I have a friend who's been job searching for the past year and a half. Passively job searching, that is.
See, she doesn’t love her current role. But, as she’s told me multiple times, there are benefits to sticking around. She has health insurance, she likes her co-workers, and it looks good on her resume to have a few years at a good company.
Now, I work in the career space, so I spend most of my days telling people that they should love the work they do. And I truly believe this—after all, we spend so much time at work that we deserve to enjoy and feel fulfilled by it (at least most of the time). Plus, as writer Kat Boogaard wisely points out, while it’s OK to like your job because it pays well, “life’s way too short to put up with misery for the sake of piles of cash.”
But there’s a whole range of experiences between a nightmare job and your ultimate gig. I’m also aware of the value our jobs can and should realistically provide us—and that those values change over time, in different roles.
So here’s the truth: Every job you have doesn’t have to be your dream job. It can, simply put, just be a temporary stepping stone to greater things.
Take my friend as an example. While I’m tempted to shake her and say, “Why keep doing this to yourself when you could be so much happier elsewhere?” I also think she makes a good point. She’s still figuring out what she wants in her career, and for now, her job provides her with everything she needs to do just that—financial security, opportunities to grow and meet new people, and experience at a successful company.
Here’s another example: Maybe you know exactly what your dream job is, but in order to get to it you have to put in your time in another not-so-dream role. Or, perhaps you can’t afford to pursue it just yet for financial or personal reasons, so you’ve landed something that—for the time being—allows you flexibility and a stable income.
My point isn’t just that sometimes it’s OK to settle for a role when it’s beneficial for you, but also that these jobs are just as important as those dream-worthy ones you'll have down the road. These stepping stone roles will be the ones that shape who you are and who you'll become. They’re the jobs that will give you the confidence and skills you need to ultimately have a successful career.
So, I’ll leave you with this one tip: If your current job is your stepping stone, make the most of it while you can. That may mean using your robust company network to build long-lasting connections, or attending trainings or conferences your company provides, or taking on challenging projects to build skills in other areas. Remember, the goal is that you won’t be doing what you’re doing forever—so make decisions now that you know will have a positive impact later on.
Because, like my friend, you might one day stop passively job searching and actually take a step toward your next move. “Future you” will be grateful you didn’t waste any of the opportunities you were given.
Photo of person thinking at desk courtesy of AJ_Watt/Getty Images.
As Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Motto, CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author