5 bad excuses preventing you from finding a new job

If you’re unhappy at work, you’ve probably thought about finding a new job – but if you’re like a lot of people, you never seriously start searching because your own fears hold you back. Take a look at these five common excuses for not job-searching  and see if any of them sound familiar.

1. I can’t leave my team hanging in the middle of this big project. There’s rarely a “good” time to leave a job. If you wait for the perfect time, you might be waiting forever. And even if you leave in the middle of an important project, your team and organization will manage to get by, no matter how bad the timing. And no reasonable person will blame you for the timing; this is just how this stuff works, and most people understand that. So job search when you feel ready, and then once you accept an offer, give as much notice as you can, leave your work in good order, and provide thorough documentation for your replacement. That’s all you can do, and all that is expected of you.

2. My job, despite its flaws, is familiar to me, and I feel anxious or sad about leaving. Even when you know leaving is right, leaving the familiar and going somewhere new can be hard; it’s the unknown, you don’t have a routine there, and it can be daunting. As bad as a job might be, there are still usually some things that you like or at least feel really comfortable with, even if it’s just the physical space you work in or your routine of getting a sandwich from the deli downstairs every afternoon. It’s normal to feel this way; the key is just not to let it get in the way of your making good decisions for yourself.

3. My manager has really gone to bat to keep me. Your manager might have pushed hard to get you a raise, a promotion, or better assignments, even using her own political capital to do so. But this doesn’t obligate you to stay forever. It does obligate you to speak up if she’s in the midst of pushing you to get you something when you know you won’t be around in a few months – but if it’s already happened, and especially if it was a year or more ago, you don’t need to feel tethered to a job you’re ready to leave. If your manager is good enough to inspire this kind of loyalty, she’s going to understand that people move on.

4. In this market, it will be too hard to find a new job. Job searching in this market istough. But people are getting hired every day, and fearing that you won’t be able to is no reason not to even try. Besides, if you lost your job tomorrow, you’d have to find a new one, no matter how tough the market, right? So put together a strong resume and cover letter, talk to your network, and start throwing your hat into the ring for jobs that interest you, and see what comes of it.

5. If I go somewhere new, I’ll lose the status and respect that I have at my current job. When you’ve established yourself in one organization, and enjoy the credibility and respect that accompany everyone knowing your work, it can be hard to imagine having to build that all over again somewhere new. But there’s also a price for staying where you are when you know you really should be moving on – whether it’s staying in a situation with a difficult boss, or a job where you can no longer advance, or with an organization that won’t pay you what you’re worth. And you presumably earned that status and respect at your current job, and you’ll earn it at a new place too. (And having that respect from a whole new group of people is a great move for your career!)

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 51 comments… read them below }

  1. Kelly O*

    I will admit that #4 has gotten to me, especially after a few rejections or hiring managers that drop off the face of the earth. I have started and restarted more times than I care to admit, thinking maybe it was just not the right time/not the right economy for me.

    Now I can’t just put it off for later. Time to face a few demons and recognize that not getting a job is not a jab at me personally, it’s just business. Move on. Keep calm and carry on and all that.

    (I have dealt a lot in the past few years with recognizing that business decisions don’t always reflect the quality or quantity of my work, or even how people feel about me personally. I read something not too long ago about how women especially carry that “school” mentality to work – if I do my work and just focus on that, I’ll make an A, do well, and keep advancing. Work does not equal school, and it’s been an epiphany-ish thing for me.)

    1. Laura*

      Kelly, that’s an interesting view. I was just thinking the other day about how I did so well in school, but work doesn’t have a teacher to rely on for knowing the right answers. Do you remember what you read? I’d love to read it.

      1. fposte*

        I’d love to know too. It makes a lot of sense to me, given what women often struggle with in advancement, but I hadn’t thought about it in terms of the contrast with school–that’s a really interesting point.

      1. Elle-p*

        That was a really great article. I recognized a lot of myself in some of the counterproductive strategies they identified. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Joey*

    I hear these a lot:
    “job searching is stressful and I have enough stress in my life.”
    “My friends/coworkers are going to be pissed at me for leaving them”
    “Things will fall apart if I leave.”
    “I need to stay here more than a few years for hiring managers to even look at me.”
    “Even though this job has sucked for a long time I really believe things are about to change”

    1. fposte*

      I think a lot of people stay because of #2 (being anxious about change) but don’t really admit it and use your examples instead.

    2. EnnVeeEl*

      You know what puts all of these in perspective for people, especially those working on shaky companies (layoffs, no office supplies, known money problems)? Frame it in terms of a layoff:

      “Getting laid off and searching for a job when you don’t have one is really stressful. It’s easier to find a job when you have one.”

      “Your friends/coworkers will forget all about you after you are laid off.”

      “Your finances, relationships, etc., could fall apart as a result of a layoff. The company that booted you will be just fine!”

      “A layoff will force a short term job on your resume that you can’t do anything about.”

      “Oh, they are about to make some changes alright. And man, will it suck for you.”

      People act like these companies are friends or family. NO. It’s a place you go to do work and in turn for that work, you get a paycheck. Most folks need a paycheck to live and maybe have some fun. It’s always business. Never personal. Start treating it like it’s personal and you are going to suffer for it.

      1. Anon for this*

        “Your friends/coworkers will forget all about you after you are laid off.”

        This is so true, and probably for many reasons. I was laid off after 5 years one year ago. I had a handful of close friends who’s weddings, showers, etc., I had attended and considered close friends. After I was let go, none of these friendships stayed the same (as they just won’t when you aren’t together 40 hours a week), but some people actively pulled away from me.

        I think some of it is Survivor’s Guilt combined with fear it to could happen to them. I have heard the same thing happen to people from their friends after divorce or remarriage.

        1. EnnVeeEl*

          Right. Having people not return emails or calls, etc., hurts. I don’t care how you cut it. And it alters how you interact with people at future jobs for a long time.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          That’s not always true, but it will be if you let it. I regularly meet for lunch with ex-co-workers from the job I was laid off from a year ago, other ex-co-workers from a job I left over 5 years ago, and other ex-co-workers from a job I left a long time ago. Yes, it’s not the same because I don’t see them all the time. But we are still friends, and those friendships are worth the work it takes to keep in touch.

          1. EnnVeeEl*

            So tell us how many times you should call or email someone that doesn’t respond to you? How is getting cut off someone’s fault? It’s hard to believe, but it happens all the time.

            1. Jamie*

              I get this. I think some friendships are situational. As much as you like them and enjoy their company your relationship is almost entirely predicated on proximity.

              Like how when you’re little you’re friends with the kids your age who live on your block – you may like them but a big part of the friendship is familiarity and because they are there.

              Then some relationships deepen to the point where it’s beyond the situational and those are the ones that last after you all stop working together. I think some people are better at the latter than others – I totally suck at that, actually.

              But I don’t think situational friendships are bad – I like that I have buddies at work that I genuinely like and care about – I don’t know if the bond would survive one of us leaving, but that’s okay.

              Kind of like how I feel about my first marriage – something doesn’t have to be forever to be important. Some relationships have a shelf life but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.

              1. EnnVeeEl*

                No, I don’t think it’s bad either, but in lay off situations it’s really touchy. You are all cool, then a few months down the line you call to have coffee or maybe email to take that person up on THEIR offer to serve as a job reference – and you are met with silence. I have friends from jobs past, but I think it can get dicey with lay off situations.

                1. Jamie*

                  That absolutely sucks. The reference thing should be completely separate from the friendship thing.

        3. M*


          I dearly miss my friends and colleagues from my first job out of college (I was laid off as well). It hasn’t been the same since, and I don’t feel comfortable getting closer than “friendly, happy-to-help-but-won’t-share-anything-personal coworker” now.

      2. Lynn*

        “A layoff will force a short term job on your resume that you can’t do anything about.”

        I agree with most of the items on your list. But if your worry is looking like a job-hopper, why would you quit and definitely have a short-term job on your resume, instead of maybe having one or not having one depending on whether they lay you off?

