The job search has been dragging on, and you get to the point when you start thinking: I’ll take anything!
I get it.
I once took a position photographing auto parts in the back room of a warehouse. I knew shooting brake calipers all day long wasn’t going to advance my career, but it was the only full-time job available to me, and for a few months, it’s what I needed to do.
Which is to say: I understand there’ll be times when you feel the only move is taking a job you’re not excited about—and I’m not going to judge you for it.
If you’re not sure whether an open role is your best (or only) move—or if you need to hold out for something better—ask yourself these three questions. If all the answers aren’t “yes,” then it’s probably time to rethink your choice.
1. Am I Still Firing on All Cylinders?
Burn out doesn’t just happen at work, it can happen on the job search, too.
You’ve been investing so much time, and energy, and hope into your quest, that you’ve hit a wall. You’re ready to reclaim those hours you’ve devoted to applying for new roles and no longer spend every waking moment obsessing about when you’ll hear back.
If You Answered No
Keep in mind: Landing a new job doesn’t mean you can suddenly start coasting. Yes, you won’t have to go through the motions of being an applicant anymore, but in its place you’ll have all of the expectations of being the new person on the team.
A big part of what makes that an exciting, new challenge—as opposed to a different way to feel drained each day—is having a good feeling about the role you’ve signed on for.
If you’re not under financial stress to take a new job yesterday, consider taking a breather. While it seems counterproductive (since you still want a new job), even a week away from browsing postings and composing cover letters can be really valuable.
Use that time to reconnect with whatever you’ve been sacrificing (sleep, exercise, time with friends), and when you get back to searching, you’ll have renewed energy to stick it out until you find the right role for you.
2. Will I Still Want to Work There in 6 Months?
So, this isn’t your dream job. But it’ll pay the bills, and that old saying, “beggars can’t be choosers” keeps playing over and over in your head.
And again, it’s an opportunity to stop searching and start working: That can’t be so bad—right?
If You Answered No
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it actually can be so bad. That’s because if you don’t like your work, you’ll start dreading it, and your productivity will wane. Then, you become part of a futile (and pretty crappy) cycle of looking for a job, not liking it, and looking for another one.
Now that you have that depressing thought in mind, you should know: It doesn’t have to be this way! If you’re not struggling financially, you can avoid this simply by listening to voice in your head. And moving forward, ask yourself this before you even hit “apply” on a posting: Is this work I’ll be excited about doing in the future?
And, if you’re in the I have to take the photograph car parts job stage, go into it with a clear intention to make it a bridge job—and keep looking for the role you really want. (On that note, here’s a strategy for finding time to job search while you’re working.)
3. Is This Advancing My Career Goals?
So, you’re not burnt out and you’re not taking a role you see yourself hating in a matter of months. Though, if you’re being honest, there’s no potential for growth.
Maybe it’s a job you’re overqualified for, or just doing the exact same thing you’ve been doing all along. And while you like this work, you know it’s not going to give you the skills (or title) you need to move up the ladder or hit other goals you have.
If You Answered No
This can sometimes be the hardest kind of role not to pursue, especially if you’re looking to leave your current job. But it’s important to keep in mind not only what you’re capable of achieving, but also that you never want to take a position that’ll hold you back.
And if you know this won’t help you meet your bigger goals, that means you have them and you know what they are—and you deserve more than selling yourself short.
In this case, it can be helpful to go back to the drawing board. Are you only applying to openings you’re overqualified for? Or, could boosting your skills by taking a class help you apply for positions that’ll move you closer to bigger goals? Fill in any gaps so you apply for a role that’ll allow you to grow.
The last question you want to ask yourself is: Why do I feel like I have to take any job? Sometimes, that desperation comes from feeling like there’s nothing else you can do.
That’s when it’s worth remembering that you don’t have to navigate this process entirely by yourself.
You don’t want any job, you want one you can feel good about. So, be honest with yourself—and remember you deserve better than settling.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images.
Sara McCord is a freelance writer and editor, who most frequently covers the career beat. For nearly three years, she was an editor at The Muse, and she's regularly contributed career advice to Mashable. Her advice has been published across the web (Forbes, Newsweek, Fast Company,TIME, Inc., Business Insider, CNBC and more). Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. Learn more and send her a note through her website, or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author