should I apply for jobs that don’t sound great?

A reader writes:

I am moving back to North Carolina from Texas, and will be living with my parents until I can find a new job. I’ve been with my current company in Texas for over four years, and it is my first job out of college.

Because of this, I feel like I don’t know as much as I should about what I should look for in a job application. What is the best way to be selective about the application process but not limit my opportunities? I work in social media and know that while I COULD write about cars all day as my job, I don’t necessarily WANT to. Should I suck it up and apply to things like this that aren’t the most interesting to me? The city I’m moving doesn’t have as many opportunities in my field as where I currently live.

I want to enjoy (or at least not hate) my work, but I don’t know if I’m just being too picky.

How selective you can be is largely a function of how in-demand you and your skills are relative to the number of job openings in your field and geographic area.

You should also factor in that unless your interests are very unusual, it’s probably true that the jobs that are most appealing to you are the most appealing to other people too, and thus will have more competition. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply to them — you should! — but you should temper your expectations accordingly.

Also, be open to jobs that don’t immediately excite you if you feel like you could do them well. Often what makes people love or hate a job are things like coworkers, their boss, how much autonomy they get, and how much support and development they get. Some jobs score highly on all those fronts even if you’re stuck writing about a boring topic all day (and some boring topics become more interesting when you get to know their nuances). And some jobs that look exciting from the outside score really low on those fronts, and the topic you’re working on ends up not mattering so much, especially after the initial novelty wears off.

Overall, I’d say to apply for a wide range of jobs — ones that you’re excited about and ones that you’re not as passionate about but could see yourself doing reasonably happily. See who asks you to interview and who doesn’t, talk to everyone who asks you to, and stay open-minded.

{ 94 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    Definitely. I was lukewarm on my last job, and it ended up being the most rewarding, best-paying, most fun job with the best coworkers I ever had. The people I worked with really made the job.

    1. Ann Nonymous*

      Same here. I humored someone by going to a job interview for a position I definitely thought I didn’t want. Turns out it was much different than what I was lead to believe by the person who (mis-)told me about it. Ended up being a great job!

    2. BadWolf*

      I was internally reassigned about 2 years ago. I hated it for about 4 months. Once I dragged myself over the learning curve, I rather like it. Some days better than my previous job.

    3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Same here. I was looking to get OUT of a bad environment, and this job sounded all right and I’d been assured it had competent leadership. The salary increase was all right, too, not exciting but better than what I’d have gotten in a promotion.

      Two years on, I have the best boss I’ve ever had, an organization dedicated to helping mentor me as a new supervisor, work that even at its most annoying is fulfilling and real, and at its best is transformative…. The money is still only all right but that’s true of my entire field.

    4. GermanGirl*

      Definitely. I was lukewarm about my first job but it turned out to have been exactly what I needed at that point in my career. Great mentoring and the best coworkers a beginner could hope for. I learned a lot and it was mostly fun, too.

  2. Murphy*

    I’d maybe apply to some things that aren’t necessarily the most interesting, but not anything that’s an immediate turnoff.

    Also, remember that applying doesn’t lock you into absolutely taking that job if it’s offered. As Alison often points out, the interview process is a time where you can learn about the job/company at the same time that they’re learning about you. It’s OK to apply and then change your mind about wanting the job once you enter the process.

    1. earl grey aficionado*

      I think this is key. Figure out your absolute dealbreakers and avoid those, but cast a wide net otherwise. I’m a freelancer and ended up taking on a client in the insurance industry. I knew next to nothing about insurance and was “meh” on the subject, but they’re now my favorite client by far because they communicate well, pay well, and assign a fair workload with reasonable deadlines. There’s talk of me moving to full-time with them at some point down the road. So that’s the success story.

      On the other hand, in freelance writing (my field) there are TONS of gigs writing sales copy for health regimens that I would consider to be snake oil (untested supplements, fitness plans, etc.). Although I have background in health, I know I can’t ethically write for those companies, so I don’t apply to those gigs. There are a lot of finance writing positions too, but I don’t feel qualified and interested in those, so they’re out also. Everything else I at least consider applying to (because I’m always applying for new work as a freelancer).

      Basically, try and create a narrow list of absolutely-nots and then keep an open mind for everything else. It’s easier to decide what you’re 100% not interested in than it is to figure out from the outside what jobs will be a good fit for you.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah my rule was, “would I be interested in learning more about this job?” If so, I’d apply. You don’t have to take it if what you find out doesn’t sound like a good fit. Kind of like online dating, it’s better to ask if you’d be interested in getting a drink with someone, as “is this my soulmate” is kind of overwhelming.

      1. TootsNYC*

        One difference in online dating, though, is that it might be better to be pickier early on than with job interviews.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, I’ve applied to jobs that ranged from “this sounds really cool” to “I could do it in the right environment/for the right pay.”

      My last job sounds really boring on paper, and it was definitely not the most interesting – but I was paid decently, worked with nice people, had some good perks and it was pretty low stress.

      My current job sounds much, much cooler, and it is – but it’s also higher stress and has some very hectic times of year, and I’ll be honest, half the reason I applied was that I thought the company sounded cool to work for. Which did help me get the job…

    4. JM60*

      It also deepends on your financial situation and how desperate you are. If you’ve been job hunting for over a year, then you probably need to bite the bullet and cast a wider net than if you’ve been job searching for a month with lots of interest from potential employers.

      1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        THIS!! I was out of work for 2 years and had to be extremely flexible. I wound up taking a contract admin position. Not what I was looking for, but it beat the alternative. That was 5 years ago. It turned out to be a nice job, working with nice people and I was recently made permanent.

  3. Lumen*

    You have some room to be a little bit picky, since you will be living with your parents at first, but even a dull-ish job can get you connections and skills that will serve you in the future. You could learn new platforms and technology, meet some interesting people, and frankly… make typical first-job mistakes (that you don’t want to make at a job you’re especially excited for).

    1. Lumen*

      I’ll add that I’m not saying “you should make some stupid mistakes cuz it won’t matter at a job you don’t care about”. It matters!

      I’m just noting that almost everyone makes some mistakes when they’re new to the work force, and I wouldn’t want you to get a Dream Job that you’re super stoked for only to trip yourself up.

    2. A username for this site*

      I think this is a little important. I’ve often gotten to the point in job searches where I’ve taken jobs because they looked like great opportunities for growth (when really all of the “growth experience” talk was “We’re a train wreck and we’re hoping you’ll fix it but not really”) or looked like a safe bet in a tricky job market (“Well, it’s the only posting I’ve seen for my skillset in months…”) and ended up in disasters that, under different circumstances, I would have avoided.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    I work in social media and know that while I COULD write about cars all day as my job, I don’t necessarily WANT to.

    This also has to do with a spirit of adventure. Some people would see this as an opportunity to learn a great deal about something they know nothing about. Others aren’t interested. It really has to do with your personality.

    FWIW, some of my best assignments came from programs that had lower status but greater opportunity. It’s hard to tell from the outside, or until you get a bunch of experience under your belt.

    Now if it bothers you morally then don’t do it.

    1. louise*

      I second the personality thing. My first job out of college was an admin in dentistry. I had no interest in dentistry, but quickly found out I nerd out over becoming an expert in whatever niche I’m in. I went into the job thinking I’d stay a year or two, tops. But it turned out I was really good at communicating with nervous patients, budget strapped patients, and specialists in other offices which were skills a lot of folks who liked working with teeth didn’t have. My co-workers were good and my bosses kept paying me what I was worth as my skills grew and it wasn’t until 6 years later that I’d exhausted all the growth opportunities there and wanted to geek out over learning a new industry from scratch. Before that, I had no idea that was my personality.

    2. nonymous*

      I also think it depends on the voice and perspective of the hiring company. I could write about cars all day too, but I’d prefer to research and write about the local guy who built his fortune (and amazing car collection) as a self-made businessperson and gave a lot back to the community then the details of what makes one racing muffler better than another. There are so many niches out there and what OP brings to the table is her distinctive voice. The interview process should be about seeing how her voice would fit in at the org.

    3. Kat Em*

      I write for an agency (I also freelance), and very rarely do I write anything for them about a topic that’s inherently interesting to me. On the other hand, I’ve come to adore the challenge. Now I know all kinds of things about fiber cement siding, protective equipment for welders, urinary tract infections, and crime in a city I’ve never visited. It was actually a huge boost to my self-esteem, knowing that I’ve got enough talent to tackle almost any subject if necessary.

