A friend of mine recently interviewed for a job that was perfect for her in many ways. The role fit her past experience perfectly, the leadership team was inspiring and smart, the team members seemed great, her commute would have been shorter!
There was just one thing holding her back: The company was in an industry she just couldn’t get excited about.
This may seem like an enviable problem to have, but her situation illustrates questions that often come up when I talk to job seekers: Is it more important to love your position or love the company you work for? Can you be happy at work even if the organization isn’t personally exciting to you? Should you take a position that matches most of your job requirements or hold out for an opening at your dream company?
The answer to all of these, of course, is: It depends. If you’re debating an otherwise great offer at your not-quite-dream company, here are a few questions to ask yourself to decide what’s right for you.
What Are Your Career Values?
This sounds like a big question, but what it basically boils down to is: What’s most important to you in your work? If it’s getting along with your co-workers, having a supportive boss, and putting your best skills to work, maybe the company you work for doesn’t matter so much. Or, if it’s having well-respected names on your resume or deeply believing in the mission of what you’re doing, you’re probably going to place a premium on the employer you work for.
By the way, none of these values are better than the other—it’s all about what matters for you. If you need some help defining your values, try this free exercise on MyPlan.com.
Will This Company Open Doors or Close Them?
Let’s forget about the decision in question for a moment, and fast forward a bit to your future career. Grab a pen and paper, and make a list of the roles and companies you’d feel really excited to have five or 10 years from now. If you’re not totally sure where you want to end up, that’s OK—this is more of a brainstorming activity than a life planning exercise.
Once you have the list, look for patterns: What do all of the roles or companies have in common? Then, turn back to the company you’re debating. Would this role help you move toward these dream positions, or further away? Does it even matter? Putting the company in the context of your overall path can be a really illuminating way to see whether the decision will be right for you in the long run.
What Are Your Other Options?
In my friend’s case, she had quite a few. She had great experience in the high-demand field of marketing, she lived in a large city, and she had just begun her search. In short, she had reason to believe that this wouldn’t be the only offer to come her way.
But many of us don’t have the luxury of being so picky—maybe you’re in an extremely competitive field, you live in a smaller town, or you have a specialized background and don’t tend to see openings that fit very often. No, I’m not saying you should settle for a job you don’t love, but you may have to be realistic about what your other options are.
Have You Done All Your Research?
As with anything, it’s easy to make a snap judgement about a company based on what you know about it at first glance. It’s a FinTech company? That sounds boring. More than 10,000 people work there? That can’t be the entrepreneurial environment I’m looking for.
But before you dismiss a company, do some research. Dig deeper and you might learn that FinTech is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world—that’s not very boring! Or that the massive company has a rotation program that lets you spend 20% of your time on your own projects. Don’t let what you think you know hold you back from a role that otherwise might be really great for you—take time to talk to your prospective co-workers about what they love about the place, poll your network for their take, and ask a whole lot of questions. Maybe you’ll learn that, no, this isn’t your cup of tea. But maybe you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
Unfortunately, we can’t expect every aspect of a job offer to be perfect—they all come with pros and cons. And yes, the company you work for (and put on your resume forevermore) is a big consideration, but it’s not the only one. Spend some time thinking through these questions, and hopefully the path forward will become a little bit clearer.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.