Over the years, there have been a number of articles written on when it’s okay to quit a job on your first day. While this is obviously not something that should become a habit, everyone is entitled to an occasional mistake in their career path. If you realize on day one that you’ll be miserable in your new role each and every day, preserving your happiness and sanity becomes more important than preserving your tenure.
Many recruiters will say that it’s a candidate’s market, and those with the right skills who search in the right places are bound to receive multiple job offers from which to choose. However, job seekers hear this advice far more often than they actually experience it, and for whatever reason, those who need a job the most sometimes don’t receive offers. When they finally do, waiting for several more offers before making a decision may not be an option. While accepting the first job offer you receive may not be advisable under most circumstances, there are always exceptions. Let’s look at a few.
The most obvious reason for accepting the first job offer that comes your way is financial need. Unfortunately, active job seekers don’t have the same luxury as passive job seekers – enjoying the salary and benefits a current job offers until the right opportunity comes along. For those who have been unemployed for an extended period, when bills start piling up, desperation sets in. While this does not make candidates less qualified or employable, it may force them to consider employment options that are less than a perfect fit for their background, skillset and expertise. Though career experts will preach about the necessity of spending months researching and networking before making an impetuous career decision, one can assume they’ve never been faced with an overdrawn bank account following months without a paycheck. And while accepting your first offer may lead to a job change shortly down the road, a black mark on your tenure will be easier to overcome than a black mark on your credit history.
Though standards for job tenure may have relaxed a bit in recent years, long periods of unemployment tend to raise a red flag with hiring managers. While the reason may not be the fault of the job seeker, the inevitable question will be why he or she hasn’t returned to work sooner. Unfortunately, the longer the unemployment streak continues, the harder it is to land an offer. For those in this situation, finding the perfect role may be far less important than finding a way to transition back into the workforce. Though you may not remain at the new job long before moving on to a more suitable role, it’s easier to find another job while employed than unemployed, and the short tenure on your resume won’t look any worse than adding months to your unemployment streak.
Getting a Foot in the Door
Not all of us are fortunate enough to be offered a role that’s a perfect fit right out of the gate. Sometimes you have to prove yourself first. For those who are able to land a job at the company where they want to work, even if the role isn’t ideal, it can still serve as a stepping stone. Once employed, there may be opportunities for networking with those in other departments or cross-training in other roles. One advantage of this strategy is that continuing to target your ideal role while employed alleviates the financial pressure of unemployment, allowing you to be more selective in your next career move. A second advantage is the preferential treatment you may receive as an internal candidate. While coworkers transition out of the company leaving more desirable positions vacant, management may look more favorably upon a current employee with an outstanding track record when backfilling the position you had hoped to land months earlier.
The Chance of a Lifetime
For a select few job seekers, the perfect opportunity may present itself as the first job offered. For those lucky ones, delaying acceptance in order to weigh other options could mean losing an opportunity that may never come again. When former Google CEO Eric Schmidt recruited Sheryl Sandberg as the company’s first business unit general manager, he stated, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.” Sometimes opportunity only knocks once, and those who hesitate will get left behind. If you believe the first offer is the right one, it’s better to accept it and be wrong than to let it pass you by and regret it for the rest of your career.
The line from first-time job seeker to retirement is never a straight one. It’s full of twists, turns, successes, failures, joys and disappointments. The one thing we all have in common is that we have to start somewhere. What differentiates us is the point from where we start. Though there is much advice given on transitioning from being unemployed to employed, the path we choose is often dictated more by our circumstances than by widely held beliefs on what leads to career success. As a rule of thumb, when beginning your job search, weigh your options as much as your circumstances allow. If you choose to accept the first offer, whether it’s the perfect opportunity or out of desperation, learn from it, grow from it, and consider it the first step to a successful career.
John Feldmann is a Communications Specialist for Insperity Recruiting Services in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity’s brand to both business professionals and job seekers.