      It’s definitely worth being open to new things if it’s not actively going to make you miserable. Using your skills well can often be more than enough to make you happy on the job.

    4. ChaufferMeChaufferYou*

      To add to that last sentence: even if it’s not very clearly against your compass and you can’t put into words what bothers you about it, it’s okay to not consider the job.

      I was starting the interview process with a debt collection agency recently before deciding to withdraw from the process. On the surface, I don’t have any problems with debt collection. People go into debt, the debtor has a right to collect on what’s agreed upon. But I just have too many lurking (and possible irrational) feelings about debt collection agencies that I couldn’t work for one unless I were desperate.

  5. Ultra anon for this*

    I work in an area of law that is not fun/is seen as “the baddie” by the general population. However, my specific firm has a very good reputation within the industry as being one of the better ones. Also, my firm is very conscientious about being a good work place and treating employees well. So, that’s a trade off I’m willing to make.

    1. CMart*

      As an accountant there’s only so much excitement one can find in this profession. Revenue and expenses are all just numbers, regardless if they’re generated by a movie studio or an adult diaper manufacturer.

      I know for things like law or social media engagement the content of the work matters more, but I would think at the most basic the concept of the work stays the same. If you enjoy the actual Thing you do, then it can be more than tolerable to spend your day writing about Boring Thing, especially if you like your coworkers, benefits, hours, commute etc…

      Plus you might surprise yourself. Even adult diapers have some really cool engineering and R&D that go into them that you get to learn just by being an employee, even if you’re not an engineer or scientist.

      1. George*

        Heh, from what I hear from authors who had their books made into movies for a share of the net profits, doing accounting for a movie studio is more of an art than the filming, has more twists and turns than the chase sequence, and might be more criminal than the heist scene.

      2. TardyTardis*

        Accounting for some far-flung enterprises of ExCompany was kind of neat, though I hope never to work at a place where you actually *need* plague vaccine. (no, seriously, not making that up).

  6. GreyjoyGardens*

    “Often what makes people love or hate a job are things like coworkers, their boss, how much autonomy they get, and how much support and development they get. Some jobs score highly on all those fronts even if you’re stuck writing about a boring topic all day (and some boring topics become more interesting when you get to know their nuances). And some jobs that look exciting from the outside score really low on those fronts, and the topic you’re working on ends up not mattering so much, especially after the initial novelty wears off.”

    Alison is 100% right about this. I can’t agree with her enough. I’ve had jobs where the work itself was “meh” to downright tedious, BUT, the company was a great place to work, I was treated well, and (I think this doesn’t get enough emphasis) I had a short commute where I could use public transit. And on the other hand, I once had a job which I thought would be my dream job, but my boss was a nightmare, I had one coworker who was erratic, paranoid, and weird and I found out why (crystal meth!!!! ), the pay sucked, and so did the commute. I didn’t last long.

    Oftentimes, people don’t wind up doing what they majored in or what they thought they’d do as a career, and that’s fine, as long as the jobs you take offer some kind of career path (not just dead-end).

    1. Doug Judy*

      I’ve found that it’s by far more important to love where you work than love what you actually do. I’ve known people who on paper had their dream job. But the culture of the organization was so terrible that they left for something that the actual job wasn’t their ideal task or interests but where they worked was amazing.

    2. Anon for this*

      I’m disagreeing with this – or perhaps just adding another POV – speaking as someone in a creative field, I have (and do!) put up with a lot of BS (bad co-workers and bosses, politics, insane hours and expectations, low pay) … it’s all worth it when I get the glossy, perfect final product for prestigious clients that I’m super proud to have in my portfolio. I know a lot of (former!) colleagues who got frustrated by all this and moved over to the boring job route, and eventually I’ll get tired and feel the same way, but the times when I’ve had boring projects for boring clients with great co-workers, reasonable hours, good pay etc … it’s just not for me. I also know that having the interesting / prestigious stuff in my portfolio better positions one to make those compromises later down the road, if you so choose. It’s much, much harder to go the other way!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah I think I might somewhat disagree just because I once took a job because I knew my boss and knew I’d love working for them. And I did, but they were only there for about six months. Then I was left with an organization and a title that I was only so-so on!

      2. Smithy*

        Another take on this. I work in development for a nonprofit – so while technically I have the basic development skills to fundraise for any organization – the reality is that I do have lines where my ambivalence becomes a liability.

