changing jobs — navigating the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t

I hear frequently from people who are nervous about taking a new job because they feel guilty about leaving their old team behind — but I also hear from people who worry about jumping from a situation they know (even with all its flaws) into something less familiar — the devil you know versus the devil you don’t. It’s natural to worry that a new job might not turn out as well as you thought.

So — for this week’s “ask the readers” question, let’s talk about fears you’ve had about changing jobs and how they turned out. When you worried about taking a new job, did those fears turn out to be warranted? Or did you end up happy that you moved on? Please share details in the comments.

{ 381 comments… read them below }

  1. Inching towards retirement*

    When I switched jobs it was into a stretch role, so I was already nervous about my abilities. That plus a much smaller staff lead to a rough first 6 months. After that I got more into my groove and felt more confident. Everyone at the new job was kind, but when you’re super introverted and your job requires a lot of outward facing time, it is hard to feel motivated to get to know your coworkers and not just retreat back to your desk.

    Complacency is no reason to stay at a previous job. And no job needs to last forever. And nothing that seems like a dream job on paper ends up being a dream job in reality. At least in my opinion

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Complacency is no reason to stay at a previous job.

      Quoted for emphasis. I know too many people who know they need to move on from where they are because they’ve hit a ceiling, but won’t because it takes too much time to job search, they’re used to where they are, etc.

      1. Delta Delta*

        That happened to me. I started to become unhappy in a job that was a decent job but I was unhappy. It was easier to stick it out than to leave because leaving is a pain. When I finally left it was because I was miserable. I’m much happier now in my current role, but I think the leaving could have been a more pleasurable experience had I done it sooner.

      2. DCGirl*

        Totally. I had a job for eight years where you had to beg for time off and apologize for using it when you came back. I took that habit to the next job till my boss told me taking time off was ok. What a concept!

      3. tired anon*

        That is exactly where I am right now and why I’ve been pushing myself to start applying. It would be so easy to stay!! I like my role fine and I like the people I work with and the stuff I work on! But I’m feeling so stagnant and there’s no room to grow further where I am, so… sigh… ugh.

        (At least it’s a good place to be in to start the searching process?)

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          It’s an excellent place to be! You can afford to be extra picky when looking for your next position.

        2. Adalind*

          Yes, definitely a good place to me. I’ve been at my current job a little over 3 years and a job posting came across my lap that I had to find out more about (it’s in a field I have more interest in). I sent my resume for the heck of it and have a phone interview next week. I don’t think they’ll pay what I need it to (if I get offered the job), but it’s worth a conversation and to see what’s out there. I may be pleasantly surprised. I don’t like change but sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone.

        3. wittyrepartee*

          Take it step by step. First step is to shine up the old resume! Second step is to look into different kinds of jobs and do some sort of informational interview.

      4. Moray*

        How do you try to convince someone that? I left a toxic job more than 4 years ago, and a friend is still there, underpaid and miserable. Many of our conversations go “my job is so terrible because [reason]” – “yes, I know, that’s why I left.” I sympathize, but I’m tired of hearing about it.

        Every potential job has something to object to–they would have a cube (they’re in a cube now) or it would be a lateral move in title (but a much better salary) or it would be a farther commute (by about 10-15 minutes). They’ll reply to a headhunter once in a blue moon, but if they ever do get an offer, I’m afraid they would take a counteroffer from Terrible Job out of fear of change.

        What makes people snap out of that mindset?

        1. Minocho*

          I have found I can fall into that never ending cycle of negativity when I’m anxious about something. For me, when I recognize it’s happening I make lists of pros and cons. When it’s in black and white, I can rank the importance of my cons, and compare them to the importance of my pros.

          A friend that has struggle with anxiety mentioned a strategy a therapist helped her adapt. I”ll start the process with her when I see her entering into that kind of spiral:

          When you’re anxious you can be so obsessed with what can go wrong that you lose all perspective. So…play a game of “What if it ALL goes wrong?”

          If that’s true, what’s the worst that will happen? What will you do if that happens? Okay, then what else terrible could happen. What will you do then?

          Continue this cycle – turn the worrying into problem solving. There are options, fallback positions, people and resources to lean on, etc.

          1. Artemesia*

            As someone who tends to worry and catastrophize this tactic really helped me. You sort of relax into the what is the worst case scenario here and what will I do if that happens. Rarely is it the end of the world and it really helps calm me down when things are going pear shaped as I meet the problems with strategy and plan B rather than just being anxious. So you miss the train? What will you do? So you get notice you are being riffed — how can you prepare for that to make it easier?

          2. Jackalope*

            That actually makes it much worse for me. I spiral into everyone I love dying or a meteor crashing into the earth or something. If I try to limit the possibilities of worst-case scenario (stuff clearly connected to my job change, for example), then I shift into becoming homeless and dying on the streets or moving away from here to live on the charity of friends/family and never moving out of my dad’s spare room again as I sink into a pit of despair and then die from a curable medical condition that I couldn’t deal with bcs I lost my health care. For example. So it depends on your personal types of anxiety. This tactic may or may NOT help!

            1. Baru Cormorant*

              I’m with you. Instead I’m trying to learn to rewrite the stories of spiraling negativity with “Maybe it will turn out great!”

        2. Bagpuss*

          I don’t know, but it may help if you change how you respond – it sounds as though you are maybe suggesting options , instead, perhaps don’t bring it up but if she grumbles about the present job respond with a qustion “OK, how are you planning to change that?” or “What astepos are you taking to move on to something you’d prefer?”
          In other words, stop trying to fix the problem, but encourage her to fix it.

          You can also try the “Do you want me to make suggestions or do you just need to vent?” (anddecide whether /. how often / for how long you are willing to be the listening ear if she just wants to vent)

          It’s also OK to say to her “I don’t feel I can listen to anything more about OldJob at present” and change the subject.

          Ultimately, her career and job satidfaction are not your responsibility.

          That said, Ido thionk that it can be very hard to break away, and you don’t necessarily know the whole stoery – for instance, if she has had a lot of personal, or job insecurity ion the past, then leaving a stable job, even if it is not a good job, may be much harder than it was for you to do the same thing. And there are lots of other issues which can make it hard for someone to ‘snap out of’ an unhealthy mind set.

          there is also the fact that some people like having something to grumble about and at some level are not interested in changing .

        3. Veronica*

          The times I was in situations like this – not always jobs, sometimes personal – I would go back and forth about leaving until things got worse, or I felt worse. Until the situation was making me feel bad enough to motivate me, and then I would take the necessary steps.
          Since I was so bad about leaving jobs when I should, it was often taken out of my hands with a firing or layoff.

        4. FormerFirstTimer*

          Once your friend gets to that point where they’ve been taken advantage of and abused long enough, they’ll snap out of it themselves. I don’t think anyone can force it.

        5. Mimi*

          If you’re sick of hearing it, I would strongly recommend responding along the lines of, “Unless you’re working to get out of that situation, I don’t want to hear about it.” You can be more or less firm depending on the person, and provide support in next steps if they seem willing to try.

          Chances that they will actually change jobs based on that are probably pretty minimal, but you listening to them complain isn’t getting them anywhere either, so at least this way one of you will be happier.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            This exactly what I say to my mother about her job, and you’re right – she still hasn’t left yet after complaining about it for the last eight years, smh.

      5. Guacamole Bob*

        I don’t know that complacency is never a reason to stay. It’s one thing if the job is toxic or making you miserable, but it can be pretty reasonable to stay in a job that’s fine but where you’ve stalled out, depending on what else you have going on in your life. In my cohort I see it a lot among new parents – staying for the parental leave, or because changing jobs to something more challenging when you have an infant at home not sleeping through the night is just an extra layer of difficult. But I also stayed at a meh job for an extra year or more past when I started thinking about leaving because my spouse was finishing grad school and we were contemplating moving to a new city when she was done. And plenty of people have stayed in jobs for the health insurance, or for other logistical or benefits reasons.

        I think it’s important to be honest with yourself about why you’re staying and the long-term impacts of that choice, but not everyone needs to be stretching themselves all the time.

        1. ampersand*

          The reasons you’re listing aren’t exactly complacency, though—those are all legitimate reasons to stay put for a bit until your situation has changed enough to make it worthwhile/practical to leave.

        2. submerged tenths*

          I have made a conscious choice to not seek a new job, even though i have no upward mobility in this one where i’ve been for 20 years. I’m 65, this is a small town and pay tends to be under market, and i simply don’t have the energy to try to find new work.

      6. Lisa B*

        I was laid off from telecom, at a company where I thought I could see a thirty year career ahead of me. The job was ok, not great, but I’d been there for ten years. Getting laid off was terrifying and I had no idea what to do. I wound up in the same title but in higher education. I loved my new job, loved my new co-workers, loved my new industry, which has let me experience amazing things and grow to a level I would not have expected. Being laid off was hands-down the BEST thing that has ever happened in my career. I never would have had the courage to change otherwise.

      7. Just J.*

        What’s that meme about driving the back roads of Alaska? Pick your rut carefully. You’ll be in it the next 60 miles.

    2. Becky*

      I don’t know if it is complacency in my case but I am a VERY risk-averse person and while I might be able to get higher pay if I move I just see too many risks. But then I do actually really like my current job.

    3. charo*

      Sometimes we don’t know how we feel — we know we want to leave a toxic job but it drains us so much we’re beaten down, while a pleasant dead-end job is easy to stay at, in our rut. And if we were grateful to get the job when we needed one, it’s easier to stay in it.
      Getting job counseling and checking their postings can help, esp. w/a toxic job. It’s a life raft to get perspective.
      I hated a toxic job but when surprised by a large bonus check [after only 7 mos.]. I was hooked. Finally I figured out the annual check wasn’t much if you saw it spread out over 12 mos.
      Don’t get too hung up on perks or benefits, look for them elsewhere.

  2. juliebulie*

    I’ve mentioned this here before (but maybe not recently):

    Ages ago, after leaving a job where I worked for a clock-watching micromanager, I really annoyed my new boss who didn’t care to hear all the details of my comings and goings.

    Because of that, years later, after a series of toxic jobs, I worried that I had developed a lot of bad coping strategies that would get me in trouble with my next job. However, the next job wasn’t dysfunctional (yet, LOL), and therefore was missing all of the cues that previously might have made me resort to bad behavior.

    That’s not to say that bad habits can’t be carried over; but it turns out that being in a healthy environment does make it a lot easier to behave in a healthy way.

    1. Llama Wrangler*

      I agree with this! Each of my jobs previous to this one had various dysfunction, and while my current job isn’t perfect, I have found it much easier to unload all of my toxic coping mechanisms than in my previous jobs because it is such a healthy environment.

    2. k8isgreat*

      I am in the same boat with bad habits formed from a previous clock-watching micromanager (who was otherwise very nice, but just obsessed with knowing where we were). I still feel guilty if I leave five minutes early to catch a train or come back ten minutes late from lunch, or feeling like I need to tell someone I’m running out to get a coffee but will be right back. I keep waiting for someone to send me a text wanting to know why I’m not at my desk and in reality – no one cares. My work is getting done, I got great reviews at my last annual review. It’s just a weird 7 year old habit I’m learning to break.

      1. Catsaber*

        Me too. All my previous managers (except one) were clock-watchers, and my current one does NOT care as long as you are working during core hours and get all your work done. I generally arrive between 7:30-8am every day…and no one bats an eye. It’s never even been commented on. That would never have flown in my last jobs, even when my arrival time didn’t matter at all. My last boss would cough or harrumph very pointedly if I dared come back from lunch 5 minutes late (but would never actually tell me not to do that, because he was very passive aggressive and didn’t manager well).

    3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      I agree! I had worried, when I switched jobs, that I’d end up struggling with my anxiety disorder again because I was losing all the little supports I’d put in place to manage it. (Check-in meetings, visual voice mail, reorganizing team tasks to move anxiety block-inducing ones off my plate, etc.)

      Turns out, I did fine– it’s amazing how much less anxiety management I had to do when my environmental stress dropped because my leadership was competent, fair, and supportive. The remaining anxiety responds just fine to the normal tactics.

    4. Tedious Cat*

      This is totally me. Though I didn’t really realize it at the time, my old dead-end job was a terrible fit for me and I coped by slacking a lot. When I changed jobs, I really worried about how to combat the bad habits, but it turned out I was so busy and engaged with the new work that was a great fit for me that I didn’t even have time to worry about whether the bad habits would crop up! For a long time I thought I couldn’t do better, but it turned out I really could, and now I feel like I actually have a career instead of just a job.

    5. LuckyClover*

      I also really annoyed my boss at first after leaving a clock-watching manager. About a month in, there was a moment when I got to work about 20 minutes late and I realized that every time I hit a red light I wasn’t freaking our or getting angry because I knew nobody cared and it was going to be fine. I really appreciate the alleviation of that stress, I think my life is better for it. Now, this new job isn’t perfect, but ultimately my mental state is much better. I am focusing on my work rather than my attendance.

    6. Kiwiii*

      This! I just transitioned to a job where I have leaps and bounds more flexibility/independence than any of my previous positions. I’m definitely annoying my manager a bit by being like “hey, so … what’s the process for asking to work from home bc I need to be at a place nearer my house right about the time i’d usually get out of work and there’s an hour drive,” expecting to have to argue or fill out a form or be made to run it past my coworkers, and he was just like “you tell me, post in the team chat, and I make sure your VPN is set up”

  3. jblack38*

    This was me a few months ago. I left a job I’d been in for about four and a half years. I worked as a mental health therapist in a prison and there were a lot of different reasons I left (toxic co-workers, rough environment, issues between custody and MH, the list could go on for days!). One of my co-workers who I was close with, kept telling me it would be “worse” to leave something I was familiar with vs. starting out somewhere new. He advised me against leaving, although some of that (I think) was his own emotions coming through about the possibility of me leaving. I consulted with the people closest to me in my life (husband, mom, close friends), and I thought it about for awhile, and realized I needed to get out of the prison. I ended up taking a job in an outpatient community mental health clinic as a supervisor for a new intake program.

    I’ve been at my new job for about 6 weeks, and I like it! No regrets currently, although maybe in due time I will? I don’t miss my former job’s drama. I miss the fantastic co-workers I did have, and they all understood why I ended up leaving. I’m happy I moved on, it was the best choice for me and a definite step up in my career path.

      1. jblack38*

        Thank you! It was work that I loved doing and maybe would consider again in the future. People never believe me, but I didn’t leave because of the offenders, they were the best part about my job.

    1. Robbenmel*

      My ex was a prison mental health counselor for a long time. The stories he could tell! (nothing that could be identifying, but they were …interesting.)

  4. Economist*

    Every job or assignment that I’ve left made me fraught with second thoughts and sadness about leaving my colleagues and my projects. However, soon after starting each new job, I asked myself, Why did I stay at the old job so long? I should have left sooner. I also learned that I could continue to stay in touch with colleagues, so it really wasn’t goodbye, and it’s always exciting to start new projects.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah I think that’s a key message: YES, leaving a place is always a little sad, and you will probably have moments of regret or panic, but that’s totally normal and expected, and you should just work through it / work it out, it doesn’t mean you made a mistake. I needed to know that to take the pressure off the first day / week / month at my new job.

    2. Looby*

      This, exactly. Every time I have started somewhere new I ended up wishing I had made the break from old job sooner.
      I work in academia (in positions tied to grants) so shorter job periods are not frowned upon but it’s still a stress every time.
      I recently started a new job after leaving a toxic work environment and my energy levels feel crazily high compared to before because of how draining the old place was… don’t discount the long term impacts of jobs on your overall well-being.

    3. Quinalla*

      I’ve only had two jobs so far in my career (current one and the one I left 5 years ago), but I had this same thought, “Why the heck didn’t I leave sooner?” Granted, I did have a series of life events that delayed me leaving at the end when I was feeling ready to go, but even then, it still took a headhunter call to knock me out of my complacency.

      I had some impostor syndrome making me doubt myself some at my current job at first and I was very frustrated the first 2-3 months getting acclimated to the new tools/software, but after that I was back up to speed and even faster and better than my last place and so much more growth opportunities. It’s been great and the only thing I don’t like is the longer commute (30-50 minutes vs. 5-10), but everything else is so much better!

    4. Competent Commenter*

      Absolutely agree, Economist. I feel like jobs hold us under a kind of spell, and when we leave the spell is broken and we look around and see reality. Suddenly it seems sort of silly that we were staying in that job where we were treated badly, or our coworkers weren’t very nice, or our coworkers were nice so we didn’t want to leave them in the lurch, or because the projects that we managed mattered to us so much…it all seemed SO important at the time…and then you start the new job and wonder why you felt like that about your old job at all.

  5. Banana Bread Breakfast*

    I recently left a very negative work environment that for many reasons had completely shot my drive and motivation to be a good employee. I was worried switching roles that the aftershocks of that bad work place would carry over into my new employer and I would suck at my new job. At the end of my tenure there were runs of days where I would literally show up and stare at the wall and do no work for my full 9 hour work day, even though there was definitely work to do – but I didn’t feel empowered or supported to do it, I was simultaneously severely under-managed and micromanaged so I didn’t know how to do a lot of my job on my own and didn’t have the power to do things I did.

    Lo and behold, because I moved into a type of work where I felt supported by my management / colleagues and saw room to grow and improve, my motivation returned and the days drag soooo much less. I encourage anyone to take the leap if they can!

      1. I want a nap.*


        I am so stressed it’s causing paralyzing anxiety attacks. I keep thinking back to previous jobs where I was so much more effective and efficient, and am trying to have faith that will come back when I’m in a less toxic environment.

        1. Banana Bread Breakfast*

          I think the best advice I can give is really take to hear that it’s a two way interview when considering new jobs. I think I ignored a lot of red flags about my last work place because I was fairly fresh out of grad school and just wanted to get that first position under my belt, even though it wasn’t the work I wanted to be doing and I saw warning signs that they wouldn’t be the right employer to appropriately train me up.

          I much more seriously considered if I would actually be happy after various interviews in my next job search and finding a much better match has been invaluable to the transition! Near instant stress level drop.

        2. Baru Cormorant*

          I was in your shoes. I had become convinced that I was a worthless person and couldn’t remember what I was good at anymore.

          Now I’m in a new job, learning and growing, getting regular praise and raises, feeling like I contribute to something and am talented, and actively developing my career.

          You can do it!!!

    1. DaniCalifornia*

      This is very encouraging to hear. I feel I am at your starting point, this summer during slow season I did not do as much as I could. I’ve felt no effort to give 100% much less 15%. I’m still able to easily catch up because I’m not challenged. I am very close to a job offer and it would be a big step up and I’m nervous bad habits will carry over. I’ve recently been pretending I’m already at new job in my current role and am back to giving about 90%.

      1. Banana Bread Breakfast*

        Stay strong! My field is notoriously slow at hiring so it was about 6 months from me submitting my application to my start date and I feel for you, I know how the wait can feel eternal!

    2. QEire*

      I’m still in the middle of this. About three weeks into a new job after seven years at an increasingly toxic work environment. I picked up a lot of bad habits both professionally and personally at the old place, and I’m struggling to unlearn those with this new job. I also have chronic depression, anxiety, and OCD which all got worse in a toxic environment. The personal habits are improving faster than the professional, but I’m working with my therapist to deal with all of them.

      I did mention to the two people I work closest with now that the place I left was pretty dysfunctional (using as much non-inflammatory language as possible), and hopefully being honest about it can help me to view the new job as a new opportunity, and let them know that if I seem jumpy, there’s a reason.

    3. CMJ*

      OMG you have described how I feel perfectly. Some days I sit in my office and I’m sure I look busy but I am clicking endlessly through web pages, projects, emails, etc., while actually not doing a damn thing because I feel totally paralyzed. My boss is in the top 3 worst bosses I’ve ever had and I’ve been in the workforce since 1993. She is incapable of setting priorities yet micromanages the smallest tasks. I have no decision-making authority yet am “responsible” for everything. I stopped actively looking for jobs two years ago when I got down to the final stage of a terrific job and didn’t get it. I’ve felt stuck since then. I think it’s creeping into the rest of my life as well. No motivation, no energy, etc. Trying to get unstuck!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Same at my previous job, except my then-manager (who was new to managing) was completely disinterested in me as an employee and I was given only very basic tasks unless I went and got my own projects. That wasn’t unique to me, but I was the one who was laid off because there supposedly wasn’t enough of my type of work to go around. I should have been looking anyway but was complacent and trying to wait things out (average manager changes were every 6 months).

        Two years later, I have a supportive manager that I believe will actively help my career progression and my work is now far, far more interesting. I still have a ton of autonomy but in a good way and I feel valued for my skills again. Also my old team has now hired 2+ people for my type of work, and are planning to add up to 4 more because, oopsie, there actually WAS enough of my type of work, mgmt. there was just clueless about its importance.

    4. CRM*

      I am in a very similar position and I’m so glad that I’m not alone! My boss was constantly throwing me under the bus, and I truly believed that I was terrible at my job. I was so paralyzed about making mistakes that sometimes I would come into work and not get a single thing done all day. He was recently fired under dubious circumstances (I have it on good authority that he was under-performing in his own role, which would make a lot of sense) and I currently have a new boss who is great. However, I just can’t shake those feelings of incompetency, so I’ve been job searching thinking that a fresh start might help. Of course, now I’m dealing with the same question that headlines this thread, so I’m interested to read what others have to say.

    5. zora*

      This was what I really needed to hear!! I’m currently underutilized, and this current workplace is pretty positive, but my previous job was super toxic. And I’ve been wanting to start job hunting, but have been feeling really anxious that I am just terrible at everything and have no motivation to work any more. Your comment is giving me hope that it will all be so much better when I find the right place! Thank you!!

    6. Tedious Cat*

      I had the same experience! It was such a relief to discover my work ethics wasn’t broken once I was in the right environment.

    7. WhoKnows*

      You could be me, and it makes me feel SO much better knowing that things can turn around at a new place. I’ve started to feel like I’m not worth my experience and my confidence has been shot. Thank you!

  6. Molly*

    My husband was offered a new job after 5 years at his old company…3 weeks before our baby was due! So he would lose his multi-week paternity leave, we would have to navigate new health insurance at a tricky time, and he would lose the ability to coast under the radar a bit while recovering from the sleeplessness of a newborn. All while not knowing if he would like, or be good at, the new job. He made the switch anyway and our whole family is better for it! He was super clear with the new job that our life was in a time of change, negotiated 3 weeks of paid paternity leave, our insurance is actually better through my job for not much more money, and he is so much happier to be engaged at work. It was definitely the right move for him (and our whole family!)

    1. Fabulous*

      Wow! I can’t imagine navigating all those changes at once. I’m glad everything worked out for the best!

  7. Jennifer*

    I know two people that were so desperate to leave toxic work environments that they accepted offers when they knew they weren’t really qualified. Both ended up getting fired within two months. That terrified me. If possible, I’d say don’t wait until you’re desperate before you start looking. When those initial red flags start popping up, start job hunting.

    1. kexedref*

      I did this once. Got the the point where I was thinking “f*** this, I’m out” & took the first job offer that came along. Day one, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy there. Now, for every job search, I think “let crappy job pay for my job search & let me take my time to make sure I’m going into something better”. It’s really difficult when you’re in a situation where you dread coming into work, but it’s absolutely awful to start a brand new job & think “uh oh, what have I done?”.

      1. Jennifer*

        The worst feeling. Sometimes it’s worth it to stick it out so you get a steady paycheck and health benefits, while you search for something better.

      2. Lexi*

        Would you mind talking about what you saw / experienced on the first day that made you certain it was a bad fit?

        1. Slartibartfast*

          For me, it was discovering the boss who had a great public persona was someone totally different in private. Things I had been told in the interview were total fiction, telling me what I wanted to hear (bait and switch). Micromanaged things to the point that a daily physical checklist including thigs like “lock the front door”and “hang the closed sign” needed to be initialed by the person who did it. Oh and being told “good luck, you’re going to need it” by another employee who was leaving. I made it five months, but I got unemployment and the time/ money to cross train to where I am now.

          1. whatthemell?*

            Ugh – I had the same “frying pan into the fire” experience. CFO (my new boss) seemed amazing during interviews and sold the job as something is absolutely was not. I realized on day one that I was going to hate it, made it a full year, but now (years later) wish I had left on day 1. I was pressured by headhunter who put me in touch with the job, since he wouldn’t have made any money unless I made it there at least 3 months, and my boyfriend and everyone else kept saying “new job jitters.” Umm, being called a “f*cking idiot “ and screamed at daily (and I was the HR Director- no joke!) and forced to meet TWICE A DAY for “check-ins” wasn’t new job jitters. It was working for a mentally unstable, micromanaging Tasmanian devil woman who was literally the worst human I’Ve ever encountered in a professional environment.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Totally agree about not waiting until you’re desperate to job search. Every time I did that in the past, I either ended up in a situation that was just as bad as the one I left or ended up somewhere that wasn’t a good fit culturally. This time around, I began my job search earlier this year when I was just bored as opposed to loathing everything about it. I took my time scouring through job ads to find writing jobs that were either listed as remote or could become remote positions if I worded my cover letters just right.

      My response rate this time around was also much better than it’s ever been because I was only targeting positions that were in my wheelhouse as opposed to just submitting anything anywhere to get out. I also walked away from a lot of jobs this time around during the interview stage, which is something I rarely did in the past (if I interviewed and got an offer, I’d usually accept it), because many of these jobs didn’t live up to the promise of the job ads or I got a weird vibe from the hiring manager. It was scary every time I did it because the voice in my head would always say, “What if you don’t find anything else?! You’ll be stuck where you are,” but I knew this time around I had to take that risk because I didn’t want to end up in an actual toxic environment versus one that was just soul-suckingly slow.

      Four months later, I landed in a role that seems almost tailor made for me. I also have a lot of autonomy to shape what I do and what my position looks like, and that’s perfect for someone like me who is easily bored when doing the same things day in and day out.

      Almost four months into my new job, I can honestly say that my leisurely approach to job searching paid off. I really enjoy what I do and the people I work with (except for my boss, who annoys me to no end, but I’m remote and don’t have to deal with her often) – I absolutely made the right choice when I left my last job.

    3. Art3mis*

      I’ve done this but it was because I was unemployed and it was a “any puddle in a drought” situation.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Same here. Unemployed when the company I was working for laid off its entire remote sales force; managed to sell myself really well in the series of interviews (all the way up to the VP of Sales). I was in waaaaay over my head because the company’s products and services weren’t ones I’d ever dealt with. I honestly can’t remember if I was there 3 months or 6 months when they fired me. It was painful and traumatic.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’m sorry. I didn’t expect to take it so personally when I was laid off but on my last day, I went home and cried. It can be painful and difficult.

        2. Art3mis*

          Yeah, in my case I think they hired me because I was unemployed and could start right away. I honestly didn’t think I was going to get it because I had zero experience in that field and surely there were other candidates with that experience out there. Six months later I was out of a job and then they tried to fight unemployment. Ten years later and I still flip them off when I drive by. LOL

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agree 1000%. I ended up getting fired from my super toxic job and had to take a job that was not ideal because I needed something.

      Job hunting when you’re still in a relatively okay place is so much less stressful. I was able to be much choosier and find something that was an excellent fit.

    5. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Agreed. I’d waited too long in a toxic job years ago, and got let go as a result. So when my job started turning toxic a few years back, I decided not to wait to see if it got worse or better (like everyone was promising it would). I was able to search without feeling a ton of urgency and make sure the place I landed had a good, stable reputation (which is entirely deserved) and was known to trusted people in my network.

      Nearly everyone from the old organization started job searching. You can really tell the difference between those of us who started early, and mostly are happily ensconced elsewhere now, and those who hung on longer. Those who left later tended to leave for places that have turned out to be a mix of not great to really not great– the outcomes haven’t universally been bad, but it’s definitely the trend. And some are still stuck at the old organization (which is still, three years later, “about to turn a corner”). I’ve heard anecdotally that some of them are having a hard time interviewing well because of their desperation. And there’s overall a pall over that organization in our industry area.

      I guess moral of the story is, know what constitutes a yellow or red flag for you, and when they start flying, make plans early.

    6. Melewen*

      On the other hand, leaving a toxic job for something that doesn’t work out isn’t always a bad thing.

      I found a position that would let me get out of my toxic job. There were some yellow flags at the new place, but I knew if I stayed in the old job, I’d be much worse off. The new job was nice, but they ultimately decided I wasn’t the right fit for them and chose not to renew my contract after the first year. I was disappointed, of course, but even unemployed I’m in a better place mentally than I was in my old toxic job.

      The caveat is that I live in a country that has universal healthcare and provides good unemployment benefits, so I have time to regroup without worrying about everyday bills.

  8. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

    Mine was taking a job outside of academia, which miiiiight mean (probably means?) I’m now done with academia. And I’m having trouble coping with that! I got my PhD BECAUSE I wanted to be a professor, and now I’m not, and even though my job is great (better pay than I would have made! Good benefits! Super flexible! No grading involved! Actually in the city where my partner and I live instead of who knows where!) it’s hard not to feel like a failure, or like I wasted my twenties on a degree I’m not using. Of course, my current work depends a lot on the skills I developed in grad school, and I wouldn’t have gotten the job without that experience, but it doesn’t *require* my degree.

    It does help somewhat, psychologically, that I turned down several post-doc offers that weren’t right for me. At least I was offered SOMETHING, and had multiple interviews for tenure-track positions. It made it feel more like opting-out than failing out, I guess?

    I’ll have been at this job for a year next week, and I thought I had processed all of this stuff. But the academic market just opened up again, and there’s one posting for a TT-position that would be ideal, and it’s within commuting distance of where I live… I’m sorely tempted to go for it, but I’m torn. I haven’t made much “progress” in academic terms in the last year (no new publications, conference presentations, etc), so I’m sure that will count against me. And I’m dreading the thought of contacting my former recommendation-letter-writers, who I (perhaps irrationally, but probably not) fear are disappointed in me for the path I’ve taken. I also don’t want them to KNOW if I try again, because I don’t want to have to tell them when I come up empty again!

    I miss teaching. My research I could take or leave. The job I’m in now is fine but it’s not my “forever job,” and I can feel myself getting bored/ feeling unfulfilled by it. On the other hand, I have time for developing new hobbies and reading for fun. And if my partner and I decide to have a kid in the next few years, would this be the better option? I don’t know! How do I even make these decisions! Why is it all so scary and hard?

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Uff da, I feel this. I left a Ph.D program right before prelims (for lots of reasons, but “physical health too damaged to ignore” was the camel-back-breaking straw)… and part of the recovery process from that was navigating the identity shift from “aspiring academic” to something else entirely. Insofar as a job change means an identity shift, that whole process can be another barrier to a smooth job transition.

      I ended up in academic librarianship… for a while. When I left Toxic Ex-Job, I also left that field — and guess who has two thumbs and had formed quite a bit of her identity around her profession? OrigCassandra! So it was another couple of years of working through the identity shift before I really became comfortable in my new work.

      For reasons both external to me and not mine to disclose, I may have to make yet another field AND identity shift in the next two to five years. I’m not exactly looking forward to the identity shift… but I guess I have practice in it, at least?

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        Thank you – you’re absolutely right that the “identity shift” is one of the hardest parts. “Aspiring academic” was such a core part of me for so long, and I’m never happier or more at home than on a campus. And now I’m in a CORPORATE OFFICE with a CUBICLE and a CEO and it feels like I’m playacting. Look at me, dressing up in my Business Lady clothes and commuting to my Business Lady job!

        1. wittyrepartee*

          After doing lab work as an aspiring academic, then doing clinical work where they refused to assign me a desk even though I needed particular software to do some of the work… I LOVE MY CUBICLE. MY DESK IS SPACIOUS AND GLORIOUS.

    2. BeenThere*

      Apply for the posting. You don’t have to take it if offered. If nothing else, you’ll learn more about your priorities in the process.

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        I’m leaning towards applying, just to see… but it’s SUCH a long shot. This position will likely receive ~200 applications, many from people with more on their CV than I’ve got. Applying feels a bit like signing up for rejection, AGAIN.

        1. deesse877*

          That volume of likely applications indicates a field with a hiring crisis, so:



          2) Perhaps perversely, being locally connected can still be an advantage, particularly if it will allow the committee to see one more candidate without springing for airfare and so on. Though it’s hard to feel empathy for hiring committees, they too are weirded out by the situation, and if you look especially accessible and unlikely to job-hop, that can be a plus. [no guarantees of course]

          1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

            Field with a hiring crisis is spot-on, yes.

            1. Thank you! I’m leery because I DID get an interview for a similar position at a neighboring school last cycle, and it was the weirdest interview of my life… like, what are you supposed to do if you get the sense the two interviewers hate each other?? And they ended up hiring one of their own VAPs, which they were probably planning when they wrote up the line. Sigh.

            2. That’s what I’m hoping for! Now I just need to figure out a tactful way to phrase it in my cover letter. Probably ought to be more subtle than “IF I GET THIS JOB I WILL NEVER LEAVE”…

    3. VioletDaffodil*

      I wish I could tell you what the right decision is or what to do next, but I can say from everything you wrote it sounds like you are really insightful and likely to make a good decision.

      If you decide not to go for the TT position, but really love and miss teaching, you might submit your resume for a potential adjunct position. I know that these situations can be complicated, with both practical and ethical concerns about that job market, but I work in academia and most of our adjunct faculty have FT positions (or retired from these positions) in the fields associated with our department. This would allow you to keep teaching and to continue on with your career, if you decide FT academic life isn’t something you want anymore (which is perfectly valid and doesn’t mean you wasted anything!).

      Good luck in whatever you choose!

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        “it sounds like you are really insightful and likely to make a good decision”

        Thank you – that is so kind of you to say! It’s helpful to try and reframe my “obsessive anxious overthinking” as “sensible introspection”…

        Oddly enough, my current company is directly next to a community college. I was delighted and all set to apply to adjunct an evening course… when news broke of that particular school’s horribly unethical treatment of their adjuncts, who are beginning to collectively push back. I’m no scab, so I think I’ll hold out applying for the time being.

        1. VioletDaffodil*

          You’re so welcome! To this internet stranger, you sound like someone who can be very trusted to make a good decision :)

          Ugh, that is what I was afraid of. My college is definitely working to improve things for adjunct faculty (and it isn’t even that bad now, at least for those who are not relying on it for FT employment), but there are so many bad situations out there where they are blatantly taken advantage of. You were right to keep yourself out of there and it is their loss of a great teacher.

        2. MentalEngineer*

          Or you can apply and then join the organizing effort, if that’s something you could take on! Admin doesn’t have to know you’re planning to do that, and the PR side of the drives benefits hugely from people who can show that they have lives and self-worth that *non-academics* have to take seriously instead of brushing off as ivory-tower whining.

          Respect for not scabbing, though, if that’s not possible for you.

    4. Gidget*

      Oof, I feel you on this. I ended up Mastering out of my PhD program (for a multitude of reasons, not all my fault) and trying to process the being done with academia track is difficult. I tried to work in a research institute in a non-research field but it’s tough because it’s almost a constant reminder that I am no longer doing research (or teaching, which I love). I would love to get out of here and just pursue secondary ed, but making that jump is scary because well there is so much of a “high school teaching” is failure mindset in academia that I still haven’t managed to escape.

      Good luck. And you should totally apply for the position.

      1. Manders*

        Best of luck! My husband mastered out of his PhD program and ended up in high school teaching, which he loves. There are definitely some downsides (since he has an MA and not an MEd, he can’t teach at public schools in our states; department politics and tensions between faculty and staff didn’t go away just because he switched from college to high school; he has to deal with parents now), but he’s very happy he made the switch.

        In the last couple years, he’s noticed other grad students from his department applying to teaching positions and even subbing for the school because they can’t find other work. It’s helped him get over that mindset that high school teaching is failure, because even the “successful” students who finished their PhDs are doing it.

        1. Gidget*

          Oh, this is so helpful to hear. I worked in a high school for many years before I went to grad school so I am aware of some of the challenges, but having my own classroom and carrying around that weird I didn’t make it feeling makes it scary.

          Good luck to your husband on this newest school year!

      2. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        Thank you. Might as well throw my hat in the ring, right? Worst thing they can do is reject me, and heaven knows I’ve got plenty of experience with THAT.

        I haven’t struggled with the “high school teaching is a failure” mindset, because I’ve seen a lot of friends/former colleagues go that route and love it. I just haven’t pursued it because of residual terror of fancy prep-school kids and their overbearing parents… my own working-class-public-school-origins issue, of course.

        1. Manders*

          My anecdata: My husband was also terrified of the overbearing parents when he started teaching at a private prep school, but he ended up having great relationships with them (and he’s heard that some of them fight over getting their kids into his class and advisory group!). Parents seem to like teachers who are used to a college atmosphere, and high school kids respond well to being treated like college students, although you do have to do more work tracking down missing assignments and handholding during projects.

          His worst experiences with students’ families have mostly been seeing how parents are messing their kids up with too much pressure or emotional neglect. Some of his students seem to be looking to him for guidance they’re not getting from their own parents. Private schools do have licensed counselors, but kids often bypass them and talk to a teacher they trust about heavy issues. Switching from a student himself to a parental role model was a weird transition for him.

          1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

            That’s actually quite reassuring! My only experience with such parents from the teacher’s perspective was the few occasions when they would email me about their COLLEGE SOPHOMORE kid’s grades… and I took inordinate pleasure in informing that I could not legally tell them anything, thanks to FERPA protections, and that even if I could I wouldn’t, because their children are now adults capable of managing themselves.

            And I certainly have plenty of experience with students coming to me with the heavy issues. I miss being able to provide what support I could (although of course I wouldn’t wish problems on anyone).

        2. Gidget*

          Haha. I took am scared of prep-school kids. I am aiming for public schools because that’s what I know.

          Glad you are going to throw your hat in the ring, you never know it might open up some other random opportunities.

    5. MFKD*

      Wow I could have written this whole comment a few years back! Still identify with it so hard. I completed my PhD and decided for a variety of reasons (including the ones you mentioned — pay, city, etc) to work for a nonprofit instead of pursuing a teaching job. When you say ” it’s hard not to feel like a failure, or like I wasted my twenties on a degree I’m not using” – I think this is a very common post-academic struggle. The attitude in academia is that peer-reviewed journal publications and tenure-track jobs are the only legitimate goals, and anything less than that is Not Good Enough. And that feeling of Not Good Enough is really hard to overcome, especially for the driven and perfectionist types of people who tend to pursue doctorates, and even if the job you’re in now is otherwise a good fit. So, if it makes you feel better, it’s not just you. The PhD may also come in more handy than you think — for example, if you decide to become a consultant, you apply for grants, you look for public speaking gigs, etc — it means a lot more to people outside of academia, as opposed to just being a default. It tends to confer a certain status and credibility (deservedly or not, lol).

      I’ve been out of grad school for 6 years now and I’m still on a listserv that sends me job postings in academia (tenure-track and otherwise) … because I like to torture myself, I guess? Occasionally I think about going back to teaching, adjuncting or whatever, but at this point I’ve been out of the game too long to pursue tenure-track positions. So I’ve had to come to terms with that over the last few years and accept that I chose a different path. It is hard… it’s an identity shift (as OrigCassandra says) and there’s that sense of the road not taken/ the “ghost ship” life. But regarding your recommendation-letter-writers, if they are good people they want you to succeed in something that makes you happy! I had the same fear with my grad school advisor and it turned out to be totally unfounded. She has been more than happy to recommend me for things, and she made the excellent point that it is my life, not hers.

      It is scary and hard, and I don’t really have advice, but *solidarity* and it will get better the longer you’re out of school.

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        “So, if it makes you feel better, it’s not just you.” – that does make me feel better, kind of, but it also reminds me how furious I am about the academy churning out far more PhDs than jobs because they need our cheap labor, and how something like 70% of the TT jobs go to people from like 5 “top” schools… UGH.

        You’re absolutely right about the “ghost ship” life sailing by. It’s also true that my PhD gives a certain “clout” outside of academia, even if it’s hard not to feel like a fraud when that pops up.

        “But regarding your recommendation-letter-writers, if they are good people they want you to succeed in something that makes you happy!”

        My former advisor would certainly be supportive, but some of the others are DEFINITELY of the “anything less than a TT job at an R1 is a failure” stripe. But that’s a whole other issue about how one ought to be much more careful than I was about constructing a committee that is genuinely supportive and wants you to succeed, rather than trying to pit you against their own main advisees… ah, a story for another day.

        I appreciate the solidarity :)

      2. peanutbutty*

        Thank you all so much for these comments. They are exactly what I needed today.
        I finished my PhD a few years ago and now work in a university but in a non-academic/ teaching position. I love my job and being close to the research but recently it has become a bit harder to have a daily if not hourly reminder of what “could” have been, especially as my current job is in the process of hiring a load of new academic staff. Hounded by ghost ships!
        It’s funny because it had never really bothered me until the last few months – I think because I “fell” into a non-academic role due to finances and location, and it’s only just starting to dawn on me now that that ship really has sailed, and the door is closed. I think I’m only now getting chance to “mourn” for what might have been, and having to make that identity shift for real.
        I’m moving to a new job (although still in the university) shortly and I hope that will help to put myself a little further away from that place.

        1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

          The mourning/grief is real, and weird. Like, why am I tearing up over other people’s “first day of school!” photos??

    6. Roza*

      Finished my PhD mostly out of stubbornness but never even bothered going on the academic market because I learned in the latter part of my PhD that I actually LOVE applied/industry work. That said, even though I really enjoy my current career, am regularly intellectually challenged, and by all accounts am doing well, I also definitely hear you on “why did I spend my 20s on this”, when a master’s degree and work experience would have netted the same technical skills? The answer I’ve found that makes me feel better is that, while the overall PhD experience was not always sunshine and roses, it is pretty cool I got to spend my 20s exploring the world and studying cool stuff. When I’m on my deathbed and looking back at life, will I really wish I could trade those experiences for a higher job title and a fancier house? Highly doubt it. I’ve also found (and been told) that in addition to the technical skills you get doing a PhD, being able to tackle a huge, unstructured problem with minimal hand-holding is extremely valuable, and something dissertation writing provided unique experience in :)

      I miss teaching too, and I think you should totally apply for the job. If your professors are jerks about non-academic career paths (some of mine were, the guilt is real, hang in there!), just remember that if you end up staying out of academia, you really won’t ever interact with them at all, and most of the people you DO interact with professionally will consider you the success and the professors who can’t function in the “real world” as the failures.

      For other ways to continue teaching, are there opportunities in your company (or at a future company) to provide internal training? This could be anything from mentoring newer employees to leading more formal sessions, or even creating self-paced training modules, on relevant skills. I’ve also found that speaking at Meetups in my area can be fun, and can also lead to chances to lead more formal workshops. Depending on your exact field and the types of students you’re interested in, there may be nonprofits who need teachers (eg I’ve had friends volunteer for a program teaching college-level classes to inmates). Also agree that adjuncting on the side could be a good option!

      Overall, good luck!!!

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        “Finished my PhD mostly out of stubbornness” – I feel that! I called it “fatalistic completionism.”

        ” it is pretty cool I got to spend my 20s exploring the world and studying cool stuff. When I’m on my deathbed and looking back at life, will I really wish I could trade those experiences for a higher job title and a fancier house?” – This is an excellent point, thank you. I got paid to live abroad! For a long time! I wouldn’t give that up for anything!

        1. Blue Horizon*

          Count me as another that finished the Ph.D. out of stubbornness. I didn’t want to leave it unfinished, but I knew well before it was done that it was probably going to form little or no part of my future job plans.

          Yes, if I hadn’t done it I would have been 5 years closer to… wherever it is that I am going (Retirement? Death?) but I don’t regret it particularly. I enjoyed the people, relationships and experiences, and it also put me in the right spot at the right time to get my first job and start my real career (and while that had very little to do with my studies, it’s probably not something that would have happened any other way).

      2. nonymous*

        I also never considered academia as a career track. One of the benefits that I point out to anyone weighing the pros/cons of master’s vs PhD is to consider the funding options. If I had taken the Master’s route, either at my undergrad alma mater or where I ended up in grad school, 1+ years would have been self funded.

        I was fortunate also that I was able to get a 0.5 FTE position with my current org after passing prelims which paid for tuition + bennies as well as an hourly wage commensurate with what I would have gotten with a terminal Master’s. The plus side of having an external sponsor for my PhD is that I wasn’t expected to put in the 30+ hours that 1/2 FTE academic “training” positions at my school expected (e.g. TA, RA) and I had a fairly decent work-life balance.

        I also want to point out that the classmates who I stay in touch with and have seen success in academia have lives outside of the lab! They run marathons and are foodies and drink copious amounts of wine and have pets and spouses and kids. Professors who expect their students to be different are perpetuating a dysfunctional workplace and are benefiting from a power differential over a naive workforce. My personal experience is that as a whole, academia attracts a lot of people who are highly resistant to the idea that part of their job is to *manage* while simultaneously enjoying their personal fiefdom.

    7. Triumphant Fox*

      I will say that I know multiple people who have been in non-academic jobs and made the jump back into academia. All of them, however, published like crazy to make it happen and their jobs were in adjacent fields (my background is in the social sciences – so most of these are social science or humanities PhDs). One did research at a software company and did her own stuff on the side, another worked in her field at a corporation, so that was actually a very coveted gig, another worked in market research and went back to academia. It’s definitely not the norm, but it is possible.

      If you’re really into teaching and not research, I’d recommend looking into community college teaching. You can probably pick up a night class on the side if that’s where your passion lies.

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        “All of them, however, published like crazy” – Yep. I’m wracked with guilt that I’ve left my manuscript untouched for… 13 months now? I was so burned out I definitely needed a break, and then I was planning a wedding, and now it just seems so daunting to try and dive back in…. and if I DON’T go back into academia, what’s the point?

        You’re right, though. And I WOULD like to pick up a night class, just to keep my toe in teaching.

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        Yes, but I’ve resisted for this long because I don’t want to deal with parents or hormones. Or rules about swearing in class.

        It’s definitely worth revisiting, though, although as Manders pointed out above, I wouldn’t even be able to apply to public schools.

        1. nonymous*

          One of my classmates went into teaching without a teaching certificate and she ended up at a residential private school and was the dorm parent in addition (along with her husband). It meant that they were able to pay off both student loans and save up a down payment in about five years. iirc they were making about $35K + free room/board back in 2005 and the school grounds had nice amenities (private ski hill, riding horses, etc). I think the same position starts at $75K now.

          Prior to that she spent a couple years teaching internationally. In status-conscious locations, employing a PhD with college teaching experience would be part of the experience a school is selling to prospective families.

    8. Elizabeth*

      I agree with BeenThere: Apply! As an academic (and therefore a letter-writer for many, many people!) don’t feel at all bad about asking your references to support you again. It’s not a burden for them if they’ve already written a letter for you before, and if it feels like this position might be a good fit, why not go for it? (Your letter writers want you to be happy (or should!) whether that’s in academia or not.) One year away isn’t long, and just think about how to briefly ‘market’ what you’ve been doing this year in your cover letter (skills-wise or otherwise) towards the TT position; you can always use your time away as a good justification for why you are now sure that you want to teach, since you miss it so much. And don’t forget to point out that you are committed to the area for family/personal reasons — it won’t *get* you the job, but I think Departments are excited about recruiting people who they know will stay in the area/like it there. Finally, I am a professor and had a child before getting tenure, and it’s been great — it’s a very flexible job (more than most I’d argue; and I’m in the sciences) — so I won’t let that consideration factor into what job you think you’ll be happier at!

    9. Data Diva*

      This was totally me about four years ago. I ended up pursing alt-ac positions mainly because my husband and I had a baby my last year in grad school and we both really wanted to be closer to family. There are universities here, but none that were hiring when I was on the market. For the first two years or so, I felt just like you did- like I’d wasted my twenties and I’d let down everyone who was important to me (both professionally and personally). Eventually, I stopped to really interrogate that thought and realized the I *liked* my job. Not loved, but liked. I liked the benefits it gave me (time, a set schedule, 40 hour work weeks) and I still felt like I was able to use most of the skills I gained in my program.

      I think that grad school, to a large degree, programs in a lot of guilt- we’re not publishing enough, not doing enough research, not working enough, we are never enough in grad school. I think that letting go of that guilt and those implied expectations was really the key to my full break from academia. I felt like I was enough in my current role and I was happy with that. Trying to unlearn the grad school guilt mindset has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I think the turning point for me was when I was talking to a friend of mine from grad school and he was coming up on his third year tenure review and had *just* started working six days a week instead of seven and managed to keep work to 10 hours a day…I realized I didn’t want that life anymore.

      I think that if the idea of working as a professor still feels really exciting, you should definitely apply. But if it doesn’t, I think it’s worth thinking about why you feel you should apply for this new job- to fulfill the expectations of others or because it somehow erases the “failure” of your twenties (which I totally disagree with, but get).

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        You’ve raised such good points here – and it’s tough because this is exactly what I’m struggling to parse out! Like, I want to apply for this job: is it just because I feel that academic guilt about “failure” or not living up to my potential? Or is it because I love teaching at the university level and miss it and want to get back to it? I don’t know! Little bit of both?

        Likewise, it’s amazing that my current job is so flexible, caps at 40 hrs/week, and as soon as I go home in the evening I *don’t have to think about work, at all*. I’ve been getting into so many new hobbies lately! Well, is that because I super want to do these hobbies and am lucky to finally have the free time to pursue them? OR am I desperately seeking new sources of external stimulation (and validation!) because I’m bored and insufficiently challenged by this job? Do I even like the *job*, or do I just like the pay/benefits/free time/coworkers? Is that enough?

        This thread has been so helpful. I haven’t really talked about this with anybody (because we all went through it already, last year!), so just writing out my thoughts and feelings has been helpful. Also makes me think I should look into going back to my therapist…..

        1. another scientist*

          yeah, just reading this thread is pretty stirring, too. I am still in the midst of an ongoing identity shift myself. It took me super long (I finished a PhD and then did a postdoc and applied for research positions), to realize that the favourite elements of my job (the presenting! the mentoring! the networking! organizing events! outreach!) don’t actually include the research (although I’ve done it for almost 10 years, and nominally successfully so). I also secretly wonder if I am worse than others at handling rejections… So I am shopping around for other jobs.
          I also really relate to your inhibition to share any plans, career shifts, and attempts because people might judge or you might not end up achieving what you said you were shooting for. I try to make myself share with peers and mentors, it’s a huge jump every time, but I haven’t regretted it so far. I just told my previous advisor this week and he was completely supportive. I was so nervous before, and my stomach is in knots when I think of my PhD supervisor who I am meeting at a conference soon. I have the luxury to be confident that all of these people are decent humans that want the best for me.

    10. cmcinnyc*

      My dad (a PhD) had a “regular” job that was in his field of expertise, but not *at all* academic, and when he got known in his field doing that, he was offered teaching jobs. He took the ones he liked, that were local, that he got to design, etc. After retiring from the regular job, he kept teaching those 2 “side” gigs, got a couple of Senior Fulbrights, and taught internationally a bit. It was never a full academic career–no tenure, and he was working full-time all summer at the regular job–but he liked teaching. He kind of floated in and out of universities, never really engaging in the networking and politicking that academia is known for, and enjoyed his dual career. Some careers are a narrow path, and academia *can* be, but there’s a lot of room to make your own path, too. (Though I think it helped that my dad never relied on the teaching to pay all the bills.)

    11. Hi there*

      I don’t know if you are still monitoring comments, but my advice would be to not apply. It sounds like what you miss is teaching, and that can be a tiny part of life on the tenure track. It doesn’t sound like you miss being part of the scholarly conversation. I wonder if you can teach in other ways like ESL or volunteering with a prison teaching program or in some other volunteer or mentoring capacity.

  9. Less Bread More Taxes*

    I once worked at a small business. The pay was low but aside from that and some nepotism, I was very happy with it for two years. Then something happened with the nepotism hire. I can’t remember what it was now, but it bothered me enough to start job searching. The first job I got offered, I took. It was a huge international company (compared to the five-person company I was used to) and it came with a 10% salary increase. Fantastic. I put in my two weeks and started my new job… to discover it was awful. I was told when I could take breaks and also sales were a part of the position. I HATE sales.

    I went home that night and emailed my old boss for my job back. Thank goodness he accepted and I spent another happy 1.5 years there.

    Maybe this isn’t the story that we’re meant to be sharing, but it goes to show that you have to count your blessings even when you’re super frustrated. It’s not always as bad as it seems.

    1. TY*

      My husband went through something similar earlier this year. He hated how nepotic and somewhat toxic his small(er) private company behaved so he job hunted. Found a new role at a different company that seemed promising, so he put in his two weeks and started the new job.

      Turns out the new job was filled with alcoholics that lied about their company’s success, the life/work culture, and had a bad habit of not paying their employees on time.

