Here at The Muse, we spend every day trying to help people find their dream jobs (and then succeed at them!).
But sometimes, working at your dream job isn’t feasible. Maybe you’ve found a company that you love that isn’t hiring right now. Maybe you need to develop a few more skills to do the kind of work you really want to do. Maybe you’re still figuring out what your dream job even looks like.
So, what to do when you can't snag the ultimate job? Find the next best thing.
There are plenty of benefits you can get out of a potential job, even if it’s not the perfect position. If you’re having no luck finding your dream job, try looking for an opportunity with some of the following qualities instead. Not only will you be gainfully employed, but you’ll be moving at least one step closer to the career of your dreams.
1. A Job With a Potential Mentor
If you’re feeling at a loss when it comes to the direction of your career or aren’t finding any jobs that look inspiring to you, perhaps you don’t really need a dream job, but rather a dream mentor—someone to help you navigate the confusing world of your career and find the right path for you.
So, when you’re researching potential jobs, dig a little deeper to learn about the other people at the company. Do some research on the person you would be reporting to (or even his or her boss) to see if he or she inspires you or would be great to learn from. Look on the company’s staff page or search LinkedIn for other people who work there to see if any of them look like they could be role models for your own career growth.
On the flip side, if you already know someone you really look up to, see if that person’s company is hiring. Even if the job isn’t exactly what you were looking for, the opportunity to work more closely with him or her could really pay off in the long run.
2. A Job Where You Can Gain New Skills
The best way to keep growing while you’re seeking out your dream job? Find a job where you can keep learning!
Whether you need new skills to ultimately score the job you want or you’re just biding your time until it comes along, looking for a job at a company that actively supports professional development will never do you wrong.
Some companies will tout their commitment to this on their websites, but in many instances you’ll have to ask about it during the interview. Try: “I’m really interested in learning more about [skill] to become even better at what I do—does the company have a professional development policy, or is there someone else here I may be able to learn from?”
Alternatively, look for a position where you’ll be gaining new skills on the job. Perhaps as a salesperson position at a startup, you’d also be helping out with marketing initiatives—and learning skills like SEO and copywriting. Or, in landing a job as an office manager, you’d have the opportunity to plan department events. Transferrable skills can be found in surprising places, so don’t discount a job because it doesn’t necessarily make sense.
3. A Job Where You Can Make Connections
If you haven’t snagged your dream job yet—maybe you just haven’t met the right person. While it’s incorrect to think that connections are all that matter when it comes to getting a job, they certainly can’t hurt. So, finding a job that will give you lots of opportunities to expand your network could be a great step toward where you ultimately want to be. (Think sales, marketing, business development, or community management positions—where meeting new people is literally written in the job description.)
This can be an especially good option if you’re looking to change industries or geography—you can use this “starter” job to kick-start your network in that area, opening doors that could ultimately lead to your dream job down the road.
4. A Job You Can Shift From
Perhaps your dream job is within reach, but you just need a little more—or a different type of—experience. If this is the case, look for a position you can use to get your foot in the door, and then maneuver up or around the company to eventually land your dream job.
Of course, when taking this strategy, it’s important to make sure the company you’re considering supports growth or movement. There are a couple of ways to go about figuring this out. If you’re still in the research stage, look at a couple current employees’ LinkedIn profiles to see if any have had multiple positions during their tenure there—this will suggest that the company commonly promotes from within. If you’re in the interview stage, it’s definitely worth bringing up when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. Of course, you don’t want to seem like you’re not excited about the position you’re applying to, so try something like, “I want to keep my longer-term career goals in mind. What sort of opportunities for growth are there here?”
5. A Job With a Culture You Love
In many cases, the environment that you’re working in can have a much bigger impact on your happiness than the work that you’re doing. So if you’re striking out finding the exact position you want, instead think about what sort of company would make you want to go to work every day.
Do you want to work somewhere with flexible work hours or the option to work remotely? Do you want a team that takes breaks to play foosball and regularly goes to happy hours together? Or maybe a company that buys you lunch everyday?
Whatever it is, spend some time finding an okay job at an awesome company. You’ll buy some time to learn more about yourself and what you enjoy doing—and in the meantime have a great time spending your days in an office that makes you feel good.