Should You Take a Job That Isn’t Perfect Right Now?

Walker Brown

Finding a job takes a significant amount of time and effort, especially when you consider the amount of time spent developing a resume, searching through online job boards, filling out online applications, and going through the interview process – often interviews with multiple recruiters and hiring managers. What happens after you’ve invested all of that time and discover that the job you’ve started isn’t what you expected or wasn’t advertised? Perhaps you have the ability to quit as soon as you start, or you have limited options and must stay with this job until you can find a replacement – which means going through the entire process again.

As a career coach and educator, I’ve discovered that there are typically two explanations. The first is a situation in which a person is looking for work and is genuinely surprised to discover that the job they applied for and accepted is nothing like the job they applied for. This is frequently due to a lack of proper research while looking for work and/or failing to ask the right questions during the interview process. The second explanation involves a person accepting a job they know is not a good fit in the hopes that it will change over time. For example, they may have more experience than the job requires but are only matched to an entry-level position. Alternatively, the individual may accept an entry-level position that requires fewer qualifications than they possess in the hopes of quickly progressing within the company.

Regardless of why someone finds themselves in a position they did not expect or want, waiting and hoping for the job to eventually improve through advancement within the company can be extremely frustrating. This is why I have always recommended that a person accept a job offer only if they are willing to perform the job tasks exactly as required now, rather than hoping for a change in the near future or believing that they will be able to advance beyond their current position any time soon. Why? Because there is no guarantee that a new employer will share the same viewpoint or be willing to make a quick change. The only aspect of your career that you have control over are your actions, and in order to make the best decisions, you must have a clearly defined purpose and plan.

Expectations and Perceptions Play a Role

Because of the current economic climate, finding a job in many industries has become difficult and/or extremely competitive. As a result, getting an interview can be extremely difficult, and finding a new job even more difficult. It is understandable for someone who has been looking for a new job for a long time to accept a job that is less than ideal. However, starting a new job under those conditions means that reality will eventually set in, and you will either be happy for a short time, stuck and locked in a job you do not want, or surprised and find that the situation eventually improves. Accepting a job for any reason other than finding a good match for your career necessitates examining both your expectations prior to accepting the job offer and your perceptions after you begin.

While looking for work, you should have a clear set of expectations. Determine what you expect from a job, including the bare minimum in terms of responsibilities, salary, and other benefits or perks. The expectations you set should also be realistic, which means you should not expect a job to lead to anything more because there are no guarantees. You might want to think about what a potential employer expects. When an employer hires someone for any reason, the expectation is that the new employee will accept the position and be willing to perform the required tasks. Employers rarely hire someone with the expectation of quickly moving them out of that position. While you may expect more from a new job, if your expectations do not match those of your employer, you may have a rocky start. Perceptions are formed as a result of this. If a new employer perceives you as starting with an expectation of more, you may be viewed as a threat or worse from the start.

Developing a Career Goal

When you accept a job offer, there is only one certainty you can count on: a position for the job tasks listed in a job ad and/or described during the job interview has become available. The employer has matched your background and skills to this position, either because they recognize your current and future potential – or because they hope you will accept the job because they have a market advantage. Some employers may interpret your acceptance of a job as proof that you require it and have little bargaining power.

Regardless of whether the reason you were offered the job was correct or incorrect, accepting and starting the job means you are now expected to complete the necessary tasks. You may never know why you were offered the job, and the only way to avoid ending up in a situation you don’t want to be in is to develop a career goal and a well-defined job search strategy. The strategies listed below will assist you in developing your career purpose and plan.

  • Establish Career Objectives: This is the first step in gaining control of your career. Long-term goals can help guide decisions about professional development, and they can help you consider what skills you need and jobs that will help you grow both personally and professionally. Short-term objectives can be used as checkpoints along the way to ensure your career is on track. Goals are necessary to help you establish a specific purpose for the ongoing advancement of your career. Then, as you review job postings, you can decide if it aligns with your purpose and will help you meet your short- and long-term goals.
  • Determine Your Priorities: When looking for work, you may have more than just your career goals in mind. For example, if you have recently lost your job or if your job is about to end, you may have pressing financial concerns. Or you may have recently taken a job with a pay cut and now need to find another job to compensate for the lost income. If, on the other hand, you do not have a pressing need right now, you should still prioritize your goals by determining which goal or goals are the most important.
  • Create a Timeline: Your goals define what you want to do with your career and how you can advance it in small steps. The urgency of your goals is determined by your priorities. For example, finding a job immediately may be a goal and top priority. That should be your primary focus, and it should be part of your weekly time management plan. After that, you can set aside time each day to complete a specific task or something related to your priorities and goals.
  • Create Plan A and Plan B: It is always a good idea to have a plan and a backup plan. For example, you may accept a job out of necessity even though you know it is not a good fit for your long-term career goals. Instead of accepting the job and becoming resentful or upset, your backup plan could include continuing the job search. If you do not have a backup plan in place and discover that a job is not working out for you, and you become frustrated about the situation, it may have a negative impact on your performance.

When you have a set of goals, prioritize those goals, create a timeline for completing the top priorities, and develop a proactive working plan, you have established a career purpose. Having a purpose means you have control over your career, even if you have to make decisions out of necessity, and that sense of control will help you stay focused. As you begin your job search, you must decide what is best for your career – but don’t talk yourself into anything. Instead, learn to make sound decisions based on your priorities and objectives.

More importantly, when accepting a job offer, accept it for what it is and act as if it is the best it will ever be. I know far too many people who accepted a job offer that wasn’t a good fit, often due to unforeseen circumstances, and then convinced themselves that it would improve in the future. That is typically not a good way to begin a new job because it can lead to tension and negative feelings. Do your homework and research all possible sources, including online employee reviews, if you are considering a job offer. This will help you set realistic expectations and reduce the possibility of being surprised if the job is not what you expected. You can accept a job that isn’t ideal; just make sure you understand why you accepted it and what you intend to do next with your career.