One of the hardest things about being unemployed is worrying that you will not end up in a good job. People want to be picky, but that’s a mistake. You should take any job. It really doesn’t matter. You’re better off taking any job and then start trading up.

Here’s why:

1) Structure leads to achievement
People who add structure to their day are more likely to get other stuff done. There’s a ripple effect. This is probably why most highly successful people are early risers. It’s not that you can’t be a night owl to be successful. It’s that if you start your day with structure, you are more able to reach a wide range of goals. Happiness is about structure and self-discipline, not a good job.

2) You don’t need time to job-hunt.
Often, people think they need an open day to job hunt. That doesn’t make sense. Job-hunting does not take all day. You could think of job-hunting as something we do nonstop – which means you can do it when you have a job. You can also think of job-hunting as doing the difficult work of connecting with people and looking for an opening in your network, and that’s certainly not something you can do all day. It’s too hard. So a bad job does not interfere with a good job hunt. (And if you are wondering if you know how to run a good job hunt, take this test.)

3) Telling yourself you can do anything is paralyzing
If you tell yourself the world is at your fingertips and you must get a good job, you end up not taking anything. Sheena Iyengar, professor at Columbia University who studies how people make choices, says, “When there are too many choices the process can be confusing and frustrating, and instead of being overwhelmed by choice we become afraid. Choice turns into not opening opportunities but offering constraints.” Because of this human trait, it’s important just to take action – see what’s in front of you and make a choice, even if you think there are many better choices there. A job is not marriage. It might not even be a long-term relationship. And that’s okay.

4) Picking jobs is a lot of luck
You know the saying that lucky people create their own luck? For the unemployed, that means taking almost any job. People get lucky at work – someone mentors them, a big project lands in your lap, you catch a huge error and save a lot of money. But no one gets lucky in a job without actually being in a job. Also, Iyengar points out the inherent struggle of deciding between jobs: There are many things factors that are simply unknown. We usually have no idea, for instance, about the things that really make or break a job – like if you will get good training on the job, or if the job description will even turn out to be true.

5) A job does not define you
You are not going to find happiness from your job – that comes from personal relationships. Most importantly, a lot of people get paralyzed while they are unemployed because they feel like they are not living up to their potential. But I’ve got news for you: Living up to your potential is BS. What does that mean, really? I think it means impressing your friends, or, worse, your parents, and you have better things to aim for in life than that.

The good news is that when you’re unemployed you are at an inflection point. Something new has to happen in order for you to move you to your next step in your life. And that’s always exciting, even if it takes a long time. And if you keep looking at it this way – unemployment is an opportunity – then you’ll do well because, frankly, optimists get better jobs.

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15 replies
  1. Jeremy Day
    Jeremy Day says:

    Hi Penelope,

    This wasn’t what I thought it was when I read the title. I thought it meant I shouldn’t hunt for a great job when I am already working at a job in my career field. Didn’t know you were talking about the unemployed.

    Very good point thought.


  2. Jeremy Day
    Jeremy Day says:

    Hi Penelope,

    This wasn’t what I thought it was when I read the title. I thought it meant I shouldn’t hunt for a great job when I am already working at a job in my career field. Didn’t know you were talking about the unemployed.

    Very good point though.


    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Good point. It’s a misleading title. It should be don’t hold out for your dream job. I’m thinking about changing the title… it’s always a conundrum for me to balance the ability to change posts forever with the problem that it messes up my ability (and everyone else’s) to track posts…


  3. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I’m a little surprised that you didn’t post about the Social Network. It was the number one movie in the country this weekend, and it is about a social networking site and it portrays the creator as someone who suffers from a Aspbergers. Great post anyways, its always a good reminder to always be looking for a job.

  4. sejour thalasso
    sejour thalasso says:

    Hunting for a great job was the best thing I ever did. After having done quite a number of low paying jobs and working in outsourcing companies and getting laid off, I chose to try a job I was not officially ‘qualified’ for (which essentially means I have no diploma). But it paid off: out of 6 companies I had one phone call which led to a nice, interesting job in a field I love. It took a single person to believe I could do it (and i sure can do it) to change things for the better. Two days before being interviewed I knew nothing about SEO but I downloaded the official google documents about SEO and some others and read them till midnight. My hobby had always been programming so I was able to understand all of it. When I asked my boss why he chose me he said out off all the people he interviewed ( which also means he saw lots of people with diplomas) I was the only one with a good understanding of internet technology AND a good understanding of the french language. With no diplomas, I write press releases and build links and take websites to the top of the SERP’s. I do not do black hat.

