This post is part of a blogpost series where I respond to career-related questions sent to my anonymous question box, as part of an initiative I announced on linkedin.

Sharon's profile photo with a small subtitle "ask sharon" and a main title "what are you wondering?". There is a large question mark graphic to evoke curiosity and confusion. Includes topical question "should you ever settle for a job you aren’t excited about?" at the top of the image.

Anonymous Question

I got hired for a job, but I'm not excited. If you were in my position, would you take it because you can finally pay the bills or is the lack of excitement a sign that this is not the right role for you? Or would you never have found yourself in this position because it's stupid to apply at random places?

Context: I knew I wouldn't excited by the role from the start, but I got so frustrated with the job search that I lowered my expectations and applied to positions at companies that I knew I wouldn't be happy at. Nonetheless, I continued down the hiring process and before I knew it, I got hired.

The pay is good, the title is nice, and I'm sure I'll learn lots but they don't offer good time off or do much to build a strong company culture.

My Thoughts

Firstly, I want to acknowledge how stressful, exhausting and overwhelming it can be when you're looking for a job. Depending on your situation, you might even be pressed for time due to financial reasons, which further adds to the sense of urgency and the stress of it all!

You bring up a variety of great points about the role. The more positive ones: the pay is good, the title is nice, you will learn lots, and you have an offer in hand. The more negative ones: you're not excited about it, the time off policy is not good, and they don't prioritize building a strong company culture.

Additionally, you have some considerations in your search: you need a job so you can pay your bills and you are getting pretty frustrated with job search overall.

Alright, let's get into it. When should you accept a job and when should you keep looking? How do you work through job search frustration? Here are some of my thoughts 👇

Accepting a job you're not excited about

If you were in my position, would you take it because you can finally pay the bills or is the lack of excitement a sign that this is not the right role for you?

Generally, I'd say that the timeline you have to find your job is a determined by your personal financial runway and your mental health needs.

Financial pressure is real and sometimes you may have to compromise quite a bit in order to pay the bills. Having said that, I would highly recommend taking as much time as you can reasonably afford to find a job that is solid match for your needs.

It's likely that you'd end up being miserable if you take a job you know you don't like. Once you've joined a company, it can feel difficult to leave and you'll have to go through the job search process again if you want to pursue something different.

Another reason you might be on a tight timeline to find a job is that your current role/team/manager/company is causing you significant distress, and you may need to exit that situation as a result. In this case, you may need to consider leaving your job before you secure your next role.

Sometimes it can be worth it to leave the company and address your personal needs, give yourself some time and space to reset, identify what you need in a job/team/company and then tackle your job search. However, leaving your job without something lined up isn't always an option for everyone, and it can have financial implications. If you think you might do this, take some time to think it through before going down that path.

Playing the numbers game when applying to jobs

Or would you never have found yourself in this position because it's stupid to apply at random places?

I've gone down the path of applying to a lot of places. One time I spent an entire night shoving my resume into probably 50+ job applications. At the time, I thought I was increasing my chances of getting a lead, by throwing my resume into as many places as possible.

I was pretty desperate for a job and was just hoping that something could come out of it. If I apply to 50+ places, surely even just one place will want to interview me?

What ended up happening: I didn't hear back at all from most places, a few of them sent me rejection emails weeks or months later, I don't even remember if I got interviews from doing that and overall I just felt terrible! 😂

I wasn't catering my resume to the jobs I applied for, I didn't think about which companies I was applying for...I just wanted something...anything! And so the companies screening my resume just got some generic information from me that didn't indicate a compelling reason for them to speak to me.

Since that whole experience, I've done a lot to revamp my job search and interview process. I've found much more success in focusing on a small number of jobs and really "going in" on my applications for them. What does that mean?

  1. Research the company
    • What is their mission?
    • What specific problems are they trying to solve?
    • What are their values?
    • What is the company culture?
    • What are they building / what services are they providing?
  2. If you're still genuinely interested in the company after researching about them, thoroughly read the job posting
  3. If the job posting speaks to you
    • Write down your relevant skills and experiences for each individual requirement/nice-to-have item in the job posting
    • Create a version of your resume (1 page in length highly recommended!) that only contains these directly relevant pieces you've identified

If you'd like an article on how to specialize your resume for a job posting, you can express your interest by submitting a request to my question box. If there's interest then I'll write one :)

You can think about your job search like a conversion funnel. Here are some example numbers:

  • Mass Applications: applying to a bunch of places with the same/similar resume and with minimal company research
    • 50 applications → 1 interview
    • 2% interview conversion rate
  • Targeted Applications: applying to a few places with a targeted resume for each and with more in-depth company research
    • 3 applications → 2 interviews
    • 67% interview conversion rate

It's more effective for effort, time and emotional reasons to go the Targeted Applications route, in my experience!

One more thing — consider reaching out to your network and close contacts for opportunities. You might get some extra insight into the companies they work at and the opportunities they are aware of. Just be mindful of etiquette around reaching out for jobs: be reasonably polite and thoughtful in your asks!

Preparing for your job search

To make your job search efforts more effective (i.e. more likely to lead to interviews), you should first get to know yourself. What is it that you're looking for?

Here's an article I recently came across that I think brings up some great points: A Developer’s First Steps To Finding a New Job: Part I, Know Yourself. It may say "Developer's", but the content is applicable to anyone seeking a job.

The main takeaway: write down what your needs are, then start looking for jobs that fulfill what you need.

Here's a Notion template I created with some questions you can ask yourself before (or during!) your job search: Questions to Ask Yourself Before Beginning Your Job Search.

In Summary

My suggestions:

  • Take your time to find jobs, as much as you can reasonably afford to
  • Write down exactly what your job needs are
  • Only spend your time and energy on companies that fulfill your needs
  • Ensure your resume is specifically targeted to the job and company you're applying for
  • Make sure you're asking questions during the interview process that help you understand if your needs will be met

Interviewing is a two-way street. Often times it can feel like you're the one who needs to impress the company, but likewise the company should impress you!