Saturday, May 16, 2009

Should You Take A Job That You Really Don't Want?

A month or so ago a chick in Northern California came very close to tweeting herself out of a job. Her snarky – and seemingly entitled – attitude about a fantastic career break outraged the Twitterverse out there who interpreted a casual tweet that she thought was among friends with a really spoiled attitude toward an opportunity that others would have given their right arms for.

But it opened a new question for me…which is “should you really take a job you don’t want?” In today’s job marketplace, it seems terribly ungrateful to look a gift job offer in the mouth. But let’s face it, just because the job market is squeakingly tight that doesn’t mean you should take the first job that’s offered to you, especially if the very thought of it makes you want to hurl.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might legitimately want to say “no” to a job offer:

1. It represents a gigantic step backward. Or at least a really nasty stall. Sure, there’s a recession going on, with very high unemployment rates in most places. But that doesn’t mean you should stop growing professionally. We deserve to keep moving forward in our lives and work. One of these days the recession is going to lift and when it does we’re going to want to be further along in our career path – not further behind.

2. You feel like taking the job will be slumming it somehow. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and seeking out really great workplaces filled with coworkers you can respect and learn from. Socially, we’re under a certain amount of pressure not to get “too big for our britches,” too full of ourselves. So, we can keep these feelings between you and me. But, again, let’s face it: Professional growth comes from working with people you can learn from and who can learn from you. If there isn’t that feeling of mutual elevation, you’re going to feel boxed in by reduced expectations. And…not coincidentally, your coworkers won’t be appreciating you at all. In fact you may end up feeling resented and rejected by a group that has rightly spotted you as not belonging. And you end up feeling really bad about yourself. For no reason.

3. You get the strong feeling that your hiring manager is a little too smug about taking advantage of the buyer’s market. In some areas, talent is on a fire sale (pun unintended). And many companies are able to pick up some great people who might not have been available otherwise. But that doesn’t mean that your potential new supervisor has to rub it in. Or lord it over you. Or make you feel small for being a little needier than you might have been otherwise.

4. You just plain don’t want to do the job. If the very notion of the job potential makes you mad, resentful or vomitacious (yeah, I know that’s not a word, I just like the way it sounds), don’t do it. You’d be taking away a job from someone else who would really dig it. You may have outgrown the level of the job that’s being offered to you, and that’s what’s making you mad. Or you’re burned out from having done that job too much for too long. Or you’re really ready for something fun and exciting. Notice the bad feelings. But don't let them spin you into confusion, send you into an orbit of rage or frustration, or at the very least cause you to commit a regrettable Tweet. Just take them as data points or even symptoms of a rapid growth spurt that even you might not have been aware of. And make your choices accordingly.

Only you will know whether a job is right for you. And even though the job market may be on life support right now, it is still okay to just say no to the offer if it just feels wrong. You’re not being spoiled or selfish. In fact you’re being generous. You’re throwing it back for someone else to catch it – someone who is totally right for that opportunity and the opportunity will be totally right for them. There will be someone on the planet who will never know you but who will owe you a debt of gratitude.

And, as for you, you will be free to say "yes" to the job that is right for you. And won't you be glad you had the stomach to be able to say "no" to the job you really, really didn't want?