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Four Ways to Quit Your New Job

Four Ways to Quit Your New Job

You're two days -- or perhaps only two hours -- into your brand-new job or internship when the horrifying thought hits you: "What have I done?" 

You want to quit, and fast. In fact, deep down you may already have decided to leave. Should you?

The Risks and ‘Rewards'

It's only natural -- and sensible -- to be concerned with how quitting a new job might affect your prospects, both immediately and in the future. If you do leave a job after a very short time, you'll likely face one or more troubling consequences:

  • You'll Make Your New Boss and Colleagues Angry: They thought they had your job filled and could now get back to doing their own jobs. If -- or when -- you quit, they'll be forced to go through the whole search process all over again. 
  • You May Never Work for the Organization Again: Many companies have a "not eligible for rehire" list reserved for people who leave on less-than-stellar terms. 
  • You May Hurt Your Academic Department and Your School: Leaving may cause your employer to think, "I'll never hire someone from your institution or program again." 
  • You Might Establish an Unhealthy Pattern: If you quit this job after a few hours or days, what's to stop you from doing the same thing again -- and again and again?

But there's another side to this issue. By quitting an ill-fitting job sooner rather than later, you'll probably preserve your psychological, emotional and even physical health. And in some cases, you could argue that you'll save the employer's psychological, emotional and fiscal health as well, especially in the long run.

You will have to make the decision. But if you're already asking yourself if you should quit, you're probably on the way out the door. You wouldn't be thinking about it so much if you weren't leaning toward following through.

So now it's time for some damage control. To minimize the negative consequences of quitting:

  • Resign in Person: Your new boss deserves to hear from you face to face. You owe it to him to provide an in-person explanation of why you're leaving. This is not the time for a letter, an email message, a phone call or, worst of all, simply disappearing and never being heard from again.
  • Be Completely Honest and Apologetic: You may be tempted to make up some sort of fictional excuse -- e.g., "My grandfather died" or "I'm swamped in my classes." Don't.

    The truth is critical here, as is contrition on your part. Don't make excuses. Just tell it like it is, focusing on both your feelings and your legitimate concerns that staying will hurt not only you, but the employer as well.
  • Offer to Stay Until Someone Else Can Be Hired: Keley Smith-Keller, director of the Career Development Center at the University of South Dakota (USD), says there's a useful lesson in the story of a USD student she worked with who decided to leave a retail management job after just one week.

    "My client sat down with his manager and told him that he could see he was the wrong fit for the job," says Smith-Keller. "He said he didn't want to waste any more of the employer's resources and training dollars -- that such a thing wouldn't be courteous. So he offered to stay an extra week so that the manager could find a replacement."

    Smith-Keller's client ended up leaving the store on a relatively positive note, eventually finding another job at a Sioux Falls bank, where "he is much happier."
  • Commit to Thinking More Carefully Next Time: Smith-Keller also notes that her client "didn't listen to the feedback I gave him on the interest and personality assessments he begged to take," which led to his quick departure from the retail store and a difficult lesson learned.

If you end up quitting a job soon after you've started, work with a career counselor at your school to ensure you make a better decision next time. Do this not just for yourself, but also for the person who offers you the next job who's hoping he won't be going through the search process again soon.

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