      He somehow managed to get hired back at his old job with a promoted position. He’s worked his new role at the old job for six-ish months now, and it’s kind of better. I’m frustrated and so is he but the jump has scared us both from having him leave again.

    2. HMM*

      This is also the story I came to tell. I’ve been at my new job for about three months ago and it’s not toxic or even terrible. On paper, it’s a great job and people tell me I should stick it out. However, I’ve just realized it’s not for me. An unstructured start up environment is stressful to me, apparently. (Seriously, I was coping so badly with this change and couldn’t figure out why so I went to therapy over it.) I’m really glad I left my old job because I’ve learned so much about myself and my values and what I need/want from a job but I’m also negotiating to go back to my old job. Knowing what I know now, I think I thought about my old job in a rather naive way and didn’t give the good things its due. If that doesn’t work out, I will look for a different job anyway.

      All this to say that generally, change is good because you learn a lot (for good or for bad). But change doesn’t have to be permanent to learn those lessons! Make the change but also listen to yourself and your feelings – people often know what is the right thing for them to do; they just need to practice tuning into that voice and listening to it.

      1. HMM*

        Also, I will say, I think if I had really thought about what I valued and accepted that I am who I am (i.e. no rosy glasses about my own behaviors!) I probably could have learned the same lessons without making the change. It seems hokey to say but seriously: the more you think about yourself, what you really want and prioritize out of life, determine what’s truly a NEED, etc. then you’ll have an easier time making the right decisions for you. That might involve a change or that might be staying right where you are and accepting both the good and bad. I think people glorify change a lot – but if you don’t value climbing the career ladder, or would rather have the free time than the responsibility that comes with a promotion, it’s totally ok to stay where you are. Accepting where you are, right now, including the good, bad, and ugly, and being content with that instead of always striving for MORE MORE MORE is, in my opinion, possibly even harder than a job change.

        1. Anonya*

          Your last sentence needs to be cross-stitched on a pillow. I am in therapy now, in fact, learning how to undo years’ worth of striving that started in adolescence. I’m now 39, so … that’s a long time.

          1. whatthemell?*

            Agreed, and I feel like everyone is always in a rush to move on to their next job, EVEN when it seems like they’re actually enjoying their current position. I mean, why the rush?

            Maybe it’s my age a years of work experience, but if you’re in a job that you like, you’re happy going to work every day, you can support yourself and you have a cool boss? DON’T LEAVE.

        2. Goose Lavel*

          I was asked during an interview for one word to describe a successful life and I said “contentment”.

          The interviewer challenged why I would not want more, more and more and I said this word describes my ideal life, regardless of status, position or money. They didn’t get it and I didn’t get an offer. I’m now happy and content.

  10. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I was terrified about starting over. Have been with every job change. Jumping into something new where you don’t know anything or anyone SHOULD be slightly scary. Otherwise, it means things are stagnant.

    I had the normal job fears this time: what if I can’t do it, what if I’ve made a big mistake, what if nobody likes me, etc. So far they haven’t panned out and it’s been almost 10 months. I am THRILLED that I moved on. I have a boss that acknowledges me and I’m at a company where I can learn and grow. I’m paid exceptionally well, have pretty dandy insurance and the company recently increased vacation time across the board.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I feel you on the terrified feeling. I certainly had that after I accepted my current role nearly four months ago, especially towards the end of my notice period at the old job. What made it worse for me was, I’m still super green to the field I’m in (proposal development) and my new position is acting as the subject matter writing expert. I sit on a couple of strategic planning committees and have to come up with communication strategies that set up our proposals for success while also not stepping on our corporate communications/marketing departments’ toes. I started thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?! I’m not an authority on anything!”

      But you know what? I found that I kind of am, and I’m really very good at my job. My grandboss (with 15+ years in this field), direct manager (with 20+ years), and dotted line manager all say so effusively and regularly, so I was worried for nothing. They knew what they were doing when they hired me, and I need to trust that.

  11. (Former) HR Expat*

    I left my last job without having a new job lined up. It took me almost 4 months to decide to put in my resignation. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a job, that I wouldn’t be challenged in a new role, that I would be fired for no reason from the new role (I moved back to the US from the UK), and that my US skillset would be too rusty. Then I compared it to the reasons to stay at my old job, which were mostly based on complacency and worries about any new job, not based on things I liked about that role.

    It took a bit of time (I came home around Thanksgiving), but almost none of my fears have come true. My job isn’t the best, and I’ll definitely be looking for something more challenging in the near future. But I’m glad that I took the risk to make the change. And talking to my former colleagues, everything with OldJob is a bit of a mess and doesn’t look to improve any time soon.

    1. sospeso*

      This is good to hear! I’ve been contemplating leaving my current job without another lined up, because – like you – I’m relocating. Same country, but a few thousand miles away.

      I think finding something new may take awhile, but I’m also mentally ready for a break! I also think my applications will be greatly helped by being local, since that’s been a sticking point for a few of them.

  12. Culture?*

    This is something I’ve really been struggling with. I’d love any advice on how to suss out the culture of a place before you actually work there. I’m always afraid that I’ll be trading one toxic work place for another.

    1. Scarlett*

      One of my favorite questions to ask in an interview is: “What three words or phrases would you use to describe the work culture at your organization?” That allows me to listen for words that would be triggering me to say, “no thanks.” I also think it’s important to know what cultural qualities you are looking for and then think about questions you could ask or ways they could demonstrate that aspect for you during the interview. For example, after being burned at a job that required 70+ hours of work each week without end, I learned to ask questions about the typical workflow, etc.

      1. Professor Plum*

        Great question! I wish I had actually paid attention to what I was hearing about the culture when I was desperately looking to leave a previous job.

      2. Culture?*

        Thanks for the links Alison.

        I guess what I really want to know is “Will you scream at me for mistakes that aren’t even my fault?” “Do you think effective leadership means scaring people into doing whatever you say?” “Are you a sexist jerk?”

        I feel like if I come out and ask those things bluntly, I’ll look like a crazy person, and no one who actually operates that way will admit to it.
        When I last interviewed, I tried to ask questions like “how do you react to problems” “how do you approach work life balance” etc…. and ran from companies who said “we are like a family here” or “Work hard play hard!”

        But obviously I either didn’t ask the right question, or they hid their true nature successfully, or my gut instinct was bad. So… now I just don’t really trust my gut?

    2. Heat's Kitchen*

      I plan on making my post below, but I’m reading through all the comments first. Find the major things that are important to you and ASK QUESTIONS! Maybe not in the phone screen/first interview, but final interview/offer stage, make sure to ask about that. For me, it’s flexibility in my schedule. If I have a boss who wants me to be in my chair from 8-5 every day, no exceptions, that’s not the job for me.

  13. beepboopin*

    Ahh this topic is so timely as I am considering applying for a new position. Albeit its within my same organization but it would be a completely different role and I would be working with a completely different set of people. I’ve realized I could stay in my same position and I do enjoy it and it would be safe. But this new position would be an opportunity to advance my career. You just have to remind yourself that fear of the unknown (no matter how unknown) is scary for everyone. As I told my friend who contemplated a move to NYC a few years back, at least you can say you tried. I think there’s very few situations where people are disappointed that they tried rather than not trying at all.

    1. Laika*

      I’ve done this! I’d been in the company for a few years in an administrative role, and when something in another department came up that was more in line with my long-term career goals, I applied. They hired me for the position and I don’t regret it at all. It was great experience and really helped flesh out my understanding of the organization in a totally new way, which then led to a later opportunity with the same company.

      I agree it’s scary, but the nice thing about those internal shifts is that you know faces, names, and already have a pretty good read of the general work culture. Good luck!

  14. The IT Plebe*

    My previous job was in customer service and I ended up changing jobs and careers when I was fired last February for performance issues. I was basically burnt out and trying how to figure out how to manage my increasingly poor concentration, which was negatively affecting my metrics. Getting fired was upsetting, but I got a generous severance and was able to get a job at my boyfriend’s IT company — mostly because they’ll take anybody but also because I had enough troubleshooting and customer service experience at my last job that they figured I’d learn on the job.

    It was scary at first! I HATE being wet behind the ears — I want to be good at my job and I want to be good at it right away! But that’s obviously unrealistic and I had to learn to be patient with myself and let myself make mistakes and learn. I am very fortunate to have patient coworkers who make great teachers and equally lucky to be placed on-site at an excellent school. I originally wanted to go into education when I was starting college but ended up pursuing something else, so being back in an academic environment in some capacity is a nice compromise.

    I don’t know if my case is an outlier, but I really got very lucky. Sometimes being backed into a corner is the push you need to take the leap and I’m happy I did — but happier still that I managed to land on my feet.

  15. ThinMint*

    One of the fears I had was losing that ‘family’ dynamic we had at my workplace. Now that I am in a better working environment, I realized that ‘family’ mentality was not actually a good thing in our situation. I appreciate the separation between my work life and personal life. I see how having a boss who went out dancing with us and bought shots for everyone really muddied the waters in the workplace. It made him much less effective as a leader because he was trying to be a friend.

    I have a boss now who isn’t a friend but is a good boss. Since this is my job, that’s what I need.

    1. Black Sheep of the Family*

      Yep, I have learned to be very wary of “We’re like faaaaaaaamily!!” Because what it really means is “Boundaries? What boundaries?”

    2. Feeling Guilty for Looking*

      I’m in the middle of a job kind of like this right now, and I am having extreme guilt about looking outside of my current position for new opportunities. The company is 4 people, with two contracted employees that work with us regularly. My boss (businesswoman in her 60s, no children) views the company as her family and treats her employees (women in their 20s) almost as her children; when a previous colleague left the company two years ago she took it very personally. She hasn’t said anything bad about the employee, but she hasn’t given a wholly positive reference when called about this employee. She also asks us as employees to help her out with personal stuff, so we bleed into her life as personal assistants as well.
      Honestly, I make a livable but not amazing wage here and have minimal benefits (health care stipend, but I have to buy an individual plan on the exchange which is not ideal in my state due to recent changes with the ACA and # of doctors who accept exchange plans), and I think that this is the highest salary and benefits package that my boss will reasonably be able to afford. After almost three years here, I think that I am at the maximum that I am able to do here, but I feel incredibly guilty leaving her without a sizable portion of her workforce and looking for what I know I could make elsewhere. She is very dependent on me and her other employees.
      Anyone have any experience extracting themselves from a situation like this without burning bridges? I’d love to keep this reference and industry relationship, but honestly I could really use a full benefits package (with widely accepted, corporate healthcare options and an actual retirement savings plan) and the peace of mind that would come with increased financial security! When I write it down, it seems perfectly reasonable to want these things, but I am still having anxiety about this!

      1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

        I’m looking and feeling guilty too. My work family environment isn’t as toxic as yours but I really care about my coworkers. I don’t have much advice beyond saying that you absolutely should not let yourself be held hostage by boss’s feelings or worries about getting a good reference. You can’t control her, all you can do is be your best professional self and hope that the sensible part of her shines through.

  16. BeenThere*

    I took a chance taking the job I have now. It’s in a new city, which required a 600 mile move. But it was doing work that I really wanted to do, using tools I was excited to learn more about, earning more money in salary and bonuses than I was previously making. What really convinced me, though, was that the people there all seemed to love their jobs and the company. That, plus, when I asked to be paid at the top of the salary range, they agreed.

    And then, all kinds of weird things happened: We were able to easily find a place to rent that would accept our dogs. The timing just worked out so that we didn’t have to go any time without health insurance. There was no delay in the moving company’s schedule. Everything about the move worked like clockwork with no glitches — an experience I had never had in any work situation. I took these to be a sign that everything would work out fine.

    And it has. It has turned out to be a great move. After several years here, I’m now nearing the end of my working life, and I consider this to be a career topping job.

    1. SDSmith82*

      I had this sort of experience as well. The change was big and scary, and there were some hiccups, but I took a chance at an internal promotion 9 months into new job, and it paid off in so many ways.

      I went from working at a small 9 person office to a subdivision of the largest company in my industry and as scary as the whole move/job change was, it was 100% worth doing. I’m not at the end of my career, but I do plan on staying with this company for the rest of mine, and joining the many 20+ year employees they have.

  17. Shannon*

    In February, I left my longtime, fairly high-paying, track-to-VP-level-promotion job because my boss was toxic (temper, yelling, fist pounding nightmare). The benefits there were awesome and I probably could’ve semi-retired early. But, my boss was the company leader, and I had nowhere to go that didn’t end up with him directly in my work life.

    I was terrified to make a move, but realized that I was going to break, mentally, if I didn’t.

    I can now say, more than six months in, I love my new job. The benefits are less money-related and more about flexibility and culture. I was nervous about taking a pay cut, but the difference in my mental health is more than worth it.

    If you’re unhappy in your job for whatever reason, my advice is take the risk and go. Too much of the day is spent at work to be in a constant state of fear, stress, or misery.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      “The benefits are less money-related and more about flexibility and culture. I was nervous about taking a pay cut, but the difference in my mental health is more than worth it. ”

      I think this is so important! I mean, it doesn’t work for everyone’s financial situation but if you’re talking pay cuts that still pay you sufficiently well, it’s worth it if the other benefits are there. When I was forced to job hunt after a layoff, I was applying to jobs in the same pay scale (most of which I would have been bored stiff at and probably expected to work 50+ hours/week) as well as jobs that paid significantly less but would have been a really interesting challenge and probably have a lot better work/life balance. Since the main thing I was dreading in a new job was a big loss in flexibility and autonomy, given the choice and my specific situation, I would have taken the lower paid but interesting work over the well-paid drudgery.

      1. Shannon*

        That’s an excellent point; not everyone can afford to take a pay cut, and I’m coming from a place of privilege to be able to do so and still earn a living wage.

  18. Anon4This*

    I’ve definitely felt anxiety at the prospect of starting a new job; for the most part (about 97% of the time) those feelings were warranted. The downsides of the job, even if I know what most of them will be going in (from wonderfully transparent hiring processes) still end up being issues. I’ve never say, signed up for a new job knowing there would be a long commute, or a weird company culture, or stringent dress code and had those end up not being a problem. Ultimately that’s why I never really move on to a new job without a significant (at least 18%-20%) pay increase or other motivator to make those known and possibly unknown issues worth tolerating. If I were in the position of starting a new job without a major incentive (like a large pay increase); I don’t think it would be worth the risk. There’s always some issue hiding in the “devil you don’t know” details that everyone at that job thinks is “normal” and doesn’t even think to warn new hires about…

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I’m with you on not leaving a job unless the new job is offering a pretty substantial pay increase (mine was about 27%). There’s just too much risk to leave for anything less than 10%.

      1. Anon4This*

        Absolutely! I really wonder when I hear about people who leave for a few thousand dollars…unless its a totally toxic situation you NEED to leave at your current job or the new job offers some AMAZING non-monetary perk (like a super short commute, or learning a new skill) why assume the risk and stress that comes with a new job…

        1. Dreamboat Annie*

          For me, if I leave it will be because there is no room for growth or raises and the department not being managed well. We have one person who doesn’t follow standard practices and boss just doesn’t care. No performance review for 5 years, no one-on-ones … and my boss is just 10 steps away a 10 person department.

  19. Panda*

    This is so timely since I was contacted by a headhunter recently. I’ve done two phone interviews and the next step (which the interviewer said I would be part of) is an in person interview. I always thought I’d retire from my current company and there are so many factors to consider. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s wisdom!

  20. Doug Judy*

    I left a job that I liked ok but had no room for advancement. I had been there 8 years and totally was out of practice on interviewing, what to ask in interviews to get a sense of culture, etc. I got several rejections and jumped at the first offer I got. There were red flags in the interview process that I ignored and told myself I was just nervous. Should have listened to my gut. I knew it was a mistake on day one. It took me a few years and another job to finally end up in my new job that I love. My advice would be:

    1. Know why you are looking and what you’re hoping to get out of a new job/organization.
    2. Research the company as best you can.
    3. Listen to your gut and do not settle.

    1. GrilledCheeseforlunch*

      Your story is very similar to mine. I had been there for 9 years, it was OK, paid pretty well and had flexibility but I was bored with what I was doing and and my career was not going anywhere. I too jumped at an offer despite the red flags and it turned out (no surprise) to be a disaster of a company. Took a couple more years to find the right fit. Excellent advice!

  21. bikesandchickens*

    I work in higher ed. I fell into it about ten years ago (!) and left my first position because I felt unseen, knew more that the person who had oversight for my area, and had no chance for advancement in my role or any other area, really. I accepted a position that I knew was a gamble, a completely new job created for an ambitious project–I knew either it would actually turn into something, or I’d gain further valuable experience to move into something else. I ended up leaving there just shy of two years and it had definitely felt toxic–but it did prove a stepping stone and that change landed me in a much healthier environment and a position that has allowed me to further develop professionally. It’s hard to say what’s right for any one person, but I know moving forward for me always felt better than the risk of feeling stuck and resentful.

  22. New Job So Much Better*

    I made the move after 18 years at a small community bank, because a merger was pending and no one was guaranteed a job except for the bank president. I decided not to wait and see. It was scary but the best move I’ve ever made. You just have to expect a big learning curve and be open to feeling a little overwhelmed for a while.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      The learning curve is a big deal. I struggled my first few weeks at my current job because I went from being the subject matter expert in SO MANY THINGS (half the reason I was leaving) to feeling like I knew nothing. Really makes you question your competency though…

  23. bubba g*

    I’ve been a high school teacher for almost 35 years, mostly with at-risk students, and I was seriously approaching burnout. I am not old enough to retire (I started young). My site admin offered me a job about 8 months before I would start in the new role. It would mean being offsite, and away from the people I had worked with for the past 20 years. If I didn’t take it, it wouldn’t likely open up again before I retired. I thought about it for about 2 hours, then accepted. I didn’t tell anyone I worked with until the end of the school year, because I didn’t want anyone to talk me out of it.
    Being at a more remote site and away from work colleagues made me hesitant to accept the job, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve been challenged in my new role, but have not felt the burnout that I experienced in the couple of years before this role. No counting down the days until the end of the year. I have a great deal of autonomy, and really enjoy the new role. I think if I hadn’t accepted it, I would be seriously considering early retirement (before age 60), which would have meant a big hit financially.

    1. Creed Bratton*

      Very useful post. I’m in an almost identical situation with the biggest difference being the offsite job hasn’t been formally offered. So I’m going through this year with very serious thoughts that it might be my last. But I don’t KNOW and I also am scared to leave the area completely b/c while it’s extraordinarily toxic and ineffective here, at least I’m stable and secure in my role.

      The offsite job would put me directly in a role to deal with some of the issues without the power to bring any real change. And while a lot of it is scary – I also wonder how effective I’d be if I didn’t have to deal with 180 teenagers every day (and their grades/parents/emotional needs).

  24. HailRobonia*

    I stayed at my previous job for far too long, (13 years!) because of lack of confidence. My job was so secure, not difficult, and so comfortable… but there was no growth opportunity and I think staying there that long has hurt my career growth.

    I think other people there were feeling the same, because right after I left there seemed a bunch of other people plucked up the courage to move on as well.

  25. Seifer*

    When I switched jobs it was because I felt “literally nothing could be worst than this torture omfg.” I was very underpaid so I asked my boss to bring my up to market rate and you would’ve thought I asked him if I could set his house on fire. So he started picking on me. Tracking when I got in in the morning, when I left for break, when I came back from break, when I went to the bathroom, lunch, if I was talking to someone (about work I was completing for them) for just a little too long, and then calling me into his office to berate me for every. single. occurrence. Even if I wasn’t late. Even if the lady sitting across from me was sleeping at her desk AGAIN. Even if the guy next to me was still reading his newspaper. I’ve been diagnosed with pretty bad depression and so I used to fantasize about driving into a light pole on my way to work because at least I’d have some time off laying in the hospital that way. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when I called in sick with a kidney infection on a Thursday, and then again on the Friday. I had enough vacation time left but my boss said it was unacceptable and made me take two days unpaid. So. Smaller paycheck and hefty doctor’s office bills. Because I dared get sick after daring to ask him to bring me up to entry level market rate when I was far beyond that considering I was doing design engineering.

    So I decided I needed to quit, and then I had a friend who knew a guy and he brought me into a completely new role that’s only tangentially related to my old role and everything is great now. I think what helped me is that I’m adaptable and willing to learn and also did not give a single crap about leaving my old team behind because of my crappy boss. Also money. I almost doubled my pay. I remember thinking to myself, well worst case scenario I work here for a year, pick up some new skills at a higher paycheck and pay off debt and then figure it out after that. Now I’m coming up on two years and am in the process of buying my first house at twenty-seven, something that I could not have accomplished at my former job because it’s more than likely I wouldn’t have survived this long. But that was my thing, I set the bar so low (a job that doesn’t make me feel passively suicidal) that there was literally nowhere to go but up. But uh, it was a pretty bad situation, like 0/10 do not recommend.

    1. Mazzy*

      That’s horrible! The boss could’ve just said they couldn’t match the higher salary and helped you job hunt

      1. Seifer*

        Yeah, he could’ve done a lot of things. But I was the fifth person to quit that position and I’ve kept in touch with some people that still work there (and not for my boss) and found out that they had to hire two people to keep up with what I did, and then two more when those guys quit, and another guy just quit. All in the two years I’ve been gone.

        It’s a huge company that likes to brag about how much money they pull in from sales each year, but god forbid we ask to be paid market rate. The insurance benefits are pretty great but idk. By my second year of employment, I’d met my deductible by the end of January in therapy bills alone.

    2. Done*

      There’s no job like a job that causes suicidality. My company literally has an EAP with almost unlimited counseling because it’s so shitty. In two years I’ve had 3 coworkers suicide, one murder-suicide with her husband, and one try to kill her 2 kids and then hide in the woods from police overnight. Granted, I work in mental health, which tends to not attract the most stable individuals…but still. Holy shit. That’s a lot.

      I’m trying to get out, but the unemployment rate is 2.4% and where I’m at pays $16/hr plus a shift differential (state minimum is $7.25), so I’m looking at a massive pay cut just about anywhere I go unless I manage to get a job 50+ miles away that pays almost as much in a lower COL area.

      Frustrating as hell to work in a place that is so shitty in everything but pays too much for you to just walk away.

  26. Steve*

    I have been lucky that all my recent jobs have been at places where I knew someone so I had insight into the workplace culture. What I found most interesting was my change a couple years ago, as my boss-at-the-time told me that they had previously worked there and found that it was sexist and problematic. When I announced my plans to leave I was strongly discouraged ‘for my own good’. I asked my friend about it (they didn’t work there, but they had friends who did), and they said that it was difficult for themselves to comment as they are a different gender, but they didn’t think it was a problem. Ultimately I decided not to worry about it, as my boss-at-the-time was such an awful manager and I was really keen to get away from them, and in hindsight I can believe that they weren’t well treated by that workplace but it has nothing to do with their gender and everything to do with them being a bully. In this case, I went from a toxic workplace to one that was very healthy, and I am grateful every day!

    As an added note, that former boss was later moved into a job that has no people management, and is complaining that it’s due to sexism. Given my few years with them, I know it has nothing to do with gender, especially since they were given more opportunities to improve than most of us feel they deserved. Which was a reminder for me that it’s important to keep in mind the sources of information! It ended up that I was worried about a fear that my toxic manager had projected onto the new workplace, and it was unfounded.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      That’s a good point in general – job seekers should take all feedback about workplace culture from third parties with a grain of salt. Things that are hellish for one person may be perfectly fine for others.

  27. Wing Leader*

    I think it depends on how badly you want to leave your current role. If you’re generally happy but just want some more growth or more things to change, I think you can consider staying a little longer. I don’t mean never leave, I simply mean take your time and really wait until you find the job that you know will be everything you want.

    About three years ago, I quit my job almost on the spot and moved to a new city with no new job lined up. That’s a daring move and, frankly, I am NOT normally the kind of person to do something like that. I’m the kind of person who has a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D for every possible situation. But I was pushed to do that because I could not take one more day at that job and almost anything would be better. While the job itself was not that bad, I had one manager who was one of the most toxic and cruel individuals I have ever met, and she made my job a living hell. She was a mid-level manager, but even the higher-ups were afraid of her, so they did not manage her and let her act how she wanted. Get this–the owner of the freaking company gifted her with a car in order to appease her. It wasn’t a shiny new convertible or anything–I think it was his mother’s older, used car or something–but still. Do you think anyone else got a damn car? Nope.

    So yeah, that situation was the biggest pile of BS I have ever been in, so I had to get out of there immediately.

    And yes, my current job is much better. I make more money, have more regular and stable hours, and everyone is (mostly) nice and normal. :)

  28. El Camino*

    Ooh this is so well-timed! I’ll definitely be following this thread. My last day at Toxic Job is tomorrow and I start a new one Monday – and I am SO excited. The place I’m at now gave me a lot of opportunity in the beginning but we had some pretty drastic funding cuts and layoffs and things never stabilized, which led to a n exodus of good people leaving while those who stayed behind were people who…probably shouldn’t have, especially in leadership. Lots of questionable decisions made.

    I’m nervous about the new job as it’s a bit different than what I’m doing now, but I was getting so disheartened by my current work that it might be a welcome change. I definitely get along well with my interviewer/new boss so I’m looking forward to it. It’s such a contrast talking to her vs the coworkers I have now – I don’t have a team anymore so I’ve been a department of one for a while, and it’s been so stressful. It doesn’t help that certain staff who should be able to offer support and at least be a sounding board when I ask for help act outwardly disdainful towards me/my work. I’d been running myself ragged over a project I was left to handle solo a few months back, only to discover that when I gave my notice, it was clear how little I was valued. There’s been no talk of an exit interview or any sort of transition plan other than diligent notes I put together (after learning the role on the fly myself).

    A lesson in what NOT to do, if nothing else. Wishing good luck and positive vibes to anyone else looking to move on from their own Toxic Job! It took months but I feel hopeful and free for the first time in a long time.

  29. Captain Raymond Holt*

    Oooh, this is a helpful thread as I’m a finalist for a new job now. I currently work remotely for a startup. While I generally enjoy the people I work with, the company is disorganized, the compensation package isn’t great and I feel like I’m not gaining the skills I want or accomplishing much of anything. The job I’m a finalist for is at a large company in a conservative industry. I would have to actually leave my house every day and wear pants to go to work. That being said, it’s a step up in responsibilities and compensation and puts me on the career path I truly want. I’m just nervous about the culture shift of not sitting in my house in shorts all day, walking my dog at lunch and not being able to look at my boss and say, “dude, what the fuck?”

