Q: Is it acceptable to pursue another position after four months of employment or should I continue in a situation that could prove to be detrimental to my career in the long term?

Q: I recently accepted a position that is completely different from the position advertised. It does not fit my job criteria nor will it enable me to continue to remain current in my profession. I feel that I will make a serious mistake remaining in this position. Is it acceptable to pursue another position after four months of employment or should I continue in a situation that could prove to be detrimental to my career in the long term? Please advise.

SM: You should definitely not stay in a position if it makes you unhappy. Nor should you stay in a position that you believe may be detrimental to your future career. If you haven’t done so already, start looking for a new position immediately. Do not feel guilty and do not listen to people who tell you to “stick it out for a year.” If you are miserable, you need to get out before the environment harms not only your career, but also your interest in the profession and ultimately your sanity.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in the wrong job – it may be a misrepresentation of the position and the duties, it may be a job that they have outgrown and no longer enjoy, it may be a supervisor or co-worker who is impossible to work with. Multiple factors contribute to our happiness in the workplace; the lack of one can cause the work environment to deteriorate quickly. Most of us have stumbled into unsuitable, if not unbearable, positions at one point in our careers, or had our jobs deteriorate due to environmental factors. I have a friend who has a great job at a prestigious university library but dreads going in to work in the morning because he does not get along with a new co-worker. He is content to stick it out for a while hoping that either he will be able to transfer into another position at the same university, or his co-worker will leave. In the meantime, he suffers.

Before leaving any job, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons and make sure you are comfortable with your decision. Before accepting another, similar, position somewhere else, be sure that it is the job environment that is the problem and not the nature of the work. I think that getting out of something that you know is not right for you is a wise move because it shows that you are not afraid to take action. You know what you want and what you don’t want and you are motivated to move on with your career and your life. Staying and suffering will not make you stronger. If do not have a lot invested in your position and the institution, and it sounds like you do not, it should be fairly easy for you to leave. I would, however, stress that you should have a job offer in hand before you leave your current position. Unemployment should be avoided at all costs.

While you are planning your next career move, try not to let unhappiness and frustration overtake you. Attempt to learn as much as possible in your current position in the short time you have left. This position, no matter how irrelevant you think it is, will still provide you with some kind of applicable experience that you can add to your resume. Speaking of your resume, since four months is not an insignificant amount of time, you will almost certainly want to include this position. If a potential employer asks about your reasons for moving on so quickly, your answer could be as simple as: The position turned out to be very different than I expected and I quickly realized that it does not fit in with my career goals, which are X, Y, and Z.

The work environment has a fundamental impact on how much we like an actual job. I have found that being surrounded by supportive, friendly, creative people is extremely important to my personal happiness at work. You may want to create a list of factors that are important to you, and, from this list, devise questions to ask potential employers and potential co-workers during interviews. Remember, you are interviewing them as well. Knowing what you do not want in a job will only make you stronger.

For related information and advice, read these insightful articles: How Do You Know When It’s Time For You To Go? by Susan M. Heathfield and Surviving Jobs You Loathe by Timothy Ferguson.

TA: I must admit that I am one of those folks who would tell you to stay in the position for at least a year, unless of course you fear for your personal safety or sanity. It does not fit my job criteria nor will it enable me to continue to remain current in my profession shouldn’t have been concerns that appeared out of the blue. I assume you had a vacancy announcement when you applied for the position and that you spoke with people in the organization when you interviewed for the job. Also, a position doesn’t keep you current in the profession, you do. While you may not be making the kind of contacts you want in your current position, you can still stay active professionally. You can participate in local and/or national professional organizations, attend conferences, participate actively in professional e-mail lists, and read and publish in professional literature.

However, if you still feel that you need to get out of this position, you need to do so carefully. The last thing you want is for a not-so-graceful exit from a not-so-fabulous position to haunt you. At the time of your question, you had been in your position for about 4 months. You should take the next 6 or so months to do several things:

  1. Assess your current position and determine how it is different from what you expected. Perhaps you could explore with your supervisor some ideas for moving the position and your work more in line with your original expectations and career goals.
  2. Take some time to explore how you got here in the first place. It is every interviewees right and responsibility to interview the hiring organization, just as they are interviewing you. During the interview, did you ask the right questions about the position and the organization? Did you ask questions of the supervisor, the library director and your future colleagues? Did you look at the library’s organization chart and mission, or other information available online or in published annual reports? Did you know enough about the position when you accepted? What would have liked to know more about before accepting, and how would you have found that information? At the very least, answering these questions will better prepare you for what to look for (and ask about) in the interview for your next position.
  3. And, if your efforts are unsuccessful, update your resume and start looking at vacancy announcements for other positions. After you’ve done the work mentioned above, you should be at just about a year in the position. Once you’ve reached that benchmark, start applying. Be sure you don’t burn any bridges at your current place of employment; you will need a good reference to get out of your current situation. Just let them know how grateful you are for your time with them, but you feel that it is time to pursue other opportunities. Be sure to have an answer prepared for the inevitable interview question: “I see you were only at place X for about a year. Can you tell me about your experience there and why you left?” Keep your answers positive and learn these words: advancement opportunity. Be prepared to share something positive about your current job. You can always say, “My position at X Library really helped me focus on the aspects of librarianship that I would like to explore further, such as…” They don’t have to know that what you really mean is that you didn’t enjoy what you were doing there and want to do something else.

This is a hard spot to be in. I know how important it is to wake up every morning (at least every weekday morning) and want to come to work. But I think you should just chalk this year up to a learning opportunity. Do some work, figure out how things ended up this way, and how you can get out gracefully. Then with a happy heart and healthy mind start sending out those resumes. Best of luck in your pursuit of advancement opportunities.

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