Jaffe was determined to make the best of her situation. "I told myself, 'Vicky, you've got to stay a year.' But after six months, I got called in and told it wasn't a good fit."
Through a contact at the bank, she found an interim position doing public relations for a nonprofit group. "It was positive and supportive," she says. She is now an account supervisor for a PR firm in Boston.
For young workers with no mortgage or family responsibilities, taking the wrong job might represent only a temporary professional detour. For those in midcareer, the consequences can be greater.
Fifteen years ago Edward Hershey, who spent 40 years in journalism and communications, realized it was a mistake to accept a position as vice president of a small Eastern liberal arts college. His job ended within months when the school's perilous finances came to light. After that he found a satisfying post at a large university, where he stayed 12 years.
"Regardless of the situation, you have to get over the shock," Mr. Hershey says. "If you go through all those stages of disappointment and anger, you'd better do it real quick. Get out the other side and say, OK, what's next?" He is now a writer and consultant in Portland, Ore.
One New York publicist who was desperate to leave a bad job ignored warning signals in interviews. "I thought, I'll take anything," says the man, who asks to be identified only by his first name, Russell, because of the sensitive subject.
"The week before I was going to start, I was told I would have to travel to Chicago my third day there," he says. "I had to be somewhere at 3 a.m. for a project. The first week I knew it was a really big mistake, and it never got better." He learned that the woman before him was fired after four months. The person before her lasted only three months.
After six months of working hard but being miserable, Russell was given an interim review. It was harsh, and he resigned.
Russell found another job as a senior manager and has been there a year. "I'm happy where I landed," he says. "The hiring process was very fair and professional, and that's how I've been treated."