    Ugh, but the interview itself isn’t for another 10 days, so plenty of time to stew.

  30. Just Elle*

    Almost every time I’ve changed jobs, its been for the best. But I did want to share one negative experience as a cautionary tale.

    I really undervalued the importance of having a good boss.

    My first 2 jobs out of college, I was blessed with incredible mentors as bosses. They gave me great coaching and also let me take responsibility for big projects and grow as an employee. I kind of took that for granted, and didn’t try to evaluate manager quality when interviewing. I ended up leaving my second job basically because I thought the grass was greener. The new job was pretty much the same, except my new boss was a yeller and a blamer. Which made the job much, much, much less tolerable.

    Now, when job searching, I make a point of asking prospective managers about their approach to managing, mentoring, etc. The next job I took was with someone who was proud of how many people he has mentored over the years and their success and thats been much better.

    1. Manders*

      Yes! My whole approach to job searching changed when I realized that interviews go both ways, and my prospective boss is also interviewing for me. And I think my pickiness about the kind of manager I was looking for actually helped me get more offers.

      Shifting my perspective and asking more questions about management style made me look more confident in interviews. I was stuck in a mindset of thinking that interviews are about demonstrating you want the job more than anyone else, but acting less desperate and more discerning gave hiring managers the impression that I was in demand.

  31. _Sankofa_*

    This might be slightly tangential, but in hindsight one of the things I wish I’d done when I accepted my current job was to formalize some of the perks I was excited about when I made the move.
    I was very very excited to have an office with a window– when we moved office spaces 9 months later I got stuck in a windowless office. I was very very excited to have finally gotten out of an especially thankless and frustrating data entry job– a year and a half later, they saddled me with it.
    If I’d asked to have it written into my agreement that those things were not to be changed during my employment, I doubt they would have squawked about it. These two specific changes have lowered my morale immeasurably. Definitely something to bear in mind for my next job change.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’d actually be shocked if they were willing to put either of those in writing, or if you had any standing if they did and then reneged. Unless you’re on an actual contract?

      1. _Sankofa_*

        I’m curious, why do you say that? I know of others in my field who have formalized agreements that certain tasks would not be added to their load. These are things that were dangled to entice me to make the move (I was recruited). It landed on me as bad faith that they reneged so soon after I’d started.

  32. MuseumChick*

    I took a big risk switching jobs. First, I moved states. From a place I LOVE to one I really don’t care for much. I when from working for a museum where I had a ton of knowledge to working in a subject matter I had zero background in. My old museum was super toxic but jobs in the field are very difficult to come by and I had the title I had been chasing for 10 years. I loved my co-workers (but not management) and there were a lot of project that would look great on my resume (that I had been fighting for management to let me do with little success).

    I took the risk and I can say it was absolutely the right choice for my career! I still do not care much for the area I live in but I LOVE my new job, co-workers, and am actually getting to do interesting project. I don’t come home angry anymore!

  33. Sally*

    At my previous job, I kept being told that I was going to be laid off in 6 months. This went on for 1.5 years, and it looked like the end of that calendar year was going to be the real deadline, so I started searching. I had been at my previous job for 17 years, and I’m over 50, so I was anxious because it was important to me to find a good situation. I used the resources on AAM to help me update my resume and to prepare for interviews, which helped boost my confidence. I also took Alison’s advice to evaluate the companies I was interviewing with, just as they were evaluating me. I discovered that I could learn a lot by paying attention and asking questions. How they reacted to my questions mattered as much as the actual answers. After meeting with several people at my present job, I was fairly certain I would like working with them. It also helped that their interview process was professional, transparent, and respectful of me and my time. I realize that in addition to relying on the information I gathered and my instincts, at some point, I had to take a chance and accept the offer. I’m so pleased that it has turned out to be a great environment with wonderful colleagues!

        1. I want a nap.*

          It’s a movie quote. Princess Bride. A character was told that every evening for several years, much like you were always threatened with layoffs

    1. emmelemm*

      Thank you for a good success story. I have worked at the same company for 18 years, and I am, well, approaching 50, and I know I need to do something else, but those previous two facts seem like everything is stacked against me.

  34. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    I work in an industry that very few would realize it has a larger than normal number of toxic workplaces due to the type of person who usually runs them having zero business experience. After working for two terrible bosses in two different states who seemed awesome to start I was severely burned out and depressed. I knew I needed a change and the frying pan to fire situation scared me from looking seriously until my second boss started gas lighting frequently.
    I switched to another job within my profession, but instead of designing tropical teapots I now handle teapot returns. It’s another small business and offered fewer benefits than my previous job, but thanks to the advice here I negotiated a much higher salary with bonuses and my hours are finally normal.
    It’s definitely not perfect, but my stress has reduced 90%. Some things are just issues I will have nearly anywhere.
    It definitely was terrifying to change and I had a panic attack on the way to my interview, but after a year has been a awesome improvement over previous situations. I figured I could bounce if it was bad.

  35. mark132*

    Fear is one of the main reasons I stay in my current job. I have family members with health issues. And I’m afraid what will happen to them if I end up losing my insurance. I know a job jump probably would go well, but when(not if) my daughter needs hospitalization again, what happens to her if I don’t have insurance? My job sucks nowadays, but I fear putting my family at risk.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Might be worth it to test run an ACA / Obamacare plan for your spouse, to see how it works and whether it could work for your daughter. With something inevitable, options on how to handle it really make your life better. Good luck, no matter what.

    2. WorkingParent*

      Same, except for the flex time (our insurance is meh). I’ve also earned a lot of good will with my manager to allow a flexible schedule for appointments. New job means starting from scratch with a new manager. I have been looking, though. Even if the pay is the same, if the insurance is better it’ll be worth the move.

      1. mark132*

        I worry about that too, sometimes I’m forced to leave immediately to deal with issues, and I currently have that flexibility, though I can’t say about the future.

    3. chronicallyIllin*

      You might look into saving for COBRA just in case? I have done my emergency fund calculations assuming that I’ll need to COBRA my insurance for 2-3 months potentially. It’s a ridiculous amount of money, but it’s better than worrying about what will happen if my chronic illness means I need to be hospitalized while waiting for my next health insurance plan to start.

      You could also try to negotiate that a new job start you on their health insurance immediately. My mother was able to successfully negotiate that when I still depended on her insurance. They said it wouldn’t be possible but then when it was something she literally required to even consider the job, then it was possible.

  36. spiralingsnails*

    My husband worked at his previous job for over ten years and spent about half that time considering leaving, in large part due to a way-lower-than-market salary. At one point he actually interviewed and received an offer for another job, but instead used it to force a small raise out of his current company. After a few more years of poorly paid stress his company’s nepotism leadership was aiming it straight down the drain, and he finally got concerned enough to start looking again. But he was still so anxious about switching that he nearly didn’t accept a great offer and I had to pep-talk him into it. Two years later, however, he is SO glad he made the switch!

  37. sofar*

    The last time I made a switch, a mentor (whom I really respect) advised me NOT to move to take the new job (where he’d previously worked). He went on and on about the bad environment, how it was a bad fit, and how I’d definitely be ready to jump ship within a year.

    I took the job anyway. I have a very different personality from my mentor. Everyone I interviewed with was wonderful. And the company was growing (it was a startup when he was there). And it was the best decision I could have made. I get why my mentor wasn’t happy here, but the things that made him miserable are things I thrive on.

  38. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    I left a job that I absolutely loved, but where I was underpaid and had a hideous commute, for a boring job that pays well and was close enough to bike to work. I was so very nervous about giving up a job I loved to do in order to work a very boring corporate position. Well, I can’t say I love my current job, but there is no doubt that it was the right move. The financial security, combined with the extra free time with the lack of a commute has more than made up for the fact that I like the job less. That might make me sound like a sell-out (and honestly, I do feel like one quite often), but there is definitely something to be said for not having to worry that you will be able to pay all of your bills every month.

    1. BeenThere*

      A “sell-out”? No. It makes you sound like you did a smart analysis of the situation, and made the best choice for yourself. Most of us work for money. Getting the best deal that you can for your time does not make you anything even remotely close to “sell-out”.

    2. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      “Sell out, with me oh yeah. Sell out, with me tonight…” (Sell Out by Reel Big Fish)

      On a serious note, being able to live inside with lights and deal with emergencies without breaking the piggy bank and counting the change (or borrowing and trying to figure out how you’re going to be able to pay it back) shouldn’t be underrated. In order to make a difference and do the things you care about, you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself as well.

      Then you have the time and energy to do the things that matter (and sometimes the money!)

  39. Amethystmoon*

    The first time I changed jobs at my current company, I wound up with tons of dysfunction. I had an entry-level job to start with and changed to a slightly level up. However this was the job with the boundary-violating coworker who also made tons of errors that they would never enforce that he fix his own, and the toxic manager who liked to holler at us in front of everyone for relatively minor things. The job I changed to after that (my current job) isn’t perfect, but at least there aren’t high levels of dysfunction or toxicity, so I will take it.

  40. Former Govt Contractor*

    8 years ago, I left the big law firm where I’d worked for over 20 years. My work group (12 people) was like family to me, I was valued and even overpaid, but I had stagnated and was bored out of my mind, and couldn’t imagine doing that job for another 20 years until I retired. I took the leap (and a $10k pay cut) to learn a new area of law in another big law firm. I hated the new area of law but it was a good firm, and I knew I’d done the right thing by leaving. After 1.5 years I got what I considered my dream job with the DOJ. I enjoyed that position for 4 years before moving on to the law department in a large corporation, where I have a wonderful work group (even if not like family), I make more money than I ever have, and I love my work. I still miss my old work group but that’s the only thing I miss.

  41. AnotherCorporateStooge*

    TLDR; benefits good, pay average, job not challenging, frustrated enough to consider leaving for new career

    I would be nervous to change jobs, especially because where I currently work the benefits and the culture are great — the pay is not too bad, certainly average, but, again, the benefits are great, but my issue is the work I do is not challenging and I find it hard to focus because it’s in a field I have no interest in. Any advice?

    1. AnotherCorporateStooge*

      To add: I work in marketing and research, I like the research, but the company is laden with too many inefficiencies and redundancy — I was considering going back to school for law or a science field (astrophysics/chemistry) but thought to take up something new altogether like management consulting.

      1. 1234*

        I personally wouldn’t be able to handle some management consulting firms. The local one here has a reputation of “your coworkers will smile to your face and stab you in the back.”

        What is it about the work that you don’t find challenging?

        1. AnotherCorporateStooge*

          I am basically a glorified admin with a snazzy title. I throw parties and attend conference where I bridge personal relationships between my team members and other companies. My job is essentially a big band-aid for inefficiencies since we are so decentralized — every group operates as its’ own mini company. Just this morning I was joking around with someone from operations who teasfully said all I do is, “puts papers in files and organizes stuff and makes us socialize then charges it to the team’s overhead.” It was funny… but TRUE. I laughed, but I can do so much more.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Don’t go for law unless you can go for free – law degrees are not paying back their costs for most graduates.
        + An MBA is flexible and can be applied to a lot of things, including consulting, and you’re already in that field.
        + Data Science may be of interest, if you like the research – the degree / job didn’t exist when I was last in school, but it’s *hot* now. This is also a pathway into consulting.
        + Have you thought about accounting / forensic accounting?
        + Chem / BioChem are pretty hot in some areas, but still not as economically rewarding as any Engineering degree; if you like research, you’ve probably got the quant chops to handle Engineering.

        1. AnotherCorporateStooge*

          My idea for the law school was to work full time for a university or think tank and use their employee benefits to pay for law school thereby cutting the loan amount I’d have to take off. From my research, the school I want to go to can pay for 80% and my second choice pays for 90% of the law degree. The trade-off is that I’d have to go part time and then work a full year before I could tap into these benefits and it would take me a lot longer to get the degree. I would prefer this over being saddled with 80% or 90% more debt though.

    2. Jellyfish*

      I say make a plan and get out. Of course, you’ll have to weigh the risks, but if you’re able to pursue a job that aligns better with your interests and skills, why not? I talked about it in more detail below, but I was in a similar spot a few years ago. The company / industry was okay, but I just didn’t really care about the work I was doing. I genuinely tried to make it work, but ultimately, it simply wasn’t a good fit for me.
      I’m infinitely happier and making more money now.

  42. Knitter*

    Two jobs ago I worked at a non-profit. When I interviewed for that position, the ED basically spent the whole time telling me what a good fit I was. I couldn’t ask any questions, she didn’t ask me any questions, and I didn’t learn much about the position. I took the job because I was desperate to leave the job I had at the time (first job and was in for 9 years, promoted multiple times…and very unhealthy work/life balance).
    However, my first few weeks, I started piecing together my odd interview and her treatment of staff. If you were bad, you were bad and could do nothing right. She reprimanded her administrative assistant in front of me and tried to get me to join her. She had a meeting with an entry-level staff member with multiple colleagues to reprimand her for a minor mistake. This staff person ended up being the strongest person on my team. I was at a staff meeting, where she was trying to run a brainstorming meeting with two of our most experienced staff…and they weren’t talking. I started getting a lot of random emails from people applying for part-time jobs. I asked what it was about and what to do. She told me just to interview the candidates. However, the program they were applying for was no longer funded thus not running.
    I was seriously thinking about leaving the position…when she resigned. She had totally depleted the reserve funds of the organization so it ended up closing after limping along for a few years.

  43. LadyByTheLake*

    I have been in my industry 28+ years and have had nine jobs. I have never, not once, regretted leaving a job and moving on to a new place, even if the new place didn’t work out. My shortest stint at a job (nine months), I knew right away (by the end of the first week) that it wasn’t going to work out but I learned so much there, made the very best friends, and positioned myself for the rest of my career. The last short job I had (one year), I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a great fit but again, I learned a lot, made good connections, was working while I got myself settled in a new city, and best of all — I disliked it enough that it gave me the courage to go out on my own, which has worked amazingly well. The grass might not always be greener, but at least it is new and usually interesting.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I have never, not once, regretted leaving a job and moving on to a new place, even if the new place didn’t work out.

      I’m the same way. Every job I’ve had, no matter how bad or boring, has led me to the one I’m in now. I’m making way more money than others in my original field (journalism) and I’ll have the ability to parlay this current position into something higher-level someplace else down the road.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Cuz we’ve all made mistakes
        that seem to lead us astray
        But every time they helped to get us where we are today
        And that’s a good a place as any
        and it’s probably where we’re best off anyway

        The Wailin’ Jennys, “Heaven When We’re Home”

        Lovely song, and very apropos for this week’s ask-the-readers.

  44. Mama Bear*

    Someone once told me if you wait until you hate everything about your job, you’ve waited too long. It can be hard to leave things you like, but there was a reason you were looking in the first place – promotion, commute…, so remember those as you go. Some of my fears were simply new schedules, how my children would adjust to me being back in an office and less available, and whether or not I’d run into the same problems somewhere else. How things have overall turned out is “for the better.” I miss WFH options, but I no longer dread dealing with a bad manager daily – a very fair trade, IMO. If you don’t have to stay for things like health insurance or tuition reimbursement, then don’t stick around a toxic job. We often “what if” our way into negativity but “what if” the other option really is better? Keep in touch with good people in your network and enjoy new opportunities.

    1. CM*

      > We often “what if” our way into negativity but “what if” the other option really is better?

      I’m going to embroider this on a pillow! So true, about job searches and many other big decisions.

      I’ve found that every new job I’ve taken has involved tradeoffs. I’ve always been worried to give up a sure thing, and I’ve always found some things in the new job that are better and some things that are worse. (For instance, current job has longer hours than previous job, less vacation time, and no WFH which I REALLY miss, but also is very stable and pays more than previous job. Not to mention has way better coffee!) After several times around the block I’m no longer that worried about stepping into a new situation — the key for me is to make sure that I’ve asked lots of questions, I’m clear in my own mind about what I want, and I have evidence that the new job is getting me closer to what I want than the current job.

    2. Goldenrod*

      “Someone once told me if you wait until you hate everything about your job, you’ve waited too long”

      This is so true! I learned this the hard way, by tolerating a low-paying job with a bad boss for 10 years. After I left that job, I realized I shouldn’t wait so long again! Change is hard, but it’s important to learn and grow and try new things. After that, I left jobs when I knew it was time (not when it was way overdue). My income kept going up, and I never missed the old jobs like I thought I would.

    3. Filosofickle*

      My brother once asked me when you know to start looking, when you’re “unhappy enough” and I told him as soon as you’re asking the question you better start looking because it can be a short trip from restlessness to hatred. (And IME it takes 6-12 months to find something good, so if you wait til you’re absolutely positive it’s time to go, it’s going to be a looong year.)

      1. Chris*

        The other aspect of this is that looking does not oblige you to leave if you find something. If your current job gets better in the meantime, you can always stop your job search or just be more picky about what sort of job you would accept.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Exactly. I believe people should always keep their options open. I’m only about four months into a new job, and I still have all of my job alerts active, and I regularly peruse job postings just in case. You never know – the absolute perfect thing may fall into my lap. Then again, maybe it won’t and I’ll discover that my current job is “the one.”

  45. Media Monkey*

    i have been in my new role for 2 months, after 2.5 years in my previous one. is is the same job type but in a specialist sector that i haven’t worked in previously. The role is a step up that wouldn’t have been open to me in my previous company, and came with a 25% salary increase). I was worried that i would hate the role/ sector and that i had jumped for the salary/ position and because i hated my old boss.

    It has worked out really well so far. new clients are tough, but colleagues are lovely. The role is a big stretch with less oversight than i have ever had and my boss (who is not based in the same office as me) seems pleased with my work. he is very hands off and lets me get on with things. i have found a bit less flexibility in terms of working from home and i have fewer holidays (now i have 25 plus bank hols, before i had 30 plus bank hols). there is a fair amount of UK travel but they are good at letting me manage that however i want.

    so it’s a win for me (especially on pay day!)

  46. Kat*

    I just realized that I’ve only switched jobs directly once! All others were because of a move or family situation. But the one time I did it, it was a great move. I had been working for an organization that i believed in and where I had great respect and admiration for many of my co-workers. I’d worked there 3 years and was promoted after two years. This was a place that took a lot of pride in being a very intense environment with innovation and a breakneck pace not typical for a nonprofit. Our leadership had a reputation for being nonconformist visionary geniuses which they may have been but they were also bullies who told us constantly that they only wanted the best working for them and if we disagreed with their tactics it meant we weren’t the best. The staff pretty much lived on adrenaline and sense of superiority. It was intoxicating and confusing. I was so stressed out that I lost 15 pounds during my last 6 months there. After my promotion, however, I could see more clearly the underlying problems the organization had and I got the sense that both the program I’d been promoted to lead was not going to have the support it needed to be successful and also that the company as a whole was kind of going off the rails (it had a very public scandal about 3 years after I left so I definitely made the right call). I left for a job at a more traditional, established non-profit. The new job had the same duties as my pre-promotion role but the same pay as my post-promotion role! (Plus I was back to being paid hourly so in a sense I was making way more per hour considering I wasn’t working 15+ hour days anymore!) For the first several months in my new job, I had terrible panic attacks. I think my brain did not know what to do with itself now that it wasn’t constantly flooded with stress chemicals! But that subsided and I found that being able to work at a higher level made me a rock star with the new organization. They felt like I was accomplishing so much and I was barely breaking a sweat. I’m so thankful I didn’t just try to stick it out with the first company.

  47. Bunny*

    I was at my old job at a small business for over a decade and was absolutely miserable, my husband was begging me to quit, my boss was a nightmare, I don’t know if he is mentally ill or purposefully cruel, he would do things like ask me to draft letters with absolutely no guidance, criticize them and then sign and mail them, randomly re-arrange my office, he harassed me for almost a year about collecting a very small bad debt that I was in no way responsible for and the debtor had made it clear that they would not pay like I was a scummy debt collector, near the end the job was causing me to drink and seriously endangering my relationship with my spouse.

    Finally, I was laid off , it was an act of mercy, after fighting for my unemployment, which my former boss contested making lies so outrageous that the unemployment office told me were literally unbelievable and they weren’t even going to entertain them as being true, I told my husband that I was going to fulfill the minimal job search requirements for unemployment and nothing more because I needed to recoup mentally before I could even think about starting another job. I started volunteering basically full time and it was life changing, one of the places I was volunteering for suggested that I apply for job on the administrative side. I ended up being offered and taking the job and am now doing something that I am truly passionate about, I love my co-workers, my boss is completely supportive and regularly praises the quality of my work, I had no idea that this life was an option.

    In hindsight being laid off from a job I was terrified to leave was the best thing that ever happened to me and I can’t believe I sacrificed years of my life because I was just too terrified to leave it.

    1. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

      What is with bosses rearranging stuff? My awful previous boss would “clean” my desk and rearrange my work vehicle so I couldn’t reach anything, including heavy equipment deep inside the bed of the truck. He then took away my desk all together and offered to get me a flip down wall desk while he built a private office for himself. I felt like the stapler guy in Office Space.

  48. stitchinthyme*

    Here’s one that’s probably relatively uncommon: I’m afraid to start looking because of a recent hearing loss. I had a cochlear implant recently, but it takes work and rehab to learn to hear with it, and in the meantime, my (formerly) good ear experienced a drop in hearing as well, which makes it incredibly difficult for me to use the phone or even understand people in person unless they’re physically close and speaking clearly. And disability discrimination is a very real concern, even though my line of work doesn’t generally require a lot of people interaction.

    As I adjust to my new cochlear implant, I’m hoping that things will get better and enable me to start looking, but right now I just can’t see myself dealing with interviews even though I’ve been kind of wanting to leave for a while now.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      Can I ask you what accommodations you would need during an interview process? I’m trying to think of how I’d handle this with a candidate. Would skyping help where you can see someone speak vs. a phone interview? Would you need typed questions as well? For in-person interviews, would it help if people wrote out their questions as well as spoke them, or do people just need to speak loudly?

      I hope that you transition quickly to hearing with the implant!

      1. stitchinthyme*

        Honestly, at this point I am not even sure. Up until this latest episode (which happened about a month ago), I’d always been able to get by — the only time I really had much trouble was in situations with a lot of background noise, which isn’t typical for an interview, so this is the first time I’m really having to deal with serious hearing problems in both ears.

        I can hear really well with the implant, but unfortunately, actual understanding is a ways off. It’s not like a hearing aid; the brain basically needs to learn a whole new way of hearing. But I’m working on it.

    2. Ms. FS*

      I hope your new cochlear implant works out! My son is deaf and uses cochlear implant and a hearing aid. Obviously its a different situation since he’s a kid but he wasn’t implanted until he was 5 and he’s adjusted well after not being able to hear well with the hearing aid on that side. One thing I would suggest as you adjust – can you get an FM system? That way you can bring the FM receiver on the table at interviews and that should help cut down on the distortion and direct their voices straight to your implant.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        I have a microphone that streams directly to the implant. But I need some more rehab time, because although I can hear with it just fine, understanding normal conversation is still a ways off for me — everyone sounds like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies. So once my comprehension is better, I’ll be able to use the microphone. I do have a different device which also has a microphone that streams into the hearing aid in my other ear, and that does help some.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      One of my colleagues was just meeting with someone with a similar situation. Sudden hearing loss, no ability to work on the phone, and panic panic panic about what to do next.

      It sounds like you can stay where you’re at, which is handy … just think of the next chunk of time as “that time where I learned my new skills at a job I didn’t love while getting a paycheck” and keep envisioning your new next step. Also, no one likes dealing with interviews, so as long as you’re able to comfortably explain how you communicate best, you’ll probably be fine.

      Good luck on all this change!

    4. Govie*

      I think interviewing would be fine if the company had access to accommodations that you needed due to hearing loss. I work for a large government agency that has many hearing impaired employees. They have a contract with an ALS company to provide interpreters as needed for hearing impaired staff. I’m certain that if we were interviewing someone who needed an interpreter that we would just arrange for it and interview as usual.

      1. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. If I got an interview and had similar concerns, I’d mention that I was bringing an interpreter (or ask for one) or ask for in-person vs over the phone if hearing phones is hard. Someone in our church has a hearing aid that connects to a microphone. As the different people speak, they pass around the microphone (which clips to their shirt). It’s very small, Bluetooth sized. I think if you are matter-of-fact about it, it will be OK. My husband works with a number of people with various needs (hearing/vison loss) and he honestly just wants to know how to support them so that they can all get the job done.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          I unfortunately do not know ASL, so an interpreter would not help me. I have a history of sudden hearing loss episodes, but this is the first time it’s ever been this bad. I’ve always been able to get by before, and never had problems on the phone or in interviews until now.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      Your situation is totally understandable. Good luck to you – I hope everything works out with your implant.

  49. Jellyfish*

    I changed industries entirely. I stumbled into a certain field after college and, with no other great options on the horizon, decided to stick it out. The people were nice enough; the pay was sufficient. That worked for several years, but eventually the thought of deliberately working in that particularly industry and job type for the rest of my career was kinda soul crushing.

    I did a lot of research, reading, talking to people in other fields, and eventually opted to return to grad school with a specific new goal in mind. I was not discreet enough about all this, and my company found out. They were very nice about everything, but ultimately laid me off. After an unpleasant month of unemployment, I found an entry level job in the field I wanted to go into. It was a massive pay cut, but it got my foot in the door.

    For a couple years, I bounced back and forth between being far happier at work and having terrified meltdowns over money. There were several stretches where I rather bitterly thought that if I had just dealt with my discontent at the old job, I wouldn’t be worried about financial instability. It wasn’t a nice time on that front.

    Eventually I finished grad school, and with the experience gained from my entry level job and much help from Alison, I landed a really excellent job in the field I wanted to work in. I had to move, and I still have a lot of student debt, but things are good. I love what I do, the money is enough (assuming society doesn’t collapse…), and I am happier than I could have ever imagined in my previous field.

    So yes, it could have gone badly for me. It didn’t though, and I am quite satisfied with how everything turned out.

  50. Scott M*

    I’d be interested in hearing what others have experienced when they have left a company they’ve been at for a long time. Like perhaps a few decades.

  51. Trisha*

    I’ve been with this government organization for 18 years and in my current role for almost 5 (only 1 month until my 5 year anniversary). Because I don’t want to move locations to the downtown office, I’ve gone as high as I can go. I have a great team, a job that is easy (for me), I’m well respected, and because it’s government, I have lots of leave (annual, sick, family related and even the opportunity for unpaid leave but keeping my job safe for when I return). The downside is senior management and the direction that staffing and the department is going – it’s like they are using a dart board to figure out what to do next. My personal problem is I’m burned out and I don’t see a way out of here to anything comparable. I worry that I’m not as good as people tell me I am and that I’m not actually qualified for other positions outside of the government. I am also worried that due to burnout I just won’t be able to “bring it” to a new position. I’ll continue to wallow in this negativity that has become my norm at work. And of course, I have 10 weeks of sick leave saved up, and receive 5 weeks of vacation a year so it would be unusual to jump to a new position with anything close to that.

