How To Recover from a Bad Career Move

Icon-Lrg-Box-ArrowUpSooner or later we all make this mistake … we accept a job that turns out to be the wrong choice.

Maybe you were made redundant, needed a new job quickly and said yes to something that was far from ideal? Maybe you were approached for a job that didn’t turn out the way you were promised? Had you been in your job far too long and got to the point where you just needed to get out – quickly? Or you ended up with the boss from hell and just couldn’t stand it any longer?

Whatever the reason, if you feel that you have made a BIG mistake with your latest career move, you are not alone! Many professionals have had a rather bumpy ride over the last few years. Juicy opportunities were scarce, restructuring took its toll, and it felt safer to sit tight and wait for better times.

So what can you do if you find yourself in that position?

1. Give up the guilt

Chances are, you are really cross with yourself for making such a bad decision. You might be thinking: “What was I thinking? How could I not see this coming? I should have known better.” And so on. The reality is that you will have had very good reasons to take the job at the time. You took a risk and it did not work out. Accepting a job offer is always a gamble, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out, simple as that.

It’s obviously time to move on and improve your situation. Blaming yourself will only make you feel bad, and feeling bad will get in the way of creating new opportunities (and shining at the next interview).

 2. Take a step back and look at your options

 A) Do you want to stay where you are and make it work?

Here are some questions for you:

–  Are you sure you can change the situation for the better?

–  What has to be in place for you to stay and feel more satisfied in your role?

–  What’s within your control that you can change, and what isn’t?

–  Who do you need to influence to help you move forward?

–  Who can help you make an internal job/career move?

–  How long will you try for?

Make a plan and set yourself a deadline to keep you focused on your next steps.

B) Do you want to move on? If so, where to? And doing what?

Talk through your options with someone you trust, ideally a person who is unbiased, yet who can view your situation with empathy (but who is not affected by the consequences of your choices). Talking about your situation with a mentor, trusted contact in your industry, friend or even career coach will give you a different perspective, and help you see options you had not seen before.

When you are in that stuck place, your vision narrows, your horizons shrink, and you are likely to miss obvious ways to move forward. A conversation might just open new avenues.

 3. What have you learnt that adds value to your next employer?

If you think your current job has been a total waste of your time, think again. Don’t let your disappointment cloud your judgement. There is always something that you learn at work that makes you a better professional.

What have you gained? More knowledge, wider networks, additional skills, greater resilience or an appreciation of what’s really important to you? Be specific and make a list spelling out why you are now a more well-rounded professional than before. Focusing on what you have gained instead of what you have lost out on might feel counterintuitive, but give it a go. No experience is ever wasted.

 4. What’s your story?

Your next employer, whether internal or external, will want to know the real reasons behind your decision to move on from your current role. So how do you explain your last move and the motivation behind your current job search?

However desperate you are to escape your current job, don’t show it. Start from a place of strength. What makes you the professional you are? Even if some of your successes didn’t occur in your current position, don’t negate earlier achievements just because they are from a few years back. Sell your expertise, and don’t make excuses. As long as the hiring manager can understand why you did what you did, what you learnt from it, and why you are now a stronger candidate because of your recent experience, you should find a listening ear.

Prepare a convincing story – blaming the recession, or showing deep regret and utter frustration with your career mishap will work against you.

Now that the job market is improving, what are you going to do? What worked for you? What questions do you have? I look forward to your comments.


  1. Elizabeth B
    December 10, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Thank you so much for this article!! I recently left a job I came to like/ enjoy however needed better pay, so decided to leave. (On good terms) now I'm in a role that is not what I thought & don't feel challenged & am ready to go. I did several of what you discussed. Glad to know I'm on the right track & I am hopeful I will find a better role in the future!!

    Reply »
  2. Andre
    December 7, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    This exactly the message I need. Having moved from a role of 20 years into a job to grow and expand my career- only to find I did the wrong move!

    Reply »

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