        That being said, a huge amount of that I’ve been able to discover in the interview process. In my last interview process I cast a huge net and had the chance to really learn my boundaries. Definitely took my time, but I wouldn’t say the experience was invaluable.

        I’ve survived working for places with an amazing cause/programs and terrible management with mixed personal feelings. Sometimes still love the org, sometimes wondering if it’s causing the world active harm. But I am so happy that now I also know what I can probably never get excited enough about to raise funds before. Where nice people wouldn’t be enough.

      3. sj*

        yeah, i mean, i’m glad it worked out for you… but i disagree. there are plenty of ‘cool’ places that make you do boring work, and plenty of seemingly boring places that have hidden depths. And i’d dispute that having ‘cool’ places on your resume is better for your advancement. I’ve done more and better work, and advanced further at less ‘cool’ places, and THAT is what got me future jobs, not the mere fact of working for a prestigious name.

  7. Sandy*

    Another consideration is how marketable the job makes you later on.

    Right now I am in a phase of my life where I am trading excitement in my job for marketability– my job looks super exciting and cool on paper even if it’s boring as watching paint dry in reality, but it should translate well for other opportunities down the road.

    …or I will have watched a lot of paint dry for no reason, but I am choosing not to think about that right now!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I’d trade a little bit of near-term pleasure for something that built my resume in a meaningful way.

    2. Sarah*

      That’s exactly where I’m at. My role isn’t terribly utilized and the company isn’t thrilling, but holy cow I am learning so much. It’s a small company, too, which means I get exposed to a whole lot of things I normally wouldn’t get to do – right now I’m involved in a marketing project that has grown in the 3 days since I’ve started working on it. It’s going to be great in terms of making me marketable, even if my day-to-day is pretty dull.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      My boring jobs looked boring on paper, but they were dues-paying jobs. I have been able to do a lot of different things, even staying in one unglamourous industry for 18 yrs., and if I had chosen, there was ample opportunity to travel, live, and work overseas. I didn’t know any of that when I got into the industry. I think you just have to try things.

  8. Snark*

    My take: writing cover letters and resumes, applying, and interviewing are skills. Even if you’re not stoked for a given job, those are muscles that need to be worked before they’re strong, right? So apply to a lot of jobs. There isn’t really a downside, aside from the time it takes to apply – which you mitigate by applying for jobs you’re genuinely qualified for and which you could see yourself maybe taking if it were your best option. But I think there’s a benefit to the exercise of applying and interviewing beyond just “the numbers game” and other such nonsense.

    And, this is just a subtext I’m responding to, but….especially early in one’s career, one needn’t be thrilled about every job they get, feel me? Yeah, it might not be your bag to write about cars all the time. Wasn’t my bag to inspect wastewater treatment plants for EPA, either. But it was useful experience that broadened my portfolio and gave me useful experiencea and contacts. There’s value to that. The perfect can be the enemy of the good.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      The only downside I can see is what happened to my sister in law. She graduated from college ready to go into teaching and started applying all over the place. The first offer she got was in the middle of nowhere in a place she didn’t want to live in. She didn’t really know whether to be happy to land a job at all or whether she could hold out for something she liked better. She ended up spending three years at that job and got some good experience, but taking that job was definitely motivated by (understandable, given the economy at the time) fear. I still think that if she had had a better sense of how competitive a candidate she was she could have gotten a job she liked better right off the bat. But she had no way of knowing and took the cautious route.

      So applying widely can be good, but beware that you may end up feeling really uncertain if your first offer is something you feel meh about. You won’t want to take it but also will be scared of letting the opportunity go by.

      1. Snark*

        That’s a very fair point. I think it makes sense to be selective about location and other things that affect your whole life and lifestyle, and about things that are genuine dealbreakers – but to cast a wide net inside the bounds of “this is a thing I wouldn’t necessarily be unhappy doing, in a place I’d be unhappy to live in.”

  9. Not Today Satan*

    Unfortunately, another wild card is that a lot of job descriptions (which are used as ads) suck. Some employers manage to make even interesting jobs seem boring as hell.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Exactly. We’ve updated the job descriptions for our team to reflect 1) what we really do and 2) the actual, must-have skills.