        1. EnnVeeEl*

          But I think people use fear of looking like a job-hopper as a reason not to act, even when things don’t look so good (layoffs), or say you’ve been at a job a year and things go down hill. I guess I was saying you shouldn’t let that stop you. I would be honest with hiring managers – I’m looking so soon because there are layoffs.

          1. some1*

            This. If you just started a position and the only reason you want to leave is because there might be layoffs, at least you can get ahead of the game if you are laid off. If you are NOT laid off, and thus, don’t need to accept a new position, you don’t have to.

            1. EnnVeeEl*

              Exactly. I know a person who was laid off one month after taking a new job. They hired a crop right after grad school, never gave them any assisgnments, very little contact or communications and then they laid every last one of them off a month after they hired them.

      3. Jessa*

        I hate this whole attitude that it’s best to find a job when you have one. People who are laid off, etc. do not have a choice in this. It’s hard enough to try and find work in this economy but the longer you go without work the harder it will be.

  3. RLS*

    I am glad to say that in my current position, absolutely none of these apply, yay! However, I have been in a position in the past where #2 held me back…I truly loved the organization and my very clear path within it, but things slipped into a downward spiral very fast. I took a lot of knowledge and experience with me from that job but I am very happy I am no longer with that company. Getting me to leave, though, was hard.

    #4 is true…but of course, like you said, it’s gonna be hard no matter what. I’ve been job hunting since October last year with only moderate progress. But it will happen.

  4. Esra*

    I’ve been searching for months and have a few friends who want to leave their jobs in the future. I tell them, start applying now! By the time you find something, you’ll want to leave. But if you wait…? Ugh. Then you are me, searching way past the time you should’ve left.

    1. Just a Reader*

      It took me a year to find something but what I found is my perfect job in an ideal company.

      It SUCKS for it to take so long but the relief at getting out and taking the next step is so, so worth it.

      Good luck!

  5. Just a Reader*

    My last job was like a bad relationship…my horrible manager would make my life hell until I felt like walking out, and then make all kinds of promises about raises and promotions.

    The incident that led to my “snap” (snap = applying for jobs with a vengeance) was bad enough that I never reversed my decision to job hunt and now I’m in a MUCH better environment!

  6. Jamie*

    I was heartened to see #5. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s a definite issue – but I was glad to see this is a real thing and not just one of my own weird issues.

  7. Anonymous*

    When I was looking I felt like “Can I even do anything else besides call center work?” It took me a while to get over those feelings of self-doubt.

    1. Anonymous*

      I hear you on that. I think it also ties in with the fact that sometimes people pigeonhole themselves into a specific role/field/career path and it can be very difficult to think about how transferable your skills are. If you’ve worked in a call centre you likely have a ton of experience in customer service, handling rude clients, using complex software etc., all of which are vital workplace skills – but it can be hard to see that when all you’ve done is worked in a call centre.

      I’m in a similar place right now – I’m trying really hard to break the mentality that “what I can do for work” and “what I am currently doing for work” are two different things, and that I have much broader skillset than I sometimes think I do.

    2. Kelly O*

      Trust me, I am right there, right now. Wondering if the best I can do is some data entry and reminding people that 7 and 07 are the same thing.

      My head somewhere knows I can, but it’s been a little challenge making myself believe it.

  8. Malissa*

    #5 can be mitigated by being involved in group in your industry. Status and respect earned in professional groups tends to transfer with you. Plus it makes you realize that people outside of your work recognize that you know what you are doing.

    #4 Was my hold-up for a long time. But this blog really helped me overcome this fear. Along with actually helping land a new job! Thanks again Alison!

    #1 I almost had this hold-up, until I saw some one else leave in the middle of projects and realized life went right on. :)

  9. anon in tejas*

    this is just a comment on the title of your post/article.

