It’s a classic job search dilemma: You’ve been looking for a new role for a while and finally something breaks—your friend tells you he can get you an interview at his company, or a former colleague says you’d be perfect for a role on his team. The catch: You’re not one bit interested in the work you’d be doing there.
Part of you thinks it’d be crazy to turn down an opportunity that looks great on paper. After all, you’ve been looking for a full-time gig and there’s someone offering you one. But if you’re honest, you know that going down this road means settling for a position you don’t really want.
A friend recently came to me with this very problem. In her case, she was interviewing for two jobs on two different timetables. Company A had offered her a position, and she could list off several pros about it:
- She was in debt and it included a competitive salary.
- She was unemployed and she’d no longer be out of work.
- She wanted to be appreciated and she’d be somewhere that picked her as its top choice.
However, she rattled off the good aspects with about as much enthusiasm as I’d have for a grocery list. (Scratch that—I definitely get more excited about avocados than she was about this role.) She sounded defeated. She was bummed out that taking it would be the “smart choice,” when she clearly didn’t want to work there.
So, what was on her con list?
- She wanted a creative role—and it wasn’t.
- She wanted a thriving company culture and it was a tiny team with an all-business approach.
- She was really excited about Company B, and if she took this job, she’d have to pull out of that process.
A lot of what was driving her to “just accept” was fear of the unknown. The Devil she knew (an unfulfilling job), was—at face value—less scary than the Devil she didn’t (the undetermined amount of time she’d remain unemployed).
But as she weighed out those two factors, she started to change her mind about what was, in fact, riskier. Sure, taking a job that’s been offered to you will always seem like a safer bet than waiting around for something better. But one of the most important things you can do is separate out whether or not it’s the smart bet.
Case in point: I once took a job photographing autoparts in the back of a warehouse, because after months of applying to literally hundreds of jobs in a small town at the height of the recession, I knew just how hard a full-time role was to come by and I needed the money. I could objectively state reasons why, if I didn’t accept, I’d regret it.
I wasn’t driven by fear or fatigue—I was focused on facts—which is how I knew that even though I was accepting a job I wasn’t excited about, I wasn't settling.
That’s different than jumping at the first opportunity you get because you’re afraid it’ll be the last. It’s different than just being eager for the whole process to be over already. If that’s your motivation, in the end, it won’t be worth it.
Because if you sign on for a job you don’t actually want, you’ll dread it. Maybe not the first day, or the first month, but sooner rather than later. And next thing you know, you’ll find yourself browsing openings all over again.
So, if you’re tempted to go after a role you don’t truly care about because you’re tired or because you’re scared, remind yourself that the moments of relief you’ll feel will quickly be replaced. You owe it to yourself to find a job that you’ll be excited about, long after you give your two weeks’ notice.