dream role vs dream company

A reader writes:

If I’m lucky, next week I’ll receive two job offers with pretty similar salaries. I’m extremely excited, however, I have a bit of a dilemma:

Job 1: Dream company, not dream position
I LOVE THIS COMPANY! I can’t stress that enough; I would be honored to be a part of their team! They have a great culture, great mission, great team, and really great benefits/perks, the kind that make you want to not leave the office. I fit in here, and I could see myself being really happy working in this environment. The downside? I want to one day become a recruiter, and this position is in sales. I originally interviewed for a recruiting position (which wasn’t offered to me), but they invited me back to interview for this sales role.

Job 2: Dream position, not dream company
This is an entry-level role in recruiting, which is what I want to be doing. However, it’s a contract position, so no benefits, and no guarantee for a full-time job. They seem to have a stressful environment and the people I spoke to didn’t seem happy to be there..at all. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I would I be happy, and I’m not sure.

So when faced with this decision, I’m a little anxious, stressed, and confused. Would it be a foolish move to take a sales role and hope that once I establish myself in the company, I could transfer to a different department? Or, would it be more foolish to take a role that may push my career along, but has no guarantee of employment in a few months? In this situation, what would you advise me to do?

I usually stay away from telling people which offer to choose, because it’s not a choice that an outsider can or should make for you. Choosing an offer really comes down to how you weigh all the different factors involved — and different people weigh those differently.

However, in your situation, I’m going to tell you to seriously consider #1. I’m not telling you to to take it, because, again, this is about how you calculate the relative merits here, not how I do … but here are some factors to weigh in your thinking:

* A happy working environment counts for a ton. A ton. When people are miserable at work, it’s generally not about the work itself; it’s usually about their boss, their coworkers, or the culture where they’re working. You might notice that very few people write in to me who love their companies but dislike their work. Some do, certainly … but most are unhappy because their companies/coworkers/boss are making them unhappy, not their work.

(That doesn’t mean that you should take any job at a company with a good culture, of course; it still needs to be work you could be reasonably happy doing. And as it happens, sales is something that people often either love or hate, so make sure you’re not on the hate side.)

* If Company #2 seemed stocked with unhappy people during the interview process, it’s probably even worse than what you saw. People usually try to at least polish things up a little bit for interviews. Working in an unhappy place — even if you yourself aren’t unhappy — is pretty unpleasant.

* Having no benefits really sucks. And having no health insurance more than sucks; it’s dangerous.

* If I’m right in guessing that you’re fairly new to the work world (which I’m guessing based on the entry-level position), then there’s also this:  A lot of people find that their dream job early on in their career doesn’t match up with what turns into their dream job later. I’m not pushing you away from recruiting, but you’re probably going to find other things you like doing too (and are good at), and might even find you don’t like recruiting as much as you thought you would. So keep an open mind about that piece of this.

By the way, one thing I’m not going to advise is asking Company #1 about the possibility of moving into recruiting with them at some point. It might seem like a reasonable thing to ask, but it will signal to them that you’re not really enthusiastic about the sales role and that you might be agitating for a way out of it soon after starting. Those things are potential red flags for most interviews, so stay away from that.

So. There’s a bunch of thoughts for you to chew on. What other advice do people have?

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    You’re entry level, expressed interest in a recruiting position, and they are instead pushing you towards sales? My Spidey-Sense tingles at that, since most really reputable companies don’t hire inexperienced people for sales positions (they usually want people who at least have a year or two’s experience pounding the pavement at smaller places), nor do they want people who aren’t gung-ho about going into sales in the first place, since it can take so much energy to remain positive while trying to close deals. Is it a true sales position, or is it some sort of support staff role? If it’s the former, I’d run far, far away unless I already was excited about trying out a sales role. If it’s the latter, then I’d be more open to considering it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to be clear, I don’t know if she’s entry-level or not. I guessed she might be, since the recruiting job is entry-level, but it’s also possible she has a few years (or more) of experience. Hopefully she’ll weigh back in and tell us!

    2. Soni*

      It might be weird, or (knowing that she applied to be a recruiter) the company may have wanted to have her on board but noted some gaps in her experience/education they couldn’t overlook. So the sales job may be a way of “training her up” in the company. OTOH, they may have noted some skillsets and personality quirks which made them think she’d be good at sales (more so than the recruitment they do). So there’s that possibility to consider as well – the the company is seeing something in OP that she may not be.

  2. Not So NewReader*

    OP, for each job imagine the scenario of things suddenly getting tough at work. Now, at which company would you be more likely to put your teeth together and work through a difficult issue?
    I had a job where the pay was okay, the hours were good and the work was okay. There was enough there, that on a bad day/week I could keep myself plugging along.

    As an aside- some people will not do sales at all. If that describes you, then that might be a deal breaker for company number 1. Personally, I can only do certian types of selling. (I can’t sell garbage quality items, and I cannot sell people things when they say “I do not need/want this.”)

  3. Experienced Talent Strategist*

    Recruiting is a sales job believe it or not! If you love the company AND hone your sales skills, you will ultimately be a phenomenal recruiter who considers all the angles to close the deal for passive candidates (ofttimes the best candidates). You will do great because you’re inspired! Company #1 is a great option for the reasons above plus this new opportunity. Go for it!

    1. perrik*

      +1 to this! As a recruiter, you are a salesperson selling a position and a company to potential employees. If you want to be a recruiter someday, sales is a pretty good start.

      And yes, never disregard the advantages of being a permanent employee with benefits, or having a positive work environment with awesome people around you.

    2. Tmm*

      +1. My first thought was that recruiting utilizes many of the same skills which a good sales person needs-like negotiation, ability to read people, etc.
      Also as AAM said, sometimes your dream job ends up being different than what you think/plan it will be.
      Go for the dream environment.

    3. Victoria*

      +1 from me as well – I am also a recruiter. Sales skills would do you very well in recruiting!

  4. K.*

    A full-time job with benefits at a company you like vs. a contract job with no benefits at a company where people seem miserable? Dude, it’s a no-brainer, to me: Door #1. Plus, as as been said, there’s a big sales component to recruiting (I’ve had recruiters tell me this), so you could hone your sales skills and then try to move into recruiting at Dream Company.

  5. David*

    All being equal, which they rarely are, I personally would choose environment over the work itself. I believe I will have more control over the work I perform and how I can make the best out of it. When you are surrounded by helpful, enthusiastic people, even tough assignment can be easier to get through.

    When working with unenthusiastic or unpleasant people, I have very little control over their feelings and behaviors. While one can always try to influence the crowd and inject the positive energy, one may succeed or more often the negative environment prevails. When the negative sentiment and environment take over, even the best job can turn into a drag over time.

  6. ChristineH*

    Personally, I’d be more apt to go for #1. I’d rather take a job that not 100% ideal in a dream company than taking an ideal job where the environment could make doing that ideal work miserable for you. But Alison is right….you have to weigh everything and decide what you’re willing to tolerate–as well as sacrifice–in order to get you on the right path.

    “A lot of people find that their dream job early on in their career doesn’t match up with what turns into their dream job later. I’m not pushing you away from recruiting, but you’re probably going to find other things you like doing too (and are good at), and might even find you don’t like recruiting as much as you thought you would. So keep an open mind about that piece of this.”

    I can absolutely vouch for this. I thought for sure that I wanted to be a social worker directly working with people and families in issues relating to disabilities, rehabilitation or medical conditions. Boy was I wrong!! I’m not ruling out working with people entirely just yet, but as I was finishing up my MSW, I began to develop an interest in program evaluation and related areas (grant writing, research, program development). I’m FINALLY just now slowly making some small gains on this path 5 years later. But I wanted to share that to show you that you never know what might pique your interest as you move along in your career.

  7. LondonI*

    If you do go for scenario 1, never assume that you will be able to switch roles at a later stage at that same company.
    I work for a big-name company and I love where I work – I get on well with my boss and colleagues, I love the benefits, the location, the pay, the office etc. etc. But I’m pretty bored in my actual job and I’m frustrated because the one thing I *don’t* love about my company is the fact that career progression is difficult to non-existent.
    To move to my dream role in another company would likely involve a pay cut and a cut in all sorts of benefits. I’ve had recruitment agencies tell me that some other companies won’t even interview me because they know they wouldn’t be able to come near matching the pay and perks of my current company. I find it really tough.
    Now, there’s a lot to be said for having a steady job in difficult economic times. (And Alison’s point about health insurance is very valid.) Company 1 does sound like a nice place to work for. I just want to caution you against accepting a job there on the assumption that you can move into recruiting later.
    This is not to say that Company 2 is a *better* place to work – it sounds like it has its own problems – just make sure that your eyes are wide open, wherever you choose to go!