      HR still cuts and pastes from previous, outdated listings or simply adds the latest input to the original, resulting in a laundry list of bullet points. If you come in for an interview, my supervisor does an excellent job of explaining what you really would be doing.

      Apply anyway. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  10. Secretary*

    Yeah looks can be deceiving. I work for a tree care company in the office. Trees are only interesting to me because I work at a tree company. This job pays well, I have the best boss I’ve ever had, and I get to work by myself most of the day. This is perfect for where I am in life right now.

  11. Guacamole Bob*

    How much freedom do you have for the job search to take a little while? Could you apply selectively for at least a few weeks, and then branch out if needed? That way you can get a sense of how marketable your skills are and how much you should be willing to make tradeoffs. The risk in just applying widely right off the bat is that you could get an offer that you feel meh about and be really uncertain about whether to take it.

    1. Kes*

      That’s what I would recommend as well – if you have a bit of breathing room, start by applying to what’s most interesting to you, and then gradually broaden the net if needed.

      However, obviously this does depend on how badly you need a job and how many positions of the type you want are available/what the market in your field is like.

  12. Close Bracket*

    Another thing to consider is that you have been with your first job for four years. That’s a respectable chunk of time. If your next job is blah, you can look for a new one in a year without seeming like a job hopper.

  13. Veruca*

    Also, maybe spend some time really considering what your greatest strengths are and look for jobs that play to those strengths, rather than what sounds interesting. Finding a job that you can really succeed at can be fulfilling in itself.

  14. Lil Fidget*

    It’s so hard when you have a good feeling about the team or the working conditions (from home, or dogs-in-office, in my case) but not really the duties – because those former can change in a heartbeat, even more so than the latter!

  15. TZ*

    Speaking as someone who has both applied for and hired others for “creative” work (including writing and social media), these jobs are difficult to find. Most of the listings you’ll see will be low-paying, “internships” or outright scams — and anything that sounds half-decent will get an overwhelming number of applicants.

    The good news is that many of the applicants are useless, and the people doing the hiring may be desperate to find employees who are hard-working and talented. So my recommendation would be to create a really good portfolio of clippings — if you don’t have a lot of paid experience, write for free outlets you really like or start a blog. And if you’re looking for social-media work, make sure your personal accounts are really well maintained.

    Last, if you’re looking in a relatively small market, research all the places you’d like to work instead than waiting for job listings to appear. It doesn’t hurt to send your resume and clippings even if there isn’t a job posted (as long as you aren’t pushy about it). When you do make contacts, ask to meet in person rather than just emailing — again, it doesn’t hurt if you aren’t pushy (and if you take no for an answer). You can also ask for freelance assignments that might eventually turn into full-time work, and will help fill out your clips in the meantime.

    1. AliceBD*

      I’m a full-time social media person, and my personal accounts are locked down so the general public (including hiring managers) can’t see anything. They would not qualify as “well-maintained” in terms of posts as I post infrequently. I am judged on the quality of my current social media work for my employer. I also don’t have the time and energy to maintain my personal accounts after I’ve been doing a good job with work accounts all day — it’s not a huge love of mine, so it might be different if I were really passionate, but mostly I just found a skill set that is easy for me to use.

      1. Amylou*

        Yes I do social media too thought not full time but I definitely would not say my personal accounts are an example! Corporate social media is a different ballpark, it could be marketing or advocacy and then you really have to tweet / post with purpose instead of “ha cool article about avocados!”

  16. Cordoba*

    I think how picky LW can be about jobs depends on how badly/quickly LW needs money.

    If they have substantial savings, generous family, no liabilities etc then they can probably take their time and find exactly the right fit.

    If they have no other source of funds, student loans in repayment, and a car that will be repossessed if they stop making payments then they should probably take anything decent that pays enough to keep the wolf from the door while they keep looking for a better job.

    I for sure 100% would not flirt with financial hardship in order to keep searching for the One Perfect Job. Get *some* job *somewhere* reasonable, get paid, live to fight another day.

