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72% of young workers say they've regretted a new job after starting

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On paper, Maddie Machado had what a lot of people would consider a dream job. In September 2021, she started working as a recruiter for Meta, the social media company formerly known as Facebook.

But a few weeks into it, her excitement turned to dread. She'd heard of Big Tech's problem with workplace diversity and, as a Black and Hispanic woman, felt Meta's promises to improve weren't actually happening around her. She felt micromanaged in her day-to-day and that her creativity was being stifled. (Meta declined to comment.)

Machado, 32, felt her new job wasn't what she was told it would be.

It's an incredibly common feeling. Some 72% of jobseekers say they've started a new job and felt a sense of surprise or regret that the role or company was very different from what they were led to believe, according to a January survey of more than 2,500 millennial and Gen Z jobseekers conducted by The Muse.

New-job regrets are disruptive for workers and employers alike. Roughly 20% of jobseekers say they would quit within a month if their new job isn't what they expected, and another 41% would give a new job just two to six months before quitting.

Why it's harder to figure out if you'll like a new job

The Muse CEO and founder Kathryn Minshew refers to this feeling as a "shift shock," which isn't new but could be even more widespread during the Great Resignation.

For one, it's harder for candidates to gauge a company's culture if they can't visit the office for interviews, or if those offices are cleared out of everyone working from home. After joining a company, people will tolerate so-so jobs if they like their coworkers or boss, Machado adds, but that's harder to get a feel for when you're starting a new position remotely.

Plus, the pandemic prompted jobseekers to demand more of their employer — accountability around workplace diversity, pay, flexibility and mental health to name a few — and companies are having to play catch-up.

Without the perks of a fun campus, social coworkers or a resonant company mission, Machado says, "you have to think, do I actually like this job? If I have to look at this screen by myself eight hours a day with no one else around me, is it enough?"

A lot of people are saying no.

Workers are standing up for what they want, and quitting if they don't get it

Machado quit her job in February, without a new one lined up, after about six months with Meta.

She says today's strong job market, plus having about a decade of work experience, gave her the confidence to put in her notice: "At this point of my career, especially in this economy where it's definitely a candidate's market, I just knew I didn't have to stay there." She adds it was "the most stressful but relieving experience I've had in my career."

Attitudes around leaving a bad job, even after a short period of time, are changing.

"People are explaining: There were key differences in the opportunity than I was signing up for,'" Minshew says. "Culturally we're accepting that this is a completely reasonable explanation. And when things are accepted, they become more common."

The old advice of staying in a bad job for at least a year, even if you don't like it, "are not the rules we play by anymore."

Hiring managers need to be held accountable, too

It's easy to point fingers at people who take a new job and regret it for acting too brashly. But really, hiring managers are responsible for making sure they advertise a job and company authentically.

With companies desperate to hire and HR pros stretched thin, recruiters could be going rogue and saying things they know aren't true in order to fill roles, Minshew says. Or, they could say things they think are true, but they don't have the full picture of the workplace experience.

Instead, companies should be honest about what it's like to work there, including successes as well as areas for improvement. And interviews should be a two-way street: Are you giving candidates enough time to ask questions about company culture?

"When people feel like they have opted into a situation with eyes wide open," Minshew says, "they're much more likely to accept the good and the bad, and to show up as engaged, productive, satisfied employees."

Machado puts her quick exit this way: "I thought it was better for the company to have somebody who actually wanted to be there, versus someone who just was not happy doing their job."

Check out:

Why all your coworkers who quit are about to come back as 'boomerang employees'

So your old boss wants you to come back—here’s how to negotiate a ‘boomerang’ offer

Here’s what to say during an exit interview—and what to leave out

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