I hate my first job, what should I do?

Career Advice
05 December 2019 | Career Advice | Guest Author

You’ve secured your first job post university, and you’re finally reaping the financial rewards of that degree. But it just doesn’t seem to be going right. Sophie Phillipson, co-founder of HelloGrads, explains what to do in this situation.

First of all, don’t panic, or leap to conclusions that you’ve chosen the wrong industry or career path. You aren’t alone: people leave jobs all the time. According to Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, of the 49% who are planning to leave their jobs in the next two years, 23% don’t feel appreciated, 21% feel bored or unchallenged and 15% don’t like the workplace culture.

But this doesn’t mean that leaving is necessarily the right move for you. If you are starting to doubt your new role, consider these steps on what to do next:

Work out what is wrong
There is a famous saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If you’ve been having a rough time for a while at work, try to forensically dissect what the main issues are so you don’t make the same mistake again.

Is it the work you don’t like? Are you bored? Is there a toxic office atmosphere? Is the long commute stressing you out? Is your boss a poor leader? What bits of the job do you enjoy?

Doing this sort of analysis, or writing a list of pros and cons, will do two things. It will help you troubleshoot existing problems, and help you ask the right questions when looking for job number two.

Set a deadline for action
Never quit on a bad day, and don’t hand in your notice without first trying to fix the problems. Speak to your manager, and explain what you think could be better. Be sure to frame it positively. For example, rather than saying “I’m incredibly bored and unenthused”, tell your boss that as well as administrative tasks, you’d love the opportunity to get involved with client accounts or new business.

Then, set a deadline to see if things improve. If they haven’t, start planning your exit and searching for new roles. Having an end in sight will help you keep your head up on bad days.

Talk to a good friend
Feeling trapped five days a week is tough: you get serious Sunday blues, your energy is zapped and sometimes you really need to vent. This is good. If you keep it all in then you will just get more and more miserable and nothing will change. It might not solve the issue, but finding a good friend to chat to can be a great stress reliever, and even turn tough moments into stories to smile about.

But, a word of warning. Refrain from talking to your workmates about it. It can be good to have allies in the office but spreading negativity is unprofessional and if it reaches the senior team you could cause trouble. Talk to a friend who has no ties to your workplace.

Spin your decision
Many people are advised (often by their parents) to stay in their first job for at least a year because “it looks good on the CV”. While this is true to a point, if you really feel you have to move on, then it’s up to you to market that decision to future employers, who will typically always ask why you’re leaving your previous role. Always be diplomatic with your answer, and never be tempted to bad mouth a past employer: hiring managers may see you as indiscreet and it’ll put them off. You might say “It was a great starting point for my career, however, there was little chance for progression in that company” or “While in that role I started working quite closely with a marketing agency, and it made me realise that this is where my calling is, and after researching the sector thoroughly, I knew I had to make a move.”

Don’t burn bridges
The last thing you need is to scorch the earth on your way out. Work as best as you can until your last day in the office. As tempting as it may be, don’t burn bridges. Contacts you make in any job could prove to be invaluable in the years to come. Keep a cool head, be respectful and leave with class.

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