  8. fposte*

    “However, it’s a contract position, so no benefits, and no guarantee for a full-time job.” So, in other words, it’s not the dream position–it’s a position that’s closer to the job you want. I think you’ve got your thumb on the scale there a little :-). Also, a contract position with no benefits probably isn’t going to end up being as similar in pay to a same-salary actual employee position as you’re anticipating.

    So I’m another for job #1, but I’m also thinking that you might want to look at the terms more closely to break you out of this all-things-are-equal mortal-job-combat narrative. (Have you factored in what insurance will cost you on your own, for instance?) I could actually envision situations where #2 might be the choice–where you’ve been trying to break into recruiting for a while and had no luck, and you know you’ll be moving out of state or something in a couple of years, so there’s an inherent limit. But if you’re starting out, I think a place of stability and growth is a better opportunity than one whose only appeal seems to be the field it’s in.

  9. Blinx*

    I think you’ve answered your own question:
    Job 1: “…I could see myself being really happy working in this environment.”
    Job 2: “I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I would I be happy, and I’m not sure.”
    Take job 1 and enjoy it! (Fingers crossed that you get the offer.)

  10. person*

    Find the passion for the position, not the position for the passion.
    Make what you are chasing your dreams, don’t chase after the stars.

    Go for company 1!

  11. Anon*

    I once applied at a software company to break into a new industry to see if I wanted to pursue a career in that industry. I interviewed to be a software tester, they had multiple openings. I didn’t get that job, but they asked me to come back and interview to be part of the sales team as a software demonstrator. I took that job and worked there for two years. I learned during that time that sales wasn’t for me, but I also learned so much more about the industry in general. Over ten years later, that position has helped inform my career and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

    Go with your gut and do what feels right, and you’ll be opening yourself up for opportunities you didn’t even know existed.

  12. The IT Manager*

    I agree with everything Alison and everyone else recommends.

    I once was very excited to get into an organization’s IT department because that’s where my heart is. It turned out to be miserable because my boss was a passive-aggressive micromanager, my co-workers while nice were all unhappy (and we complained to each other all the time making things worse), and I was simultaneously bored because I was underworked while frustrated because the tasks they did give me to do came with no guidance or training.

    Three months later I was moved into the financial-side of the organization and it was like living inside a rainbow. :) Not really because I have zero desire to do finance work, but my bosses were supportive and helped me learned what I needed to to do a job I was completely unfamiliar with. My co-workers were just as nice and helpful as my previous ones, but they were happy to so going to work was much more pleasant. (None of them were excited for the work either, but we all pulled together to get it done and survive our 2 or 3 year tour .) In fact after about 2 and half year I could have moved back to the IT organization, but I chose not to because I feared it was still as dysfunctional as before.

    Assuming that you don’t think you’d mind doing sales, I highly recommend picking the dream company. Even if it wasn’t your dream company, I’d still highly recommend the place where people seem happy over the place where they don’t. Doing the job you love probably won’t overcome being surrounded by negativity for 8-9 hours a day 5 days a week.

    Also I personally favor the stability of employee versus contract with no benefits. Not great retirement benefits in your early years is one thing, but no medical care is taking a much bigger gamble than I can prefer to live with. You may be healthy now, but something like a car accident or illness can lead you into bankruptcy very quickly in the US if you don’t have health insurance.

  13. Ebony Tara Scurry, PHR, GCDFI*

    To the Advice Seeker, I agree with Alison’s recommendation that you seriously consider #1 (Dream Company, not dream position). Especially since you’re entry level it’s not unusually not to get your “dream position” right away and in your case, it will serve you well to get into your dream company and have the benefits and security to match. Although you can’t assume you’ll eventually move into your dream position, it’s quite possible. If you choose #1, while in that new position try to reach out or volunteer for interdepartmental projects and events that deal with the Recruiting team so you can begin to build some experience and face-time there. Absolutely as Alison suggests; don’t talk about wanting the recruiting position during your interview; it will raise red flags; which you don’t want. If for some weird reason the recruiting position at your dream company never, ever opens up and you never ever get offered it (which I think is slim if you’re building your recruiting skills on your own time and trying to work with recruitment as much as possibly without being obvious) then you can always find a new position down the road at a different company. Good luck!

  14. CatB (Europe)*

    While I echo Alison about the sales position (sales is usually a “love it or hate it” affair, so you should be very careful it suits your inclinations), it is worth saying that there’s sales and there’s… well… sales. I mean, some sales work is truly for the “natural-born killer” and grinds into dirt the nerves of anyone esle, but some sales work is truly wonderful. Since I don’t know the industry, I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of sales work Choice #1 would suppose; but I guess you could reach out to your possible future colleagues and ask. In the event the sales job there isn’t only for the truly born-not-made salespeople (and you are not the kind of “see-them-swallow-them” salespeople) and there is little chance that you would get soul-sucked by a work you totally hate, maybe it is worth attentfuly considering Option #1.

    IME, a lateral move is possible (though not always). I personally took up a sales management role and, two years later, moved into marketing, that was my initial target. When my transfer got approved I found out that, while the hiring manager saw potential in me, he thought I needed some experience within the company selling the product to understand its implications and the consumer’s reactions to it in order to do a good job in marketing.

  15. Suyen*

    How great it is to be receiving 2 job offers! :) I agree with AAM’s advice. Your dream company can provide far more than what seems obvious right now. It could potentially provide more training, mentoring and networking opportunities and upward movement. Also, you mentioned that the people you’ve spoken to at company #2 don’t seem very happy. That could be attributable to other reasons but that tells you something, nonetheless. I would lean towards your dream company (not dream position) as long as you don’t hate sales. Good luck!

  16. Anonymous*

    Go for the amazing workplace. You don’t want to work in an unhappy workplace, no matter what the role is.

    You think you want to be a recruiter now…but maybe you’re more suited for sales. Who knows where your professional life will end up heading? If you’re just starting out, you could end up anywhere. And maybe this is the first step on a new phase of your professional life.

    Go with amazing workplace.

  17. Elizabeth West*

    First of all, congrats on having offers!

    Second, I would go with Company #1. You will be much happier there, and there are a ton of transferable skills that can go from sales into recruiting. Even if you can’t advance or move laterally into that field with that company, it sounds like you would learn more and have better opportunities even if they aren’t in recruiting. Also, in a good atmosphere like that, you could be exposed to something really cool that you never even thought of.

  18. nyxalinth*

    #1 all the way. You can shift into where you want to be, but changing your workplace is next to impossible.

  19. Amouse*

    I want to echo what others have said and congratulate you on having options! I agree with Alison, I would stronlgy encourage offer number one.

    Once your foot is in the door at your dream company and provided you already have the background for recruiting there are lots of ways to network, build up your reputation and then potentially have a much better chance at being accepted for your dream job when an internal job offer comes up. Just keep your eyes and ears open for internal postings as you progess in your job (you should probably keep the non-dream job for at least a year or two). This could also be a valuable opportunity to talk with recruiters who work there and see what their experiences are.

    You obviously do have to weigh out the two options in your own way at the end of the day though. So best of luck to you and congratualtions on whatever you choose!

  20. Anonymous*

    I had to make a choice between 2 great opportunities myself. I went with the one closer to home that paid less. I make $15k less than I could have, but I get to be with my son more because my commute is 15 minutes each way in traffic rather than over 1 hour each way on the train. I don’t miss the money I never had and I’ve been having a fabulous time at the new place anyway.
    You just have to decide what is important to you.
    If I was younger, lived at home, and had no kids, I would have gone for the higher paying job.

  21. JM in England*

    I agree wholeheartedly with everyone who says go for #1!

    Give me permanent (with benefits) over contract work every time. I spent the first 7 years of my career as a temp due to the last big recession in the 1990s and when I got offered my first permanent position, it was something of a culture shock!

    Don’t get me wrong about temp working, it gave me some useful skills but being (what felt like it at the time) a permatemp did take some enjoyment and happiness away from the job.

  22. Jeff*

    Job #1, absolutely and unequivocally! What jumped out at me from the OP’s description of Job #2 was “They seem to have a stressful environment and the people I spoke to didn’t seem happy to be there..at all.” Right now I’m working at a “#2” type of company – our department’s workload was dramatically increased in a reorg last year, but we’re not allowed to work more than a very few hours of overtime in trying to stay on top of the work (the analysts in my department are all hourly). Few things are more stressful than the feeling that your own top managment has set you up for failure.

  23. EngineerGirl*

    When I was young I went for the most technically challenging, most glamourous job assignments. I learned the sad truth – that NO job duty, no matter how much it matches your dream, can compensate for a bad work environment.

    Go for the job with the good work environment. You’ll perform better, and get better opportunities (that you never thought of) because of your performance. The good job duties come in a a good job environment.

  24. Anonymous*

    I have a huge concern about this whole thing and the general trend of the advice you’re getting.

    You’ve set up a false dichotomy. You’ve framed the question as though you have a choice between two different jobs. That isn’t true.

