People see a lot of job ads when they’re looking for work. If you’re following the best practices suggested by most — if not all — experts, you are looking for the right job. You should not be looking for just any job.
Some people may misinterpret that to mean they should look for the perfect job, but that’s probably not the best approach. After all, few jobs meet a person’s definition of perfect and it usually changes over time. A job that you think is perfect may eventually turn into a nightmare if a new manager takes the reins or working conditions change.
So, how do you know a job is right for you — even if it’s imperfect. I reached out to Lindsey Pollak, who is the author of Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work. Pollak, who is a career and workplace expert, briefly talks in her book about embracing imperfect opportunities.
What should you expect from a job?
“What I mean by imperfect opportunities is that it can be really helpful in a job search or in your existing job to take the pressure off of perfection or the dream job concept,” Pollak told me. “It can be really stressful to find the perfect job or to have the idea that you have to love your job every day.”
Pollack said you should have measured expectations about the job you find. “If you expect every day to be perfect, you’re always going to be disappointed.”
Instead, she said it’s good to focus on finding a job that will let you keep learning and growing — even if you run into challenges along the way. A good question to ask yourself is if you’re building the skills that will be applicable to other opportunities.
“You never know what you can learn from an opportunity,” said Pollak.
How do you evaluate a job?
“The most important step — which I completely screwed up in my own career – is that you just have to start applying,” Pollak told me. “You never know which one will be the best fit until your start applying.”
One of the most important dynamics to keep in mind during a job search is that the hiring process is as much about you learning about employers as it is about them learning about you. Obviously, you have the opportunity to turn down the job even if it’s offered to you — for good reason.
Pollak also said it’s important to also research the company on your own, including looking up employees or past employees on LinkedIn and asking them questions.
Something else to keep in mind is what Pollak called your “non-negotiables,” which are the things you must get out of a job and employer.
For example, you may need a certain salary or a specific work arrangement to say yes to a job.
“Don’t bend on that, but you might need to bend on something else to get a job.”
Pollak said it’s important to limit your non-negotiables to only a few items. “It can’t be 10 things.”
Taking the plunge
You’ll ultimately need to decide whether to accept or reject a job. In her experience, Pollak said she’s seen more issues arise from people who hedge or wait too long to make a decision about an offer. “I think sometimes you have to trust your gut.”
Again, you need to have measured expectations about how much you’ll enjoy your job from day to day. In most cases, you can likely take actions on your own to increase how much you like the job, said Pollak. One strategy is to focus on how the job is moving your forward in your career.
Of course, there are exceptions. Issues such as a toxic boss, discrimination or harassment could cause a larger issue that would need to be addressed.
If you really can’t make the job work for you, Pollak said the good news is that norms have changed a lot over the years and job hopping isn’t as much of a red flag on resumes or profiles as it used to be.
“When I started working in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you would essentially be blackballed if you left a job early in your career, but I think that’s gone,” she said. “I think that stigma is far less than it used to be.”
Of course, you don’t want to make a habit of it, Pollak added.