When should I settle for less than my dream job?

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DO YOU WONDER if you should give up on your search for your dream job and settle for something less? How do you make that choice?

Alan and I were sitting in a coffee shop while he unloaded for a solid 15 minutes about how much he hated his current job. He worked in an environment that stole his energy and time. He didn’t agree with the direction the company was headed. His boss demanded longer hours, and the pressure to perform was increasing. Alan was burning out. He was angry with his employer, and even angrier with himself for not already having his dream job. You see Alan had a very clear picture of what he wanted along with a concrete plan to get it. But he was feeling so burnt out by his current job, that when he sat down to implement his plan, he would feel too overwhelmed or exhausted to get anything done. This fueled his anger and frustration. I put down my cup of coffee and asked Alan what he wanted. Without hesitation, he said, “I just want out.”

Have you ever been in Alan’s situation? Or perhaps you know someone who is having a similar experience right now?

If you have been trying and trying to get your dream job, but feel like your current job is getting in your way, what do you do? I recently posted about how long it can take to get a new job in the current job market. Once you are experiencing this form of burnout, it can take much longer. In Alan’s situation, he remained stuck and unable to take any positive action for 6 months. Then he decided it was time for drastic measures. Alan sought an interim job, a transition job. Once he secured a new job, he got unstuck, energized, and back in action. Alan began to move forward toward his dream job at last.

Seeking an interim job can be scary. Many are afraid they will get stuck in the interim job, and never move forward to the job they’d love. Here are 3 key strategies that you must employ in order to make the interim job work for you.

1. Make a conscious decision up front that this will be a transitional position.

Once in burnout, many people see the choices before them as: keep doing what they’re doing, or settle. They never see that there is a third option: find an interim job, better than their current job, but not yet the dream job. This transitional job can help you alleviate the burnout you feel while providing you with financial support. Those freedoms alone can restore your energy and free up your time to resume your search for your dream job.


2. Give yourself a time frame or deadline.

There is a risk that once you take the interim job, you will get comfortable and stop looking for the job you really want. The way to prevent yourself from settling is to give yourself a deadline. Plan your job search strategy with that deadline in mind. Do you need training? Schedule time for that. Do you need to build your network with the right contacts? Allow time for that. It is perfectly reasonable to set a 1-2 year deadline, and then work toward that goal. This doesn’t mean that you can’t secure your dream job in less time, it simply gives you a target to work toward.


3. Set clear criteria for your interim job.

The criteria for your interim job need to be as specific as for your dream job. I recommend starting with your dream job description, and then loosen the requirements. Be sure your “Must Have” qualities are things that you need to maintain your sanity: consider your income needs, schedule needs, and insurance needs. Perhaps your interim job is a stepping stone to the job you ultimately want. One client of mine worked in insurance sales, and wanted to make a transition to working with the elderly. While she went to school, she sought an interim job as a sales person with a company that provided products and services to senior citizens. Once she completed her schooling, she had already been working in the industry that was part of her dream job.


Following these strategies allowed Alan to recover from burnout, and take positive steps toward obtaining his dream job. He didn’t have to give up the dream, and discovered the interim job was just part of the plan to get where he wanted to go.

Have you considered taking a transition job? Might an interim job actually help you move toward your dream job faster and with more energy? How can a transition job fit into your dream job search strategy? I invite you to share your thoughts on my blog.

My clients rely on 1-on-1 support to help them decide whether to take a transition job, and to help them create a real, pragmatic plan to land their dream job. If you want to schedule time with me, just email me or schedule time now at http://tungle.me/lori.howard

2 comments to When should I settle for less than my dream job?

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I hired Lori because I was feeling stuck in my job and needed to find a career that was more rewarding, more challenging, and more suited to me.  In the arts, it's difficult to find a job you enjoy that also pays enough to live on, but Lori helped me do just that! 

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