    The thing is don’t let anyone tell you that “Hunting for a Great Job Will Hurt Your Career” set your own limits, go beyond your limits. You never know what you’ll find, but it certainly is worth it.

    One thing that always keeps me going is that Edison is said to have worked on 9000 kinds of materials in his research of the perfect electrical filament. It took 8999 failures (of course I may be wrong). Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s a perfectly normal thing. Don’t be normal either, be a phenomenon!

  5. unemployed
    unemployed says:

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I’ve been unemployed nearly 2 years now, and the only interview/offer I received was for a receptionist position 14 hr/wk at $9/hr. I declined the offer. I have a college degree, along with over a decade of experience as a graphic designer in the marketing communications world. My thinking was that when a job barely pays for the gas to get there, it’s not worth considering. Especially since they wouldn’t negotiate the salary — even though I had evidence it should pay $12-15/hr. The economy is such that employers can offer next to nothing, and some poor sap will bite.

  6. Sonia W
    Sonia W says:

    I work in Information Technology during the day and have allot of friends going through what the last person before my post stated. When they can make more money off their unemployment why take a job paying less then that? It’s a catch-22 if you ask me, but it starts to hurt if you need health insurance for your kids and such. If you have a degree great, but don’t expect employers in this economy to pay you what you think your worth. It’s very dog-eat-dog now and employers can care less if you want the job or not, because someone else will step up to the plate and take it.

    I have seen people with degrees or no degree get great jobs because of great networking. It’s not what you know most times, but who you know that will land you a nice job. While your still working cultivate your present relationships and keep in touch with them. Your job work experience with them is what will land you a job with them if in the future you decide to move on or get laid off.

    The one point I will agree with in Penelope’s post is that if you have no job, no unemployment or outside income coming in, you better take whatever you can get. Be aware that allot of employers can smell a job-jumper a mile away and will turn you away if you show up with a masters degree and your interviewing for a position at Mcdonalds! To them your just a waste of time and will jump ship the moment something better comes along.

    Good Luck to everyone still trying to find a job.

  7. Jen Gresham
    Jen Gresham says:

    Good point, Penelope. It’s kind of like selling your house: people often hold out for their dream price, but every day that house sits on the market, it becomes less valuable. Same is true of people.

    Besides, any job will provide you with connections you didn’t have before, making it easier to trade up. And when your employer sees how valuable you are at one job, they’re much more likely to move you up quickly.

    My best friend started a job as an intern filing paper. Within a year, they had moved her up to the financial analyst position, and a year after that, they created a high paying job for her in London because that’s what she really wanted and they didn’t want to lose her. She essentially got the equivalent of 4 promotions in two years by taking the first job offerred her.

    But I would change the title. :)


  8. Tom Hawkin
    Tom Hawkin says:

    Not sure I agree with the ‘take any job mentality’. I feel you should only take it if there is a path for your career there or you can use the skills you learn at said job to move around. For example, if you want to be a Vet, there is no point in taking a job working at Mcdonalds-you’d be better served to volunteer at a shelter or animal hospital than make 6 bucks an hour flipping burgers.

  9. tega otojare
    tega otojare says:

    I completely agree this: “if you start your day with structure, you are more able to reach a wide range of goals”

    This reveals exactly important and whats not.I say this because i get distracted easily at work with activity

  10. Carrie
    Carrie says:

    While your post, itself, was very thought-provoking, I have also enjoyed reading the comments posted by others. Holding out for one’s dream job is clearly a topic about which people have conflicting views.

    Please continue to write about such intriguing topics!

  11. eli
    eli says:

    nice article,While your post, itself, was very thought-provoking, I have also enjoyed reading the comments posted by others. Holding out for one’s dream job is clearly a topic about which people have conflicting views.
    thanks for your post…
    egg chairs

  12. medyum
    medyum says:

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