The following was originally published on GovLoop.com and can be found here.
There are things in life that never change. Youtube videos of cute kids or cats will always be entertaining, there’s never a bad time for coffee, and, unfortunately, the job market always seems to be getting smaller and smaller.
At First 5, we know how stressful it is to be looking for a job: find exactly what you’re looking for, send out 50 resumes and never hear back. It can be disheartening, overwhelming, and make you start to question your value. So when, by some miracle, you get that first official job offer, it can be so tempting to blindly email back a resounding “Yes!” without really weighing your options. You just want a job, right? Who cares if it isn’t your dream job, it’s a job!
There are times, however, when taking a job is necessary to get your foot in the door and there are times when you need to pause and evaluate if it’s the right step towards your career goals.
When to Just Take the Job
If you’ve been on the job market for a while and you have yet to add a full-time gig to your resume, it may be important to compromise, even if it’s not necessarily your dream job. Here are some reasons you may just want to take the first offer you get:
Networking Options: It may not be your dream job or even remotely related to the field or agency you want to be in. But if the offer that you’re currently debating will put you into contact with people who may be able to help you move around within or outside of the agency, then consider accepting the offer.
You could be spending that first year making important contacts and adding valuable work experience to your resume.
Positive Work Environment: When you went in for your interview, hopefully you were able to pick up on at least some of the general office environment. Or maybe you can sense a certain tone from emails and phone calls you’ve received.
Whatever the source is, if you feel that you match well with the office environment, and that you would fit right in and be happy, then maybe you should take the job. It can be difficult to find a workplace where you fit in, and working somewhere that you’re comfortable is much more desirable than at a larger, more highly-acclaimed agency that makes you feel miserable.
Practicality: Young adulthood is rough. Student loans start piling up, rent due dates become an all-too-real nightmare, and you start realizing just how expensive your social life really is.
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to have a source of income, whether or not that source is exactly ideal for you. So if it seems that the real world is closing in on you, and you start to panic, you should probably take the job.
When to Pass on the Job
All that being said, sometimes, the job just isn’t right. If that’s the case, then don’t force yourself to accept a position based on desperation. Feel it out, and make an informed decision about what is really best for you. Here’s why maybe you shouldn’t just walk through the first door that opens:
No clear pathway to success: The job may have great perks, but they aren’t the only reasons you should be accepting a job offer. If this job has absolutely nothing to do with your future career goals, and if it has no solid connections to offer, turn it down.
Look at where you could be in a year if you took this job versus if you didn’t take it. Would that year just be a year wasted, moving in the opposite direction of where you want to be? If your dream is to work for the Smithsonian, don’t waste a year or more of your life at an accounting firm, just because they offered it to you. Stay firm on what you want to do with your life, and don’t compromise your dreams for a paycheck.
No mission alignment: Every company or agency should have it’s own mission statement that broadcasts what it is trying to achieve. Maybe you were told the mission statement during your interview, or maybe you saw it online. Either way, if you don’t believe in what this job stands for, turn it down.
This can range from anything having to do with beliefs to political standings. If you can’t see yourself full-heartedly agreeing with what the agency believes in, then don’t waste your (or their) time by accepting.
Money talks. Your skills are worth something–that’s why you got that degree, after all–and you have to stand up for yourself and the value you bring to the office. If this job isn’t paying well enough for you to even just get by, then you need to pass on it.
It may be a risky move as there’s no guarantee that you’ll get another job anytime soon. But wouldn’t you rather wait a little bit longer for a better opportunity that actually realizes your value? I think that in the end, it’ll be worth it.
Whatever you do, don’t make a rash decision about your first job offer. Maybe you really want a federal job, or you’d love to work for a non profit. Whatever you want to do, there are thousands of opportunities to help you get there. It’s an exciting, nerve-wracking, amazing time in your life, so don’t rush it! It’ll happen in time, and if you trust your gut you’ll feel like you don’t really have to compromise much at all.
For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial