How to Deal

Few Job Offers? Try Widening Your Scope

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By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, April 30, 2008; 5:14 PM

I'm very unhappy at my job, which was never a good fit from the start three years ago. Even so, I took it anyway and I got a lot of good experience. Unfortunately I reached my breaking point and grew unhappier a lot faster than I thought I would. For well over a year now I have been looking for another job. Rather than make the same mistake I did the first time I've been a bit choosier about what I apply to. I've gone on about 10 interviews or so, all of which, I believe, have gone really well. A majority of these have turned into second interviews but no offers. My self-confidence has already taken a plunge. Is it possible these interviews aren't going as well as I think they are?

For awhile things were okay at work but now I'm back to feeling unhappy with a heavy sense of dread every morning. I know I need to leave right now. Unfortunately I'm not in a position where I can quit my job without having another one lined up -- one that either pays the same or more. So what do I do? Do I widen my search even if it's for jobs that I know I don't really want? Do I continue to stick it out, continuing to wait indefinitely for something else to drop into my lap and risk things getting worse for me at my job? How do I deal with my co-workers and bosses without burning any bridges? I'm out of options, and I know that something has to change very soon.

When you mention not repeating the mistake you made the first time, it leads me to believe that this might be your first job after college or graduate school. If that is so, then you must appreciate that your feelings of unhappiness are typical of the adjustment process from school to the labor force. No longer is your work strictly self-driven or defined by your interests and passions. It also has no end in sight. You have to make a buck, and, if you are at the ground level trying to gain experience, this can often mean a stretch of uninspired and monotonous work.

Of course you don't have to accept that being part of the working world means guaranteed misery, but you can definitely expect to make compromises to gain experience. Having perhaps compromised a bit too much on the first try, you have understandably become more selective about the options you are willing to explore. That is fine, except that you then end up, as you have, with fewer job offers. Try widening your scope just a little, and I think you will find that more of those interviews lead to solid offers.

Periodically recalibrate your job search criteria based upon your level of job dissatisfaction. I am not suggesting that you hastily accept a job you really do not want, only that you open your mind to a broader range of options as getting out of your current situation becomes a greater imperative.

In the meantime, you can keep from burning bridges by adopting an attitude of Zen-like acceptance about your situation. You cannot make the perfect job instantaneously materialize, nor would you want to rush the process and wind up in an equally unfulfilling role. So there you are. Keep searching diligently and methodically, do your current job to the best of your abilities, and try as much as possible to relax along the way.

Join Lily Garcia on Tuesday, May 13 at 11 a.m. ET for How to Deal Live.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail hradvice@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered. The information contained in this column is not intended to be legal advice.


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