    I could easily do a lateral move here at work – it’s just that people want to bring me in as a fixer and I’m not prepared to do that – why leave the awesome team that I have built up to clean up messes that bad managers have left behind.

    I feel stuck and that translates into my job search. I look and don’t see anything “good”.

    1. CM*

      Sounds to me like your stuck-ness has a lot to do with wanting to keep all the great things about your job and only get rid of the stuff you don’t like. I don’t think that’s realistic. In your shoes, I would see what else is out there and imagine yourself doing it — think about whether it would be worth it to you to have less vacation time and to start over.

      I felt the same way about burnout and a new position, but I found that when I started to explore other possibilities, I got excited about some of them and some of my old energy started to come back. (Also, if you end up switching jobs, take as much vacation as you can in between!)

      And as for the worry that you’re not qualified for other jobs and not as good as others think you are — you know that’s not true. This is just anxiety talking. Apply and let prospective employers decide whether you’re good enough.

    2. Govie*

      I was in the same position a few years ago having worked at the same gov agency for over 15 years. A lateral move came up at another agency and I threw my hat in the ring and was asked to interview. I almost cancelled the interview because I was nervous about my abilities to succeed and unsure if I wanted to leave the team I had been with for years. I was offered the job and now 5 years later I’m so glad I made the switch. Applying and interviewing can at least let you learn more about what is out there. You can always decide to stay where you are.

    3. RS*

      Can you take some of that sick leave to help with the burnout feelings?

      I know it’s not a long-term solution, but it might help mentally to take a week off here, a week off in a few months, etc. Even one sick day can help me a little when I’m struggling with stress/burnout. Not sure if you’re the same though.

  52. Jamie*

    For the last three years this topic has been on my mind every day…I spend far too much time second guessing and beating myself up for making certain choices, but still having no idea what I could have done differently.

    I look forward to the comfort I hope to find reading the comments here, some solace in not being alone in not perfectly navigating this stuff.

  53. Sloan Kittering*

    I left a job where I was very comfortable, at an org that a lot of folks hung around forever because of the great insurance/retirement benefits (but I was lower-level so great benefits can mostly be purchased with more salary). I loved my boss and my work big picture. It was a good fit for my field – *but* I wasn’t really being challenged and there weren’t any opportunities to grow (I had been passively waiting for something to present itself for several years: nothing did). Leaving was tough.

    My new job is a mixed bag and there are still things I miss and other things that are a lot better. That’s life. At least I’m gaining new experiences and not being stuck in a cozy rut. I’d rather be out there making things happen. This job won’t be forever either and I hope the future holds even better things.

    1. Laika*

      Hey! I kept scrolling wondering if I’d find someone else in kinda the same position, and here you are. :)

      I left a stable, decent-paying job with great benefits and no prospects for growth from a company I’d been with over eight years for a job in a totally different industry that I was (am!) really excited about. I’ve been in the new role for about six months and it’s… yeah, mixed bag. The work is much more absorbing and challenging, but the office culture is not a great fit for me. On one hand, the day flies by because I really enjoy the work, and that’s about 80% of it, but the other 20% is folks with terrible office etiquette and poor boundaries, an inscrutable organizational structure, and little-to-no oversight for the entire team I work on. Does that outweigh the other 80%? Not yet, but it might in another six months. I’m going to stamp your last sentence onto my brain and hold onto it.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yay twinsies! I mean yeah not everything is perfect at the new job but when I ask myself if I’d rather still be at my old position over a year later, there’s no question I’m glad I left when I did. And when I see the comments from people who waited until they were desperately miserable and ended up taking the first thing they could get, I realize that probably would’ve been me in 3-5 more years.

  54. Linzava*

    I have changed jobs 4 times in the last 5 years. First job was minimum wage after years of unemployment. I found another job after about a year. Second job was toxic hell hole. My first day I realized I’d made a mistake. It took over a year to find another job. Next job was a pay cut, but I had the opportunity to gain quickbooks experience. This job was only slightly less terrible. Current job, been here two years, is awesome and was only possible thanks to the skills I learned at last 2 terrible jobs and a recruiter I met while trying to escape second job.

    The truth is, I never know what to expect, bit due to my near constant interviewing during those 4 years, I’m a lot better at reading the situation. There were a few problems I expected at current job, and some of them turned out to happen, but they didn’t matter because the people I work for are healthy individuals who treat me with respect. Current job was a hell hole for the last employee in my job, but she was lacking certain skills and was caught covering up mistakes.

    I think the truth is, I will always feel nervous staring a new job, but I know trust in my skills and my ability to read an interview properly. If it’s terrible, I’ll find something else, don’t really care about being seen as a job hopper as my skills speak for themselves. I think it helps to take the pressure off yourself, don’t think every move you make can permanently damage your life. Just enjoy the uncertainty, as you get older, you fell it less and less.

  55. AndersonDarling*

    I left a bad job and ended up at a not-so-great job. I stayed for a year and then took the time to find a better match. It was not a big deal.
    If you are aware of red flags, then it really isn’t likely that you will end up at a terrible toxic place. Read reviews, ask tough questions in the interviews, and trust your gut. If you end up at a not-the-best-match job, it may not be the best situation, but you will probably pick up a few skills and make some connections for the next role.
    You have to remember that your career is going to have a few bumps and it takes time to find the best place for your current state. But you really don’t want to settle. If you think there may be something better, do a few interviews and test the waters.
    Oh, and if you think there is nothing better out there, that is probably the negativity of your current workplace rubbing off on you. It’s amazing how people are barely hanging on because their jobs are so awful, and yet they believe that all jobs are equally terrible even if they have friends that are happy with their own jobs.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      This is a good point. I feel like I’ve been somewhat influenced by the AAM blog to think the career progression is supposed to be, “I was a rockstar, got excellent reviews and was promoted several times, soo passionate about my work – then leveraged that experience into an awesome new offer at even better salary and am now killing it!!!” Anything other than that feels like a failure to me now, and I’ve been kicking myself for feeling like I’m stuck in low gear, going nowhere. But really I’m doing fine. I’m making ends meet. I’m paying my own bills and not getting canned. It’s just not quite as awesome as I picture it.

      1. Gidget*

        OMG, Me too. When I first found AAM it was like, “Okay, wow this is helpful and gives me perspective.” But the longer I am here, despite the often very good advice, the more I am like, “Oh man I am doing everything wrong!”

  56. Jigglypuff*

    I took a new job where the person who would be my manager specifically told me that the higher-ups were micromanagers and that there was low employee morale, but it offered health insurance which my job at the time did not, and the pay was MUCH better, so I took it. My manager quit within two months, then it took a year for them to find a new one and that person only lasted three months. Her warnings were accurate and I eventually had to leave as well b/c the place was toxic – the director actually wrote in my annual review that I needed to make sure to say hi to her first when she walked by my cubicle instead of only responding when she said hi.

    The other job that I took that turned out to be a mistake was a place with high turnover. Sometimes high turnover is expected and not a problem, but in this particular place it ended up being a disaster. The problem was that I was job searching from across the country, so I couldn’t really get a feel for the place before I accepted the job. Never again.

  57. Teapot Translator*

    I’ve been at my new job for about three months now and while I’m not sure this is the place for me, I don’t regret leaving my previous job. While I loved my colleagues, it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and that would have affected my mental health on the long run. I think that it’s important to trust in ability capacity to handle whatever comes. It’s true that we don’t know what will happen at a new job; the only thing we can rely on is ourself and our ability to handle change.

  58. CM*

    When I was first starting out, I had a super toxic job but couldn’t judge how much of it was me having unrealistic expectations. I was scared to lose seniority and the small number of benefits that came with it to go somewhere else that might be just as miserable.

    Eventually, what I decided was that another job could be equally bad in a different way, but probably not worse, so it was worth the risk to just keep jumping until I found something better.

    It turned out the very next job was 1000% better, and the place I’d started at was unusually abusive — something I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t left.

  59. That One Person*

    I was nervous about getting a job period much less changing from one that required dealing with the public constantly vs one that involved getting to know my “customers” and have a stronger relationship for it. I knew I couldn’t stand doing retail anymore because it drove me nuts on multiple avenues never mind a constant fear that the next person will go postal for no reason other than they had a bad day/week/month and I seem like a good outlet.

    I’m also a natural worrier so I worried about finding a job that doesn’t involve that – how does a person even find such a job? What skills can help you escape retail when other people with good degrees end up there anyways? Then even when I got the interview I worried because: I don’t know much about mailing things much less working in a mailroom. I knew there’d be more to it than simply passing out people’s mail and likely more than collecting their out-going, but to what degree? However my interviewer was more concerned (and luckily: impressed) with my customer service background and that’s what he cared about. In his words, “anyone can learn mail: it’s just mail.”

    Then I worried about dealing with the people of course because they’re all strangers, and again any one of them could decide to erupt for whatever reason they decided. Nope. They’ve been absolutely lovely and if people needed different accommodations for receiving their items they expressed them so the worst is simply people never replying to emails when we need to find their seat or find out when they’ll next be in to receive something. Usually a follow up a week or so later helps solve that, or eventually the person comes looking for it if they refuse to otherwise respond. They’re still happy to get that item they ordered. Even when someone comes along with a question I’m not sure about I have resources I can turn to in order to find the best answer.

    Overall though I’m glad I solidly landed the job since my boss made no secret that I was his favorite out of all the people he interviewed, and I’ve tried to live up to that expectation. There’s been some slight ups and downs, but I’m definitely in a better state of mind compared to before and it was a switch well worth it.

  60. outdoorofficeworker*

    I made a major career change about 5 years ago. I recognized at the time that the job I took wasn’t ideal long-term, but I also thought it would be a “foot in the door” to an organization with better opportunities in the future. Both pieces of that turned out to be more true than I ever imagined. The job was much much worse than “not ideal.” My boss was horrible in every imaginable way, and I cried multiple times a week. I hung on by my fingernails for 1.5 years, then was able to transition to a different and GREAT job at the same organization, where I still happily work. A lot of this is really situation-specific, but the general lesson for me was to play the long game. Transitions are hard, and mine was extra hard changing to a completely new career field with a horrible boss. But sticking with it for a little while paid huge dividends down the road.

  61. Leap Taker*

    Mine is a bit strange. I accepted a job offer with a start-up for an in-patient healthcare facility. It was owned by these mysterious Russian businessmen. I couldn’t find out much about the company because it was new. I didn’t even get the name of the main corporate entity (or any existing facility in other cities) until my offer letter, so that’s when my real research could start. Even then, I could barely find anything out except that there were some suspicious Google reviews. I definitely feared it was a scam, but I did interview at the actual facility and got to see the beds and nursing station, etc. So at least they would be treating real patients even if it was money laundering! I took the leap because I was drowning in boredom at my other job and feared I was getting dumber & less ambitious by the day.

    It turned out fine (to my knowledge anyway) though I left after 1 year for personal reasons. They were fully certified with all entities, we passed all of our inspections with flying colors, etc. I will always be a little suspicious though.

  62. Scarlett*

    I guess I’m in that youngish generation of workers who does a fair bit of job-hopping throughout my career, rather than working for 1-2 employers for my entire work life. So far I’ve worked for 7 different organizations, and I am just wrapping up my role at my current location and starting a new job at organization #8 next week. I’m almost always nervous and worried when the job-switching happens. It always makes my current team so sad, then I have to console them while trying to do all my wrap-up work and trying not to act TOO excited about my career change. And I almost always have nightmares in the weeks leading up to and after my job change. It always feels like “first day of school” jitters as I get to know my new boss, my new team, and my new work. Things I’ve learned as I have done this repeatedly:

    1. It takes about 5-6 months to feel that I really _get_ the new job and have a routine, people I can trust, know who does what, etc. etc. So be kind with yourself as you learn new names, new work, new routines, new acronyms. I always write notes like crazy in these transition times to help me retain all the new information coming at me at the speed of light.

    2. I’ve found that every job has helped prepare me for the next role. Though I switch organizations, my role is consistently moving up the career ladder, though this current job change is pretty lateral, since I’m now very happy with my place on the ladder and am switching in order to do a brand of my work that is my specific area of passion. But I wouldn’t have gotten this job if I hadn’t had specific experience from two of my past roles. And that has been true from every job I’ve taken since my first job–each job has added to my skill set in ways that seems tailor-made to position me well for the next job. It helps to know that my specific skills are going to be unique and a welcome addition to the work the group is doing and that I can learn valuable lessons about my work and build new sets of skills at each job I accept.

    3. I also appreciate bringing the best ideas of how to work together from each job and “passing it along” at my new role. Rather than thinking about all of the emotional abuse at one role or the inter-team fighting at another place, I try to bring what worked well at those organizations into my new organization–structured team meetings with agendas, really effective performance review and feedback processes, etc.

    There was only one job that brings some regrets–I was only there a short time before the entire organization imploded and was sold off. It was a painful process and I didn’t get to accomplish the work I was hired to do. But even in that role, I did learn a LOT and build skills I’ve never built anywhere else (building and managing a P&L, anyone?!). Though it was a rough, painful road at that location, I guess if hard-pressed I would say that in the end, I am still glad I took that job and left the previous organization. I learned a lot and built a lot of maturity and fortitude in a short amount of time.

    For those of you thinking about switching, my advice would be to think of yourself in the place of bargaining power. You have a good job now, which means you can afford to be picky and find the next job that feels like a wonderful fit for you. Thoroughly ask questions during the interview process and be willing to say no until you find the job that feels like the best possible fit for your own career aspirations. Leaving a job when you aren’t miserable or unemployed means you are empowered to choose your own path, rather than feeling desperate to accept whatever is available at the time.

  63. Definitely Anonymous For THIS one*

    For me, it was an (involuntary) switch to a new supervisor.

    Apparently, I had gained a reputation at the other campus as being difficult to work with (though my work was always highly regarded). There was a reorganization, and one of the changes to come out was that I was transferred to work with a new supervisor at a new campus. I had met him once in a meeting and based on one incredibly stupid thing he said that I had never forgotten I fought it like mad. Well, quietly mad. But I dreaded being with him. Still, I ultimately couldn’t do anything so resigned myself. But I was severely depressed and I am sure it showed even though I never said anything even slightly negative to anyone.

    About one week before the transfer, there was a large group meeting. He and I were both part of it. It took a small break before someone from the main campus was going to do a presentation and most everyone else had gone outside the room. I sat there, just waiting, keeping to myself. He came out and sat down beside me and I smiled at him. He started talking and within just a few minutes I really started to pay attention because what he was saying led me to realize that he not only wasn’t bad as I had thought but was actually–unusually for this college atmosphere–outstanding in work and in his humanity. We must have chatted for nearly 30 minutes because the presented never showed up. At one point he asked what he could do to make it good for me and I asked if it were possible to get a toilet lid for the women’s bathroom near my new (very big and very private) office, and he took care of that. He thought my early hours that I liked so much would be a perfect counterfoil to his later ones.

    I went to the new assignment with joy in my heart and it has only gotten better. He calls us the dream team. He is a real team member to me (and I to him) and we are very close. Our responsibilities are probably the most successful of all the director/admin teams. We have each other’s backs. My reputation has changed so much so that people at the new campus are thrilled to have me here.

    This change, so dreaded, has turned out to be the absolute best. I am happy and very, very grateful that the YOU WILL BE HAPPY AND SHOW IT LIKE I DO atmosphere (think Pollyanna on steroids) of the old place is way behind me, and where I work now is much more accepting of the differences in people’s personalities and values them for their own ways.

  64. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    I’ve honestly only worked at gas stations, out side of one temp job. And each manager I’ve had has their toxic aspect. So I’m also one of those who’ve struggled to job search (thanks in a large part to my mental health related procrastination. I still can’t believe we are already in September. Feels like it should only be May)

    Currently I want to job search, but as someone who only has a high school education, and lots of conflicting health issues, I find it hard to figure out how to switch fields and find a job where I know that my health won’t interfere with a necessary part of the job (Like I can’t reliably lift heavy things and can’t work near deep fryers due to my asthma, but I also can’t say I’d be able to make phone calls due to anxiety. To expand more would be a page and a half.) I also don’t have transportation, but I’m working on that (dang phone anxiety). I am also still adjusting to having dentures (which I’m having issues with) and worry about how to handle the interviews (no dentures= how that looks, plus I can’t clearly make certain sounds. But I frequently gag if I wear my dentures, sometime needing to remove them to make it stop)

    1. HostaGirl*

      You aren’t alone but there are ways to make your strengths work for you. I share a lot of your issues, but chose to seek out jobs with more varied daily duties so lifting, using the intercoms ect weren’t an all day thing. Despite of what I considered liabilities my enthusiasm is what’s impressed. No I can’t lift heavy things over my head all day, but I can do it up to a certain level and my co-workers stand back till I need them to step in. They hate paperwork, I like it so I do theirs for them. All the tiny tradeoffs have made us a reliable team and made it possible for me to remain employed.
      Don’t discount your CS skills either! I used to play a game where I introduced customers to new items with the goal of upselling at least several items per shift. Customer education was very rewarding when you could match a product to a genuine need. Or making a customer smile. The more gas stations evolve the more tech there is and the more disconcerting to the customer they become. If you have the ability to ease them into it that’s a genuine skill!

      Look for jobs that need your skills and will accept experience as well as a degree. It takes a bit longer but those jobs are out there!

  65. Taylor Klein*

    I used to work in a healthcare industry and was nervous about taking on a completely different type of position after spending 3 years there. I went from a on the phone customer service/support role and completely changed industries and now am in a Software Sales position. I was nervous because Sales roles always scared me because its a lot of relationship building and communication which I thought I lacked.

    I’ve been now at this company coming up about a year now and all those fears are for not. So far I have met if not exceeded my goals every month and have built up a reputation as someone who works hard and can be counted on to get the job done when asked. I am currently on track to make our companies Presidents Club “which is unheard of for a 1st year sales person” and my income has tripled this year compared to what i make at my old job.

  66. Triumphant Fox*

    Does anyone have thoughts on jump searching with the prognosis that we may be in for a recession? How do you weigh job security now vs. a new venture? I’m facing the thought of being in a very stable, very secure position where I’m valued, if a little bored, with the unknown.

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      There is no harm in looking. Just don’t quit your job until you have a new one lined up (good advice in any situation, not just in a looming recession).

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        Definitely! I guess my thoughts are more along the lines of people using the “last one in, first one out” reasoning when letting people go in times of recession. I don’t know if job security is actually more precarious moving somewhere else (well, I do – my current place has a lot of sleepy people who’ve been here 15 years because it’s easy) or if I really shouldn’t let that stop me.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I’m convinced a recession is coming within the next 2 years, and I think it’s probably going to hit in 2020. But the job market right now is *hot* and the recession might be relatively light. A lot depends on the 2020 election – a return to a stable supply chain / lower tariffs will help the US a lot, though some of the manufacturing we’re losing will never return.

      I am also 10ish years in my current position and have been thinking about a new job for a year or so, so I’m facing some of the same thoughts you are. There’s only one route up in my current group, and it’s not something I’m well suited to do, but I really like my employer overall (Fortune 100, large company with strong HR and diversity, B2B).

      My thoughts on this are:

      Know your industry and how it tends to work.

      If you find something in the next 3 months that is *perfect* or are in a recession-resistant industry (eg, health care; home renovations; IT security or other maintenance; entertainment) or one that’s going to be really hot (eg Environmental impact abatement), take it, the risk is low.

      If you are in any kind of vulnerable industry (eg Consulting; IT development; Manufacturing; Construction), or don’t find something fast, ride it out. Many of those industries are ‘last hired first fired’ and now is not the time to lose seniority. Use the time to pick up a new skill, to consolidate and streamline processes, to show your company your value.

      The area I’m looking at is consulting-adjacent, and so I’m going to spend the next year learning Python, documenting my processes, and looking for ways to streamline my processes / improve my tools.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        Thank you for this! I could go work for a lot of different industries in my position, so maybe I’ll be thinking about the sector companies are in and take that into consideration. I appreciate the thoughtful response.

    3. De Minimis*

      I am not that worried. I was looking for entry level roles during the Great Recession and that was tough. I have more experience now than I did then and feel fairly confident I could find something if I needed to, even in a recession. It seemed like last time there were positions for mid-level people in my field, it was just the entry level that really dried up. And I don’t think this next recession is going to be at the level of 2008-2009.

      My main concerns would be worrying about age discrimination, but people in my age group seem to be a little more common in my particular sector [nonprofit/govt]

  67. Religious Nutter*

    I empathize with this fear. I’m terrified of change, and I’ve hardly ever hopped a job unless I’m forced to do so. I’m not a “let’s see what’s out there” kind of person. However, I’ve been in my career for more than a decade now, and I have a few useful experiences to share:

    1 – The overwhelming majority of job-hops have been positive. They’ve resulted in better pay, better working conditions, better responsibilities, or a better title. The chances that hopping jobs will be a positive experience is extremely high. Take a look at this XKCD on the topic: It’s simplistic but true.

    2 – One of my job changes was unplanned (a layoff). I loved that job so much that I tried to leverage it into a contracting gig with former clients. I wanted to keep the job in any form. This was a tremendous waste of time. When facing this kind of transition, it’s important to _move on_. I should have immediately started a traditional job search.

    3 – Career setbacks can and do happen. That layoff? I wound up taking a terrible contract job at nearly entry-level because I was scrambling for work (see point 2 about moving on). It took me years to claw my way back up to my former title. So yes, job hops can go poorly. They’ll go a lot worse if you’re underprepared or desparate for a job.

    4 – Are you comfortable and happy now? Awesome! This is a great opportunity for you to improve. Look for ways to move up in your career. A stable job where you’re happy is a great place to be, but rather than settle into a comfortable routine, use all that spare mental energy you’re not spending on stress to improve yourself instead. Are there certifications you can take? Professional associations you can join? Go to some conferences, get some training, finish that degree… Now’s the perfect time.

    5 – A terrible job isn’t your fault. It’s the fault of your managers. You’re not “abandoning” your colleagues when you leave a position, because competent management will find someone to replace you. Do not sacrifice your sanity or career to assist your equally-beleaguered colleagues. Get. Out.

    6 – Last but not least. Make an emergency fund and make funding it a priority. Get it up to around 6 months of expenses. That way, if you DO encounter a terrible job, you’ll have the power to leave. An emergency fund gives you the power to set boundaries and reclaim some control over the power dynamic at work. You’ll have an easier time pushing back against unreasonable things at work if you have the power to out the door.

  68. Professor Plum*

    I had been at a great job for almost ten years: it was a great fit with great colleagues. I had been promoted and was well respected throughout my industry. Then a new company bought us–and I could tell right away that I didn’t like how the new company treated its people. I wanted out–and immediately started looking for something new. I thought there was one good option for me that would let me stay where I lived. I pursued it, got the job and left.

    I took the new job out of desperation to leave the current job. It was in many ways a step down–even though it was higher pay. I interviewed with one person and by the time I accepted the job, I was reporting to a new manager–a “rising star” at the new company who was very young in his first management role. I felt like I was trying to get a drink of water from Niagara Falls at the new company–not unusual for a new job at a new company–but it didn’t get better as time went by. It became pretty clear to me that the new company was not a good fit for me. I ended up leaving before a year was up to help an older family member in another state.

    I’ve had much confirmation that leaving the first job was the right move–their products have suffered in quality and the employees have been through turmoil. In hindsight, I wish I’d paid more attention to the red flags at the new company when I was looking to get out, including the management change from interview to acceptance.

    My best advice if you’ve been at a job for a long time is to always keep a low-grade search going–update your resume along the way with recent accomplishments, submit to interesting opportunities, stay active with a broad network–so that you have options if something changes drastically.

    What’s really hard now is knowing all the things I don’t want in a job with no clear direction on what I do want in a job. Still in recovery from two toxic companies.

  69. Mel*

    I worked at the same place for around 12 years. It started off as a good work place, but by the time I left it had changed in a lot of negative ways.

    I worried that my habits from that work place would make it really difficult to cope in a more professional atmosphere. And I was the best at my company, but that didn’t mean I’d measure up anywhere else.

    Because I was so concerned (and my job search had dragged on for 3 years) I jumped at a job with a well respected company, even though there were some minor red flags with the head of the department. I felt like I just had to escape before my work skills were utterly ruined.

    I was fired in under a year for not being good enough at my job.

    So, that was wretched.

    But, now I work for a company that thinks I’m great and I appreciate them that much more!

  70. De Minimis*

    I was in the situation where I changed jobs twice in the last year, and it’s worked out one time and not worked out the other time. I was looking for another position because there were budget cuts at my job and my salary/hours were being cut way down to just above half time. I looked for a few months and ended up just having to take the first thing I was offered.

    I had a gut feeling even during the interview process that it might not be a fit, and it wasn’t.
    One major red flag–the person interviewing me was not someone that I was going to be working with regularly and couldn’t really tell me anything about the job. But I needed a full time position so I took it. If it had been earlier in my job search I might have turned it down.

    It was the worst job I’ve had over the last decade. I stood it about six months and realized it was just going to get worse so I started looking. No cooperation between coworkers and teams, and it was impossible to get a lot of my tasks done. Also, the job just wasn’t what I was expecting as far as the work I was doing, and there wasn’t really any future [I was a federal contractor and it was obvious that I was never going to be hired as a regular federal employee even if I’d wanted to be.]

    Thankfully the right job [it seems like] opened up around the time and it’s been good so far, though not perfect. I felt no guilt about leaving, and only gave the bare minimum 2 weeks notice. It was just not a fit there from day one.

    In the past, any time I didn’t really feel excited or enthusiastic about a job, it’s been a bad experience, but most of the time I’ve had to take the bad jobs out of desperation.

  71. Allypopx*

    Oh I love this question.

    If a new job doesn’t turn out the way you want, it’s not the only job out there. I feel like that’s an important point. Especially if you’ve been at your current job for awhile, a couple short-term job hops won’t be the absolute end of the world.

    My biggest thing with my last job was respect. It was a nightmare. The demands put on me were unreasonable. I was miserable all the time. My work life balance was non-existent. But I had a good relationship with my boss and people respected the hell out of me. I had a lot of authority within my department, I had a great reputation, and I really knew what I was doing. And the pay was pretty decent. The idea of starting at the bottom as a lowly peasant and throwing out all the work that went into that reputation TERRIFIED me.

