Career Talk 12.04.21

What Happens When You Get That Graduate Job, But It Doesn’t Work Out?

It definitely happens, and when it does, here's how to fix it. When your dream job turns out to be a nightmare, these are the steps you can take.
Kim Connor Streich
Kim Connor Streich

Getting a job is everything we work towards, right from the moment we start school. 

Are you going to be a doctor? A firefighter?  Would you rather be a copywriter, or maybe a structural engineer? 

Either way, we’re encouraged to make our minds up early on, so we can plan how we’ll start our amazing careers.

Fast-forward a few years, and you’ve paid your dues, right?  

You’ve studied long and hard, you’ve done plenty of gruelling work experience, and now you’ve FINALLY landed that dream graduate job, or a place on an awesome graduate scheme.

Now you’re headed straight for the top!


…what if the promised land looks nothing like you always imagined it would?

It’s crushing to discover that the golden opportunity you’ve spent so much time and effort aiming towards is the wrong one.

But don’t worry, because you can totally bounce back.

Here’s how.

Admit There’s a Problem – BUT Don’t Blame Yourself

Hermione waking up | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

If you know your graduate job isn’t right – even if it looks as though it is on paper – it’s easy to feel that there’s something inherently wrong with you.  

Particularly if everyone you work with is nice, and the company is great… but there’s a ‘buzz’ around the place that somehow, you just don’t get.

(Let’s face it, we can all hate on terrible workplaces with boring colleagues!)

But the truth is, you’re just starting out in your graduate career.  Not every job is going suit you, and nor should it – since every person and every workplace is different.  

That’s why there’s no shame in admitting that you’ve ended up in the wrong place, especially as the experience is going to take you closer to finding the right one.

So, admitting that you’re unhappy is the first step to making a positive change – as long as you don’t let blame and self-pity take over. 

Find Out Why There’s a Problem

Hunt for the Wilderpeople fist clench | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

Make it your mission to get to the bottom of why things aren’t working out in your graduate role.

Try to pinpoint the main issue.  If you’re not enjoying the work, is it the tasks themselves, or do you feel you’ve been given too much, too soon?  Are you feeling under-appreciated?  Do you feel like there are limited options for progression?

It may help to talk the problem through with someone impartial – a friend or family member, for example.

Your goal is to understand more about whether things have the potential to be fixed, or you need to cut yourself loose and start again.

Create a Plan of Action

Man at computer feeling frustrated | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

Now you know what the problem is, it’s time to deal with it.

Arrange to speak with your manager, or someone in HR, about things like a heavy workload or feeling under-appreciated – you could find that one reassuring conversation makes all the difference!

Hopefully, your manager or HR representative will suggest a plan and a timeframe that helps you measure how things are improving.  But if they don’t, make a note to ‘check in’ with yourself regularly.  

Be clear about the signs you’re looking for: what needs to happen to make you feel happier at work, and by when?

If things haven’t improved within the timeframe you’ve set, it may be time to leave.

Don’t worry if this is where you end up.  You’ve taken charge of the situation, which is something to feel proud of!

This is YOUR graduate career after all, not anybody else’s.  

Your mission now is to find a new job that you enjoy, and with all the knowledge and experience you’ve now got under your belt, this should feel easier than it once did

So, hang on in there, because you’ve got this.

Mulan deciding to run away | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

Download the Debut App for more tips and advice.  For career inspiration, why not browse the latest graduate opportunities from the UK’s top employers?

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