As someone who just came out of a multi-month job search, I completely feel for anyone who is going through the same process. There’s no way around it: Finding a new job is really hard.

In addition to going through the agony of searching and interviewing, you eventually have to decide when you’re going to pull the trigger and accept a job offer. While it feels wonderful to get an offer, it can also put you in a stressful situation: How do you know when to take a good (but less-than-perfect) role and when to continue holding out for The Job—in other words, your dream career?

This can get especially tricky if you—like me—just finished grad school. You want to put your education and new degree to good use, but often, it can take longer than you expect to find that perfect role.

To help you make a final decision, here’s are some thoughts that I found helpful as I was going through my own search.

You Should Consider Taking a Job If


It’s a Stepping Stone

Sometimes a particular role isn’t perfect, but it will help you get the experience necessary for your dream position. And if it’s going to get you closer to the position you ultimately want to end up in, then it could be worth taking—even if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for.

This is especially true if you’re a career changer. I’ve found that changing industry and job function at the same time is very difficult, and I’ve been much more successful when I try to change just one aspect of my job at a time.

For example, if you work in finance and want to move to a technology company, consider looking at technology roles at finance companies or finance roles at tech companies. It may not be your ideal role, but it can help you get the transition started.

You Don’t Have a Clear Picture of Your Dream Job

If you don’t know what you want to be when you “grow up,” that’s OK—I certainly don’t!

However, if you don’t have a good sense of what your dream job is or why you want it, you may need to take some more time exploring your professional goals. If that’s the case, consider accepting a job that may not be everything you’re looking for, but could give you good insight into things you do and don’t like about the workplace—for example, whether you prefer working on high-level or detail-oriented projects.

Logistics Force Your Hand

It’s nice to think abstractly about holding out for a perfect role, but let’s face it: Sometimes financial or health insurance needs will require you to take a job that isn’t really what you’re looking for.

And that’s perfectly OK—being financially responsible certainly doesn’t mean that you’re giving up, but rather, allows you more flexibility to search for a position that meets all of your criteria down the line.

However, You Should Consider Holding Out for The Job If


You’re Qualified for It

First, you need to determine whether or not you’re truly qualified for your dream job. While you may be able to find some flexibility around certain qualifications (e.g., the job description calls for five to seven years of experience, and you have four), there are often some hard limits to who a company will consider for a particular role.

For example, your dream position may require a master’s degree or relevant work experience in a specific industry. If you’re confident that you meet those qualifications, then it’s probably in your benefit to hold out for your desired job—your challenge, rather, is finding a way to connect with the company to showcase those capabilities.

You Have a Firm Understanding of What You’re Looking For and Why

If you are going to consider declining job offers during a search, it is important to have a clear picture of what offer you will accept. In order to wait for the perfect role, you need to really know what you want in a role and why.

If you don’t know what you’re holding out for, you could end up waiting forever for that mysterious role to materialize. Deciding what components are a must-have in your dream job will help you understand when to pull the trigger and accept a role.

There Is a Path to Getting the Job You Want

Can you map out a process for getting the role you want within the timeframe and budget you’ve set aside for the job search? For example, do you have a few key contacts in the industry, have you made a list of dream companies, or have you spoken with a few relevant recruiters?

If your plan makes sense and is realistic, it could be worth holding out so that you can follow up on the leads you have—which may be able to help you land your dream role.

Very few job offer decisions are easy—but thinking through your situation this way can help make it much clearer.


Photo of two roads courtesy of Shutterstock.