It’s OK to Take a Mulligan — Being Miserable in Your Job Just Isn’t Worth It

Back when I was in marketing, I took a job with Details Magazine. After three weeks, I handed in my letter of resignation and hauled ass out of the building, never once looking back. I’m pretty sure I broke a Conde Nast record! To be honest, my gut told me the job was not right, but the offer was strong and the Publisher said all the right things to persuade me to say “yes!”

She lied. I cried.  Every…single…morning.

I’m not one to wallow in misery. So, I walked into the Publisher’s office on that 4th and final Monday morning and said, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is not working for me and I need to take a break and figure out what I want to do with my career.”  Her response was:  “So you’re gonna sit on the couch and eat Bon Bons all day?” I said, “That sounds pretty good to me, as long as I don’t have to look at your face and listen to your screechy voice while I do it!”  (OK, I didn’t really say that, but that was what appeared in the little text bubble next to my head.)

I took a mulligan. And I survived. I’d say that I even thrived. And so can you, if that’s what you need to do.

If you know you made a huge mistake taking a new job and are living a miserable existence, it’s OK to up and quit IF you feel as though you can financially survive the turmoil. (And, yes, that’s a big “if,” but you’re also not going to be of use to anyone if you croak from a heart attack.) Of course it would be ideal to have a job lined up before you bid adieu, but sometimes that path is not available. What’s NOT OK, is to stay put simply because you think it would be in bad form to walk out. Or, you’re stressed about what people are going to think about your decision. Or, you’re fearful of how you’ll address this hiccup as you jump back on the interview highway.

If you do decide to take that mulligan and quit soon after you’ve started, here are a few questions you might get bogged down with and some possible answers/suggestions:

What Do I do About My Resume?

Contrary to what most people believe, a resume does not get you a job. It does, however, get you an interview. With that in mind, a resume is not a listing of everything you’ve done professionally. It is a series of sales points outlining your accomplishments. Certainly working at a company for three weeks is not an accomplishment. It’s a red flag.

If you put your mulligan on your resume, the first question you’re going to get asked is, “what happened at company x?”  It’s a tedious thing to have to talk thru time and time again, vs. focusing on your lifetime of accomplishments. And, I personally don’t think you should risk the chance of not getting a call based on one, brief rotten egg. That said, you should certainly provide full verbal disclosure on the first interview to ensure there are no surprises at any time throughout the process.

One last thought on this. If you and the company you left have agreed that you can refer to yourself as having been a “Consultant” vs. a full time employee, then that makes it easier. It’s pretty normal for Consultants to continue to look for full time work and putting it on your resume does not send up any red flags.

How Do I Explain Myself on an Interview if I decide to Throw Caution to the Wind and List This Blip On on My Resume?

If you decide you feel more comfortable listing your mulligan on your resume, the first question you will be asked on every single interview will sound something like this: “I see you just started with company x a short time ago, why are you looking so soon?” To answer, first and foremost, remember that less is more. When you ramble you lose credibility. The bullets below illustrate some examples of how you can answer that question. Whether or not you choose to use one of the following examples, figure out how you want to answer this in advance, and then practice and time your response. If you’re going over 15-seconds, you’re cooked.

  • “The actual job that I had to perform was, unfortunately, not what was described to me during the interview process. I just knew that this was not what I wanted to do and not how company x could best utilize my skills, so we amicably split ways.”
  • “Company x is a very early stage start-up and, although they thought they were ready to hire someone like me, they really were not.  It became very clear to me that the CEO was not ready to support the growth of my department and it was going to be impossible for me to succeed and allow her to be successful!”
  • “While I put blood, sweat and tears into my job, the head of my division wanted me to work 14 hours a day, and to be available at all hours on weekends. If I stayed, I knew I was going to miss out on seeing my family and just having a life. I need to be with a company that trusts that I’m going to work hard AND SMART, while maintaining a healthy work/life balance. I found out that there’s a huge turn-over rate at the company and I’m not surprised because nobody can sustain that kind of life for very long.”

Can I Call One of the Other Companies I was Interviewing With Before I Accepted This Job?

Yes you can.  If you were only part way thru the process before you pulled the plug, and the other company seemed genuinely interested in you, definitely make an effort to reignite the fire!

If the other company gave you an offer and you turned it down, it is a little trickier. Nobody wants to feel like they are sloppy seconds.

Should I Ask for My Old Job Back?

If you left your old job on great terms and you want to go back, don’t let your ego get in the way.  Just tell your old boss that you made a huge mistake and would love to come back if they’d have you. But, make sure this is what you want to do and that you are committed, vs. using it as a fall back plan.

Regardless of my words, you may very well decide to stick with your new job — knowing 100% it was the wrong move. That’s fine too.  As long as you can find happiness in some capacity, the decision is yours.  But, if you do take your mulligan, go easy on yourself, take some deep breaths and know that you WILL land on your feet.

Carpe diem….
Jane Ashen Turkewitz is the President and Chief Talent Officer at .comRecruiting — a firm dedicated to advancing business and careers in digital media and emerging technology. If she could earn a living writing blogs like this, she would. Any ideas, questions? Jane at dotcomrecruiting dot com.

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