When it comes to a “safe” job versus a “dream” job, it can be hard to turn down the first if there’s no guarantee of the second.
So, the question becomes: If you get an offer that you’re not too excited about, should you take it, or keep looking?
The answer really depends on your situation. There are circumstances in which it makes sense to say “yes:” whether it’s for experience, much-needed cash, or because it’s a stepping stone to a career you do love.
Remember: Not every job needs to be your dream job, but every new position should offer some advantage over your current role.
Here’s your guide to deciding if an only somewhat exciting offer is worth taking.
Yes if: It Will Help You Achieve Big Goals Down the Line
If it’s common practice in your industry to pay your dues with a not-so-great role for a couple of years, then you probably need to accept it for a bit—just make sure it’s part of a larger plan.
No if: You’re Delaying Important Goals by Taking It
If your life’s ambition is to be a designer, and what you’re being offered is a social media manager position (with no chance of changing roles later on), it’s probably in your best interest to turn it down.
Yes if: The Pay Is High Enough That It’ll Solve Other Big Problems in Your Life
If you have a ton of student or credit card debt, are trying to save for a down payment, need to move out of your parents’ house, or have a health problem that needs funding, a high-paying job can take the stress off and make your life easier (until you’re physically and mentally ready to pursue a career you love).
No if: The Pay’s Not a Big Improvement From What You’re Earning Now
Switching jobs should be for career advancement, much more interesting work, or a significant salary bump—not for another boring position at the same pay level.
Yes if: You’re Going to Get Career-Building Experience
Even if the job description sounds dull, if you can get essential experience and learn some valuable skills, it’s worth going for it. Then, after you’ve bulked up your resume, you can start looking for more exciting jobs where you can use your new talents.
No if: It’s a Lateral Move
If it’s a job similar to the one you have or have had, and there’s no potential for gaining valuable experience or skills in your field, take a pass.
Yes if: There’s a Real Opportunity to Move Up
Maybe you’ll be the receptionist now, but the company does interesting design work and is known for hiring internally. Or, there’s an exciting management job that could be yours in a couple of years. Sometimes, you have to do something you don’t want to in order to get what you want—but just make sure there’s a prize worth waiting for.
No if: It’s Truly a Dead End
If the offer comes from a company where the people in your dream job have been around for decades and show no signs of leaving, or you know they’ll never consider you for an internal transfer, decline.
Yes if: You’re Unemployed and Have Been Applying With No Success
A lengthy period of unemployment can raise red flags for potential employers. If the months are going by and no offers are coming in, take it. This allows you to make money as you look and not end up in a far more desperate situation.
No if: You’re Gainfully Employed and Don’t Think This Will Make You Any Happier
There’s no advantage in changing things just for the sake of a change. Keep looking for a role that’ll make a positive difference in your life.
If you decide to accept an offer you’re not excited about, remember two things. First, keep the reason you’re doing it front and center, and remind yourself that you’re here in pursuit of a larger goal. This will help you not feel stuck forever in a career you’re not happy about—and force you to make a change when you’re no longer gaining fulfillment from it.
Second, put in as much effort and enthusiasm as if it were actually your dream job—not only will this help you succeed later on, it will make your work atmosphere a bit more bearable.