Taking That Less Than Perfect Job-and Owning It. Advice from a Career Strategist

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You feel like time is running out and your back is against the wall; that’s how a job hunt can sometimes feel. You had high expectations to land the perfect job doing exactly what you do best. You visualized it unfolding so beautifully; sending your dream company a resume, wowing them at the interview, getting a job offer that pays more than expected. You accept and feel on top of the world. If it works that way – great, congratulations!

However are you prepared if it doesn’t happen that way?

Often, positivity and stamina for job-hunting wax and wane. Over time, if you don’t find something close to your ideal job, you run out of time or money or both. Your COBRA benefits expire, your work experience starts to feel stale, and you need more income than what your severance and unemployment give you. You get nervous about if and when you’ll actually get a job. So, you scrap the idea of finding the perfect job and take the next position that covers your basic needs, leaving your dignity intact.

You are not alone.

Sometimes it makes sense to take what you can get. It’s not ideal, but it may be necessary. Even though it can feel very isolating and even embarrassing when your plans don’t play out perfectly, know that almost everyone goes through this at some point. As a career strategist, I have seen it many times.

How can you effectively cope with this professional “setback”? How can you maximize your time at your new job, or any job, so your experience moves you forward? How can you use this opportunity to its fullest potential, so it serves your purpose, rather than sucking energy and time from your ideal career trajectory? I have counseled many people on their career strategy and found that there are two key things to do:

  • Own it. Give yourself permission to accept this decision. Take the job and don’t make excuses. Don’t feel bad about it. If you’re like most people, you searched very hard for the right position, but after crunching the numbers, you know this job is a necessity. There is nothing wrong with making smart decisions based on the facts.

Take responsibility for your decision and you’ll feel more confident. This attitude creates an upward spiral that can work wonders. Remind yourself, “I’m here because it was the right thing to do,” and see what happens. Your positivity will affect your attitude, and your attitude will affect how well you perform in this job.

“Your positive action combined with positive thinking results in success.” –Shiv Khera

The alternative is to feel bad about your decision. If your self-talk reinforces that you “had to take this job,” you will carry it around your neck like a noose, and other people will pick up on it. Always think about the impression you make on others. Adjust your mindset, so people have a positive impression.

2) Create a career strategy plan. Just because this isn’t your ideal situation, doesn’t mean it’s not going to work out for you. Career strategy plans are a great tool to help you get ahead no matter the circumstance. They help you get everything you can from your situation and plan your next steps. If done correctly, your plan can bring purpose and focus to each day on the job.

Before I share how to make a career strategy plan, I want to emphasize that it needs to be done on paper. Having a plan in your head is a waste of time and energy. Ideas in your head won’t motivate you. They get altered too easily or simply forgotten. Write it out, and make it visible every day, that’s your shortcut for quickly moving to a better situation.  In a groundbreaking study, Dr. Gail Matthews found that people are 42% more likely to achieve goals and dreams, just by writing them down. Your brain is wired to respond to the written word. When you have a penned plan, you can relax knowing you have a plan. When you relax, you can see opportunity more clearly.

Get your pen and paper and create a career strategy plan with these questions:

  • What can I expect to get out of this job? What new relationships and connections can you develop? What are some responsibilities you can take on? Will there be exposure to new situations that could help you grow? Etc.
  • What am I going to learn? Is there training in this new job? Will I be able to develop new skills? What kind of self-discovery will be possible? What about new software or systems to master? Etc.
  • How can I maximize this position? Expand your idea of what is possible for a few minutes. Think about people you could meet, projects you could lead, presentations you could give, people you could mentor, whitepapers or position papers you could write, meet-up groups you could lead…the possibilities are endless.
  • What are you going to do to make your time here worthwhile? Are there classes you can take outside of work to augment your knowledge and skillset? Are volunteer opportunities available to help you feel fulfilled and improve your life? Are there colleagues you can partner with to help achieve your goals? Etc.
  • Are there things I can do outside of this job that will help me get to the position I want? What networking organizations can you join? What actions can you take to get connected to people who are in the jobs or companies where you really want to work? What classes can you take? Are there certifications or degrees you can pursue?

A few words of advice:

It’s tempting to tell yourself, “I’ll be out of here in X months,” or “Once I finish this project, I’m going to launch a new job search.” In my experience as a career strategist, I know a swift exit without a good plan is not your best move. I encourage my clients to maximize the current situation before they look toward the door. If you’re constantly thinking about how you’re going to “get out” you’re likely to miss out on some good opportunities where you are. Also, if you don’t embrace where you are your attitude will be affected both on the job and when you interview at other companies, which is almost always a roadblock to getting what you want. 


  • Don’t burn bridges; you never know who can help you with a referral or promotion
  • Remember that no matter where you work, your manager and your colleagues are your future references, so do your best and help others look good, too
  • Always seek out and get involved in projects that suit your goals

It can feel like a huge setback when your career path goes off course. But know this: you can triumph in any job – dream job or less-than-dreamy, if you have a career strategy. It will help you maximize your time at each position and move you forward. What you don’t want is to look back at your time in a job and wonder what you did with that time. Did you just let yourself stagnate, or did you seize the opportunity?


Julia is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach, and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.comwww.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolianhttps://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian(@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian