Making A Career Mistake

I’ve been at my new job for six weeks now and I am starting to get the hang of things. My boss has me working with a big, important, and innovative client. My team likes working with me. I have already made some impactful changes that is improving the way things are done. To top it all off, the company is doing very well financially and, should it make the right changes, could very well make its way to success.

In spite of all this, I think I made a mistake taking this job.

I was right to quit my old job. The organization had a lot of problems that, over the years, had led to a lot of emotional baggage. Morale was low, infrastructure was breaking, and the long term trajectory of the industry was iffy.

But there were good things at that job too. Friends whose company I enjoyed, interesting and moderate workload, lots of variety, and by the time I left some sense of expertise.

At my new job, I have… none of these things. Some of my coworkers are fine but none seem open to new friends. The work is much easier than my last job, but there’s so much more of it and my clients, somehow, are 10x more demanding than any I’ve ever had to deal with before. And every time I ask a question to technical contributors not on my primary team, they look at me like I’m an idiot to be endured at best.

If it were just that list, though, I wouldn’t feel as I do now. In fact, I worried for a while that I was just dealing with the new job blues. But I’ve realized that there are big issues that I hadn’t considered before at this place, the kind I wouldn’t have been able to gauge in an interview. My boss (contrary to the “let me know if I can help”) doesn’t have time to mentor me in any meaningful way (or if they do it just adds more work I’m super not interested in doing on my plate), there are significant process issues that senior leadership has failed to make, and frankly I find the client management part of my job to be tedious rather than invigorating (turns out, quality of client matters a lot!).

I also feel like the career change element was probably not what I wanted either. Like, what I am doing now is way easier than the work at my old job. That said, I feel so much less satisfied with the type of work I am doing. Far less technical and therefore in my brain less cache.

So now I’m here six weeks in wondering… well… what next? I could wait it out at this job for a couple years until my non-compete runs out and go back to my old industry, opening up my own shop. Or I could just bite the bullet and become a developer already. It’s still probably too early to quit, right? Sigh. Maybe this is all there is?

Anyway, that’s what’s up with my life, work-wise lately.

Have you ever made a bad career decision? Do you feel like you ever recovered? If so, how?

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11 thoughts on “Making A Career Mistake

  1. When we moved to northern california, I took my career in a quite different direction and tried a new path (no longer engineering at all). My specific project was a terrible fit. I can’t assess the overall job was bad, or if it was just that project – but I do suspect the overall job was not great. I won’t quite say “bad career decision” since my options weren’t limitless and I had to change jobs somewhere.

    When my current job popped up about a year later, I was super eager to go back to a job more similar to my last. I would say I “recovered”, but that year was kind of a wasted blip of time. I guess I learned a LOT about what I really wanted from it, so not a total waste!

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    1. That’s good to hear! I feel like if after a year or two I can redirect to something more like my last job (on my own terms) then that’d be pretty good. Having the experience of this job will be useful at least on my resume even if I don’t love the job itself.

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  2. I’ve made choices that were great for my career in the long haul but terrible for me in the short term of the job, if that makes sense. I focused on how that job would get me both paid which was definitely needed and how it would let me grow into my next job and the next until I arrived at the right stop, here and now. I’d say that would account for 7 of 13 years of working. I’m not looking forward to doing it again, though, whenever this job runs its course.

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    1. That’s a very good perspective to have. I keep wavering on quitting as if just not working were a real option. Whereas I think the right approach at this point is just to put my head down and do the work.

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  3. I think my biggest career mistake so far was before law school (so it was something that ultimately wasn’t important to the trajectory of my career now). I spent two years abroad in a very low-intensity teaching fellowship offered by my undergraduate school, and I think I’d have been more challenged and intellectually stimulated (something that’s definitely very important in a job, as far as I’m concerned!), and potentially been able to save more money for law school if I had done something else. Given that I was thinking so seriously about law school, I probably should have looked harder for paralegal jobs. I had a lot of fun though, and since law school was the right choice for me, even if I had no work experience in law, it wasn’t too big a deal in the end!

    All these job-related questions are so difficult. Lawyers I know tend, as a group, to be under so much financial pressure from student loans, and so risk-averse about possibly failing to find a new job, that people who are unhappy at a law firm generally get the advice to stick it out at least a year total, but preferably longer (or several months and a long vacation after they first became very unhappy and wanted out if it was more than a year in). I still haven’t had enough experience under my belt to know if that’s really right, alas, though I think it’s advice that wouldn’t be given in a lot of other fields…

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    1. A lot of my friends did similar teaching fellowships post-graduation. It seems like an interesting and fun life experience even if it doesn’t jump start your career per se. You seem to have done really well with law school, fellowship, job placement, etc. so as long as you had a good experience, everything worked out in the end!

      I couldn’t deal with the amount of pressure from big student loans that lawyers deal with. That was, like, half the reason I decided not to go to med school, even after spending thousands on apps and shuttling to and fro for interviews. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be a doctor the rest of my life and if I was wrong, well, it seemed like a really expensive mistake. Hopefully you can burn through those loans relatively quickly and get some more freedom in terms of switching employers. (Or, even better, hopefully you won’t feel the need because your work is fulfilling and balanced.)

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      1. A hugely expensive mistake in terms of years and money. I have relatives who went into it knowing they absolutely wanted it and even they are waving off family members who are pushing their kids to follow in their footsteps: It’s WAY more work than prestige and no one wants to work with your regretful bitter ass when you figure out that you did all that work and you hated it.

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        1. Haha lawyers are totally the same way about discouraging pretty much any prospective law student from actually taking the plunge and applying or attending law school. I actually really love the substantive work, but the student loan burdens, almost everything associated with client management and soliciting business, and the potentially nonstop stress (at least on the litigation side) are… really something. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, and I’m not sure most law school applicants can be fully prepared for it, so the risk is just too big to recommend.

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  4. Old (well, 58…lol) lawyer here. I think it was good you did the internship, and I always looked at board experience, instead of just legal experience, when I was hiring for my firm. Now, back to the subject of ever making a mistake in your career. Yes, I shut down my law practice and took a government job. I guess it technically was not a mistake because I will receive a pension, but, to be real, I wish I had never shut down my law practice. I plan on reopening it when I retire from my government job. My career has a long story, and a lot of twists and downturns in the middle of the recession. I will not bore you with that. I think you just never know how a job will turn out until you are actually working there. My first government job was a horror, and I knew I made a mistake three weeks after I started. My last seven years at my second government job have been outstanding.

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  5. “Maybe this is all there is.” I think everyone goes through this at some point in their career. How can you be sure you made the right decision? How can you tell the difference between a “bad career move” vs. a rocky adjustment period? The way I figured it out was to stay in the job long enough to experience some “success” (i.e. a raise, a promotion, more responsibilities). And if that success made me feel less happy or indifferent, then it was time to make a change. As a bonus, you’d also be leaving from a position of strength.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Hope you figure things out!

    Ivan

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