If you’ve recently started a new job, you might have experienced Shift Shock. 

First coined by Kathryn Minshew, CEO and Cofounder of The Muse, Shift Shock describes the feeling of surprise, disappointment or regret that some new employees experience after starting a new job. 

The feeling might be a result of the position, the company, or both. Either way, it’s linked to the unpleasant feeling of something not living up to your expectations and the struggle of what to do next. 

While Shift Shock has become a buzzword in recent years, the feelings associated with it are nothing new. In fact, over 70% of employees report experiencing Shift Shock at some point in their careers.

Here’s what you need to know about Shift Shock, including how to recognize the signs and how to avoid it in the future.

The three signs of Shift Shock

Not sure if you have Shift Shock? It’s basically the result of reality not living up to expectations, and there are three main signs that you could be experiencing it.

  1. Your role isn’t what you thought it would be

Many of us have experienced the disappointment of starting a new job, only to realize that the reality of the role isn’t what we hoped it would be. Perhaps you have less responsibility, autonomy or creativity than you thought you would, or maybe the job is completely different from what was advertised. This discovery can all add up to a nasty case of Shift Shock that makes you feel disappointed, disheartened and even anxious.

  1. You don’t feel like you belong

For many employees, it’s not just about the job but also the company. If the company is not the right fit, you might experience Shift Shock as a feeling of disappointment that your new employer doesn’t fit the expectations you had before you started.

Maybe they have stricter policies on hybrid working, for example, that means what you thought would be a flexible position is actually the opposite. There could also be problems with the company ethos, the management style, or even the work environment. 

There are a wide range of factors that go into making you feel like you belong in a certain organization or workplace and when they don’t match up, you might experience Shift Shock.

  1. You regret leaving your old job

If you find yourself pining after your old job, colleagues or company, that’s a pretty good sign you’ve got Shift Shock. It might be a case that you just need time to settle into your new role, in which case, you should feel better in a few months. Or it might be an indication that you made a mistake leaving your old employer and you’re not alone – in a Muse survey, 48% of workers reported that they would try and get their old job back if they felt Shift Shock at a new company.

How to avoid job Shift Shock

While Shift Shock is surprisingly common, there are some things you can do to avoid it and find a job and company that’s the right fit for you.

  1. Take a personality test

Before you start applying for new jobs, it can be really helpful to take a personality test to get a clearer picture of where your unique strengths and weaknesses lie. Personality assessments can offer an insight into what kind of roles you’re most suited to, as well as the types of working environments you might prefer or perform best in.

For example, finding out you’re an ENTJ on a Myers and Briggs assessment is an indication that you’re most likely to thrive in a goal-oriented work environment where you have control and receive recognition for your achievements. That means you’re probably not going to be well-suited to a purely administrative or supporting role, no matter how interesting the job listing makes it sound!

  1. Get clear on your goals

If you’re looking for new job opportunities, it’s important to get clear on why you want to leave your current company or position. Take the time to evaluate your goals and what you want to achieve from the move.

Whether you want a better work-life balance, more professional development opportunities, a pay rise or anything in between, make sure you know what you’re looking for before you take a new job to avoid Shift Shock down the line. 

  1. Ask more questions

To avoid job Shift Shock, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need at every stage of the hiring process. While the company is interviewing you, you’re also interviewing them. Find out exactly what your role will involve, what an average day will look like, what career advancement opportunities you’ll have and more. 

The more questions you can ask, the more details you can get on your new role and minimize the chances of experiencing Shift Shock. Knowledge is key.

  1. Talk to other employees

The best indicator of what a job or a company is actually like is talking to the employees already working there. Try reaching out to existing employees – your future colleagues – to get a sense of what the company culture is and whether it’s the right fit for you. While they can’t tell you everything, they can give you a good idea of whether the reality lives up to the marketing hype.

What can you do about job Shift Shock?

If you’re experiencing job Shift Shock, the best thing you can do is to evaluate what isn’t meeting your expectations and then talk to your employer about it. Have an honest conversation about what you’d like to change and try to find a solution together, or at least an actionable plan to resolve the issues.

Again, having the results from your personality assessment can be a useful tool to help you understand what you need to change in order to feel more comfortable and more fulfilled in your new role.

Don’t let Shift Shock get you down

While job Shift Shock can be a nasty experience, there are steps you can take to avoid it and resolve it. Start by taking a personality test and writing down your goals, then take the time to do your research before accepting a position. And if you still have Shift Shock when you join the company, talk to your employer to see what you can do to change it.

Elizabeth Harris
Elizabeth is a freelance writer and ghostwriter. She’s an anthropologist at heart and loves using social theory to get deeper into the topics she writes about. Born in the UK, Elizabeth has lived in Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Dubai before moving most recently to Budapest, Hungary. She’s an ENTJ with ENFJ leanings. Find out more about her work at bethharris.com