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How to avoid taking the wrong job

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

A few years ago, Kirsty* was successful in securing what she thought was an exciting career opportunity. A senior role, in a successful organisation on great money. She was delighted and full of optimism about the direction her career was taking.

On her first day, she arrived excited and looking forward to starting her new role. But not an hour into her day, the warning bells had started ringing. “Collected from Reception, I was taken to meet my new boss, who quickly informed me she was very busy and had only fifteen minutes to see me. After a cursory run-through of the organisation structure and a brief overview of my soon-to-be area of responsibility, I was escorted to my desk at the opposite end of the office and left to get on with it. No laptop, no login, and just a hand-drawn diagram of my client organisation structure.”

Kirsty says this interaction turned out to be a very accurate predictor of how things would develop. “While many of the people I met were friendly and inclusive, there was a parallel culture among senior leaders that was much more toxic.” On the back of more than a few aggressions from senior colleagues, Kirsty resigned from her job having recognised it was not a place she wanted to work.

Kirsty’s decisive action was successful in taking her out of a situation that was causing her stress and anxiety. The impact of this though was that she found herself temporarily jobless, something not many of us have the luxury of being able to afford. The experience also had a detrimental impact on her confidence levels.

So, what can we do to avoid ourselves getting into a similar situation?

In considering how to prevent ourselves getting into a situation similar to this, it’s worth giving thought to the factors that influence us in looking for a new job role.

Often, our current personal or work situation drives us to start looking. Maybe we’re having a tough time at work or been made redundant and need a job for financial reasons.

Alternatively, we could have been approached out of the blue about a seemingly exciting opportunity by a head hunter.

In either situation, it’s easy to jump in and get swept along by our emotions - desperation or flattery - and in such circumstances, there’s a danger that our usual sound judgement goes out the window!

To avoid this happening, some tips to consider when contemplating new opportunities include:

1. Giving as much thought as possible to what is driving you towards an opportunity.

2. Do your research. Ahead of any interview, make sure you find out as much as you can about the organisation, the role you’re being interviewed for and the people you will be meeting.

3. Be alert when in the interview environment. Interviews are artificial situations very much focused on a prospective employer evaluating your capability or fit for what they’re looking for. Often, our focus as a candidate is so fixed on wanting to perform that we fail to evaluate the people we are meeting to consider if we want to work for them.

4. Be prepared to reference examples you know will showcase your skills and fit for the job. Unfortunately, those interviewing us are not always as prepared, capable or as well-trained as they should be. This can mean they may not pick up on themes from your past experience or ask the questions that would showcase you in the best light. Be prepared to appropriately highlight such examples.

5. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, notice it and make further enquiries to explore it. If any matter cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, have the self-belief not to take the opportunity further.

Research has shown that fully engaged employees are most likely to perform well at work. Key factors contributing to positive employee engagement include high job satisfaction and good fit with the organisation’s culture.

From a job-seeker perspective, it is important to use this knowledge constructively. We must recognise that as well taking the opportunity to sell ourselves to prospective employers, it is our responsibility to make sure that we take the time to evaluate whether an organisation, job and culture are right for us.

* Name changed

Sian Morgan is a Career Coach and senior HR professional. If you would like to find out more about 121 career coaching, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at or take a look at our website

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