Just because you stunk at one job doesn’t mean you have to stink at the next one. I’m living proof

being strategic in your job search, improving your job search, recovering from a bad work experience,
Learn from a job that didn't work out.
I learned a lot from a job that didn't work out. 

I learned that even though I worked with some nice people, it wasn’t the right place for me because it wasn’t the right job for me. 

Perhaps you can relate.

Here is what I learned and what you can take away from it for your job search.


1) It reminded me of my work motto: Don’t take a job you will hate the first day. That’s a harder policy to abide by in this crummy economy, but if at all possible, land a job you will like.

Take away ideas: Improve your prospects by applying for jobs that are truly right for you, not applying for jobs you know will be dreadful, searching job sites specific to the industries you want, and networking with the right people in the right fields.

2) I took a lower level position because it was available. I’m used to calling the communication shots and building my own relationships with leadership. So when I took a lower-level job and had to go through someone higher, it just didn’t work for me. It was like trying to translate from English to Spanish back to English. Lots of stuff got lost in the translation and I never formed the relationships with key people that I needed to.

Conversely, at my current job, I am at my comfort level (director level). I continually interact with leadership and am establishing industry relationships everywhere … on Twitter, on LinkedIn (via relevant groups). I’m also connecting with manufacturer’s PR people, working the room at trade shows, etc. Additionally, from doing this blog, I have met people online from every walk of life and have learned that most people are very willing to connect with others … because doing so is also in their best interests.

Take away ideas: Take a chance and contact people on the periphery of your network. Offer to help them in whatever they are going through; you might be surprised how open they are to helping you. If you do have a job, build relationships with your leadership, keep them informed, listen and learn about what’s their business concerns are, provide them with solutions, and make them look good.

3) I chose the wrong sized company for me. I took a job working in a big pond, but I thrive better in a smaller work environment where I can drive change. I don’t really like working in a big company where I just dot the “i”’s and get in trouble if I cross the “t”s.

Take away ideas: If the size of companies matters to you, put together an action plan to specifically target companies that are the size and atmosphere you want. Your local Business Journal lists an annual “Best Companies to Work for” feature spotlighting small, medium, and large companies. Use this article to identify good companies for you.

4) I opted to help sell widgets, but my passion is to make the world (or a portion of it) a better place. Making a positive difference is my heart’s desire … making a greater profit year over year … not so much. In my current position, I help advocate for equipment dealers who are having a tough time in the bad economy. Being able to provide such help empowers me. Writing this blog and leading workshops where I can assist unemployed people also gives me my “fix the world” fix I crave.

Take away ideas: Identify your passions and work toward landing a job that fits them. Envision working at the companies you want or for the causes that matter to you. If you don’t have the right skills to get there, put together an action plan to make yourself indispensible to them.

5) I took a job where I could not be my best self. I am a high energy, results-oriented person and have learned I do not thrive well where a company focuses more on fixing me than the results I can bring to the table. I also learned that I work best within a team, where I have at least one other person to consistently help me so I can focus on the big picture and not get bogged down by necessary (but evil!) minutia.

Take away ideas: When interviewing with potential hiring managers, look for leaders who recognize your abilities and allow you to be yourself. Also make sure companies are properly staffed to support your efforts.

6) Give me structure or give me carte blanche -- I’ve learned that I’m at my best in two scenarios: 1) Unstructured chaos where I can fix things or 2) A structured company where I have clarity about my part. Where I crumble is when I work in unstructured chaos where there is no hope for change. I love to fix stupid ... if I can’t, I crack! I like to clear away obvious problems so I can use the freed-up time to focus on strategy. If I have to sit in endless meetings debating the same problems (without resolution) or develop multiple reports analyzing the obvious, count me out!

Take away ideas: Decide what level of bureaucracy you can handle. Some companies are rife with it, particularly utilities, government agencies, and some nonprofits. If you can’t take it, look for well run companies that allow employees to make decisions to drive progress.

7) Give me the tools or get me out of here! In one scenario, I left a company pretty much in the same situation I found it because the IT resources I needed were flat out unavailable. Having access to needed resources makes all the difference. In my current job, I’m transforming our advertising and editorial strategy, revamping a magazine, a web site, and an e-newsletter, and more, and making tremendous progress, because I have access to help and the tools I need.

Take away ideas: Make sure companies are willing to provide you with the resources needed for you to succeed in your position. I have found it best to state what computer needs I have before I start with a company (while they are still eager to accommodate such requests.)

If your company thinks you stink at your job … hell, even if you do stink at the job, you don’t have to stink at the next one. Recognize what you want and create an action plan to get there!

What have you learned from jobs that didn’t work out? Share your comments via the Contact tab.
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