If your job search isn’t bringing you offers of work (or even interviews) you may have to adjust your expectations a bit. Don’t give up on seeking your dream job, just take a step back and try to find another way into the playing field.
Consider this: the jobs are metaphorically in the ball park. Your degree is your ticket into the park for tryouts but it doesn't guarantee you’ll have what they’re looking for. That is how people could view their job search before 2006. Since then, the ball park has been filled with old people who lost their retirements and are going to continue playing ball, young interns who are now filling (for free) what used to be the entry level positions you would be trying for, and managers who know how desperate you are. To be honest, no one has had to job search in this type of economy so no one really quite knows how to get you into that ball park for your initial try outs. Do you feel like the kid peeking into the park between the rungs of the fence? You’re not alone.
So you decide to take my advice and take your applications back a notch. None of these jobs will be your dream job but find a job that at least keeps you near your goal, allows you flexibility for future job interviews, and keeps your related skills current.
That said, don’t take a job:
- that leaves you in a dead end. These jobs won’t provide you the opportunity to network and they may even be quietly biased against degree holding employees (or women, or married people, or people of color, etc). During your interview they may lie and tell you there is a fabulous career path to management - so you take the job. As soon as you start a job, look very carefully at who is getting promoted. Max took a job in the financial industry (where he wanted to work as management) in their local call center (not the job to which he aspired). He was tied to his phone all day (so he wasn’t able to network at all) and he quickly noticed that everyone in a leadership position was high school graduates who resented people who had earned degrees. He was lied to. There was no career track for college graduates.He was in a classic dead end job. Max continued his job search and was able to get a job in sales with a different financial company within the month. Narrow escape. Always, always carefully scope out the company once you are on the inside to ensure there is a true career path.
- If your new boss is unreasonable about anything before you even start working. Your potential boss might appear to be quite inflexible (e.g., insisting you start working without giving your time to provide two week notice at another job, etc.) These bosses are typically unrealistically demanding and do not care about your well-being. This scenario will leave you in trouble when you get a request for an interview for that job you wanted all along.
- That is a bad fit for you. You may get that sinking feeling that the place of business is a bad fit for you during your interview. The interview questions tell you a lot about a company’s culture and it is often easy to identify an esteem crushing, soul killing business. Or you may realize the work is contrary to your personal set of ethics. For example, if you realize during the interview that part of your job is to care for animals being used for experiments and your beliefs align with PETA you will be very unhappy there. In these cases, you can withdraw your application on the spot.
- That will undermine you as a professional. Well meaning people will advise to take any job. This is very bad advice if the job undermines your image in the long term. Take a job wiping tables in the company cafeteria and the executives will never take you seriously. They’ll always think of you as the cleaning boy/girl. Find a job that will leave you with the status you will need once you land your dream job. For example, working in a high end department store selling the suits to executives might be a job worth considering.
Not every career starts with a “home run” job. Many executives started in the mail room so don’t fret if you don’t land the perfect job right out of the gate. The economy will improve, people will eventually retire, and you’ll be strategically positioned for the resulting promotion.