Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Here's the Surprising Reason You Keep Landing Jobs You Don't Love

Sometimes, you’ll say just about anything to get a job.

You apply for a certain position, but once the hiring manager has you in the door, he or she suggests that maybe you’re a better fit for another position. “Are you interested?” he or she asks.

And you—eager to put your best foot forward and not disappoint the hiring manager, even though you actually want the job you originally applied for—say, “Yes, of course.”

Then, the interview.

“Because of some recent department restructuring, the person in this role will also handle the majority of our customer complaints. Is that something you’d like to do?” the interviewer asks.

And again, eager to please, you say, “Sure, I can do that”—even though you swore you’d never work in customer service again.

The problem? You’re a people pleaser.

You suppress your desires to satisfy the desires of the other person—in this case, the hiring manager. Especially when you’re job hunting, this can be a dangerous and debilitating habit.

Instead of objectively looking at each opportunity and trying to determine if it would be a good fit for you, you try so hard to say everything that hiring manager wants to hear—to the point that even if it’s not a great fit, you seem like a great fit. So, you get the job. Because you don’t want to disappoint anyone, you accept it. And you end up unhappy, dissatisfied, and, in many cases, on the hunt for a new job.

It’s not typically something you can immediately switch off, but you can reframe your mindset to learn how to focus on what you want during your job search—and ultimately, end up with a career you love. Here are some tips.

Establish Your Deal-Breakers

Before you hunker down to start applying to jobs, take some time to think about what you want—and what you definitely don’t want.

Are you trying to get out of management and break into marketing? Your resume is probably full of management experience, so recruiters will likely see you as a better fit for supervisory roles. But if you’re serious about shifting gears, you have to seriously commit to saying no to anything other than a marketing role.

Or maybe, the distinction is a little more vague. For example, maybe you want to be in marketing, but you'd prefer writing to be your main responsibility—not making cold calls. If you’re in a job interview and the hiring manager mentions that 80% of your day will consist of cold calling, you have to be prepared to walk away.

Draw up a list of your absolute deal breakers and review it before every interview. You’ll be able to better focus on what you want and what you don’t want—which will make asserting yourself easier.

Practice Saying “No” Out Loud

You probably wouldn’t go into an interview cold—having spent absolutely no time preparing or rehearsing answers to common interview questions or stories about your experience. That’s simply a recipe for you to jumble your words or forget important details.

In the same way, if the first time you ever attempt to say “no” out loud is actually in the interview, you may experience the same tongue-tied sensation. Instead, you should prepare yourself to say no in a way that’s gracious, but firm.

Imagine the hiring manager asks you if you’d be willing to consider a sales position, even though you applied for project manager position. Before you go into the interview, practice how you’d answer: “At this point in my career, I’m looking to switch into project management, and while I appreciate you considering me for a sales role, that’s not something I’m interested in right now.”

This goes for evaluating responsibilities in the role, as well. For example, the interviewer may ask how you feel about traveling two weeks a month. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, practice telling the truth: “I’m not comfortable committing to that level of travel. Is there any room for adjustment in that requirement?”

Once you’ve said “no” out loud a few times on your own, you’ll feel more comfortable—and confident—saying it to an interviewer.

Recognize Who You’re Not Pleasing

Pleasing others during your job hunt may give you satisfaction in the short term: The hiring manager will be ecstatic that you’re willing to consider a different position. You’ll get a job offer. Everyone on the team will be thrilled to have you join the company.

But if you weren’t honest about what you wanted in the job, it won’t take long for the long-term consequences to set in: You’ll feel dissatisfied in your role. You’ll dread going to work each day. You’ll feel like your real talents aren’t being used to the fullest extent.

While you’ll be pleasing everyone else—the hiring manager, your boss, and your co-workers—you’ll be letting down the most important person in the equation: you.

Set out on your job search with that long-term satisfaction in mind—the satisfaction that starts with recognizing and going after what you want in a career—and you’ll be much more prepared to advocate for yourself and land a job you love.

Photo of woman watching sunset courtesy of Shutterstock.

A logo with "the muse" in white text.