Should you accept a job you don’t want?

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Whether you are unemployed, or just hate your current job more than a root canal with faulty anesthesia, job searching is a stressful task. You’ve applied to every dream job you could find, and now you sit and wait. You want to feel productive and accomplished about your job search, so you start applying to jobs you are qualified for but have little or no interest in.

Then the unthinkable happens. You get a call from one of your quota fillers, and you think, “What the heck, I’ll go in for an interview and check it out.” Without even trying, you manage to charm the employer into a job offer. Oops. Now what?

Weighing the options
HR professional, speaker, facilitator and career coach Lisa Boesen suggests you consider five important factors when making your decision.

  1. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Are there new things to be learned through the position, challenging situations to manage, or development opportunities?
  2. Are you able to invest both mind and heart into the position for at least two years?
  3. Are any of your reasons for wanting to reject the offer potentially shallow or ego driven?
  4. Balance “what’s in it for me” with “what’s in it for them.” What unique contributions can you offer?
  5. Have you really taken the time to analyzed how the job fits against important criteria like type of work, work environment, work/life balance, total compensation, and organization?

Burning Bridges
Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC in Boulder, Colo., also suggests you ask yourself whether you are able to commit to the position for at least two years.

“If the answer is no, decline the offer,” she says. “An employer makes an investment to bring new hires up to speed. If you quit after two months, they’ve lost that investment, and you potentially burn a bridge and damage your reputation.”

If you accept jobs you are not interested in and quit shortly thereafter, remember that employers and recruiters in your area talk to each other, Steere cautions.

“If money is an urgent issue, take on a short-term temp position or 1099 contract project so you can meet your financial needs while looking for the right long-term fit,” she says.

Casey Alseika, partner at WatsonBarron LLC, an accounting and finance recruiting firm headquartered in Spring Lake, N.J., suggests honesty, plain and simple.

“Be honest with yourself and with prospective employers. Respectfully declining an offer should never preclude you from future employment with a reputable employer.”

Changing jobs quickly, especially when done often, can be viewed as poor decision making and negatively impact your chances at obtaining the job you really want, Alseika suggests.

“Accepting a position you do not enjoy or find rewarding can hurt your performance and your ability to provide strong references for future employers.”

Can you afford to say no?
If you really need a job, financially, can you afford to say no even if it isn’t the right fit? As with so many things in life, it depends.

Elizabeth Lions, executive coach and author of “Recession Proof Yourself!” says, “If the job is completely unreasonable, then yes. For example, a client interviewed for a company that wanted to pay them hourly, work 60 hours and pay them 40.”

Boesen says, “Being financially secure can positively affect your personal outlook, work/life balance and can have a return response of improved engagement at work.”  If you do not have a reasonable alternative, she says, try to find the good in the situation. “Sometimes you have to shake off the grief of unmet expectations and move forward.”

Passive job seekers
If you have a steady job, and you are simply looking for greener pastures, more money, better flexibility, or other perks, you have more options.

Alseika says, “The passive job seeker should invest in their future by researching companies that they would like to work for.” Create a list of companies you’re interested in and make a true networking effort. Get to know individuals in those organizations, and develop relationships with those who can make the necessary referrals and introductions.”

Lions suggests you think through a set of criteria that details why you want to make the move from your current job and what kind of offer it will take to make you leave. This will help you in the decision process.

Don’t knock it ‘till you try it
Billie G. Blair, president and CEO of Change Strategists, Inc. headquartered in Los Angeles, and author of “All the Moving Parts: Organizational Change Management” and “Value Plus: Employees as Valuers” shares an inspiring anecdote.

A friend’s son graduated college with a business major in Los Angeles and had trouble finding work. In the meantime, he accepted a less than desirable job in retail to stay afloat.

“His manager was impressed with his work and promoted him,” Blair shares. “The regional manager was impressed and hired him as his assistant regional manager. Now, he is assistant regional manager of a large retail enterprise for the L.A. area – all within six months.”

