Surfing the job boards one day, you come across an ad for what seems like the perfect role for you. You send in an application, and you hear back from the employer right away with a request for an interview. You go in for your first interview, which you ace, followed by a few more, which also go well. A week later, the phone rings. You got the job.
You show up to work on your first day, eager to make a good impression. It goes well, but it’s not exactly what you thought it would be. “Maybe tomorrow will be different,” you tell yourself. You show up on day two, but it’s not. Neither is day three nor the rest of the week.
Doubt creeps in. “Should I have taken this job? Is this where I belong? Can I make the kind of impact I want to make here?” you wonder to yourself.
What to Do When You’re Not Satisfied at Work
I work with people at all stages of their careers, including those who have started new jobs and are now questioning if the roles are right for them. When people are not sure about their employment situation, I usually offer them the following three choices:
1. Quit Complaining and Just Do the Job!
This is not my favorite option, but it is an option. When we spend all our time complaining about how much we dislike something, we may be expending energy we could put toward appreciating that thing’s good qualities.
Surely not everything is bad about this position you have taken. After all, there was a reason you were initially interested in it. Jot down a list of pros and cons. You might be surprised to actually find you like some things about this job you think you completely hate. Maybe there is enough here to keep you engaged and productive for at least a bit longer, or maybe there is even enough that the job can become your career.
2. Do What You Can to Improve the Job or Environment
Your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) preferences might offer some insight here:
If you prefer extraversion, you are likely energized by work environments where you can interact with others. Not having opportunities to talk things out with others could leave you feeling drained by the end of a day.
Tip: Try volunteering for a few projects that will allow for more interaction with your colleagues on a regular basis. Join or establish groups that offer opportunities to discuss ideas with others.
If you prefer introversion, you likely enjoy work environments that provide some private space and reflection time. Having to constantly talk to other people throughout the day could leave you feeling exhausted and even a little testy at times.
Tip: If your new job requires you to interact with others more than you would like, try getting up a littler earlier in the morning to get the time you need to process the coming day. Use your lunch break for a solitary walk or drive. If you need more reflection time, ask for it. You might be surprised by how supportive your colleagues and superiors are.
If you prefer sensing, you probably like to get information in a sequential, step-by-step way when starting a new job. If you aren’t getting this kind of information, you may feel that too many of your questions are going unanswered.
Tip: Dedicate time during your day to asking subject-matter experts for the specifics you need. Research resources to find answers that can help fill in the blanks. If no guidelines or manuals exists, be that person who volunteers to put them together. Note: Be careful not to step on anyone’ toes. You don’t want to make people think you are looking down on their established processes.
If you prefer intuition, you probably like to receive information in a big-picture-oriented way, instead of getting lots of details, when starting a new job. If you aren’t getting this kind of information, you may feel you don’t have enough of a sense of general purpose to get things started.
Tip: When all those details come at you at once, take a deep breath and put them into manageable chunks or patterns. These patterns can help you see what the ultimate outcome of your efforts could be, which should help you get started.
If you prefer thinking, you likely need to address task-focused objective logic when making decisions in your new job. If your workplace’s culture considers this approach too impersonal, you may feel as if you are being sidetracked from the most important tasks at hand.
Tip: Stay focused on the logical outcomes while also considering that you need people to make things happen. You may want to set up calendar alerts to remind yourself to acknowledge the feelings and values of others.
If you prefer feeling, you likely need to focus on values-centered people issues when making decisions in your new job. If your work environment doesn’t appreciate the impact of decisions on people, you may feel you have chosen a workplace that does not value what is especially important to you.
Tip: Remember to stay true to your values first and foremost while always recognizing that work is work and requires outcomes that produce results.
If you prefer judging, you probably need plans and schedules that you and others respect and follow when organizing work tasks. If your new work environment does not allow for this, you might start to feel anxious, worrying that projects won’t be done on time.
Tip: Ask yourself, “Do I really need to get it done early, or can it wait just a bit?” At the same time, also show clear evidence that the plans you have are realistic and will produce the best outcomes.
If you prefer perceiving, you probably need the flexibility to keep options open when organizing work tasks. If your new work environment does not allow for this, you might start to feel boxed in and pressured to make decisions you are not yet ready to make.
Tip: The proof is in the pudding. If you can prove that your “pressure-prompted” approach can still result in excellent work that is always on time, those in your new work environment may be more willing to accept it. Still, most organizations run on judging principles, so you will probably need to think about flexing more than you might like. Reward yourself for flexing by making sure to keep your downtime more open-ended.
Really — just leave. Move on to find work you truly love in an environment that honors you for being the person you are. People often stay in work environments that don’t appreciate what they contribute. This can lead to lower engagement, worse performance, and even lower self-esteem. We spend so much time at our jobs — why not find a place that appreciates our contributions the way we naturally present them?
I hope this article gives you a few ideas to consider if you find yourself questioning whether a new job is really right for you. I wish you all the best in your journey to find a work environment that honors and celebrates you for the work you do and the person you are.
Michael Segovia is the lead trainer for The Myers-Briggs Company’s MBTI Certification Programs. He recently presented a TED talk reflecting on how type theory has informed his understanding of his own life story.