    But it turns out? My respect and reputation had a lot more to do with me as a person that the fact I’d been at the job a long time. Of course I had to earn some of that back starting somewhere new, but I could do that without the years of blood sweat and tears it took last time. Just being competent and reliable got me there. It turns out I’m good at what I do and I can show that to new people, they don’t have to be told.

    My new job has it’s problems too and I’m still working my way back up to the salary band I was in before – I took a bit of a pay cut when I changed jobs so I could go back to school – but honestly I would have paid that money out of pocket for how much better my life and mental state are now.

    1. LQ*

      This is a really big one for me. I’ve put all this into building a great reputation and having folks respect me despite all my flaws. Going somewhere else feels like it would be a huge mountain to climb.

  72. Mockingjay*

    When I left ExToxicJob three years ago, I applied for a different type of role. I’m nearing retirement and rather than be a manager or team lead, I deliberately sought a less demanding role. I am part of a team but am senior in experience to even my grandboss. My role is as a mentor. I train junior team members, set up or revise processes, and fill in on other projects as a Subject Matter Expert. I recommended a newer coworker be promoted as our team supervisor. She’s been a phenomenal fit.

    The first six months were the hardest. I had to work really hard to rid myself of the negativity that the previous job gave me. I also had to consciously step back from assuming the lead and let others implement their own solutions. It’s been worth it. I now have my own project to work, but I don’t have to do any management. It’s glorious. I enjoy the technical aspects of my job while seeing my team members grow.

  73. Ann Furthermore*

    3 years ago, I left a company I’d been with for 12 years, where I’d worked in 2 different departments. I liked the work itself, and loved my co-workers, but the company itself was becoming a pretty dreadful place to work. The parent company was making moves to assimilate all of us into the mother ship, and the jobs for all the users my group supported (I’m an IT nerd) were sent offshore, which meant my job probably would be too at some point. But mostly, my boss had become very complacent and passive. She had almost 30 years with the company, and her way of coping with all the change happening was to just try to keep her head down and last long enough to make it to retirement. I don’t blame her; in her position I’d probably do the same thing. But it meant that she no longer backed up her team the way she once had, and just let people from other departments and their higher-ups steamroll us, and she stopped pushing back on anything. Plus, it was made clear to me that I’d never advance any further and I’d never get a promotion that I’d really earned. Even someone I’d butted heads with quite a few times told me she didn’t understand why I had not been promoted. I was over all of it. So I left.

    I went to another very small software company that makes test automation software. Great idea, horrible execution, and after a year and a half, my boss quit and told me, “Save yourself.” So I left, and ended up at another company with a job that was really far outside my comfort zone (which was scary, but was a challenge that I really wanted to tackle), supporting software I’d never used before (or in some cases never heard of). That was great for about 9 months, and then they were acquired by Adobe and my job ended up on the chopping block.

    I started job hunting yet again, and ended up with an absolutely fabulous position with a consulting company, doing work that is right back in my sweet spot. It’s all remote, which is every bit as glorious as I ever dreamed it would be, with just a little bit of travel. The company itself is great, I really like all my co-workers, and my manager is incredibly smart and someone I can learn a ton from. I can see myself here for the long haul, which for me is about 10 more years, at which point I’ll hopefully be able to hang it up and retire.

    I am about 1000 times happier than I would have been had I stayed at the job I originally left, making a ton more money, doing work that I’m good at, but still being challenged to learn something new almost every day. So it was scary leaving, but I’m so, so, so glad I did.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Is your consulting gig still in the software industry? I think I’d like to do that at some point.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yes. I am an Oracle consultant, and my areas of expertise are Financials, Projects, and (some) HR. The company I’m working for reached out to me via LinkedIn. When I was back on the market, all I did was update my profile to “Open to opportunities” or whatever it is, and I started getting tons of contacts. There’s a lot of work out there in the software field right now.

  74. Shawn*

    Sure, a new job may turn out to not be great. You may even realize that your previous job was better but how do you know if you don’t take the chance? What if it turns out to be the best move you ever made? Again, you won’t know unless you take a chance. Opportunities arise for a reason. Don’t let them pass you by simply out of fear.

  75. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    Old job: COBOL coding 8 hours a day (which I hated). A flexible work day meant that we could arrive anytime before 8:00 and leave anytime after 5:00 and lunch was anytime between noon and 1:00. Absentee boss (always at a customer’s site and having affair with another manager). If I disagreed with my boss about something, I would just ask her boss and he would agree with me just to spite my boss. Worked there just over a year. It was so bad that there were days where I wish I were throwing up so that I could stay home rather than go to work.

    New job: A computer system I knew nothing about and an industry I knew nothing about. Job description was vague and listed a large number of duties. New boss seemed very nice. Was able to schedule an interview after 5:00. Was asked a question about Excel vs. Word while I was there. This was not a test but they actually wanted my opinion.

    I was very scared about moving to a totally unknown from a job that I knew very well. I took the leap of faith. Best job move ever!

      1. Scott M.*

        Lots of places still use COBOL in their legacy systems. Other more modern languages will call COBOL subroutines just so they can use legacy data and logic.

      2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        It was over 25 years ago, so it was quite some time back. 4GLs were just coming onto the scene.

  76. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I had been at the same place for over a decade, with a boss with diminished memory capacity. So I was terrified what would happen when I decided I had to move and therefore leave. I was lucky to have his wife know me and the business well enough to act as a substitute reference but it was a weird situation that added to the stress of things needless to say.

    It was slowly dying, they were going to sell at some point and I had no interest in the continued slow burn or the area anymore once my partner was relocated a little bit away.

    I also worried about working with people because we were a hodgepodge of Misfit Toys.

    Once I started throwing out the net [aka my resume], I was pleasantly surprised by the response rate! It took me time to really shake off the cobwebs and start interviewing. You have to also realize that I had only interviewed a couple other times in my entire life. My first job was found by a friend’s sister who needed a clerk. And then I did a few before I hopped into temp work where I found my long term, perm position of all those years.

    It’s all an internal struggle and you have to fight against your natural instincts to be scared and to shy away from rocking the boat you’re on.

    The last time I left, I was nudged out by a psychopathic boss who fired someone due to reporting an injury and then came for me for being on the injured person’s “team” and trusting them so much [when someone says they’re injured, I believe them, crazy-talk, right?]. So I was made public enemy one and was already fearing for my job security, which kicked me in the butt to get out of there. I was ready to just hold out until after year end and more savings were complied but that drastic turn of personalities set my butt on fire.

    It was frigging horrible and scary AF to then have to play the “I have appointments!” game while I went to interviews but nobody was the wiser. My resignation was a complete and utter surprise [much to my wicked delight, serves them right to think that I was a floor mat at that point, since I went into “keep your head down and go” mode after the blowout].

    I hated leaving my team, my reports were frigging fantastic and thankfully are now my friends [we got together after I left and they spilled their guts about their fears and knowledge of the batsh*t ownership, we all found it cathartic and I pledged my support to them to get out of there, they were scared due to the fact they didn’t know who to trust reference wise of course]

    My new job is frigging fantastic. I’ve never been overworked, I’m here just for decoration half the time *strikes a pose* and everyone is reasonable, kind and team oriented. We talk to each other and we don’t have secrets or general weirdness.

    [Previous boss used to lie and tell people he was taking a pay cut due to the financial crisis they were in, he didn’t, he was cutting everything but his ridiculous salary and then crying that he was making no money, bless his now out of business heart, good try, bro.]

  77. Art3mis*

    I was at a company for 10 years and while I was nervous about the unknown, I was stuck where I was with no opportunity for growth. I wanted more responsibility, more challenge, and more money. I wasn’t nervous to leave at all. I should have been. Eleven years later I have less of all three of those things.

    I’ve been more nervous about the “the devil ye ken” since then. I was at a job for 7 years and had a similar problem with growth. That hasn’t turned out as disastrously, but not as well as I’d hoped either. At this point I assume I’m the problem.

  78. Mazzy*

    I think it’s important to get rid of the mind set that if the new job is different, it’s bad. For example, some roles are routine reports, and others are find and fixing errors. I’ve had more than one person get flustered because we had “so many” errors because they just weren’t used to the number of errors at their last job, so they used their last job as the gauge for what is normal everywhere.

    I also think a perspective on time is important. Some jobs don’t really get ramped up until months in.

    Another thing is to not get overly flustered by small things. So a new job seems great but values a small thing that annoys you – being there exactly on time, or calling instead of emailing. Think about whether those small things are truly so horrible, or just different, before you become unhappy.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      So a new job seems great but values a small thing that annoys you – being there exactly on time, or calling instead of emailing. Think about whether those small things are truly so horrible, or just different, before you become unhappy.

      My “small thing” is my boss. I really don’t like her. She’s petty, territorial, passive-aggressive, and damn near everything she does annoys me. But my last boss was also petty, cliquish, and passive-aggressive while also underutilizing me, so I guess this is a step up since at least my current manager does use me and my skills a lot. I’m involved in damn near everything that goes on in our department, and she’s told everyone outside of our department that I’m the subject matter expert when it comes to writing, so there’s that. It’s a great thing I work from home (and she works from another country) – I can curse out loud when I get one of her obnoxious emails, then take a walk and don’t have to deal with her face-to-face.

  79. WellRed*

    I’m at the point where I need to leave my job of almost 15 years. I like it well enough, have a great boss and work life balance, but am burned out and haven’t had a raise in ages (media). It’s not good for me or the company, frankly, but I am paralyzed as to what to do next and feeling a bit imposterish. I’m also nearing 50 and am afraid the few jobs will go to 30-year-olds who will work for less and have more tech skills than I. I’m loving all these stories of success.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, I’m kinda nervous too. I’m removing my degree years, and dropping some older jobs just to make the resume look younger.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My best advice is to try. You have a good boss and a decent job, so it’s not like you need to get out. So you get a lot of wiggle room, to really sniff it out, check the company out and fight for a good compensation package or just stick with what you know!

      Once you start interviewing, a lot of that will fall away in my experience. The building it up in your mind is the worst, you’re going through worst case scenarios and digging in there deep into the horror film your mind is creating along the way.

      1. WellRed*

        You’re right! When I got this job, I wasn’t even looking but through it was through a connection. I applied to a few other places at that time because why not and was getting callbacks left and right.

  80. Recovering Imposter*

    When I switched companies, it was for a role that was two levels above where I’d been previously. I had applied on a lark, driven by unhappiness in my former role. I had rampant imposter syndrome getting such a stretch position. Every time I got introduced I stressed, felt like I was getting the side-eye, worried they’re going to ask me a basic question and I won’t know the answer. My boss (fortunately here, an overtalker) would enthusiastically introduce me as the new expert in llama grooming! (me, to self: well, yeah, I do have 15 years of llama grooming…) and llama veterinary science! (me, to self: I mean, I guess, I do have those two certifications…) and she’s going to revamp our llama hotel! (me, to self: well, the last hotel I started is still doing well, so I suppose…). Gradually that all sinks in and the self-confidence comes back.

  81. BunBun*

    I used to work in post-secondary and had been stuck there for a really long time, to the point I had become complacent. Yes the place was a bit toxic, and I changed departments and roles over the years with varying levels of toxicity. I then landed a cushy job with very flexible hours. Plus because I had worked at the institute for so long I had racked up a nice vacation length and good benefits so I was in no hurry to leave despite the role being very unfulfilling. When budget cuts came down, my role was one of the first roles to be made redundant and I was laid off. They did offer me a position elsewhere in a different department to keep me on. I took it as a sign from the universe I should move on after being stagnant for so long.

    I ended up getting a position is something that I THOUGHT would help propel me to career aspirations, but it has ended up being the most toxic jobs I have ever had. I have an absentee manager, who “plays nice” but then goes behind my back, does not advocate for me, threatens my job indirectly (with a smile on his face), refuses to provide feedback and guidance telling me to “figure it out” (despite grandboss’ telling him otherwise). Needless to say I am halfway out the door, and sometimes regret not staying with my previous employer.

    HOWEVER, despite this job being a total shite-show, it has lent me opportunities I did not have at my previous job. I am building my network on my own, get along well with the rest of my division (when I see them – I work offsite alone with my boss), getting opportunities to utilize my hyper-specific education and have learned new things.

    So it has worked out…sort of. I’ve gained some useful experience, made some good connections and learned something MASSIVE about different types of toxic managers. As others have stated, complacency isn’t a reason to stay – but I will say you need to weigh the pros and cons of staying versus leaving (pay raises, movement, benefits, work/life balance, new skills, network opportunities, culture fit, etc).

  82. Environmental Compliance*

    I went from Gov’t to Private about a year and a half ago.

    My gov’t job at the time had me absolutely miserable. I was misled on the work and had an overbearing, aggressive, all-around-bad boss. I had always worked in gov’t, liked being a public servant – thought I was going to Help Save The World (TM), and had left a different gov’t job I really liked for the Job From Hell. I knew everyone, I liked most everyone apart from the boss, but the job wasn’t what I signed up for and wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But… I knew it, it was still working for the public, and it had taken me so long to get into gov’t to start with in this state (I had come in from a different state). I was scared to get into Private Sector because of the differences in how Gov’t is ran vs a private business, I liked the stability of working in gov’t, and I didn’t want to leave yet another job after a year.

    But I did, and now I’m in a job that I enjoy nearly everyone I work with, and I am happy to say that I still feel that I can make a difference where I work. I like the company I work for, and I like the work I do. I really enjoy not having to deal with the bureaucracy BS. My salary nearly doubled when I got here from my gov’t position. I wish I would have considered moving out of gov’t sooner. This is a job that I can see myself staying in for several years. Are there things I don’t like? Of course. But the things I don’t like here are minuscule compared to the bullcrap I was putting up with at my previous job. I’m happy rolling my eyes at office drama, and swearing under my breath at a software system we use. It’s easy to deal with for me (usually). There’s some things that are currently frustrating the hell out of me, but they are progressing to being dealt with. But there’s no one yelling at me, I feel happy with my pay and benefits, and I enjoy what I do.

  83. MsMaryMary*

    Fourth quarter is the busiest time of year in our industry. I am about to interview for a job at a competitor, and if I get an offer I doubt they’d be willing to wait until January for me to start. I have no backup at my current role. A colleague in a similar role is retiring at the end of the year and so far her replacement does not seem up to snuff. People in the roles above me are disconnected and/or disorganized (which is a big part of why I’m looking). So I’d really be leaving my clients in a bad spot if I quit in the middle of the busy season. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say deliverables would be wrong and implementations could go really poorly. It would be one thing if it only impacted my current employer, but it would impact not only clients but also their employees.

    Do I try to push my start date as late as possible? Or do I just leave my current employer to muddle through? They never take it well when someone leaves, especially for a competitor, and I would really burn a bridge quitting in mid-October. I do have some concerns with what they’d say to clients and vendors, but I think people would take it with a grain of salt.

    TL;DL – Am I the *sshole if I take a job at a competitor in the middle of our busiest time of year?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Leave. YNTA

      As Alison says, this happens all the time and is something businesses are responsible for dealing with. Spend some time writing everything down, and if you want to be nice, try for an extra long leave period so that you have overlap with your replacement and can do some training.

    2. 1234*

      You don’t have to tell them where you’re going. Your resignation could simply say “leaving to pursue other opportunities.”

      If you’re worried about what they will tell your clients, see if you can write that narrative. “Dear Mr. Client, It has been a pleasure working with you. I am leaving Toxic Company effective (Date) to pursue other opportunities. Your new contact person will be Jane Smith. Her email address is _______ and her phone number is ______.”

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Depends on what industry she’s in. When I was in transportation, for example, whenever anyone left, we always knew where they were going if they stayed in the field even if they didn’t say where they were going when they left – there were only so many major companies that did what we did, and employees tended to bounce around between them all.

        Still, I agree – she doesn’t owe her current employer any further explanation once she puts in notice. And MsMaryMary, you absolutely should leave if this new job is a better opportunity for you. Your employer will figure out the staffing issue.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      Here’s the thing. If they weren’t happy with your performance, or they ran the numbers and felt like they could safely eliminate your position, they would let you go regardless of time of year and regardless of the short-term impact. They wouldn’t worry that they could be “burning a bridge” with you if they let you go at a time that was really inconvenient for you. You have to take care of yourself, here.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They’re treating your employment like a one way street here. They’re putting all this on your shoulders and making you feel like if you leave, you’re screwing them over.

      However if they had financial crisis and they had to lay someone off, they would just do it and probably not cry themselves to sleep at night as they sent you and others to the unemployment line.

      This is a business thing. This is all a business thing. You leave and you watch out for yourself when it comes to what’s best for your career.

      You give the regular amount of notice, usually 2 weeks. If you’re an executive or other highly compensated and ranked person, then you would give more notice because it’s a different playing field up there. But you do not worry about this nonsense and get yourself to a new job that suits you better.

      I say this as someone who has given notice at not the best times and every single one figured it out, despite having been in a higher ranking role in most situations. Yeah it hurt them and they had to scramble but they were getting paid to deal with it, it’s the structure of dealing with humans!

  84. Lora*

    On the plus side:
    I had been working at a terrible startup with so many issues that the staff voted to unionize. I should have looked for another job, but the area I was living in didn’t have a whole lot for STEM jobs at all, and I was right out of college, so didn’t have many options; felt like the only choice I had was to try to stick it out and make the best of it. The management fought the unionization vote and subsequent attempts at contract negotiation like mad and ended up laying off everyone in the bargaining unit and subsequently shutting the place down when they realized that they couldn’t handle the workload with only 1/4 the staff. The NLRB found I think 30 counts of violations against them, and we were all paid a settlement for the illegal terminations. By pure dumb luck, one of the big local companies had a temp to perm job open that very week, and the hiring manager was about to go on vacation, so I had about four days to make a decision whether or not I wanted the job, with almost no knowledge about the company and no other contact than a temp agency rep and one very hurried manager (this was when the internet existed but pre-social media, late 90s). It turned out to be one of the best jobs I ever had, the manager was delightful to work for and remains one of my favorite managers ever. I left eventually to go to grad school.

    On the minus side, more recent:
    N-2 job was close to my house and easy work, but the job they hired me to do was very different from the job I was actually doing, for senior management reasons. Also for senior management reasons, I’d had six bosses in two years – some of which had been fired, some of which had been demoted, some of which had quit voluntarily. It was a circus. The support staff who were supposed to handle our paperwork spent their days redecorating their offices and organizing soccer tee shirts instead of doing …anything at all, despite being repeatedly called on the carpet for it. When a dear friend suggested I take a job that seemed like an excellent fit at the startup she was working for, it was by all appearances a good move: the work was directly in line with my background, the startup had some of the biggest funding of any startup in the area ever with many large backers, my friends who worked there were happy enough and having fun. The hiring manager was not in my network so I couldn’t get a read on him, but he was a UPenn grad with a PhD in ChemEng and a Wharton MBA and seemed affable enough.

    Holy. Nightmare. Fuel. It was AWFUL. They had a re-org literally the week before I got there, taking away some key components of the job – they had four re-orgs in one year. The manager had evidently read about management in a book but never actually managed anything successfully, and I later found out had been let go from his previous job for not being able to accomplish even one single project he was tasked with, stuff that anyone with even a little bit of practical experience doing ANY work at all could have handled. The other managers kept bottles of whisky in their desks, which they brought out at 3pm every afternoon, and I do mean EVERY afternoon. There was a constant stream of nasty sexual harassment including groping, quid pro quo arrangements/suggestions and attempts to kiss women employees, and women over 40 were hired but rarely kept for long – one of my friends was let go without warning a month after her 40th birthday. Complaining to HR only made you a target, and they had to hire additional legal counsel to handle the HR side of the sh!tshow. My friends who had originally liked the place were transferred under a new manager who promptly fired them. Anyone with other, better options, bailed at the first opportunity.

  85. Bazinga*

    I’ve been dealing with this for a while. I like my job. My boss is super flexible but sometimes is too nice and people get away with things they shouldn’t. This can be frustrating. Nothing huge, more like rude behavior in meetings. It happens more than once and boss doesn’t say anything. Or someone gets mad and yells at people in a meeting.
    It’s sort of a niche job that involves reporting specific data.m to the government. My concern is that the data is no longer needed someday, the government no longer requiring it, and my job goes away. I sometimes think about taking another job to get different experience (I have many years of experience before this particular job, but have been doing this niche job for about 12 years). I get to work from home about once a week, more if I need to-house renovations, car getting fixed, etc. And it’s keeping me in the data field that would be great to use later for extra money or even in retirement for a per firm gig.
    So I just don’t know. I go back and forth a lot.

  86. WantonSeedStitch*

    My first job out of grad school was as an administrative assistant in a very small (less than 10 people) company. It had nothing to do with my field of study. The boss was…well, let’s just say that working for him turned me from someone who felt pretty good about my own abilities and general competence into a nervous wreck who had anxiety attacks about work and cried during my performance reviews. I eventually started looking for another position after almost three years, hoping that if I got something in my field or a related one, the situation would just have to be better. I eventually quit and started temping WITHOUT another permanent position lined up when I realized how badly the job was affecting my mental health. I was afraid I’d run out of money, that I wouldn’t find anything in my field, and that if I did by some miracle find a new job, I’d be just as miserable there–afraid that the problem in the other place had been ME, not my boss.

    I did run through a lot of money while temping because it didn’t pay much. I hadn’t been working long, and hadn’t had a high salary, so my savings weren’t huge. But because I’d used so little vacation time, getting the rest of it paid out when I left was helpful. I did the math beforehand, which helped: I knew what I’d have, what I was likely to make temping, and had an idea of what I would be able to spend.

    I did not end up working in my field of study, but through temping, found a position in an unrelated field that actually had a lot of the same required competencies–researching, analysis, writing–that I had never heard of before. Realizing there were more options open to someone with my skills and abilities than I had known was really exciting, and led me to a career I truly love.

    As for the fears about failing in a new job too: it took a long time for me to stop having serious anxiety whenever my manager called me into her office, but when all she had to say each time was “good work on assignment X. I have another assignment I’d like you to take on,” it slowly sunk in that I was actually doing a good job. It takes time to recover from the trauma of a really toxic workplace, and to rebuild broken self-confidence. But if your worry about a new job is “what if I fail there too?” it’s worth trying anyway: you might well find that you are actually a better and more successful employee in a better environment, as I did.

  87. Super Duper Anon*

    I switched jobs a year ago. My old job started great, but working on a project long-term with a toxic team ended up ruining my mental health. Then the company started having financial issues, and that stress on top of the toxic team issues, it just became too much. I was at my old job for 4.5 years, but was really ready to leave when I did. The new job is a mixed bag. There are a ton of good things I like about it, my manager and coworkers are great, lots of flexibility and autonomy, amazing commute, company is very financially stable which comes with a lot of perks. However, the way the company is structured causes the workloads to be very unbalanced, and even at the “busy” times, I find it too slow for me. I am just not busy and challenged enough.

    I plan to stay one more year, to enjoy the perks I am getting at the moment, and hopefully get the title bump I want, then in Sept 2020 re-evaluate how I am feeling. There are some new projects coming down the pipeline which may help, and I got approval to go to an industry conference in May just because I thought it would be interesting. I think of this job as my reset button. It has allowed me to return to my normal mental health state without much stress or worry, but if I stay too long I am going to suffer later because of lack of accomplishments.

  88. Lara*

    One thing I do that’s been helpful is to have scheduled job reviews (with myself) every 6 months. I block some time and seriously think about how my job is going, what’s good and bad about it, look into the job market and decide if I’m actively choosing to stay in my job or to start leaving. I’m in a position where the expectation is that I stay for decades (I’ve only been here for 3 years though) so these have been really helpful in making my job feel like a decision I’m making and not a default.

  89. copier queen*

    I didn’t change jobs, but about a year ago I changed bosses because my former boss retired. I was quite scared and due to her bad feelings about the new leadership, my former boss played into my fears. I had worked for my former boss for almost 7 years and she left in a pretty sweet situation – good rate of pay for my job, summers off, week-long holidays several times a year, nice office, etc. She felt very sure my new boss would take away my great schedule and be difficult to work for.
    But it couldn’t be further from the truth – my new boss is delightful and I still have my great schedule (although I did agree to work a few days a week during the summer to help my new boss with some special projects). The new leadership was so impressed with my work on the special projects, they submitted paperwork to allow me to get a merit raise (which NEVER EVER happens in my field – public ed).
    My job for sure isn’t glamorous (exec assistant) but I’m thankful I weathered the change! And I’m thankful I left Toxic Company 8 years ago to come to this org!

  90. 2 Cents*

    Just did this in April, from a FT permanent role to a FT contract-to-hire role. Worries were rampant (even though I was absolutely miserable in OldJob):
    —what if it didn’t turn into a permanent job? I’d be out looking again in 6 months
    —what if I couldn’t handle the job? (Serious imposter syndrome) I was doing basically the same thing, but instead of at an agency, doing it in-house and for a place that was bigger than all of my previous clients combined (think went from washing small, relatively clean mice to washing wooly mammoths that’d been neglected a few years).
    —I had a lot of friends at OldJob. I’d miss them. What if everyone hated me at NewJob and I had no friends?
    —how would I handle a 2x/week 3-hour round trip commute when I currently did 15 minutes each way (but 5x/week)?

    I talked about it with family and friends, made actual pro/con lists for both places and a few things made it seem obvious that I couldn’t NOT take the job:
    —my spouse pointed out that OldJob and Decent Boss didn’t appreciate me. Thy had at one point, but now I was just being used and forgotten (passed over for promotion, treated like a nuisance bc I had the audacity to have a child after 5 years of working there)
    —I said one fear was being “stuck.” A friend who’s very career-focused and whose opinion o trust said if I stayed at OldJob out of fear, I’d be “stuck.” If I leapt and tried my best at NewJob, I wouldn’t be stuck, even if I failed.
    —my mom asked me when I’d ever failed at something I’d tried my best at (rarely)

    I made the leap, my OldJob only let me work 2 days of my notice (and paid for the other 8 days!), and honestly, it was the best decision to leave. I’d been feeling stuck and unhappy for awhile. I’d have done this a year ago if I hadn’t been pregnant, then on maternity leave. I L-O-V-E New Job. It’s not perfect (what is?) but it feels like a fresh start with new challenges. I’ve made some kinda friends already (that fear squashed), my boss and I work really well together, and I feel good about going to work. The pit of dread I felt every Saturday AM (because I liked to start worrying early) is gone.

