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The big regret: How to move on when you hate your new job


This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

Reviewed by Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

At a glance

  • If you recently switched jobs and wish you hadn't, you're not alone. The first step is to own the mistake.
  • From there, you have to engage in a little introspection to understand what you value and need to find happiness in work.
  • If you can't switch jobs right away, try to focus on learning what you can from the role you're in, even if it's not the ideal one. 
  • Explore career resources at University of Phoenix!

This article was updated on December 5, 2023.

The “The Great Resignation” has an epilogue that’s been called everything from “Shift Shock” to “The Great Regret.” For months now, headlines have announced employees leaving in record numbers. In fact, in 2021, 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs, according to an article in Harvard Business Review.

So, where did they all go?

Some workers retired. Others reconsidered the work–life balance they wanted, moving into consulting or self-employment to wield more control over their schedules. Others, including healthcare workers and educators who bore the brunt of burnout during COVID-19, took a sabbatical.

And others? Well, many of them hate their new jobs.

Headshot of Carla Hunter

“Basically, they’ve discovered that the grass is not greener with the other role,” says University of Phoenix Career Advisor Carla Hunter, NCC, BCC, CCC.


According to an analysis in The Washington Post by Kathryn Minshew, 72% of job seekers surveyed on The Muse (which Minshew founded) experienced “shift shock” — the surprising or regretful realization that their new company or position was different from what they were led to believe.

If this sounds like you, Hunter has some ideas on how to weather the storm, plus four tips to help you not make the same mistake again.

You hate your new job. Now what? 

So, you started a new job and you hate it. The offer sheet looked good, but now you’re having second thoughts. You are not alone. One poll, as reported in Inc. (and commissioned by USA Today), found that only one in four people who changed jobs liked their new role enough to stay.

If you’re in a state of shock (or regret), Hunter isn’t going to break it to you easy.

“Number one, you own it,” she says. “You need to own it and say, ‘I made the wrong move.’” This matters because it will help you be honest with yourself — and an honest assessment may have been missing when you decided to leave your original employer in the first place. This hard truth can serve you if you let it.

If you’re being honest about the present, you may be more honest about the past. Hunter recommends thinking back to ask yourself: “Did I make this move on assumptions that weren’t tested?

For example, did you change jobs because you thought the culture at Company B was better than Company A — but you never actually interviewed employees at Company B? Did you assume the move to becoming a business consultant would give you the freedom you wanted, but you didn’t talk with a business consultant or shadow a business consultant? Did you quit because of a boss or colleague and discover that the employees at the new company aren’t much better? Or did you follow a boss or colleague to a new job and hate it?

“People who are making career decisions on an assumption are the ones with the deepest regrets,” Hunter says. 

Don’t beat yourself up. At the same time, don’t let one bad decision become two bad decisions. Dig deep to find answers to these questions:

  • What would it look like to stay in my new job?
  • How can I go to work and not let emotions and feelings hijack me?
  • What would make me feel valued, satisfied or appreciated at work?
  • If I want to quit because the grass seems greener somewhere else, am I willing to prove that assumption first?

How to move forward

By now you’ve probably guessed that unleashing your inner scientist is important for any career move. That’s right, by applying to your job search some of the steps from the scientific method you learned in seventh grade, Hunter says you can save yourself from repeating the same cycle.

Step 1: Be curious

Explore what matters to you. Is it salary? Flexibility? Purpose? This will help you clarify how you want to move forward. For example, if you took your current position for money but what really makes you feel accomplished or fulfilled is purpose, then what truly motivates you, unfortunately, is on pause.

Hunter shares an example of how she helps students or alumni explore this in real life. “I’ve had many advising appointments where I’ve heard ‘I don’t have a clue as to what job I want.’

“And I’ll say, ‘Is that what you want? A job?’ Then they’ll usually say, ‘I want a career.’” And that’s when she knows they’re closer to looking at the kind of role that aligns with their goals.

Step 2: Observe

Now it’s time to make observations. Remember in science lab when you poured chemicals into a beaker to see if they would fizz? It’s time to (sort of) do that where you work. Try to pinpoint why you’re feeling unhappy. Is it the work, your colleagues, the culture or your boss? Take stock of why you quit your previous role. Are those same issues present in this role?

Step 3: Form a question and investigate

This is where you ask a question (or all the questions) you might not have asked the first time around. What would it look like if I changed my role to be on another team (or join another company)? How does that idea align with my goals? Could a conversation with my current boss about my role lead to more satisfaction with where I’m at? The questions you form will be unique to you, but asking them is important.

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Step 4: Make a hypothesis and investigate

If your hypothesis is that quitting your current job and moving to a new company will align with what matters to you, now it’s time to prove it. Have conversations with people who work at the company or department you want to join. Ask your would-be manager how he or she helps the team thrive. Ask how he or she manages. Find out how the team you’re thinking of joining would help you become the best version of you at work. “If you think the grass is greener, that’s an assumption. This step is where you test whether it’s actually greener,” Hunter says.

Step 5: Take stock of the positives

Once you commit to a new role, you can’t change the fact that you feel unhappy or hate where you are. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Whatever you ultimately decide to do, use this as an opportunity to not only learn but also grow. Look at the positives in the situation. Perhaps you were able to learn a new skill in the process. Maybe you learned about a new industry. If silver linings are few and far between, take stock in that you sharpened your interviewing skills and have a better understanding of the direction to head in your career moving forward. 

How to feel better about your choice

Asking the hard questions before you make a career move can go a long way toward eliminating regret. Researching the company and the culture will help you move forward with confidence. Surrounding yourself with a mentor or a team of trusted friends who can help walk you through the process can also help.

In the end, it may be too late to change things, at least in the immediate future, but now is the perfect time to assess what you’ll do better next time.

Career resources at University of Phoenix

Don’t embark on your career journey alone! University of Phoenix equips its students and graduates with the following resources to help them on their professional paths.

  • Career Services for Life®: Available to UOPX students and graduates, this offering comprises complimentary career coaching, including guidance on how to build a personal brand and write a resumé.
  • Free career resources: Browse a range of downloadable guides and templates to help you optimize your LinkedIn® profile, get ready for a job interview and write a resumé and cover letter.
  • Career With Confidence™ newsletter: Get career insights every week via UOPX’s LinkedIn newsletter.


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