Open Thread | Ever Accepted a Job That Wasn’t What it Seemed?


Here’s the situation: You found an opening for what looked like the perfect job; a role that seemed well-aligned with your skills as well as your passion for social impact. You submit your resignation letter and prepare to jump into the excitement, challenges, and high-impact work that you’ve been waiting to do for what seems like forever.

You’re now a few months, weeks, or days in, and you’re quickly discovering that … [FILL IN YOUR NIGHTMARE WORK SITUATION HERE].

Maybe your interviewer assured you that you’ll enjoy plenty of autonomy and you’ve been running up against bureaucracy at every turn. Perhaps your dream job included direct service and yet you find yourself drowning in administrative tasks most of the day. For some, the issue reveals itself in unworkable supervisor/supervisee relationships or toxic clashes with colleagues.  

Unfortunately, many of us have been through it, and for an especially unlucky few, the job we left behind was actually pretty good. So what’s the next step? Do you stick around and try to make it work or accept your fate and start the job search from scratch? Was it the result of an honest misunderstanding, or were you truly misled?

This week, we want to hear about that time you accepted a job that just wasn’t what it seemed:

  • How did it go down?
  • How did you handle it once you realized what had happened?
  • Any words of wisdom for the rest of us?

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About Author

As a seasoned communications professional with 13+ years of nonprofit experience and 5+ years of experience creating engaging content and copy, I love the idea that a thoughtfully crafted piece of content can spark social change. Here at Idealist Careers, I'm eager to offer job seekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.


  1. Looking back at the job now I realized the red flags were there all along but I failed to see them. I applied for a job that closely aligned with my skills and background and received a call a few days later for a phone screening. The call went well and I was invited in for an interview with a senior executive. I arrived early and waited nearly 45 minutes for the interview to start which was my first red flag clue. The meeting went well and I was told I needed to meet with another senior executive. The following week I met with both senior executives. The meeting started 20 minutes late but the conversation went well and both said they had a better fit for my background. I was hired less than a week later for a position that was not advertised and better than the position I had applied for. The job started going off the rails when the first senior executive I interviewed with who I now reported to called me and accused me of attempting to steal his company in a rant that lasted what seemed like forever. At the end of the rant I could barely say a word. In my mind, I said; “one.” In the subsequent months, I realized the company was run on incompetence, fear and confrontation and was the most toxic environment I had ever worked in. There were two other incidents where these executives attempted to put the blame for bad decisions on me. The third one was the last one and I finished what I was working on sent it off via email, turned in my keys, and electronics and walked out the door. Words of wisdom for others; do your homework, be cognizant of red flags during the interview process, and don’t dismiss anything you see, hear, or witness as something quirky with the company culture. If it bothers you – it’s a problem.

  2. I applied online for a position and about a month later I got contacted about it. Looking back there were so many red flags, but I fell into the trap that I needed a job and tried to ignore what I felt during the process. The interview process was EXTREMELY rushed– three phone calls (no in person or skype) and I received an offer a week from the first call. There was no time to consider– they needed an answer by the next business day. The pay was good and I thought I just had jitters that I would get over.

    WRONG! The bad outnumbered the good. By the time I started, of the 3 people I spoke to, one had left the company, one moved into another role, and one had nothing to do with what I was brought on for. My training was a joke and my “boss” was MIA. This is a very abridged version of the story. Anyways, I decided after about 6 weeks that I would rather focus on finding a job that I would like, rather than staying in one that was continuously making me miserable, and getting worse. I found myself saying that if I knew this is what it would be like, I wouldn’t have taken it. I was in a situation where I could afford to quit, so that is what I did. I don’t think there is a right solution in these cases…it is all situational. Some would not have been able to quit without landing something else. i wasn’t sleeping and was a ball of nerves.. I needed to move on. I haven’t looked back since and definitely got some lessons from the whole thing. Go with your gut!

  3. I took a job at a rate of pay below my minimum because I was given assurances that within a year. pay rates for staff would be brought up to market rates and a health insurance plan would be put in place. More than a year later, these things haven’t happened and there is no sign that they will ever happen. These realities coupled with a culture of non-communication and blame shifting have led me to conclude that it’s a bad fit and I need to move on.

    • Alexis Margolin on

      Thanks for your story Dawn, though I’m sorry to hear it! Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to this situation and many of our readers can also relate. While it’s always helpful to have these sorts of “guarantees” in writing, there’s still not much holding an employer accountable to their promises of raises, better coverage, etc., beyond their own moral compass. While it’s certainly no magic bullet, in the future, in addition to getting these promises in writing, I’d recommend agreeing with a supervisor at the point of hire (perhaps in your offer/acceptance letter) on what date these items will be revisited for reconsideration. This way, there is an agreed-upon deadline on the calendar and your employer and/or supervisor knows that you expect them to hold up their end of the bargain. Back to your current situation: When you feel there’s a lack of communication at your organization, it can be a pretty good indicator that it’s time to look for your next step–never an easy decision! Whether you get started immediately or you choose to hold out a bit, please keep us posted on your search and where you land!

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