It can happen to anyone. You start a new job and quickly find out that this is not the best place for you to be. What are your choices? Will switching right away make it harder for you to find a new job?


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One of the most distressing experiences for someone interested in building a solid career is to accept a new job, and then quickly find out that it just isn't right. Sometimes, it's a matter of internal politics or conflicting personalities. Sometimes the job is misrepresented, or it could be just an honest misunderstanding of what the job itself would entail.

Regardless, when it happens, it is best to face up to the situation and take corrective action as quickly as possible to find a new position. When you do, you can expect that the short time in your present job will be a concern to many potential employers.

They may question whether you were able to contribute, or whether your personality is difficult. They may tend to see you as one party in a feud, and wonder what the "other side" would have to say. They may also fear that you are focusing on resentment of your employer, hindering your ability to perform and to bring enthusiasm to your next position.

Fortunately, there are proven ways to address this liability, which you can even turn to your advantage in most cases.

Mindset

Keep in mind that, when you get right down to the substance of what really matters, what counts is whether you are the person best qualified to help the employer by virtue of your skills, personal traits, and the enthusiasm you bring to the job.

Your short tenure with your present employer is not central to that question, and so it is in effect more of a distracting side issue than a serious liability. It probably represents less than 5% of your total experience, and had it happened a few years ago instead of currently, it likely wouldn't even be an issue. Remember too that it can be addressed effectively with sincere, forthright communication.

You would also do well to realize that this has happened to several people over the course of their career, and that the interviewer may have had a similar experience, or interviewed others who did, and who turned out to be highly productive and valued employees.

Resume

One way to defuse any objections is to leave the present position off the resume, discussing the matter as you choose either in a letter not accompanied by a resume, or in a cover letter, where you have more leeway to present it in a favorable light.

Another approach that can be used in selected circumstances, provided that you have met personally with the employer and agreed on it beforehand, is to accurately and truthfully position the experience as a short-term situation that was of a temporary consulting nature, with a possibility of becoming something more. That is in effect what it turned out to be, so long as you were able to make some contributions.

If you choose this approach, make sure it is factual. You can honestly state that there was an expectation it would develop into a permanent position, but due to factors not related to performance or personality, it simply didn't develop.

Another approach is to choose an achievement or functional format for the primary structure of your resume, with dates and titles placed at or near the bottom, or on a second page of a two-page resume. That way the reader appreciates your valuable contributions before becoming aware of the short-term nature of your current employment, and might therefore be predisposed to think more positively about reasons why that is so.

It will also help if you use a summary at the top of the resume which briefly highlights your consistent record of achievements and contributions. This too will immediately offset any tendency on the employer's part to place much significance on the short-term nature of your most recent experience.

For the same reason, be sure to make visible on the resume that you have several enthusiastic references from all employers and other sources with respect to performance and personal character. This is particularly effective in removing any doubts about your performance and personality.

Interviews / e-mail / Letters

In correspondence and interviews you can turn this to an advantage by emphasizing that one of your primary objectives in this job change is to find an employer where you can contribute over the long term in a stable environment.

You may choose to emphasize, in a low key but firm manner, that you intend to be as certain as humanly possible that you go into a situation where there is absolutely 100% clear communication with respect to expectations, the definition of the job, and a thorough description of the responsibilities, authority, duties, and reporting relationships, as well as clear agreement internally that this job is essential, and should be structured as it is.

In the same low key way, openly and honestly share your concern about not defining things sufficiently in detail up front in the past, and about not having that happen twice. You can admit that it was just as much your fault as anyone's, but that you do not intend to make the same mistake twice.

In some situations, if it is appropriate, you might even volunteer that you would prefer to perform a no-charge consulting assignment for the employer, specifically aimed at researching the challenges of the position, and describing in detail the approaches you would take and the methods you'd use. Explain that both you and the employer could then be assured ahead of time that this would be a good match of talents and styles.

One executive who did this found that, in a situation which looked ideal on the surface, there was indeed not a good match, and so he avoided what would have been a painful experience.

Extremely important in interviews, you should never sound defensive, or as though you were one party to a feud. Strive to sound as objective, detached, unemotional, professional and impersonal as possible when discussing the situation. Do not place blame on others, and do not exhibit even a hint of resentment, even if you feel it. Employers do not hire people who they believe will be preoccupied with resentment, because they know it will detract from job performance.

Instead, be especially careful to present anything that might be viewed as conflict in a manner that shows you understand it was an honest difference of opinion, or an understandable difference in approaches and styles that wasn't apparent at first. Or better yet, that certain factors which could not have been anticipated developed unexpectedly.

If it is appropriate and to your advantage in other ways, point out that you took the initiative to approach the employer, observed that the position was not working out as expected, and that it wouldn't be in the employer's best interests or yours, for you to continue in it any longer.

Go on to mention that, confident of your appeal in the job market based on your record of performance, you suggested an amicable arrangement that would give the employer the benefit of any contributions you could make in that short time, and allowed you the time you needed to find a suitable position with the right employer.

In this way, you come across as being very concerned about doing the best by your employer even in an unfortunate situation. It also shows you can handle setbacks professionally, and deal with them in a forthright manner that brings about the best results possible under the circumstances for all parties.

If it is factual, be sure to point out the specific contributions you made during your short tenure, and that these are much appreciated by the employer.

Regardless of how you treat this potential liability, take the initiative to focus on the positives in many ways, in order to offset any negatives that may be associated with the fact that you haven't been in your current position very long. Specifically, it will be to your advantage to direct the interview to a discussion of the functional areas where the employer needs help.

Ask questions that direct the discussion toward the functions that will be most important for the person who wins the job, and when they are identified, relate examples of how you have used those precise abilities and strengths to make significant contributions to your employer.

The most memorable and credible way to do that is through concise situation-action-result format stories which show that you analyzed situations well, took appropriate actions, and achieved measurable results.

Actions

The actions in particular should show that you assessed situations quickly and correctly, then took actions in rapid-fire sequence, which got the desired results. These stories will demonstrate that you possess the confidence which stems from having addressed these challenges successfully, making your current short-term employment less of a concern.


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