Be like Karen and ask to speak to the manager.
Once you’ve armed yourself with the data you collected thanks to your last step, meet with your manager or HR department to discuss your concerns. By having specific examples ready to go, you’ll have an easier time explaining what was expected of you versus what you are currently working on. “Some companies are awful at onboarding new hires,” Kay says. She also says it’s important to give them the benefit of the doubt because it could be an honest mistake and something they can fix swiftly. It could be that they are easing you into your new role.
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4. Come up with Plans B, C, and D.
If the air isn’t cleared up, it’s time to get creative. And no, that doesn’t mean handing in your two weeks notice to play video games and catch up with friends. Thomas shares that there are only two situations in which quitting makes sense. “The first situation would be if you already have another job lined up after you depart from your current job.” So, if you've already interviewed with a new employer and have a job offer in hand, go for it. According to Thomas, “'The best option is to have options' is some of the best advice my father has given me. So to quit a job with ZERO options is not it!”
If you don’t have a new employer lined up, you could still quit if you have another income source covering your living expenses. I was able to quit my day job abruptly when it was no longer the right fit for me because of my freelance writing business. To give myself extra room, I delivered for Uber Eats and did pet sitting through Rover. I don’t advise people to scramble to cover their bills, but I do think if your business or other ventures can allow you to move on without financially hurting you, it can be a wise move. The important thing is that you have enough backup plans, so you’re not left high and dry.
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So, what if you need to stick it out?
After interviewing both Kay and Thomas, I wholeheartedly believe the following statement Thomas shared: “Contrary to my Gen Z and millennial crowd that believes success happens overnight, it requires hard work and time." In our age of instant gratification, it can feel like someone blew up overnight, and you can emulate their success through hard work. I see this firsthand whenever someone asks how I became a freelance writer. “Well, I spent a lot of time with my cat in my apartment working 14 hours a day” isn’t sexy, no matter how I try to spin it.
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Instead of throwing in the towel, learn new skills and build your network. Opt for a side hustle on the weekend to save money to invest in starting a business. Experiment to find out what you like to do so you can do it in a way that's not only fulfilling but also profitable. Like Cardi B once said, “You were born to flex with diamonds on your neck.” Be a gangster.
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