    1. 2 Cents*

      Oh and my role will be hired permanently full time, so I don’t need to look. The contract was to get around overly rigid HR rules and budgeting.

  91. Heat's Kitchen*

    I’m still relatively early in my career, but have moved jobs three times (from a 1-3 year tenure at the previous company) and definitely feel like I learned something each time. Here’s my big ones:
    1. Make sure you’re checking the MARKET for fair salary. My first job severely underpaid employees versus market value, so I thought I was getting a great raise at company #2, but they also underpaid, and I was just okay with it.
    2. If you’re staying in the same industry, know the major things that can be different from company to company and ask about them. For me, company #2 was a SaaS based software company. Company #3 was on-premise. I didn’t fully understand the difference then, and even though I stayed at company #3 the longest, it was a struggle til I left.
    3. Know the culture items that are a must have/super important to you and ASK QUESTIONS. For me, Company #3 had unlimited PTO, my boss was relatively hands off, and I could work remotely as I needed to. I was very wary of leaving the company knowing I probably wouldn’t get all three. I made sure, in my interviews for company #4, to ask about PTO and working remotely and the culture in general.
    4. Ask about top-down culture. Overall, company #4 is fine. I don’t see myself staying much longer than a year though. The culture from the top-down isn’t something I really asked about in my interview as I really liked the person who was my boss and I could tell he’d let me do my work. But his boss and his bosses boss and above have some odd quirks I don’t love. I’ll put this in the bucket of something to ask about next time.

  92. Sled dog mama*

    I work in a super male dominated (and very small) field. Something I always struggle with is determining if I will face sexist attitudes in a new workplace. I have a lot of trouble reading this in interviews and it’s doubly difficult because I’ve run in situations (back when I did short term and project work) where certain parties were very sexist to others but treated me very fairly. So it’s hard to trust when one person says oh X is very sexist about Y.

  93. Your Average Admin*

    This is my current situation. I enjoy the work I do and have a few more years of growing in my role before I top out but the office environment is toxic and carries over to my personal life. Management isn’t interested in addressing any of this. I’m a mom of two elementary-aged ADHD boys and the job I’m in, for all of its warts provides some insane stability, flexibility and the gold standard of benefits.

    It’s looking like any move I make will be a step back in my career. That, combined with losing my flexibility and benefits has me more or less staying put, at least for the next year or two, getting everything I can from this job (including more training/certifications to make a career change) and managing the negative as best I can.

  94. Yellow*

    I was at my 2nd professional job for 9 years. The work was easy, the hours were great, the pay was great, so were the benefits and bonus structure, but I was miserable for 2-3 years. I had physical symptoms of anxiety for years– I got a tightness in my chest every day as I got on the train to go there. I was so scared that leaving would be a mistake and really worried about the devil you know vs the devil you don’t. I decided that if I made it to 10 years there I would probably never leave, and that scared me, so I left.
    I left for a job that offered less money, and less vacation (which I was able to negotiate up, thanks to this site!), and ultimately have been much, much happier. It was scary leaving, since I’d been at my old job for almost a decade and knew what every day would look like. Going a new place hard, but so worth it, and 3+ years later, I’ve never regretted leaving for a second.

  95. Working Mom Having It All*

    I’m a little worried about this, and I’m still in my notice period. I just got all the onboarding stuff for my new job and discovered that I’ll be paying more for health insurance, and while the benefits in general are fine and roughly consistent with what’s available at my current company, they’re not the unparalleled amazing miracle they were pitched as. (Though they are probably better than some other companies, my soon-to-be previous job just offers great benefits.)

    This is making me wonder what else was sold to me as amazing that is going to turn out to be actually not as good as I previously had. That said, all in all it seems like it’s going to be more of a trade-off, with some things being better and some things being the same or less good/good in different ways. So I’m sure it’ll be fine. But in this moment of comparison, I’m a little wary.

  96. Paper Jam*

    I was terrified that by leaving, I was squandering away a fantastic opportunity for growth that I didn’t think I could replicate. I had been promoted regularly and quickly at my first job and was a manager in a specific department for a pretty major player in my industry. I was in my mid-twenties at the time, and that kind of growth for someone so young was pretty rare, and my direct managers had always shown me incredible appreciation for my work through bonuses and raises. But my job responsibilities had changed so drastically that I was miserable – my depression spiked, and I went from loving my job to thinking of driving off the road to avoid going to work. It was affecting everything, but I kept feeling extreme anxiety in that I thought I wouldn’t find something that was even remotely close to my niche role, that I’d have to get out of management and go back to an analyst/associate role in a new position and start over. It felt like I was doing something extremely stupid to even consider it, and I was afraid that the feeling of missing out would also hurt my mental health just as much as my job responsibilities did.

    Fast forward several months…I was hired for a director level job. I had gone in for an interview for a more junior job that I wasn’t extremely interested in – but it turned into a discussion of a need for all of my niche skills in a completely different capacity than the external recruiter led me to believe. It was the best kind of bait and switch that could have happened – I got paid significantly more with a company that paid 100% of insurance premiums, was able to use my prior experience to excel, and really made a name for myself. Even though some of the tasks I do could be considered mundane, I felt a giant weight lift off my shoulders and really enjoy where I work now. Even my personal life corrected – I got physically and mentally healthy, I got engaged to my long term partner, and I was able to focus on myself and do things that I used to enjoy.

    I guess I would say that you never really know what kind of jobs are out there until you start searching – I wish I didn’t let my fear of losing a “great opportunity” postpone my search for so long. I also felt like I would have to take what I could get, forgetting that I didn’t have to take a job if I didn’t want it. I didn’t value myself or my skills very highly at the time, and I realize that lack of self-esteem was holding me back. I have absolutely no regrets about switching, and I wish I had done it sooner to get some of that time back!

  97. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Ok, I’ll bite. Early this year I decided to leave what was essentially my dream job – working in exactly the area of software that I studied for, which is incredibly rare – to become team member #4 on a team devoted entirely to contributing upstream to a ubiquitous open source project. This project is written in C (instead of C++11 or later, which I have been writing since college) so I knew I had learning to do; my team members are all much more senior than me (think 8-10 years rather than 2.5 years at household name Tech Giant). I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to cut it – famous project, tiny veteran team, all open source…

    It’s been six months and I just filled out my first performance review. Y’all, I did so much good work!!! I killed it!!! Noticeable benefits to team infrastructure, plenty of contributions upstream, a big shove in the right direction for documentation upstream in an area where there wasn’t much. And I’m having so much fun!

    The workload at “dream job” had me on the edge of burnout. But I looooove my new team!!!! I found a niche I love working on in open source and I feel so optimistic.

  98. nope*

    I recently switched jobs within my current company. I was the most experienced person on my team, in a horribly toxic environment (caused by my supervisor) that continued to get worse. I had a lot of guilt about leaving my coworkers behind and taking my legacy knowledge with me, but the situation was impacting my mental health and I knew I had to make a change. Plus, being at the same company meant I could offer help to my replacement/anyone else on the team who needed it….but part of me also really dreaded having to be in the same smallish office with my supervisor, who no doubt would be angry that I left and hold a number of grudges against me. This supervisor handled the news of my departure in an appalling manner, and after that I really REALLY did not care about their opinion anymore because I knew I was making the right choice. That supervisor was later fired a few weeks after I started my new job, and a few other people on that team have quit — all of which further validated my choice.

    I thought I’d feel more FOMO about leaving the team behind that I’d worked with for a decade and watching them work on things I built, but I’ve discovered I actually don’t care that much. From this whole situation I learned to go with your gut, and that if things feel bad, they probably ARE bad, and it’s not worth making yourself miserable because you’re worried about what other people are going to say or do, or how they’ll go on without you (they will figure it out). An ancillary lesson I learned is that it’s so important to have good people on your side, but that’s a story for another time.

    As for my new job, it’s weird to feel like a newbie in a place where you’ve worked for the last 10 years. I have the same job title and know all the people and the office procedures, but otherwise it does feel like starting over. It’s scary, but I was ready for something new and I’ve found it to be very exciting so far. There’s also room for growth in this position, which is something I’m excited about.

  99. Kaitlyn*

    About four years ago, I left an office admin job that I had been at for a year. The office job had meant working totally solo for eight months, and then the board hired an ED that I just haaaaaated and who haaaaated me right back. We worked together for four months, and I was looking, and an organization that I had interviewed with before re-posted the position, so I contacted them, and I got the job.

    It meant that I would go from working (mostly alone) in an office to working (alone) at home, from a 9 to 5 to setting my own hours, from having set tasks to having some set tasks but also a lot of autonomy on how I moved through my day. And I was nervous! But I was like, this office gig is real bad, I gotta at least try. And it was A GREAT FIT. I love my job. I love my board. I love setting my own hours and my own priorities. Taking this job has given me a HUGE boost in my own sense of my professional competence, of being able to set good and appropriate boundaries, of my skills. I’ve been there for 4.5 years, and it’s been awesome. I’m glad I made the switch.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Oh, I’m so glad to read this – I’m nearly four months into a new job where I get to work remotely full-time and set my own hours because the majority of my team is either located in other states or in other countries, and I really don’t want to leave ever, lol. I pray I’m fortunate enough to make it to four years and still love the gig the way you do. (And ditto on the boost in confidence.)

  100. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    My pain point: I am 100% ready for a new job, but new jobs don’t want ME. I don’t have enough experience here, or there, this and that. I’m afraid the longer I stay at my job, the more crazy I will become due to the incompetent management.

  101. Jaybeetee*

    I was a recession child who spent most of my 20s in low-level service jobs, then temping. I was laid off multiple times (in the “we’re going out of business/we’re wiping this entire department” sense. Not the “you suck at this but we’ll let you off gently” sense). I changed jobs A LOT. Most places I did fine. A few places I didn’t do fine. In 2015, I had two very negative back-to-back experiences that really taxed me and left me underconfident about starting anywhere new. In early 2016, I started a new contract, and things went well. They were preparing to offer me a permanent job (my first in years) that summer, but right on those heels, I received a permanent job offer in an industry I’d been trying to get into for ages.

    I *anguished* over that decision. I made pros and cons lists, decision matrices, asked a bunch of people around me for advice. Some people felt I’d been through enough, suggested I “stop chasing” for awhile and stay where I was. Some people reminded me that I’d been chasing this opportunity for years, that my then-job was nice but that I’d already observed there’d be zero advancement (not just at that company, but in this *city*). I finally went to a walk-in counseling session, where the counselor helped me realize that in any other circumstances, I would have indeed jumped at this job offer, and it was recent set-backs that had me spooked. I was scared starting in a new job could be another disaster.

    In the end, I did accept the new job, with blessings from the contract position. I spent a solid six months or so on eggshells, worried about every mistake I made and convinced everytime the managers had a closed-door meeting that I was about to be fired. As time went by, I relaxed. At my six-month review, my manager (perhaps seeing my nervousness) said that I was doing great, that if there were any problems she would have already spoken to me. She emphasized that if she had blasted me during the performance review, that meant she wasn’t doing her job properly. That went a long way towards helping ne relax – she made it clear that if there were ever any issues, she’d address those with me in real-time, not just surprise me.

    A year after that (1.5 years after starting the job), I transferred departments to my current position. Again, I was hellishly nervous. Again, it’s been fine. My reviews have all been fine, my manager is happy with me. There are a couple aspects of this office atmosphere I’m not crazy about (veeeery quiet, introverted team. I can go days without talking to people here). But overall… it’s fine.

    Change is hard, especially when you’ve had some bad experiences. Do your homework before diving into something new, be wary of red flags. But try not to let fear drive the bus.

  102. Meercat*

    This is hitting right at where I am currently at and also what I had already done. 2 years ago I made a leap (from one version of NGO work to a completely DIFFERENT, like oh so different, type of NGO work) and left the country I was living in at the time to do it. Reasoning was that I had decided to leave the country anyways (Brexit was hard on us continental Europeans…), and then thought ‘well you’re building a whole new life anyways think a little bigger’ etc. etc., and ended up doing this transition, in the hope that I wanted to stay in that new field, and knowing I would regret never having tried it.
    Well, on my saddest and most depressed days I do regret that move, but I don’t really. I had a quite unlikely ‘worst case scenario’ in my head for after that move (it was a limited time contract as is usual in that industry) and trained myself to be ok with that worst case, which gave me the guts to do the jump. Unfortunately, through a series of many unfortunate circumstances, I actually have ended up in my worst case and well, it’s not fun.

    Now I’m figuring out what to apply for and am for the first time in years seriously considering a non-NGO job and I’m terrified. Terrified that I will hate the private sector (although I need to remember, my private sector job sucked because it was a toxic work environment and a useless product, not because it was private sector – but I do also remember being so incredibly unmotivated by revenues and profits and just not caring about that at all, even though I was a high performer), terrified that I won’t be able to move back or that I will get sucked in by perks that I will lose myself. But I also know there are certain skills that I want, that I want to apply in the NGO world and that I’ll have a hard time picking up there.

    In short, please wish me luck,.

  103. HR Disney Princess*

    So here’s my story, I am the complete opposite of most people. I love and embrace change. Which led to me being a bad job hopper out of college. I couldn’t figure out why I was never happy at any of these roles for more than a few months- a year, and it clicked (with the help of a therapist) I HATE working in an office. It wasn’t that I hated HR, it was that sitting for 9 hours a day wasn’t something my brain was wired to do and I became very unhappy.

    I am now working toward my personal trainer certification along with finishing my second bachelors degree that will potentially lead to more hands on careers. I finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

  104. sunshyne84*

    I’m having a lot of mixed feelings right now about leaving my job. I “have it made” for the most part (close to home, decent coworkers, not much actual work), but I just want more. In the past, I’ve had pretty clear reasons to leave like bad management or not being promoted so it’s hard to deal when you actually like your job. But at the end of the day, I am pretty much at a dead end and know that it is time for advancement. A lot of the jobs I was applying to weren’t paying much more than what I already make, so that gave me some anxiety about potentially leaving. But then, I found this last one I’m hoping to get. It’s a no-brainer to leave if given the opportunity although I’ll miss being close to home and some people.

  105. Nope, nope, nope, all the way home*

    After having switched jobs a few times and having stepped into two roles that ended up being miserable cultural fits for me, I have found that the one incredibly reliable and deceptively simple barometer mark for whether I should move forward with a company: the “personality” test.

    You want me to take a personality test as part of the interview process? Let me save you the trouble and remove myself from consideration.

    For me, this has been a remarkably consistent indicator that the company doesn’t know how to hire or that management has weird practices, especially when it is inevitably paired with a gimmicky business model like EOS or Workstyles. And couching it under the language of being an EQ test, or a communication style profile, or whatever, doesn’t change the fact that it’s a huge red flag for me that this is not the type of firm I want to work for.

    I’ve even had professional recruiters for positions that require an MS, state licensure, and 10+years experience, try to get me to take a morality test with questions like: “It is wrong to steal from my employer, agree or disagree?” Allow me to nope myself straight out of this conversation.

    1. 1234*

      A previous manager of mine left our company for a new job a few months ago. She seems like she’s loving life/the new job and they made her take a personality test, but not as part of the interview process. She posted the results on Facebook and said they were accurate for who she is. Overall, I think her new job is going well but then again our company had dumped a bunch of work on her lap and didn’t give her much pay (if any increase at all) so I can’t blame her for leaving.

      Funny story is that the company she works at now reached out to me years ago about a role they were trying to fill. I found them to be disorganized. I politely declined as I learned more about the role and still another person reached out to me about the same role. I also got the sense that while my would-be direct boss and I would get along, he had some “feels” about management.

  106. I make the computers go*

    I switched jobs after my company was acquired and there were a lot of culture clashes. I was very nervous about it because one of the things I valued was my flexibility. I could leave early for appointments and make up time later, or take a shorter lunch. The new job was for a huge company with a good reputation for being flexible but it ended up being a horrible fit for me personality wise. It was a lot more customer facing, and the nature of that is it’s less flexible. After six months, I asked the previous company about coming back since they had left it open for me to return. They welcomed me back and made me a manger so I’m able to contribute to improving the culture slowly but surely.

    It can be okay to go back.

  107. Anon for this*

    Using a different name because our hiring practices are weird enough to be recognisable.

    I’ve only ever had one job since graduating – though I have thought about leaving over the last year when my role became stressful and got as far as making one (unsuccessful) application. Lots of the grads who joined with me have left for more money – but also longer commutes. One person who left said something that stuck – which was that he enjoyed his job now about as much as he did before (I think his leaving was heavily tied to one rogue manager being shitty about bereavement leave), but was much much less friendly with his colleagues. The company I work for hires only graduates – which means that everyone senior has worked their way up and has known each other for years. I’m sure this has downsides too (like, if you really dislike someone) but on the whole I get on so well with most of my colleagues that I think I’d miss that interaction if I moved to a company where colleagues socialised less. (And I get paid pretty well so no complaints there).

  108. Phil*

    I’m as far from a traditional office worker as yo can get-I’m in the technical end of the music/TV/movie businesses-and I may join a different “company”-show, spot shoot, movie, record-several times a month. No problems, no worries, everybody just gets on with the job. People who cause or like drama have been weeded out long ago. We just don’t have the time or, since time is money, money.
    It’s just a normal part of work.

  109. KehSquared*

    I’m a woman who works in IT and took a new job in the spring. The thing I was most anxious about was finding out my new colleagues were less progressive than at my last job. I was worried about being creeped on or touched inappropriately, having to deal with offensive comments, sexism and misogyny, all that fun stuff. It felt like I was walking into a minefield.

  110. Jane*

    It’s easier to be afraid of taking on the unknown the longer you stay at your current job, lets say 5yrs or more, because you are well adjusted to the culture, coworkers, job responsibilities etc. As Alison had said before, once you worked at a few places, you get better at understanding the things that are indeed toxic and the things that are minor inconveniences that occur at most offices. It’s easier to move on by giving yourself options and to know that you are moving out of a toxic environment.

  111. De Minimis*

    As far as the actual fears about starting a new job, I’m always a little anxious. I had a really bad experience in my first job in this field [never fit in and was eventually fired.] Years later, I’m still a little worried that it will happen again. There’s always a period where I’m trying to get integrated into the workplace and have trouble occupying my time. I’m always a little worried that this period won’t actually end and I’ll end up being let go when they realize there’s really no reason for me to be there.

  112. AnonPi*

    I’m stuck with the devil you know for the foreseeable future. I don’t have enough saved to relocate, and my current employer pays the best in this region and I can’t afford to take less pay just for a better work environment (I wish I could). I’d totally take a chance on another position somewhere else, but unfortunately there’s just few jobs to apply for. I did recently apply for a middle manager position within my group – it’s a bit of a stretch position for me, and probably a long-shot at getting it. But I figured if I’m not entirely happy in my current role why not go for it (especially considering it would pay a lot more). It’s a difficult position to navigate, but I feel like I’ve learned enough watching the other middle managers that have had it previously I at least know what I’m getting myself into. And if I’m lucky enough to get it, I figure if I really don’t like it, my plan is to stick it out 2-3 years to get the experience and save up enough money I can relocate and find a better job.

  113. Anon*

    How very timely.

    Earlier this summer I left my employer of 8 years. Although I loved the company and mostly loved the work, I didn’t see or have the opportunities for advancement I wanted.

    I was offered a contractor position by someone in my field that I’d worked with professionally (on a volunteer basis). It seemed like a great fit, good pay, solid company, lots to do. Unfortunately, since arriving I’ve felt isolated, stuck, demotivated, and downright miserable a lot of the time.

    The good news is that after a short period of beating up on myself for disappointing…someone, I guess? I decided I don’t want to stay at this company any longer than I have to. I was able to have a frank discussion with my boss, who I believe will be incredibly supportive and has nothing but compliments about the work I have done. I was hired to work through the end of the year, but I started my job search this week and already had a phone interview.

    I think the lesson is that you simply cannot know. You make the best decision you can make with the information you have. Sometimes, it won’t work out. That’s not a personal failing; it’s giving you additional information with which to make your next decision. For me, the ability to be in a fast-paced, constantly challenging and changing workplace with outspoken people is the groove. Nothing wrong with a more structured, PMO-driven large organization, but it’s not my jam, and that’s business.

    Best of luck!

    1. Professor Plum*

      I think the lesson is that you simply cannot know. You make the best decision you can make with the information you have. Sometimes, it won’t work out. That’s not a personal failing; it’s giving you additional information with which to make your next decision.
      This is a lesson I need to absorb.

  114. SeekYou*

    Long story short, I was totally burnt out, miserable, and overwhelmed in my job. I thought about leaving completely but instead spoke to my boss (the CEO) about it. She suggested that I move into a new role in a different department. The new role allowed me to use my strengths, manage my time better, be happier, have a more flexible schedule, and feel more productive and creative. Weird things about it: I lost my role on the executive leadership team and I went from managing the most people in the company to managing no one. Yet, surprisingly, I got to keep my exact salary and benefits, and received a glowing review for my work, so it wasn’t a demotion. Though I ended up losing some decision making and leadership cred in the organization, I am ultimately much happier. I was also able to cross train my replacement, who has become a wonderful colleague & friend. Do I miss being in those super long meetings that went nowhere with the executive team? Not at all. Do I miss managing people? Sometimes. Do I miss all the drama that came with performance reviews, merit increases, and hiring/firing? Not at all. Do I miss not having the CEO’s ear as my direct supervisor? Not really. Though a lovely person, the CEO was actually a pretty terrible manager (thus leading to much of my stress). Sometimes I’m not sure if I should be more upset about the changes, or if I just lucked out completely? Still working on that one, and I’ll let you all know. ;)

  115. Clay on my apron*

    I stayed at the same job for about 10 years. There where a lot of reasons why I stayed, but part of it was that I feared making any type of decision in case it was the wrong one. Eventually I was so miserable that I resigned without another job. I had a 1yo baby and a 2.5yo toddler and my husband was not making enough to support all of us. I interviewed for another position the same week I resigned and fortunately I got the job, and that was pretty much the end of my fear of changing jobs. It wasn’t a fantastic job – I left after a year because there wasn’t enough work for everyone and I wasn’t learning as much as I’d hoped. But it got some sought after skills onto my CV and boosted my confidence. That was about 8 years ago and since then I’ve had 5 jobs (not unusual in my field). I wouldn’t say there’s no stress in moving but I see each move as a chance to learn something new and develop my skills. So unless I end up in a really toxic environment and I’m not learning anything, I don’t count it as a mistake. I’m probably even a bit cavalier about moving, compared with most people!

  116. Adhara (UK)*

    I did the very very un-recommended thing of quitting my previous two jobs before I had lined up the next: in both I had been sexually harassed, and management was awful and basically forgot I existed as a human being. Like they loved all the work that I got done, but literally couldn’t imagine that I could and did do it myself, even with managers telling them I did it, me!

    Now, the industry I work in is small, full of nepotism and a bit of cliche sexism, so I’m used to a… lower level of professionalism compared to normal places. And even then, these two jobs were worse!

    So what I dreaded was coming to a new job with bad habits that Alison (rightly) mentions can happen when you come from a toxic job. I tried to do a bit of due diligence and research, but since all the companies in the area are tightly secret, it was pretty much “Is this an a-hole company? No, worth a shot applying!”

    5 weeks in at my new job, and customers are singing my praises, the owner asked me in surprise “only five weeks??” as I had slotted into the team so neatly and pleasantly, and other members of the family who owns it are delighted at how easily I’ve picked up things.

    I can’t help with any advice on emotionally making that leap for a new job, but definitely start the search if you know your boss doesn’t have your back. You know your worth, and if your boss refuses to see it? There’s no harm taking a peek at what could be out there.

  117. dumb dumb*

    When I switched companies a few years ago, I left a company I had been with my entire adult working life = 11 years! I was terrified that the “devil I knew” was going to be way better than the “devil I didn’t”. I was able to leave old company because I realized that while the work I was doing was fine and the coworkers were fine and the company was fine, it wasn’t GREAT! I analyzed why it was just “fine” and not “GREAT!” and decided that for me to make it a “GREAT!” place for how I like to do things, it would have taken way more time and energy than I was willing to invest at that point in my life. After 11 years, while I was completely comfortable there, I was just done and needed something new. The new company hasn’t been all “GREAT!” but it has been a lot better.

  118. designbot*

    The big thing I’ve learned is that the gains made from moving to a better project type or area of work are more substantial and longer lasting than the gains made from moving managers.
    Job hop #1: from an environment where the people loved me but I wasn’t getting to do the type of work I truly wanted, to an environment where the manager both really got me and I got to move into the field I’d been trying to break into. This move was my ‘big break’ move, but the management situation did not last. Turned out nobody else could work with him and he was forced out soon after I started, and replaced by someone who 100% did not value me in the same way. I am really happy I made this move overall, as my project work got headed in the right direction.
    Job hop #2: I felt like I absolutely had to get away from the new boss and find someone who saw my value the way my previous boss had. I went to a smaller firm with a better reputation, where they implied a better role for me… I have actually found even better gains in the project types that I did not expect, but the management situation was really a wash and I’ve found myself with a terrible manager once again. While I know the saying is that employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers, this cements in my mind how important it is to separate the two and focus more on the hard facts of the job itself, because those are what remain while management situations change over time.

  119. Rebecca*

    I’ve been “fortunate” to be in a role that has changed a lot over the years and which is often the first target of layoffs due to restructuring or acquisition. I say “fortunate” because it has given me a much more flexible attitude about job change. That said, I’ve learned to be more discerning the more years I’ve spent in the workforce, and with the help of resources like AAM, I’m much better at spotting red flags. I think in general, it’s easier to make a leap earlier in your career b/c the stakes don’t tend to be as high. At my level (mid-senior) I don’t want to deal with stuff like office politics, bad managers, or the like. So I’m choosier. My advice, then, is to ABL (always be looking) – even if it’s just casual – and to train yourself to look for those red flags. It will eliminate a lot of the fear upfront, and you’ll have less to navigate when you do change jobs.

  120. Flash the Sloth*

    I work in government, so raises–even COL raises–are basically unheard of, but the hours and benefits are pretty good, and I personally find the work enjoyable. In larger government agencies, folks will get promoted, but often someone will stay in a plum role for a long time once they are at a level of responsibility and compensation that they are happy with.
    I recently left my old agency for another, larger one. I was relatively happy with my work and my former boss, just unhappy with the compensation. Again, there was no point in asking for a raise. My old agency was small and a little bit gatekeeper-y, but I really respected the leadership team and found a lot of value in the work we were doing. That being said, it took a long time, maybe six months, before the office manager would speak to me politely and my desk neighbor would answer questions without being condescending. My immediate boss was great but assigned herself all the “fun,” high-visibility projects instead of spreading things around. However, we would sometimes collaborate with other agencies with mixed results, so I was concerned about leaving my mostly-fine small pond for a larger pond that may be hostile and/or dysfunctional. Eventually, it got to the point where I knew I was going to be unhappy if I didn’t seek out opportunities for more responsibility and more money.
    When I finally started job hunting in earnest, I did a lot of due diligence on the unit I was considering and the work we would be expected to do. I did two interviews with the team and one with the chief of staff, and they made a point of answering my questions honestly about work styles, accommodation for parents, and other things that were important to me.
    On my first day at my new job, one of my coworkers asked me a question and genuinely listened to what I had to say. She treated me like a peer immediately without having to go through months of proving myself! I was blown away. Being at a larger agency means that things are a little more regimented, but overall I am so much happier and sure that I made the right decision. I think the biggest thing I did was start job hunting when I was feeling antsy but before I was totally miserable, so I could take my time and find a position that was really the right fit. And treating the interviews like a two-way conversation, like Alison says, to figure out if they were the right job for me, not just the other way around.

  121. Yogurt pants*

    Regular going anon

    here’s what I worry about at my current job:

    I am a manager. I have 2 peers who have many more years of experience than I do. One of them is combative, and has indirectly thrown me under the bus a few times.

    In the beginning my grandboss was complaining to my boss that I’m not doing as well as she thought I would. But recently, even she has complained that I’m doing OK and other manager (my peer) is picking on me unnecessarily.

    I have been here for about 4 years now. I have always felt like there were double standards. I’m worried that if I go to a new job, that will still be the case. I will have peers who will throw me under the bus, or that if I make a mistake it’s a million times worse than someone else who makes the same mistake.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Right. I think I’ve only worked three places over the course of nine years that was like that – most of my workplaces were more banal with their problems.

  122. Asenath*

    I think I’m kind of a poster child for How Not to Change Jobs! Aside from the usual (around here, anyway) series of short-term and temporary and part-time student jobs, which all had natural endings, I’ve really only had two long-term jobs in my life. The first one lasted a number of years. I was really unsuited to the work, and my performance and mental health got worse and worse as the job continued and my stress worsened. I got some support from my bosses, I tried to improve, and then I knew I was in trouble and tried to figure out what I could do for the rest of my life because I knew I couldn’t stay on. I initially thought of qualifying for related work that didn’t have some of the duties I really hated, so I spent some time upgrading my education. I even got temporary assignments in related work with my then employer, but it was too little of a change too late. I held on for dear life – in retrospect my overly prolonged stay there may have started out with a desire to find a way to do well at it, but it was also largely a result of a fear that I wouldn’t be able to keep a roof over my head – I lived in a area of high unemployment even if I moved from the town where my then- job was located (which I wanted to; I disliked living there). I had no idea what I could do if I left; even if I did get another of the student-type jobs I had had before, could I live on it?? So when I was, I suppose you could say “managed out”, I headed back to a city I did like, no job, nothing really, but at least I had friends there, and there were more jobs although still not many of them. And I started scrounging around for any job at all. I managed to finish my new degree eventually (although it wasn’t nearly as useful in my job hunt as I had hoped), and held a series of short-term contracts that kept the wolf from the door. I got settled again in a permanent job by pure chance. One of the best sources of temporary jobs for people like me produced not one but two temporary contracts at the same time – one, in an area related to mine, was full time for three months. The other, admin work of a type I’d never done, was in a different department, paid less, and was half-time for a year. I picked the second – at least I’d have SOME income for a year, and I could supplement it with other contracts. It went full-time within a year, became permanent, and I’m now approaching retirement after over 15 years in the job. I long ago stopped applying for other jobs in the related field I was originally aiming for.

    My conclusions? It’s not worth it to stay on in a job you know you are bad at and which is driving you crazy just to keep the wolf from the door. You’ll probably end up turfed out (or worse) anyway, and then you still have the wolf-at-the door problem. And keep an open mind about the kind of work you might be able to take on – although, given a choice, spend most of your search time on bigger organizations with better stability and benefits.

  123. Nanobots*

    My friends joke that the only reason I get a job is to quit it. Yes, I’ve been a job hopper the last couple of years. Since graduating college, my tenure has been:
    6 years
    4 years
    14 months
    8 months
    and I’ve been at my current job for 9 months with a goal of staying at least another 1.5 years, so I’ve broken the pattern.

    I have commitment issues: I love the excitement of a new job, and get bored right around the 8 month mark. (I should probably go to a consulting firm.) Usually by that point I’ve cleaned house, solved the immediate issues, and have to start settling into a maintenance pattern. Also, I don’t form personal connections at work, so unless there’s some benefit or bonus keeping me there, I’m very easily lured in by the siren call of recruiters.

    However, I’m always a little nervous switching jobs. What if my new manager is a micro manager, what if they lied during the interview, what if I get injured during my first year without FMLA protection, what if the economy turns and I’m laid off since I was the last one in?

    There’s always a million reasons not to do something, but great rewards don’t come without great risk. Even in the worst jobs, you’ll be able to grow and learn. And remember, it’s usually easier to find –new– new job since you’ve already been on the hunt, your resume is updated, and your interview skills are sharp.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      You’re a fixer!
      A consulting career should be in your future. Either that or an operating partner.

      I enjoy this too, but the reason I switch is usually less about the actual work (I generally enjoy the work) but other changes within the organization that I can’t stand. Could be new managers, but it’s just as often been moves, rule changes, controlling aspects and the like.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      First off, your friends joke doesn’t really make sense because you’re not a job hopper – you’ve had a string of long-term jobs and only one really short one (the 8 month stint).

      Second, I feel you about losing interest in a job within the first year – that’s usually me as well. I was luckier at the beginning of my career because I worked for companies where I could move around internally through promotions and lateral moves to keep my interest up, which in turn kept me at these companies for a long-ish time. However, my last company? Yeah, there was nowhere else in that place that I would have wanted to work, so I left altogether after 17 months. And should I lose interest in my current job, I’ll leave this company altogether too because I can’t think of any other department I’d want to work in. Okay, that’s not true – maybe I’d work in the communications department or for our writing services group. I’d need to vet the managers first.

  124. Anne Elliot*

    I had a client services job (Job 1) and the opportunity to move to work in-house for the client (Job 2). I had a great manager in a bad job in Job 1, but would have a bad manager in a potentially great job in Job 2. Salary and benefits were the same because they were both government jobs for the same government. But the manager at Job 2 was within a couple years of retirement and the terribleness of Job 1 continued to get worse. So I jumped. I was very much concerned that I was jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

    I rode out about 18 months with the manager at Job 2 who, to be fair, was not as bad as expected. After he retired I got a new manager who I think is great, so now I’m very happy in Job 2.

    I think even if Job 2 had sucked, leaving Job 1 would have been the right decision for me. It just became untenable to continue to work there. Even now, I look at my former colleagues with a good portion of pity (though all the respect in the world) because they’re still stuck over there. And they probably don’t think they’re “stuck” at all, that just reflects how terrible that job had become for me personally.

  125. Jerri Blank*

    I’m actually going through this right now as we speak. Tomorrow is my last day at a job I’ve held for 6 years, in a career field I’ve been in for over 10 years. Our company was bought out, and the transition has been disastrous which left me completely burnt out. I feel guilty because I’m definitely a top performer and me leaving is going to have a huge impact. I also genuinely enjoy and am good at what I do, but there are some crazy red flags with the new company that I can no longer look past.

    I start my new job Monday and it’s in a completely different field and I’m freaking out hoping I made the right choice.

    First, to start over at any new job is tough, but going from being an expert in my field to being a newbie will be really difficult for me. Secondly, the company I’m at right now is super laid back about EVERYTHING – to a fault – and moving to a more structured environment will be a huge adjustment. I hope I haven’t formed bad habits that carry over and make me look sloppy or clueless to professional norms. And lastly, the interviewers said that the 6-9 month training will be grueling since I’ll be doing the grunt work involving angry customers and other stressful tasks. Once I make it through, there’s a ton of potential on the other side, but I’m nervous about leaving a comfy cushy job for one that will be stressful, albeit (hopefully) temporarily.

    Anyway, this thread could not have come at a more perfect time!

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I wish you the best of luck. I went through a similar switch and it was the best move I ever made.

    2. Professional Pup*

      Good luck! I totally relate to the frustrations of a “laid back about everything to a fault” environment. I made a move to a much more structured and regulated environment, and while I miss some of the flexibility and autonomy I had, I would much rather have the structure and systems to fall back on, you know? Just being aware of the transition will help you a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time observing everyone at my new job and making mental notes about certain things to help me jive with the norms here. You’re gonna do great!

      1. Jerri Blank*

        Thank you! Yes, I am looking forward to more structure. I have learned that too much freedom at work can lead to major dysfunction. From what I have gathered during my research and from the interview of this new company, it seems to have a good balance. I will definitely have to be aware of my surroundings and mindful of what others are doing to make sure I’m acting within company norms.

  126. admscouns*

    I work in higher education, and recently, I left working at my alma mater and began working at a not dissimilar institution in the same role. I felt awful about leaving my team, as we were gearing up for our busiest time of year, but I had been so unhappy and miserable for the year I had been working there. I had been applying for jobs for a few months, so when I left, everything was in place for a seamless transition. I have had to learn everything about a new school, but was happy to do so to be in what seems to be so far a much better situation. Leaving my coworkers (and some genuine friends) was hard, but worth it, I think. Plus, 11 people (counting me) left that particular office in the past year, so the problems are systemic.

  127. unionize*

    I’ve been considering a job change, but the recent talk of a recession has me a bit wary. My current job frequently frustrates me beyond belief and the culture is incredibly toxic, but I have seniority protection and am so unlikely to lose my job here (barring The Great Depression Part 2) that the idea of moving to a job where I’m the newest person and could conceivably be an at-will employee instead of having seniority and civil service protection is very scary.

  128. Professional Pup*

    Whew! Finally something I have experience with to talk about! *cracks knuckles*

    In July I left the job I had been at for 3 years, straight out of college. It was an extremely unique job, where I had an extreme amount of flexibility and had developed a great relationship with my boss that gave me a lot of autonomy to basically run our department’s day to day operations, and I got to work closely with a population I care about and do some really meaningful work. But I was getting paid probably 50-65% of market value for my position, working at a religious organization whose values didn’t align with my own, and struggled a lot with the mental gymnastics. I was terrified to leave because, in a thought pattern that I’m sure is common to many women in their mid-20s, I thought I wouldn’t be “good enough” to work anywhere else, and I was scared to leave the security of my great relationship with my boss. That’s what kept me there despite multiple, repeated red flags that should have been my cue to get out. Even when I started job searching more seriously, I treated it like a pipe dream – like even if I got an offer, I wouldn’t take it.

    I ended up getting an offer at a federal agency for a 30% raise and better benefits for about 1/4 of the work I was doing at my previous job. It was so, so hard to make the decision to leave even though I knew, objectively, it was the right choice. The best feedback I got, when I called my dad to ask if I should take it was, “You’ll know what you want to do when you know what you want to do.” Sounds dumb, but he was right. I recommend that you don’t get input from anyone who’s not already well acquainted with your situation – I talked it through with my husband and a trusted mentor, but I didn’t talk to any other family and friends about it until I knew what I wanted to do.

    I miss certain aspects of my old job a lot, but the reasons I took my new job – functional work environment, clear leadership, positive culture, systems in place for raises/leave/etc (a huge problem at my old job) – are more important. I’ve found ways to stay connected to the things I miss – like the population I worked with and the meaningful work I got to do – and it’s made a big difference. At the end of the day, being able to do work that I care about doesn’t negate crappy leadership, nonexistent workplace systems, nepotism, etc, and that’s what I had to convince myself of. So, it’s not so much that I’m happy that I moved on – but I know it was the right thing to do, and it’s already borne plenty of fruit to make it ‘worth it.’

  129. AnonyMouse*

    I started a new job this sprint. The writing was on the wall, mostly due to the departure of several high level people in my immediate group that kept things sane. Even so, I was comfortable in my old job and was terrified of having to navigate something new. Six months in, and I’m a bit happier, but things aren’t perfect. The space was crowded to start, but half of the building was going to move to a new space – but that’s been put on hold until next year due to a high level reorganization. Despite this, there’s been no slowdown in hiring, so we’ve gone from crowded to overstuffed. I was hired on with the expectation of moving on in a few years, but the current environment makes me want to move on sooner rather than later.

  130. SnapCrackleSloth*

    My previous organization was going through a major shakeup as part of a full state university system reorg. My (wonderful) boss jumped ship and got an cushy promotion at the major campus within the system, and soon created a position for me there. I had major reservations about going to that campus based on fairly superficial things (going from a 3 minute commute to 20, free parking to paying $1400/year, etc.), but the role would be a promotion for me as well, and things were looking quite shaky at my existing org.

    Long story short, I ended up hating the new environment, for reasons MUCH deeper than my original worries. I’ve since done my own professional goals assessment, and I’m working on taking a different job back at the old org. I know it’s a clusterf#ck there for sure, still, but the crazy I knew was much preferable to the crazy I’m dealing with now, and in light of my new goals and priorities, it will fulfill those needs. My boss feels the same way; she won’t be going back to old org, but she is looking to escape this madhouse. I/We don’t feel like we made the WRONG decision per se, it’s just that we didn’t know until we knew, you know?

  131. Exhausted Educator Was Exhausted*

    When I was on the fence about leaving, I tried to quantify things: I decided I truly enjoyed 70-80% of my job but deeply disliked 20-30%. In thinking through how to divide that up, I recognized that 1) the amount of time with work I disliked had increased in recent years with no change in sight, and 2) the work that I disliked was made worse by the Toxic Person I had to work on it with. Plus: more responsibilities kept getting piled on, my mental health was suffering, . . . the trajectory was not trending in my favor. Thankfully, I’m now in a position that’s a much better fit, with a reasonable workload, and with non-toxic folks all around. Things can always change, but I won’t wait so long next time to get out.

  132. Betty Wight*

    I left my old job over a year ago, and it was agony because I truly loved what I did. It was so much a part of who I was I wasn’t sure what I would be without it, but things were really not looking up for the business as a whole. After a lot of thought and some tears too I made the decision and handed in my notice. It has not been an easy transition, but hearing news through the grapevine that every person from my old team has quit or moved on to a different job, and things are pretty much circling the drain, has made my initial decision seem very wise in retrospect.

    Since then there haven’t been any real prospects in my field, so it’s good I abandoned ship while there was a life raft within reach! Sometimes it seems terrifying to take that chance, but you never know when another opportunity will be there.

  133. Karma*

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I finish up at my workplace of 12.5 years today and start a new job on Monday.

  134. MissDisplaced*

    I’ve changed jobs a lot over the past 20 years. Some were forced due to layoffs and company closings, but others were by choice. I firmly believe that to move up and make more, you need to move more. Plus, in my field it’s good to experience a wider breadth of industries to gain experience as the skills are generally transferable.

    I’m so used to changing jobs now it’s become the norm! I can smell when trouble is ‘a brewing with companies. But it also makes me much less likely to put up with too much shit from employers. If I don’t like it I leave.

  135. Done*

    My last job was in insurance sales. There were a lot of reasons I left (most notably, being lied to about my salary and whether I’d be telemarketing). I ended up working in residential psych treatment, one of the big compounds with the 30-foot fence to keep kids in and strangers out. I’m basically a prison guard for kids with MH issues now.

    The transition was rough, but at least it was a stable job with hourly pay and benefits. It honestly worked out pretty well. I’m looking for a new job now because I’m so burned out – I’ve had three concussions within 2 years, there are scars on my face and arms that aren’t likely to ever go away, and working with children so mentally ill they’ve been committed takes so much emotional and physical energy that I can’t keep up. The tipping point was when I took a week off and remembered what it was like to NOT wake up in the middle of a panic attack because I had to go to work.

    I’m in the process of applying for other jobs now. I just keep reminding myself that no matter where I end up, I doubt it can be worse than where I am now. It might be awful in different ways, but I’m not likely to end up supervising 9 aggressive teenage boys, alone, when I’m too concussed to see straight. I worry about how my coworkers are going to react; I’ve taken on kind of a mentor role to a lot of people who have come in in the last year, and am their main point of contact with upper management. They’re adults, they can handle it…but I still feel bad about leaving them working in such a toxic space with no backup.

    Tbh, if I wasn’t still making entry-level wages (which is 2x state minimum wage plus evening/weekend differential), I probably would be more willing to stick around. But I’m done being physically assaulted and undermined by management. My biggest fear is that I’ll show up to a new job and somehow it’ll be even more cartoonishly awful. Again, don’t see how it could be, but I’ve been surprised before.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Well, I for one hope you don’t end up in a worse place. But yes, please find a new job. What you’re dealing with is untenable. My brother’s in corrections, and I just look in his eyes and his soul is gone. It breaks my heart because he was truly a good person, but that environment changed him. If you stay where you are much longer, the same will happen to you.

  136. Still Mostly Lurking*

    I have just changed jobs after 7+ years in a position, its a promotion within another department. I didn’t want to leave my team, but, I could not cope with micromanager any more, my mental health had suffered in the 18 months since her arrival to the point I needed anti anxiety medication and started seeing a psychologist. I had never felt so devalued and worthless.

    I did as much due diligence as I could with the new position, I didn’t want to jump from something awful to even worse. My new manager is hands off, and presumes competence in her staff. She’s offered to mentor me to progress within the organisation. The specialised skills that were constantly derided by my previous manager are valued here.

    My team mates were sad to see me go, but, they knew that I had to leave before having another breakdown. I was worried about fitting in to an existing team, and supporting new staff, but, everyone has been very understanding, and friendly. Its helped that its a transfer to another department, so I already know the company hierachy and structure. The difference in my mental wellbeing is amazing. Its a promotion with different pressures, however, I am thriving where my competence isn’t continually questioned, and that my suggestions are not met with criticism, but with enthusiasm. Husband likes it as he’s not listening to me complain about my day/manager constantly. Psychologist is so happy he’s discharged me as a client, and I’m going to talk to my dr about reducing the anti anxiety medication.

  137. Brick*

    I recently left a job that I had for 2 years and hated, but had tried to make the best of. I took on a similar role at a different place. I was afraid that the new job would have the same issues as the old one, and I was worried about the stresses of transitioning to a new place and group of people. I also traded a short bike commute for a 50-minute transit commute, and I knew and liked my old coworkers.

    Well, I’ve been in the new job for 2 months and it is one million times better! I like my new coworkers even more, the difficulties I had at my old job are a distant memory, and the longer commute is well worth it. Plus I am grateful for the nicer working environment since I made do without t for so long.

  138. TheDevilWearsCeline*

    This is really comes at a good time because I just changed jobs and am now wondering three months in if I made a mistake. I left a high pressured, seriously dysfunctional environment, at an employer who is very very reputed in my country. My previous boss was borderline psychotic, blurred boundaries, and was a micro-manager with constant emails/voice notes asking for updates and unreasonable expectations who once compared herself to Miranda Priestly, except less nice.

    None of these current issues exist in my current workplace, where I’m being paid a little bit more (with the expectation of a hefty bonus) with normal hours and a very relaxed environment.

    However, the new office is a satellite branch of a foreign entity in another company. So basically, I am no longer client-facing (as opposed to having a lot of exposure towards prestigious institutions and high profile clients). I know I can’t go back to the previous office, but any tips on how to navigate the FOMO when I hear from my previous colleagues descriptions of interesting work and client relationships?

    1. Aurélia*

      It’s not sexy, but it feels more and more that life is rife with trade-offs. What do you miss about the client relationships and work you were doing? Did you take newjob just to escape oldboss? Or were you targeting newjob for certain advantages over oldjob that you could focus on?
      Wonder if you set a reminder in your phone to have a check-in with yourself in ~90 days you’ll have had more time to embrace the differences and better balance with newjob. See what you can focus on now that you are NOT missing out on now that you’re at newjob.

  139. Aurélia*

    I wasn’t afraid per se, but after four years at oldjob I knew the people and processes and had some seniority and was appreciated. That was a lot to trade-in but I left after my supervisor told me that I would not be considered for an opportunity as it would upset drama-co-worker and I was about to be the ONE person in my whole bureau to handle a pretty arduous process. After I left they finally assigned more than two people to the process team and drama-co-worker left! I know that things would not have changed if I’d stayed, but I still chuckle.
    “New” job is just as dysfunctional, but you know, different. Been exposed to different things, but my attempts to make things more consistent, measurable, and standardized have been met with disinterest.
    I talk with my manager frequently about being miscast here and she agrees I would be happier at DOD. But now I have some more basis (I do well with SOPs and structure and accountability) for that decision. Hopefully make another move this year! Having trouble getting going. Office may be improving (new leadership) but after two years of Outstanding performance reviews and nothing to show for it? I’m feeling pretty done. The only thing I’ve asked for here was to move my desk away from singing co-workers, and here I sit listening to off-key renditions of Aretha Franklin when I don’t have my headphones on. I’ll miss my manager and our director here, but that’s it.

  140. Cakezilla*

    I hated my first job out of grad school but stuck with it for longer than I would have because I had no other experience to compare it to. Looking back, it was a terrible job in a dysfunctional workplace, but I assumed it was all normal. I was afraid to job search because I didn’t want to look like a job hopper, and I didn’t want to go through the ordeal of changing jobs if everything I was struggling with was normal for every workplace.

    After a year there I finally decided to risk it and find another job, and it has been so worth it. I’m two years into my new job and I finally feel like my career and soul are recovering. I’m doing the work I was trained to do, I feel supported by management and coworkers, and my workplace invests in my professional development and career growth. I didn’t realize just how much my old job was crushing my spirit or holding me back professionally until I left. There have definitely been moments where I’ve realized my current job is far from perfect too, but overall I’m so much happier and so glad I took a risk. I wish I had trusted my instincts sonner and left my old job when I started to suspect it was a terrible environment, but, you live and learn.

  141. Effective Immediately*

    I think it’s always a trade off. I left a job I loved with my entire being–I ate, breathed and lived that place, and it was bad for my physical and mental health. One time, when I was dealing with a particularly stressful situation, half of my face went numb my blood pressure was so high. That job was going to kill me.

    So, I left and went to a job that is less stressful and more flexible. But I didn’t take a step back to think critically about why that was. My old job was stressful, but it was also very rewarding, with strong infrastructure and the pay was good. My new job has almost no infrastructure; leadership doesn’t value accountability or results (makes sense that it’s less stressful, right?); pay is terrible; the CEO is weak and ineffective and no one seems to actually want to fix it.

    Everywhere has its dysfunction, but sometimes it’s a trade off. I took a title bump and less pay because I did the ‘math’ and it’s a calculation that made sense to me. My current job is frustrating to me, because I’m a very results-driven and process oriented person, but I don’t regret it for a second. So it’s less of a ‘frying pan into the fire’ and more of a ‘non-stick teflon pan into a cast iron’ situation; as long as the benefits outweigh the costs.

    TL:DR: I don’t think it’s necessarily always a bad thing to move from one dysfunctional environment to another, as long as you keep your eye on the ball and make those moves strategically so that you benefit from the change, even if it’s imperfect.

  142. StaredtheDevilintheEye*

    After 5 years, I left my dream job.

    It was a terribly hard decision, to the point where I was having panic attacks thinking about how to move forward. Especially because the new opportunity seemed like a mess.

    It’s been a year, and I was right. This place is a dumpster fire. But, I still think I made the right move. It was completely lateral, but with more opportunities to grow and develop the skills to advance. I had hit a ceiling at my dream job. Maybe one day I’ll go back.

  143. Carbovore*

    I actually submitted a letter about my old job here before (and Alison answered it) and, I forget where I left off on it but that letter was pretty much the beginning of the end of my time there. My former dept. head was a loose cannon, drinking at work, brutally narcissistic, and just plain abusive and terrifying to work for. I liked EVERYTHING else about that job and so I wrestled with leaving for a LONG time but there was just no salvaging it. There was no way for me to move up and no way to effectively do my job. (The dept. head was making it impossible for me do anything in a structured way.) And… as I looked ahead to the future of that office, I could see it only getting worse.

    I was afraid I was leaving work I really enjoyed and excelled at to basically start over. (I worked in higher ed. fundraising and our university relations division in general has been a declining dumpsterfire mess. I knew there was no way else to continue that line of work at the university I was at–I only ever wanted to do it for my home department. This meant finding another line of administrative work at the university.)

    A really good finance position landed in my lap to apply for–I had connections to that office and given that it was entry level and I really didn’t have much experience in the work they’d have me doing AND they were still willing to pay me more than I was currently making? I felt like if I passed it up I’d be making a huge mistake. I ended up taking the job–I had plenty of sleepless nights and brain wracking over it though. The first month on the job, I would spend a few nights crying myself to sleep wondering if I’d done the right thing. (I should also mention, lots of personal things were going on in my life at the time that were making things harder. Medical issues and bills, my husband and I’s cars both dying, etc. I was starting to wonder if making such a huge change was going to be better for my mental health or not.) I missed my previous colleagues, I missed my creative work (this new position is fairly dry and procedural), and I started wondering if I just wasn’t going to be as adaptable as I usually am in work situations.

    I can now say with certainty at month 3 of this new job, I am WAY happier and SO glad I left. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do it sooner. My new coworkers are not without their quirks and eyeroll-y behavior at times but it is leagues better than the open office I had before which was subject to terrifying tantrums from the dept. head and just in general, a cloud of anxiety and darkness that hung over the office. I also have come to find (and I always mostly knew this about myself but it’s easy to have self-doubt) that I am able to enjoy all kinds of different administrative work so long as I am respected and allowed to do good work without a lot of micromanaging and turbulence. Turns out–procedural, dry work is just what the doctor ordered. I met up with some old coworkers for lunch the other week and they kept mentioning how great I looked, had I lost weight? No. Just smiling more.

    TLDR: I will impart some advice that my old supervisor (not the old dept. head but my previous direct supervisor who I respected and admired deeply) gave me about when you are wrestling with job change: Don’t consider the next job your final job. It may be, it may not be–but don’t force yourself into these absolutes. Look at all next jobs as stepping stones to what you want to do long term. And I for sure took ALL the lessons I learned about what not to tolerate and what not to be to my current job and it’s serving me well. I’m anticipating staying in this office for at least the next 5 years and couldn’t be happier.

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