    Right now, you have no job offers at all. I certainly hope both come through for you, but they might not for any number of reasons. What if only job #2 comes through? You’ve now set yourself up to be rather disappointed (possibly pessimistic and grumpy) with that outcome, based on the current tone of advice. What if only job #1 comes through, but with different terms than you are expecting? What if you could never be transferred to recruiting at Job #1? What if neither job comes through? Are you still applying to jobs? You should be.

    Given your description of your stated goals, I suggest that you shouldn’t take either job. Job #1 sets you up for a career that you aren’t interested in or trained for. You are already talking about transferring out of it! Job #2 sets you up for your career but the red flags are already waving. Do you have a job right now, one that furthers your career goals? Can you keep applying to jobs until you get one that actually fits your career goals? Neither of these sound like the right choice for you.

    There are circumstances under which either job could be helpful to you. Perhaps #1 really is a job that will teach you to love sales and show you a career path you never imagined but will actually love. I don’t think this is the case, simply because you don’t sound open to such a possibility. You are looking at it as a chance to transfer internally eventually, not a chance to see what this specific job has to offer. If you want to succeed in this job, you will need to embrace it for exactly what it is, not look at it as a line to stand in while you wait for a recruiting position to open up.

    Perhaps #2 could get you some needed experience while you suffer through an unpleasant environment. Perhaps you misread the people you talked to, or perhaps you could treat the job like a stepping stone that you only intend to stay at for a year or two before applying to other positions. However, you don’t really sound open to this job either. You’ve already decided you don’t like the job, from the tone of your letter.

    Really, please consider the full spectrum of your options. Either look for a different job that meets your needs, or approach these two jobs with a different mindset.

    1. The IT Manager*

      You make a good point that this theoretical discussion about the LW should do if faced with two job offers could make things worse if she gets offered only one (job #2) or neither, but I get the impression that the LW would actually be excited to work at job #1.

      Now I could be working inside a rainbow and still hate my job if it were sales because I am an introvert who is uncomfortable talking to new people and making phone calls especially cold ones. But the LW gives no hint that feels anything similar for sales and to be honest the things that I’d hate about sales seems to be part of a recruiters job too.

      But if the LW would dislike sales or is just interested in company #1 if she can move into recruiting quickly then that’s a different story, but that’s not how I read the letter.

    2. LondonI*

      Agreed. And what I tried to say in my previous post, though perhaps not clearly enough, is that it can be difficult to leave a job with great benefits and a great working environment even if it would be in your career’s best interests to do so. Sometimes it’s better not to get used to having those things to begin with.

  25. anon*

    I seem to recall a poster a few weeks back who applied for a position with a company and the company rejected him for the position that he applied for and offered him a sales position. The general thoughts on the board suggested that he not consider the offer. Why is the advice for this poster different? Other than the fact that they love the company.

    As for the lack of health insurance not being offered for job #2- it doesn’t mean the poster has to go without insurance. There is always the option of purchasing an individual health insurance policy and if the OP is relatively young and healthy, the premiums will be pretty reasonable.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Assuming you’re talking about #4 in this post, I told that letter-writer that she needed to decide whether she was interested in a sales job or not.

      In this case, I’m assuming that OP has some degree of interest in the sales position since she agreed to interview for it and is considering whether she’d accept it. Additionally, sales and recruiting have a ton in common, as others have noted here.

    2. K.*

      Job #2 is a contract, though – the OP might be able to afford insurance while working (and what’s “pretty reasonable” for someone might not be for someone else), but what happens when it ends?

  26. Jen*

    True: neither one is an actual offer yet. Maybe you will get one or the other (or neither) and you won’t have to choose. Keep applying to other jobs and maybe by the time you are faced with the decision, you’ll have some clarity.

  27. Kate*

    Allison, you advise against asking about moving to recruiting in the interview. Would it be a okay to ask about opportunities for growth within the company down the road – with more general phrasing?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I tend to think it’s a question that doesn’t get you very useful information. Sure, occasionally you might hear “there’s no room for advancement here” but usually you’ll be told there is, whether or not it’s likely to happen.

  28. Don Harkness*

    #1 for sure. agree with the recruiters, recruiting is sales. As an entry level person, starting out in a company you love is a great start. And if the company is as good as you feel, the job you enter doesn’t have to be your job for life. Settle in, do a good job, and view sales as a two-fer, as you learn sales, you’ll also be learning the basics of recruiting. And when the time comes, transition to recruiting if you still are drawn to it. Being part of the company, being part of a (sales in this case) team will better prepare you for being a recruiter.

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