“How long should I wait until I look for another job after realizing the one I just got isn’t the right fit for me?”

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in ...
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My twitter friend Hutch Carpenter noted (tweeted actually) that “Quora is the new black” – always a signal that something may become popular – the website provides an interesting mix of questions and answers in a quasi-curated format. Co-founders Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever and the rest of the team have created for the moment a site what provides a rich collection of questions and answers on a host of topics.

That format can give you somebody on the front side of things (including their career, or just new to their neighborhood) to ask any number of self-appointed experts – including people like me – their thoughts on a variety of topics. While we’ve unfortunately become a society where “dumb” questions (which to me means less informed, less developed, and likely less varnished and more authentic) are discouraged, Quora to-date provides an important outlet for those and other questions.

How long should I wait until I look for another job after realizing the one I just got isn’t the right fit for me?” is the question that caught my eye this week.

Since it’s almost the start of the new year (with lots of resolutions to follow), here’s some thoughts on job hunting if you’ve landed in role that is not right.

  1. Jobs – just like people – can change. Can you tweak the role into something that’s a better fit?
  2. The only real thing people have is their skills, experiences, values and reputation (brand). Can you make the job more worthwhile by learning skills or experiences that will help you downstream?
  3. The way you handle challenges – including a role that may not be a right fit – informs your reputation and brand. Conduct yourself in a way that reflects who you want to be known as.
  4. There are no guaranteed jobs (even members of US Supreme Court) – which means you should always have an eye out to what you might do next.
  5. Research shows that the best way to find that next job is through developing and nurturing a wide network. It is not something like a like switch you turn off or on; building and sustaining that network is work, and like getting in shape there are no easy ways to make it happen apart from tackling it one task at a time. A how-to-network piece is here. A what to avoid while networking piece is here.
  6. Your reputation – the Brand Called You – really counts. Take care of it. It’s an increasingly small world where how you conduct yourself is can be shared widely.

“Experience,” according to Oscar Wilde, “is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.

Albert Einstein – shown above –  noted that “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” If this new role is a mistake, learn from it.

Good luck. No one likes to make a mistake and land a job that looks like it’s not a good fit. The trick, as it were, is to avoid compounding any error, and to learn from it.

Updated 12/29/10: Linda Lantwicki“I took a job mid- career and realized within 2 weeks it was a big mistake. I swallowed my pride and called my former boss and told him exactly that. After a quick “So what do you want me to do about it?” he paused, and said “Oh all right, let’s see what we can do to get you back. It took 6 months, but I went back to my former company but in the role that I was seeking at the new company. The key to this, I believe, was leaving on good terms. The second lesson learned was that neither of us let pride get in the way of understanding that people need to try new things. He was and remains the best person I have ever worked for and would do it again in a heartbeat!

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.