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eileen dooley

Starting a new job is exciting. You arrive fresh, ready to go and likely have come back from a last-minute vacation on the heels of your final day at your last job.

You walked on water for the first week or month, but after that, the work sets in and it becomes apparent it's not the job you signed up for. The role may be more junior or administrative and less strategic than you expected, or your boss may be a nightmare.

You have decided to quit – but how does that not affect your reputation and damage your chances for future employment?

What to do

The most logical place to turn is the probation period likely in your contract. Probation periods are a two-way street. They are in place not only for the employer to change its mind, but for the employee, as well – there should be no hard feelings if either of you decides to end the relationship. Ideally, the employer will understand, just as they would expect you to understand if they said goodbye to you.

If an exit interview is an option, take it, or find some other way to communicate to your boss or human resources that the position was presented in a way different from reality. If you are leaving because your boss's "leadership style" is not working for you, this is something to communicate in an interview. Just keep it professional and helpful to the company, which may need to re-examine how or who they hire.

Any recourse

Going back to your previous employer may be an option, depending on your situation. Some employers may see you as disloyal and not welcome you back. Others may see you as a valuable employee and consider options to rehire you. If this is the case, have an honest discussion as to why you left and perhaps changes can be made to your old role to help you feel more satisfied with the company – if they take you back. This is further reason to leave any employer in a professional way.

If the employer you're leaving recruited, and caused you to leave a good job with a solid employer, you may have some legal recourse – especially if the position was not presented in a truthful and accurate way.

What can you do to avoid taking the wrong job

Job interviews should always give a candidate an opportunity to ask questions of the employer. Many people do not use this opportunity to its fullest extent. Ask intelligent questions that will not only make the interview panel think (after all, they just made you work – now it's your turn), but that will give you a sense of what it would be like to work there. This also may give you a heads-up that the position they are interviewing for may not be as they have presented it.

Questions such as: What is your priority for this role, and what do I most need to succeed? Or, as my director, what would be the most valuable thing I can learn from you? Also ask why the position is available. If it is a new role, ask what internal resources are in place to support it, such as executive sponsorship. If the role is available because someone left, ask how long that person was there. If the answer is anything less than a year, ask how long the person prior to that was there. If you see a disturbing pattern of six- to eight-month stints, it is unlikely you will last much longer. The new hire is either getting let go, or running away. You will likely experience the same fate.

As part of preparing for an interview, you also should scan LinkedIn or other social networks to see if you know people working at the company. Ask them for insight on the role, your future leader and the company's culture. Your contacts are a valuable resource in terms of getting to know a company's true culture, and whether it will fit your goals. Reviews on sites such as Glassdoor may also be helpful, but be mindful that all companies have disgruntled employees. Look for patterns and keep an open mind.

Ultimately, do not waste time at an employer hoping things will change, because they rarely do. If it's not what you signed up for, get out and begin the hunt for something else.

Eileen Dooley is a career transition specialist with VF Career Management, Calgary office.

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