    Don’t take anything that is illegal or immoral or likely to damage your health or psyche long-term, but a “job writing about cars all day long” seems like a fine way to draw a paycheck without running into any of those issues.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah, I’d say for maybe 3 months OP can be selective and look for the dream salary, most interesting sounding job description, best career path, etc. But if you’re not getting a lot of callbacks, you’ll have to decrease your expectations from there. I just completed a lengthy job search and I really only got ONE of the things I was looking for … sigh.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        3 months is probably a pretty good timeline. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve read that after 3 months of unemployment your probability to find a job drops significantly. Even if you had money to be picky and only apply for genuine dream jobs for longer than that, it can still backfire as the employers look at the unemployment time and wonder what’s wrong with this person.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          For reference, before I got to a year I’d be looking at anything I could get, whether that’s temping, hourly work, food service, whatever – but that’s based on my savings and my cost of living. OP would have to decide how long they could afford to be under/unemployed.

  17. Bea*

    I almost didn’t apply to my current job. It wasn’t too appealing in writing. However the people turned out great, leading to a pretty nice portion.

    But I’m lucky in terms of having an in demand skillset and impressive enough background so I’m selective to a point.

    I would pull a “get a job you don’t care” and keep fighting for those dream jobs you see open up in your field.

  18. Adjunct Gal*

    I totally did this last time I was job hunting, and now I’m really loving what I do, even though the content matter itself to me is meh. I love learning new skills and having a real job trajectory instead of feeling like I’m in a dead end.

    1. Essentially an Adjunct*

      Based on your choice of name, it sounds like you abandoned non-tenure track teaching. What did you pivot to?

      1. Adjunct Gal*

        Hi Essentially. I went into content development/instructional design. Basically I create textbooks and online courses for my company (non-academic), administer an online learning system, and a few other things. I used my experience in research and writing as well as a few different LMSs to show that I could do the job. I just couldn’t take how my years of service as an adjunct continually seemed for naught.

  19. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    I’m in desktop publishing and I joined a company that works in a field I find really uninteresting. Like, yes, I’m reading this stuff because I’m paid to do it. But I love desktop publishing so the content doesn’t matter. Granted, I’m not creating the content, so I don’t have to be immersed in it, but just an experience I want to share.

  20. Not a Dr*

    I almost turned down my current position because the boss seemed unorganized, but after learning just how autonomous the job is I decided to give it a try. I am still here 3 years later.
    It’s an emerging industry, and not something I planned to get into. But super interesting, great coworkers, rarely boring, wonderful commute, good benefits.
    Sometimes you gotta give it an interview or two and learn more.

  21. Another HR Person*

    Definitely still apply to those jobs you may not be as excited about, but feel you could do well at, because you never know what will happen! My first job out of college was in adtech and analytics after a lengthy internship with the company, and I quickly pivoted and changed industries soon after. I wrote off my time at that company since I moved into the nonprofit sector and figured my experience there, while good for soft skills, wouldn’t have much relevance in my current career. But I’ve actually found a lot of the technical stuff I learned is still applicable, and gives me an edge in my current role.

    Also, a lot of the time a job may not be as interesting/ideal as you want, but it can lay the groundwork for your career by getting you key experience to help you land that dream job sometime down the road. Good luck with your applications!

  22. Rusty Shackelford*

    I wanted to be a lumberjack, but I ended up taking a job as a barber. It wasn’t a good choice.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Well, barbering isn’t something you can simply take a stab at. If you can’t hack it, you should move on.

  23. designbot*

    I tend to tier this. My first applications go to the jobs/firms I’m most excited about. Then after a bit I start applying to the second tier, then if necessary the third. This ideally gives me a chance to get snapped up by one of the companies I consider better, or at minimum hopefully will put me further along in their hiring process than I am with a company I’m less interested in. Of course everyone moves at different speeds so it doesn’t work perfectly, but it’s felt good the times that I’ve done it this way. Caveat: my last few jobs have been one-and-done applications so there is some chance that I’m a little out of date.

  24. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I won’t ever suggest someone settle, or that they should be happy about a job just because it was offered to them. ‘Picky’ is a relative term, after all.

    However, I encourage you to have a Plan B. You should always pursue the roles/employers that look interesting. But you should also explore employers/job opportunities that don’t make your heart soar, but that you think you can do. You aren’t committing to a lifetime of Plan B if you take that job, nor do you have to give up on finding the perfect-for-you role. Being employed gives you options, too, and sometimes you just need to build your job history and capabilities.

    Also, I agree completely with other posters who said jobs that don’t sound great at first often become great jobs. I’ve taken a couple of those myself!

