A question that I get from many job seekers is: How long should you hold out for the dream job before moving to plan B?
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and your own opinion on this issue can change over time. Here are three guidelines to consider:
1 – What are your prospects for that dream job?
This is related to both the job itself (how competitive is the market) and you as a candidate (how competitive are you). If you are targeting a growth area, there will be more hiring and more chances for everyone, including you. If you are targeting an emerging area, there will be fewer candidates with direct experience, and employers could be more open to considering different backgrounds, including yours. Finally, every job has its ideal requirements and qualifications, so an honest self-assessment will tell you how competitive you are. Some job selection processes are very inflexible (e.g., front-office investment banking role at a bulge-bracket firm). The more flexible you can be in defining your dream job, the wider your prospects.
2 – What is your deadline?
The job seeker who is in-between jobs and drawing on savings has a different timetable than the financially independent retiree coming back to the workforce for joy, not money. The more you need the job, the less time you can hold out for the dream job. The more time-pressed you are, the wider your job search has to be, in order to keep multiple options in play. On the flip side, if you don’t need the income – say, you have a portfolio of assets to draw on or you have part-time consulting work that covers your everyday bills – then your job search can go on indefinitely, and you can hold out indefinitely for whatever job you want.
3 – How much risk are you willing to take?
Taking your time with your job search risks money, which I covered in point 2. Taking your time also risks credibility as you need to explain your unemployment gap. Even if you’re gainfully employed doing something other than your dream job, you would need to explain why you stayed so long in something you don’t want to do. Holding out for any one job risks missing out on other opportunities. Holding out requires emotional fortitude, and only you can determine if you are willing to pay that price.
Get real about your risk appetite. Get real about how much time you have. Get real about your chances. The answer to, “Should you hold out for the dream job?” is not a single right or wrong answer, but a process of sifting through numerous decisions. As you consider your options, you are taking a self-assessment, calculating your financial cushion, and weighing your risk/ reward calculation. You are not passively waiting but actively doing several things to make an informed decision to: Should you hold out for the dream job?