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Should You Hold Out for a Better Job?

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During my commute this week I ran into two young women who have just started new jobs.

One graduated from college this past June, and the other had graduated a year ago. Talking to them brought up the question: How long should you wait for the job you really want?

Now, if you need to get a job right away for financial reasons, then this is not applicable to you. But for those who have a little more financial freedom or are currently in jobs they don’t like, but don’t need to leave, it is an interesting question.

Both these women are still living with their parents and had no pressing financial need. One waited an entire year—admittedly a stressful one—to snag the type of job she really wanted. In her case, a job with a top firm doing research on biotech stocks—the industry she is passionate about. She had several other offers over the year, and several disappointments. She seemed thrilled with her new post—from her brilliant boss to her interesting work to her great salary.

The other woman spent the summer going through the same ups and downs—promising interviews that didn’t pan out, leads that went nowhere, and dozens of applications. She accepted an offer at a company she described as fun, and is working with people she described as fun. Her actual tasks aren’t exactly what she was hoping to do, but she is learning, and hopes the company will move her into the department she is really interested in at some point.

I started thinking she shouldn’t have taken the job. And while most of us aren’t just out of school and not burdened by financial considerations–or a very difficult current work environment or toxic boss we are nearly desperate to get away from–we should be asking ourselves some of the same questions as new graduates should.

Should You Wait for the Perfect Job?

There is no one answer, of course. You shouldn’t get caught up in the idea that there is a perfect job out there, or that one job and only one job (or company) can make you happy. But it is important to really consider how much a particular job does line up with that ideal before you accept an offer because you are getting worried or starting to believe that your ideal job doesn’t exist or because your parents are nagging you or all your friends have gotten jobs. If those, or any fear-based or negative emotions are driving your choice, you might want to reconsider.

Dan Schwabel, a career coach focusing on Millennials, gave this advice in a Forbes post:

Don’t settle for a job you’re not passionate about. A lot of people are pushing college graduates to just get a job to pay the bills and that isn’t the greatest advice because research shows that you won’t last long there if you do. Furthermore, no smart company is going to have someone who is only there to make money because there’s always someone else who wants it more. When you’re passionate about your job, you’re excited, you work longer hours and end up accomplishing much more. Life is too short to settle for a career that you hate!

Younger workers are in an ideal position to hold out for something they really want. But employees of any age should consider some of the same things before they accept the job. If you can put aside the financial issues, do so, and ask yourself these questions to help you decide whether to sign on or move on.

  • How similar are the tasks and responsibilities of this job to those I would have in my ideal job?
  • What will I be learning in this role that will bring me closer to the ideal job or career I want in the future?
  • How will these colleagues and managers expand my knowledge, skills, and network?
  • Will it be more difficult, easier, or neither to move from this job to the one I want next?
  • How do I feel about the people who interviewed me? Am I overlooking any negative impressions or bad signs because I am getting worried about finding a job?
  • What impact will leaving this job in a year have on my career, my life, or my morale?

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.