About five years ago, I was interviewing for three different jobs. I received two job offers. I’ll refer to these offers as Job A and Job B.
Job A was for a startup that seemed perfect for where I thought my career was heading at the time. Job B was for a position with an established publishing company where I felt like I could thrive, but there were certain duties that I had yet to master.
I accepted the offer from the startup where I worked for a few months as a contractor. During those few months, I realized nothing about the job, or what I did in it, looked like the image it projected online. When the contract ended, Job B circled back with me. They asked if I was still interested in the position. I said yes and worked there for over a year. The things I did not know, like how to use certain software programs, my manager taught me. I took notes during every meeting, learned a lot about how the business worked, and enjoyed coming into work every day. I even saved print copies of the projects I worked on; work I am proud to have as part of my portfolio.
Knowing what I know now, I would have picked Job B first. But how could I know that job was actually the right one for me?
How do you know when you have found the right job? When you have offers from multiple positions in front of you, how can you tell which is perfect, or perfectly imperfect, for you?
Most people don’t immediately find the perfect job — and that’s okay.
Lisa Andrea is the owner of The Financial Cookbook, a financial and career empowerment coaching company for women.
Andrea dreamed of becoming a CPA and working for a Big Four accounting firm. She went through the schooling, earned her master’s degree, and took the job. Despite this position being her dream job, she wasn’t happy in it. After six months, she left for another job she never imagined working in. That unimaginable job led to two other jobs that she also loved.
“Most people don’t find the perfect job right out of the gates,” Andrea says. “That’s not meant to discourage you. It’s actually meant to encourage you.”
Dream jobs, Andrea says, are often found along our career journey. Rather than wait for a perfect job, the better approach is to find something that interests and challenges you.
Today, Andrea is extremely happy at her job, even if she would never have picked it for herself. She also feels confident that this role will allow her to experience even more amazing accomplishments in the future.
“Start your career and see where that career growth, and life, takes you,” Andrea says. “You’ll often find that you enjoy a career you never even thought about doing.
Pick a job that matches one of the following criteria.
If you have a few job offers and are unsure which is the “right” choice, Andrea advises selecting a role that matches at least one major criteria area for your life.
1. Good income
Will this job be able to bring in good, solid income? Is there added flexibility, such as flex scheduling, in this position?
You should be passionate or interesting in learning more about this topic and industry.
3. Growth opportunities
Can you gain experience at this job that will help you get the job you actually want? Are there opportunities to grow in this organization?
“If it doesn’t match at least one of these three things, it may not be the right job,” Andrea cautions. “However, if it matches two, or all three, dive in headfirst. It’s a winner!”
An imperfect job can be a helpful support step.
Career coach Jenny Logullo often finds that seeking the perfect job signals we are chasing something. It may be a title, prestige and clout that surrounds an impressive business, or a specific experience. Ultimately, the perfect job tends to be subjective depending on your lived experiences, values, privilege, and overall exposure. Our view of what we perceive the perfect job to be is subject to change as our priorities, interests, and needs change over time.
“As you grow in your career, discovery naturally follows,” Logullo explains. “You will find out what matters most to you and can decide to pursue it for a living.”
Logullo recommends viewing imperfect jobs through the lens of acting as a support step. An imperfect job may not be considered popular or valued by society. However, it can go a long way in allowing you to gain industry exposure, offer opportunities for skill-building and networking, and to rebuild your workplace confidence.
Consider your core beliefs.
As you begin to reframe the narrative of an imperfect job as a support step, reflect upon what matters most to you.
Some of these core beliefs may include the ability to support yourself and your household, accessing certain resources and benefits, learning new skills, and being interested in what the organization does and the value you bring to this position.
How you define your career, and success, should not amount to checking off boxes.
It’s also important not to look at any job as something you need to do to check off an imaginary box. In the Medium article “Life Isn’t About Checking Off Boxes,” writer Barry Davret drives home the argument that a checklist only serves us best when it allows us to reach a goal. The checklist, however, should not be the goal. Otherwise, we will struggle to deviate from daily obligations and will not get a chance to experience life.
“A healthy decision isn’t about hitting all the checkboxes or thinking too long-term but feeling some form of relief or excitement about your next move,” Logullo says.
Over time, Logullo notes professionals will learn how to channel a growth mindset. This allows every experience to be leveraged as part of our career story.
“Your career isn’t exactly a position, but experiences can help you make deeper and meaningful connections down the line,” Logullo says. “Exposure to markets, positions, and functions in an organization is the best career wisdom you can gather in just about anything you’ll do.”