The Perils of Accepting a So-So Job Offer

The Perils of Accepting a So-So Job Offer
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You’ve got an offer, but it’s not your “dream” job. Even so, it’s still an offer! Why not just accept it?


Most employment in the U.S. is “at will” employment, so you can leave whenever you want. If you can quit at any time, what’s the harm in accepting the offer? You may not know much about the company, but it seems “OK.” And they offered you a job!


First thing’s first.


What exactly do you want? This may seem like an obvious question to someone who is looking for the stability of a paycheck. However, it often gets brushed aside in the anxious rush to land a position.


Does the job have the potential to be professionally and personally fulfilling? Will it allow you to pay the bills? Keep in mind that being happy in a job and meeting your financial obligations are not mutually exclusive. You can have both!


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Why the hesitation, then? Is it the worry of not getting another job offer if you turn this one down? Regrettably, there is incredible turbulence in the job market due to the national emergency, but at some point, the employment outlook will improve. And when it does, the fact that you’ve received a  job offer in the first place means you’ve done an effective job conveying your skills and experience to your target company. Be confident that this isn’t a one-off and that you’ll be able to do so again.


What if your “dream company” is in the mix, but hasn’t made you an offer? You have a hard decision to make. If you think your preferred company is close to making an offer, you can ask for more time to consider the offer you have. If you don’t know where your dream company is in their process, you can inquire.  


One approach: “I’ve received an offer from Company X, but I would really like to be a part of your team. I want to be respectful of your process, but can you give me an indication of when you might be making a decision?” 


Avoid the appearance of trying to play one company off against another -- this isn’t their first rodeo, and they’ve seen every trick in the book. Your candidacy is being evaluated right up until the moment you actually join the company, so don’t sour the relationship before you’re brought onboard.


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The goal is to be satisfied with whatever job offer you accept and not constantly looking back to ask “what if.”  Decide what you want and commit.


If the dream company is worth waiting for, even if you don’t ultimately get an offer from them, wait. Otherwise, consider accepting the offer you have in hand if it is otherwise acceptable.


Don't Force the Fit

What are the downsides to accepting a job offer you feel is just “so-so”? There are several.


If the company is a poor fit, you won’t stay. Just because you can do a job well doesn’t mean it’s a good fit. You’ll soon find yourself back among the ranks of earnest jobseekers.


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At-will employment allows you to leave a company any time. What if you find that the position just isn’t for you and you leave after a few months? This is certainly your prerogative, but your challenge becomes what you will tell the next prospective employer.


There can be good reasons for leaving a position after a short time -- to gain additional job responsibility or authority, or obtain more compensation, for example. But you want to avoid giving future employers the impression that you might be a “flight risk” who will do the same thing to them.


Knowing what you want and determining your priorities will ensure you have sufficient information and perspective when considering whether to accept a job offer. MOAA’s career transition specialists can help. Reach out to us at if you’d like to know more!


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About the Author

Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)
Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)

Cole is MOAA's former Program Director, Career Transition Services