Deciding whether or not to accept a job offer
By Edie Fossey
So you’re unemployed and need a job. Perhaps you haven’t been working for quite a while. Then you see it: a description for the perfect job in an area you have a deep interest. In fact, the flowery description of the job makes it look fabulous! You interview for it and…suddenly it’s yours for the taking.
Of course you ask yourself—and you should!—if this is the right job to make your career blossom. Is it a good idea to accept this job offer?
Much of today’s job-search literature is about getting a job; there’s little discussion about not accepting work that isn’t right for you. And so, especially if you’ve been out of work for a while, it may be tempting just to take a job that looks good on paper even if you think you see red flags waving in the wind.
It’s extremely important to take a clear-headed look at each job offer you receive during your career. You need to make sure your career won’t be sidetracked. By accepting a wrong position you can, at best, be prevented for a time from progressing in your career, and, at worst, also experience a profoundly demoralizing and painful period in your life.
I’m not an employment expert, although, like everyone who works, I’ve learned a lot from my own and others’ career experiences. And so I’d like to share some reflections and considerations about accepting offers.
Don’t overlook potential downsides
Today’s careers can take a more circuitous path than the linear route of the past. A circuitous path does allow for growth and, although not linear, each new position potentially can provide professional experience that can be applied in successive endeavors.
However, there are dead-end jobs that don’t provide growth. In these, there generally won’t be the opportunity to expand your skills. Or the skills you learn won’t be transferrable into another position.
Taking the wrong job—a job that is a dead end rather than just a detour—can be not just discouraging, but damaging. It can delay your advancement if, while you are trying to make this dead-end job work, opportunities come and go to accept worthwhile positions.
Here is something else to consider: Most of us know that networking is a great way to move forward in your career by building a base of professional contacts, including and especially people who mentor you and who work behind the scenes to help you advance in your career. Accepting a job that doesn’t provide you with the opportunity to interact with others – if you will be isolated, perhaps pecking on a computer all day—would be an important downside.
Another consideration: Would this job, even if just a filler position, hurt your professional reputation? Furthermore, any job, permanent or temporary, shouldn’t go against your morals and values. It can be destructive to your psyche to do work that goes against your beliefs.
For example: Are you questioning whether the product is safe? Or is genuinely beneficial to clients? Working for a gambling establishment while holding the opinion that gambling destroys lives would be a contradiction in values.
What if you are required as part of your job to buy and use the products you are selling? Ask yourself: Am I an employee or a customer? What happens to your employment if you don’t want or can’t afford to buy the products you are supporting?
Additional reasons to say “no”
Here are some other reasons to run from a job offer:
- The hours would create an unhealthy work-life balance for you (like 12-hour days or an unusual schedule that prevents you from enjoying a regular sleep pattern).
- There are discrepancies between the job description and the job described in the interview.
- The interaction with you in the interview is unprofessional. Perhaps you’re immediately offered the job and asked to decide whether to accept it before you’ve even figured out if you want it.
Examine your motives
I recommend looking at your motives for taking a job. Money, I believe, is not enough reason to sign a contract. The money might be good. But good money doesn’t necessarily make for a good job.
It’s important to pay attention to your feelings and analyze what’s happening. It’s important to recognize when the anxiety of being without income can push you to overlook warning signs. Perhaps the beautifully written job description makes a company look exemplary, but you find it difficult or impossible to verify this information.
This same anxiety can cause you to rationalize discrepancies that emerge during an interview. A clever hiring manager can figure out your motivations and play to them by, for example, promising quick advancement, bonuses, or the ability to help the public. She or he can appeal to your emotions and mislead you into accepting something you might not otherwise.
Pay attention to why you might want to accept a job. If your decision is not motivated by being inspired by the opportunities a job offers but by a desire to avoid being without a job any longer you may be asking for trouble.
Determine what your reservations are to taking a job. Take a careful look at each one to see, first of all, if it’s a valid reservation or just jitters. If a particular reservation does appear valid, and it’s an important consideration, see if you can address this with the employer. If not an option, ask yourself whether this reservation is important enough to not take the job.
My advice is to keep your eyes and ears open. Under circumstance where you suspect you may already have accepted the wrong job, pay special attention to your surroundings. Observe how your coworkers interact and how the boss treats them and you. You deserve professionalism. Above all, pay attention to things that give you pause. There are many details you need to weigh carefully. Make sure to pay attention to your feelings during each step in the process. These feelings are clues to making the right decision about whether to accept a job. Later they can help you decide whether to keep a job you did accept.
My hope is that by sharing what I have learned that I enable PDC Post readers to avoid making honest but damaging mistakes.
Edie Fossey, a marketing graphics project manager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.