    I would suggest consider how you use the term “lame.” I think that sometimes we use adjectives without thinking about them, and how we are using them derogatorily. I have friends who are disabled, and referred to derogatorily as lame. Since thinking about it more, I don’t use that word to describe things anymore. I thought about how they would feel if they heard me use it in that way and how it would hurt them.

    I know that sometimes it feels like nothing is safe to say anymore. But I think that if we all took a few minutes to think about the words that we are using to describe something and work just a touch harder to be more articulate in our word choice, we could prevent a lot of hurt and stigma.

    1. Jamie*

      One dictionary definition is “weak; inadequate; unsatisfactory; clumsy: a lame excuse.”

      The way Alison used it is perfectly acceptable word usage – many words have more than one meaning.

      I understand what you’re saying, but imo there is always something that will offend someone and it’s a dangerous road to want to prohibit the use of words in properly accepted usage because.

      For example I think most people will agree that the word “retard” should never be used to describe a person or EVER be leveled at someone as an insult. But there is no offense in the flyer I got on my door the other day for a lawn service which offered something which retards the growth of dandelions.

      Very rarely are words the issue – it’s the intent behind them that’s the problem.

      Just my opinion.

        1. Jamie*

          My son corrected me on something the other day – I told the dog he was handsome and brash (I don’t know why) and meant it as a compliment but my son had to whip out the dictionary app to prove I was insulting the dog.

          And he was right…but I pulled out urban dictionary to show that colloquially it also means:
          “A synonym for words relating to cool such as tight, chill, fresh, sweet, shibby, awesome, stupid, dope, off the hook, hot, gangsta, beastly, etc.
          Usually used to describe a very cool thing.”

          It ended by my admitting he was right and we went with the real dictionary and him making me swear on my life that I will never use the word “gangsta” or “dope” in a sentence ever again.

          Yes, we have dictionary wars around the old dwor…very exciting household.

    2. fposte*

      I think “lame” is an interesting one. I know it’s been cited as an example of an ableist figure of speech. However, in the U.S. common usage, I’d say it’s more akin to “idiot” and “moron,” which also used to be technical terms for disabilities, in that its figurative use is now much more widely known used than its older technical one.

      1. Jamie*

        In thinking about this I agree that the common usage has moved away from a disability. Although if I hear “lame” I think kind of sucky…not necessarily idiotic.

        If I ask my daughter how her date was and she said lame I would assume she didn’t have a nice time…that he was disabled wouldn’t occur to me.

        1. fposte*

          Though I’ve just realized that it’s still standard literal when you’re talking about animals, but there’s no particular stigma attached there.

    3. Joey*

      If you have an issue with “lame” you might want to find another blog. I like it used derogatorily when it applies. Just as idiots are called idiots and jerks are called jerks. I don’t see why its a problem to call it like it is.

    4. Kelly O*

      I have never actually heard anyone disabled referred to as “lame” in a modern context. I have heard of lame horses, but not lame humans.

      Growing up in the late 80’s, early 90’s, I suppose my definition of “lame” is tied more closely to John Hughes movies than physical disabilities.

      I would respectfully suggest that, at some point, we allow words to carry power, and we are in control of how we choose to perceive another person’s intent. There was clearly no ill intent here.

  10. Anonymous*

    I would add a #6: you feel loyalty to your boss who gave you so many opportunities to grow and advance.

    I was part of a startup company over a decade ago and in the time since, the has CEO given me every opportunity to advance from a low-level supervisor to a member of senior management, have the run of the place and get my hands into everything, has paid for my college education, and sent me to an industry-related two-year school program. After all that, I definitely feel a strong sense of loyalty. Problem is, it’s kept me from looking for a job for the last 3-4 years. Not that it’s terrible here. I just feel like things are stale and I want to move on. But all I can think about is that I’m deserting him. And even though I know everyone is replaceable, it definitely would be quite difficult for those left behind, at least for awhile. I’m pretty much a jack-of-all-trades here and everyone here wears many hats. It hurts when someone leaves.

