In a Recession… Should You Hold out or Sell Out if You’re Offered a Job You Don’t Really Want?

Posted on August 21st, 2009 by in Speaking Professionally

You need a job. You just got offered a job. The problem is, it’s not your dream job. Should you take it, or should you hold out until the perfect opportunity comes along? After all, we’re in a recession and it could be a long time until another offer comes your way.

It is often a mistake to treat any job offer as a simple question of yes or no.  Of course, you may have to accept the job if bills are piling up and you have to put food on the table. But if that is not the case, there are other issues to consider.
Here are answers to the questions that will be on your mind when that less-than-perfect offer comes your way:

I was just offered a job, but I’m not sure if it is exactly what I’m looking for. It feels like a detour on the career path I planned before the current recession hit. Should I turn it down, even though there aren’t lots of options today?
If it is financially possible to hold out for the job you want (or a job leading to what you want), do so.  If you settle for what you can get, you’ll be unhappy from the start, and likely do poor work. And if the interim job is demanding, you will limit the time and energy you have to search for the better job.

Before you accept or reject a new job, though, you need a grasp of what you really want. If you don’t know what you hanker for, you won’t know if you’ve found it. Put meaningful thought and time in to assess what you seek.

Look beyond the pay and title and consider the learning opportunities, geographic location, cost-of-living, promotion potential, freedom or latitude, exposure to higher-ups, decision-making ability, and anything else that may be important to you.

What if my financial situation is forcing me to accept it?
Be appreciative of the opportunity and accept the offer graciously.  Work hard to earn whatever you are making, regardless of how little or less it might be. Remember that you are filling in gaps in your résumé, contributing to society, and supporting your family. Those are all valid, honorable things to do. But privately vow to “pay” yourself in skill building and knowledge. With that outlook, you can add value to yourself every day by earning a dollar, saving a dollar, or learning a new skill.

The interim job serves a purpose for me right now, but I’m afraid of what other people will say or think when they hear I’ve accepted it.
Avoid pressure to evaluate a job based on what others want you to do. Instead, evaluate it based on what you want. Listen to people who care about you, but decide for yourself – not for them.

If I accept the job and then leave in a few months because something better comes along, how much damage will I do to my career and reputation?
The sooner you tell your boss you’re leaving, the sooner he or she can look for a replacement. A reasonable person and good boss will understand.
But be fair, since no one wants to be surprised when you just don’t show up one day. Have the courtesy and courage to say, “I’m not going to show up.” Thank your interim boss for hiring you for the job, and offer to help through the transition if doable.

The best time to leave any job is after you’ve learned all you can in that position, not just for more money.  Leave for goal-achieving, not tension relieving-reasons. Goal-achieving means, “I’ve learned what I need to know and I want to take and test my new skills in a different area.” Tension-relieving is, “I can’t stand my co-worker, I have to get out of here.”

Be sure to stay in touch when you’re in the new job. After all, you and the boss you left might have an opportunity to help each other in the future. Research shows that 25% of people who leave a company rejoin it at some point, if bridges were not burnt. There is no reason to alienate on either side in this situation. The only repercussions should be if you lie, cheat, steal, while on the job or in leaving it. (And of course, you are not about to do those things.)

Until the minute you walk out the door, keep up quality work. Don’t let it diminish in anticipation of your departure. You don’t want people to remember your work going downhill.

And another thing. If the interviewer for that “perfect” job you’ve been waiting for pressures you to leave your interim job too quickly, without respecting the quality of the work you do there, speak up and say that you need to give proper notice, wrap up your projects, and leave on honorable terms. Any ethical hiring manager will respect you for taking that position.

What is the benefit of turning down the “not so perfect job” and pursuing a better opportunity?
If you refuse the less-than-perfect-job offer, you have more time available to look for the better opportunity. You salvage your pride a little, and you’ll be happier when you achieve the goal of finding the right job. But it is only time well spent if you know what you want. If you don’t know where you want to go, you can never reach any goal.
Will taking a job that is not the most “ideal” affect my career in the future?
Benton: If you make the decision out of laziness or lack of confidence, then, yes, it will affect your career because laziness and lack of confidence affect everything now, and in the future.

But taking a lesser job can be justifiable and wise if you understand the reality of the condition and take it upon yourself to:
1) Learn all you can from the job; 2) Stay positive; and 3) Work to get back on track in the future. Don’t look, hope, or wait for someone else to do that for you. With that kind of outlook, taking an interim job becomes a proactive, positive activity instead of a dead end.

What if the job that isn’t so great, pays well?
Accepting a job just for money is like marrying just for money – there is a price you pay for your decision. Money should not be your main motivation, especially early in your career.  Skill-building, broadening business acumen, and deepening your knowledge should be.  Plus you cannot put a price on waking up every morning and doing what you love to do.

Realistically though, the financial bump can get you solvent, improve your pay history, and boost your ego.

Always keep in mind the choice you made and vow to not get trapped into golden handcuffs where you can’t leave because you are making too much, despite your job dissatisfaction. Write on your calendar a date no more than two and a half years out. If you are still stuck in a high-paying but unsatisfying job, that is your date to move into a satisfying situation.

Have America’s top CEOs been known to accept something that isn’t the perfect job?
Absolutely, most everyone has, at least in their own minds. They’ve been given, and they’ve accepted, less-than-desirable positions. The smart ones squeeze every opportunity to make something out of these positions for the time being, while working to change things.

The truth is that you might be given a “rotten” job as a test to see how you will handle it, what you will do with it or make out of it. Anyone can do well when things are perfect, but the good ones do well when things are far from perfect. Leaders always emerge stronger from difficult positions, so a job that presents real problems could represent an opportunity to excel.

It is a bit like the decisions that actors and actresses must make before they become top stars. My guess is if you researched every role Johnny Depp has ever taken, there are some real doozies in his past that he took to learn, gain confidence, and enhance his skill. And he was probably passed over for some roles he wanted, just as CEOs are. But the reason he can choose the juicy roles he wants now is that he knows what he wants – and that kind of knowledge comes from experience.

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  1. Marion said on June 20th, 2010 at 5:07 am

    I agree 100%…..

    Reply

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