Dr. Ryan Giffen
Going through a job search has always been a taxing task that takes time, effort, and energy. One could even describe this process as unpaid work with uncertain outcomes.
Things have become even worse during the COVID-19 crisis as many job seekers feel they should settle for any opportunity that provides a paycheck. Even though job openings in the U.S. are hitting new record highs, 88 percent are concerned about the lack of jobs in their field.
Various reports and employers expressed their worries that job seekers aren’t interested in work or prefer to get by from unemployment benefits. Although that might be true in some cases, jobs are still down 22 percent for low-wage workers.
Moreover, job seekers often face high expectations and preferences that reveal the ongoing inequality in the post-COVID era. For instance, even though only 24 percent of college graduates will graduate with a STEM degree, more than half of recruiters are interested in hiring this profile of candidates.
It shouldn’t be surprising that 50 percent of companies have seen an influx of job applicants with a master’s degree for entry-level positions. Many job seekers feel forced to accept low-paying works or undervalue their abilities to enter or return to the world of work.
If this sounds familiar, you might be willing to give your time, skills, and effort to something that wouldn’t be good for you in the long run. Although you might think that accepting a job offer that doesn’t align with your abilities is only a short-term solution, it could affect your goals more than you think.
The Risks of Taking a Job that doesn’t Align with Your Objectives
Everyone had to consider accepting a job that isn’t compatible with their values or abilities at least once in their lifetime. Circumstances often force us to go after money and safe opportunities, even if they aren’t what would make us happy or closer to our goals.
As every decision has consequences, this one has too, and you should consider how that may affect your career.
1. Developing Skills that aren’t Related to Your Career Goals
Although you can put each skill to use and turn it into a valuable asset, not every ability will make it to your resume and cover letter. If you choose jobs that prevent you from developing and improving capabilities critical for your profession, the knowledge you gain could be irrelevant.
Resumes typically include only those skills and experiences that are job-specific and can help you perform particular activities and tasks better. Hence, if you spend a lot of time in a position that provides no value for the job you want to pursue, you might not have the necessary capabilities and background.
2. Moving Further Away from Your Ideal Job
Sometimes we have no other choice but to accept jobs that could be the head start for our careers or provide a safe paycheck. If you find yourself in this situation, think about the timeline and when you’ll move on from your temporary employment.
The more time you spend in a job role or position that doesn’t align with your career objectives, the further away you’ll be from what you want. Industries are changing quickly, bringing new trends, requirements, and expectations.
As a result, you could find it much harder to keep up with how fast your field is transforming and leaving you out of touch with the latest standards.
3. The Stress of Juggling Work-related Identities
Jobs far from your values and professional goals can cause stress and make it hard to adjust to the transition. A 2017 study named Dealing with various incompatible work-related identities: the case of artists examined how artists cope with having many potentially conflicting job roles or positions.
The study analyzed the transition from making a living as an artist only to taking on additional work outside the creative industries that affect these professionals. The results show that artists struggle with their own psychological stress and regret of failing in their field. But they also have to create a feasible story that allows them to “sell” their transition to others.
Even though the professional path is becoming increasingly non-linear, employees often have to switch between multiple jobs, hindering their possibility to establish one. Because of that, you should strive for opportunities that move you closer to your goals and answer your career goals.
How to Identify Job Offers that Align with Your Professional Path
How often have you found yourself torn between multiple job offers, each offering something beneficial, making this a challenging decision? If you’re choosing between two or various job offers, here’s how to determine which job offer is the closest to your career goals.
1. Ask the Right Questions
Things are still in motion, even after you receive an official job offer. Avoid being shy and ask questions that make it easier for you to decide whether to accept.
Job pursuit is a lengthy process, often leaving no time for job seekers to research each employer thoroughly. But when a possibility becomes real, you still have the right to examine and determine if it’s the best option.
Although your skills and experience seem to be a good fit for a particular organization, consider whether you share the same values and if the company culture works for you. – Does your moral compass align with that of your potential employer?
Think about the day-to-day tasks and if you could see yourself going happy to work every day. Moreover, analyze a company’s performance in the last five years and how they handle challenges. That could tell you a lot about their future and whether their goals align with yours.
Remember the interview, the atmosphere, and how the recruiter treated you. Did you feel mutual respect and feel comfortable in that environment? Also, consider your future responsibilities and whether you could imagine yourself there five years from now.
However, you won’t be able to answer all these questions alone. Some require examining company reviews, and others to reach out to HR.
2. Analyze the contract and scour the offer letter
Start with the contract and offer letter you received. It’s where you’ll find the most valuable information. Look for details, such as the minimum time the company expects you to stay with them.
Read about the notice period and how much in advance you should notify your employer if you want to quit. Ensure you have all the information about the vacation days, sick leave, and additional free days.
That should help you determine whether the company offers fair conditions and treats its staff with respect. If you spot any red flags that could make your tenure challenging or hinder your goals, discuss this with the organization and take every issue vigorously.
3. Speak with the Company’s Employees
Many companies encourage the candidates to reach out to their employees and inform themselves about the workplace atmosphere, career possibilities, and attractive benefits. That way, workers serve as brand ambassadors, hoping to give high-quality job applicants the final push in decision-making.
Use this opportunity to get a sense of the company’s values, culture, and coworkers. Moreover, this should help you determine if what you read in the job ad description aligns with reality.
For instance, the company’s employees can tell you if it’s genuinely a 40-hour workweek or you’ll often have to stay longer. Discover what you can expect from team meetings and performance reviews.
If the company doesn’t allow reaching out to its workers, find online reviews and information to clear your doubts.
4. Inform Yourself About Learning and Development Opportunities
Professional growth is critical for your career goals and adopting new skills. Think about what you want to achieve in the following years and what could help you get there. Compare that with what each company offers to identify what’s the most compatible opportunity.
Inform yourself about employee learning and development programs and training. That should help you determine how each organization fosters the progress of their staff and where you would be most likely to reach your professional objectives.
5. Check the Perks and Benefits
Salary might be one of the most significant aspects, but the benefits and perks the company offers could make an initially low package satisfactory. It’s why you should inform yourself about what else it includes and if it aligns with your financial and personal needs.
At first look, it might seem like a job offer doesn’t get close to ensuring your material security or allowing you to reach your goals. But the benefits (often not included in the offer letter) could compensate for a seemingly low salary.
Think about your career and personal objectives and compare them to the company’s perks. For instance, they might provide annual access to libraries or training tailored to your needs. Hence, pay attention to every benefit and think about how you could use it to secure and improve your future.
When choosing between multiple job offers, take your time and ask the questions that will give you the necessary insights to make a reasonable decision. Go through the contract and check whether the job description aligns with reality.
Moreover, determine your non-negotiables and go towards the offer that matches your personal and professional objectives. Avoid settling for a job that provides the paycheck only if that means moving further away from your ideal career and milestones you want to achieve.
About Dr. Ryan Giffen
With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another. Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast, a show helping everyday employees build stronger relationships with their bosses and organizations.