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Taking the wrong job isn’t as bad as you think

Taking the wrong job isn't as bad as you think, by Jack Isler MD

There are many horror stories out there about what can happen to you when you take the wrong job. However, I can say unequivocally that I learned more from taking the wrong job than I ever did with what I considered the right job. This goes with the old “no pain, no gain” adage. The wrong job can either be from a professional point of view, a personal point of view, or possibly both. People who have pursued a career in the medical field have rarely studied the art of finding the right job. Healthcare has continued to grow, and finding a job has seldom been difficult. Because of this, the chance of matching to a job that does not fit is a significant possibility. One must keep in mind that there are two entities here: yours and the employer’s. The needs of the healthcare community can also lead to an institution’s hiring, even if the evidence is present to them for a less than ideal match. There are steps that can be taken to maximize your current job, but you should heed the multiple warning signs that you may have to move on.

Let’s assume that things are not going well at your current job. Thinking back, you really didn’t know that much about the employer, and they probably didn’t know you either. You need to review, in your mind, the conditions that constitute a good job. There is a substantial possibility that you have not clearly defined these, even to yourself.  When your criteria are clearly defined, match this up to your current position. At least half of these conditions should match a description of the position you accepted.  If this is true, begin by matching the problem areas with several possible solutions. Then sit down with your employer for a well thought out discussion. The reaction of your employer to this intercommunication will give you a more clear vision of your future in this institution. You will be looking for reaction, positive feedback, and a timetable for some change.

If you can’t match half or more of your perfect job list to the current position, the chance of turning this around is very slim. If you decide to move on, do it in a very orderly fashion with the possibility of a dignified exit. Damage control after leaving a job in a negative light is detrimental to your career and can last years. You should be honest about why you need to leave and as pleasant as possible until you leave, giving at least several weeks’ notice. Looking for a job before you notify your employer of your intent to leave is a dangerously negative situation. If you have not made any attempt to remedy your job concerns, this would undoubtedly be another negative. Any employer in business for any length of time will have matched up to the wrong employee at least once.

There are many basic signs and symptoms that relate to your having taken the wrong job for yourself. Start by not generalizing that your job is basically a bad job and would be for anyone. Look at the relationship you have with your job. 1) Does the job change who you are? Have you become consistently negative and find it difficult to control your negative side (sign and/or a symptom)?  2) You not only think about calling in sick, but you do. Your worst problem is that you have no more accrued sick days (symptom). This thought process does not extend to how you are letting down your colleagues or patients (sign). 3) Your desire to expand your knowledge about how to do the job and explore new areas is gone (symptom). 4) The bonus you accepted will need to be paid back if you leave now and is a daily concern (symptom, if the job has become only about the money). 5) The focus is on the job failing you. There is little consideration of your role in this perceived failure.

Adding this all up, what do we have? First, study the process of getting a job that fits you. This is more of a science than it appears on the surface. Remember this is a two-sided equation, but there is not necessarily an equal sign between them. Second, think of a job as a relationship. Be aware of the symptoms and signs of things going bad. It’s much easier to be aware of potential problems early and spend time trying to fix them, before your behavior becomes part of the problem. Your boss is juggling many aspects of the business and may welcome your questions and concerns, if you have solutions attached. Thirdly, not all negative situations can be repaired. Learn all you can from a job that failed to meet expectations and do not repeat the same mistakes.

If you’ve found yourself in a less than ideal job take a few minutes to browse all types of healthcare jobs at

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About Jack Isler, MD

Jack Isler, MD, practiced Critical Care Medicine and was an Anesthesiologist for 33 years. A large focus of his practice was on nutrition in the critically ill (Master's in Nutrition).


  • 21 Broken Bones, A Self-help Guide for the Chronic Pain Patient
  • Marijuana: It's an Herb with an Asterisk
  • Personal blog: “21brokenbones”---a blog on new pain relief therapies

Dr. Isler is currently writing a book on brain death, op-ed articles, and guest blog posts.