  11. Jen in RO*

    Most of those applied (and still apply) to me. It took a week of being angry at my boss’s cluelessness to get my ass into gear and applying to jobs (after a year of being sort-of-unhappy about work). I do feel a bit bad, because I like most of my coworkers and my boss is a cool guy, but I’m tired of the corporate bureaucracy, my boss has no clue about what we actually do and my department is seen as expendable… I’m very lucky that I could tell my team that I’m interviewing – I don’t have to lie to her and she can also cover for me if I’m unusually late!

    Also, it’s a great feeling to be interviewing while somewhat-happily employed. I am in no rush to find another job, so I can wait for the perfect one!

  12. TP*

    I wish I had read this article a few years ago, which is when I really should have started looking for a new job. Instead, these excuses ran through my head and I somehow convinced myself there was opportunity at my company and stayed. Boy was I wrong. Things went south and now here I am, trying to find a new gig in the toughest job market I’ve ever faced and wondering when things are going to change for the better. It’s been years since I started and I kick myself everyday for not waking up sooner.

  13. Forrest*

    This is so timely – this week I accepted a job offer, pending background check. The check will be finished next Wednesday and of course it will come back fine. I plan to resign then.

    I’ve never resigned before. Even though I don’t enjoy my job, I enjoy my coworkers. I enjoy the familiarity.

    The new job is so much better for me – more responsibility, more of where I want to take my career and a major salary jump. (25%!) Its perfect and its what I want. I’ve thought a long time about leaving and didn’t start my job hunt until I was ready. Even then, I just applied to things I was interested. I even turned down second interviews because it wasn’t a good fit to me. I’ve weighed all the pros and cons and the pros outweigh the cons by so much.

    But I’m so scared and so sad to leave. This place gave me a chance when no one else could and I’ve been here for significant amount of time.

    Its for the best and I’m excited for whats next but its hard to say goodbye and its hard to ignore the fear of failure/change.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think you have to ignore it–I think you’re doing the wise thing, which is acknowledging it. It’s innate to find change stressful, even good change. You’ll be great in the new job and you’ll get an identity there soon enough, but in the meantime, it’s weird. Eat right, make sure you go to the gym or walk the dog or something to get your body moving, and get a decent amount of sleep, and remember also to think to yourself about ways that you’ll succeed and what you might want to achieve. (And you know, even if it doesn’t work the way you want, you’ll still be okay.)

  14. crookedfinger*

    Whew, nope, not me. Though I sort of already knew that, as I’m currently looking for a new job. The only thing that’s held me back at all is that I don’t want to jump into a new job where I don’t make as much as I do now, or one that doesn’t offer any benefits.

  15. Ali*

    #3 is so me. About two years ago, I was going to leave my company for a temp job. A. temp. job. I ended up changing my mind, as the staffing service who placed me told me my job had no chance of going permanent and that I’d have to wait for another temp job. I told my company I had changed my mind and they gave me a raise. Fast forward another year, I got promoted and another raise. Now I have been there for three years total, and I feel afraid to leave because of the promotion and raises! I would love to be an employee with actual salary and benefits rather than a contractor with no benefits and no taxes taken out, and I would like to work first shift and no weekends/holidays. But my mom (bad parental advice ahead) tells me I can’t leave because the company has been so good to me and you can’t just “spit on them.” But I can’t stay forever either, so it’s like I have to be loyal. Plus, I had trouble establishing myself out of school due to layoffs and bad fit jobs, and this is my first long-term job since my college days, when I stayed at my school job for three years.

    #4 is kind of me too, and I know my resume and cover letter last time around weren’t strong enough to get many calls. So pretty much before I start searching I want to redo those, and I keep putting it off because I don’t feel my one long-term job will give me a good enough boost. Sigh.

  16. Jen M.*

    #4 has very much been me. I have been applying for jobs on and off for six years now (no lie!) and have had maybe three interviews! :(

    In the meantime, however, I have become stuck here a little longer, because I may be selling my house and moving to another part of my state or one state over. Now, I need to put my search on hold, because when buying a home, a stable job is a definite plus.

    I’m miserable, and I pretty much checked out six years ago, but I need the paycheck. :(

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