The lesson here, Blair suggests, is that accepting a job you don’t think you want can sometimes lead to bigger and better things, if you are willing to put some effort into it and mold it into something worthwhile.

What does it all mean?
Weigh your options, consider your personal situation and think about whether the job aligns well with your ethics. Always be honest, careful and respectful with employers in order to avoid burning bridges. Think about what is important to you, and what it will mean to take the job. Do not settle, but if you are in dire need of a job, try to put your ego aside, and consider the positive sides. If you absolutely have to take it, and end up leaving after a short stint, leave the job off your résumé, but be ready to explain the gap. Whether or not accepting the position is the right move is something only you can decide, so whatever you choose should make you happy. 

  1. …….if you’re on unemployment you have no choice – if you are offered a job & you turn it down (for ANY reason) you will lose your unemployment benefits! (can you say ‘homeless’????)

  2. “Are you able to invest both mind and heart into the position for at least two years?”

    Why two years?

    “If money is an urgent issue, take on a short-term temp position or 1099 contract project so you can meet your financial needs while looking for the right long-term fit,” she says.

    My problem here has been running into the, “So you have not worked full-time or in an office environment for how long?” It’s very disheartening, and I’m starting to believe in the discrimination against unemployed, or in my case under-employed factor in the hiring market today.

    • Two years is kind of the litmus for employers to determine if you’re a job-hopper, meaning that you aren’t serious about any job and cannot commit. I think this is an opportunity though to explain how you’ve kept up office-type skills outside of the workplace and what outside activities have supplemented your work experience.

  3. What matters to me in the end is if I am *enjoying* the work. That matters more than the pay, but in the end there is always a tradeoff. If anybody is not satisfied with their job that’s a trigger to look for another. Check out the new opportunities being enabled for job seekers and entrepreneurs on… might be of interest to those who are computer savvy.

  4. I’d take a job I didn’t think I would enjoy for a short period of time if my financial situation called for it and continue to look for work I truly wanted. To avoid creating unwanted feelings between me and an employer, I’d seek out temporary jobs. A lot of companies hire independent contractors, temps. That’s the route I’d take. Loving what you do and how you spend your time is very very important to overall life joy, peace, fulfillment and success.


  5. When applying for a position, what are the risk vs. benefits of either completing or not commenting to the demographic questions regarding race and gender?

    • I mean, truthfully, you don’t need to self-identify at all and there’s no harm in not doing that. Basically, it asks that so if the government were to audit the company to make sure they were abiding by fair hiring practices, they would have records that they weren’t discounting a certain ethnic group or gender.

  6. In this economic environment, a person who has no job and no income should consider all job offers! Some income is better than no income. Also, you are out in the world meeting people who may see you as a prospective employee for their business. Who is going to see you sitting at home?

  7. That’s fine and dandy, but according to unemployment they could care less if you like or hate the job, it suits your schedule, needs or expectations. If it meets your income criteria, is within an hour comute one way and they offer it…you darn well better accept it.

  8. I would add one thing, if the job is still horrible after 2 years, get out. I stayed at one of these for 4 years, and was more miserable each day. The job didn’t offer any growth opportunity, regardless of how well you worked. Dead end jobs can also be dead end careers if you are not careful. Manage YOUR brand!

  9. Being out of work for quite a while at an age of 62, but having very little debt, I’m considering a job that pays half of what I was making. Your article gave me some things to consider, other than just the pay rate and how I value my time. A very well written article. Thank you!

  10. Well I have been looking for work for over 19 months. I am working part time doing odd jobs. Going back to school has failed because the bar is being set so high with all these so called national exams that have to be passed. Life is unfair but that is the way it is. I have gone for the money. Lots of tech fallout know that we were greedy. We lost everything and felt the pain. Losing everything. People will mill around. It is all a personnel choice.

  11. Pingback: 3 questions to ask yourself about a new job offer : The Work Buzz

  12. Pingback: How job seekers are impacted by long-term unemployment | The Work Buzz

  13. Pingback: How job seekers are impacted by long-term unemployment – My Career Growth

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