  25. sj*

    Speaking as someone in digital marketing/social media, and as someone who has worked for companies/industries that are both “fun/sexy” seeming and decidedly less so… do not get sucked into the “i must have a cool/interesting sounding job” trap. there are far fewer “cool” jobs, and in my experience, they know it and have a tendency to be worse places to work because of that.

    And in my experience, in the end, all that work is the same. It may seem like writing about cars is not as fun and clever and and interesting as others may be, but the number one thing that will determine your happiness is your boss and your co-workers, not the topic you are writing about. Evaluate the jobs based on the hiring manager, the overall duties, the office, the culture, etc – not the specific industry/topic/business.

    1. Tau*

      there are far fewer “cool” jobs, and in my experience, they know it and have a tendency to be worse places to work because of that.

      +1000 and I was going to comment to make this point. More people are likely to want to work at the “cool” jobs, more will be willing to sacrifice some other things they’d usually want in a job, which means those jobs can get away with treating their employees worse than “boring” jobs. Not all of them will, but this is definitely a trend to keep in mind. I generally stay away from the fun/sexy parts of the field (mainly video game development, in my field) because of it.

  26. John Rohan*

    In my experience, the people you work with are what really makes the job. I once was on a temporary assignment (long story) with a group that got to choose different jobs/locations from a list. I was late so I got the very last choice, which just didn’t sound appealing on paper. But it turned out to be one of the best jobs ever. You never know.

  27. Silicon Valley Girl*

    LW is early in their career, so I’d recommend not being too picky. Every experience is valuable!

    However, as a writer myself, I’ve found the magic lies in finding a mix of content that I enjoy writing about & the company / environment / benefits / etc. that I’m satisfied with. I’ve written about a huge variety of topics, & the ones that were deadly dull to me did eventually make it much harder to come into the office each day. The work experience was useful, but the job itself was not sustainable over the long term for me.

  28. Renamis*

    I work in buses. Buses. Nothing close to anything I’ve ever wanted to do. I never even thought it was cool as a kid growing up. I took the job though because I didn’t want to do part-time retail for college, and I saw being a part-time bus driver paid more and provided a seat in the A/C.

    I’m sitting here now in my house I’m affording via my full time bus trainer paycheck. I’m not even getting paid well. I just love my coworkers, learners, and those who ride our buses. If I’d gone with my “Buses are boring” instinct I’d not be having the (tiring) blast I’m having now. Even if it’s not exciting you now, apply everywhere and look into it. You’ll be suprised what’s hiding behind a boring facade.

  29. CM*

    OP, I would suggest making a list of what’s most important to you — what’s a must-have, nice-to-have, and things that you don’t care about that much. This could include things like content of work, quality of clients, pleasant working environment, coworkers you get along with, vacation time, money, location. It sounds like you’re focusing exclusively on subject matter, so thinking more broadly may help you figure out what kinds of jobs to target in your search.

  30. E. Jennings*

    Make a list of the three or four things you value most in a job besides the subject matter you’re working with. Some possibilities: Autonomy. The ability to pitch your own projects. The ability to play a small role on bigger projects with more senior people. A fast-paced job where every day is different. A job where you can easily get into a groove/routine. Opportunities for growth within the company. A platform that will get you noticed by bigger places in the industry. The opportunity to develop expertise. Reasonable hours. A friendly company culture. A businesslike company culture. A sense of meaning/reward, that you’re giving back to society as a whole.

    Redefine that as what makes a job interesting or not interesting to you. It’ll help if you have to search outside what you’ve considered your field or subject area.

  31. Amylou*

    I do cool things in my job, but you wouldn’t guess it necessarily from the title or organisation I’m in. The topic is very new to me but in any type of comms work that’s unavoidable. At least I’m learning and doing very interesting new things (I probably would have to have way more experience in them to lead these projects if I was in a different org), and getting great opportunities and great colleagues as well. And to think I applied in a hurry as an afterthought, and it wasn’t very high on my list of jobs to apply to. Maybe the title isn’t sexy, but the pay is good, great work life balance, loving my commute and I will have the right experience to pursue the things I would like to do in a few years time.

  32. ChaufferMeChaufferYou*

    Even a great job can turn out to be (or turn into) an awful one. Look at the women who work at Pixar: their dream job is actually a nightmare.

    Every job is a gamble. There’s a balance there that’s impossible to dictate empirically. I think it boils down to:
    -Don’t take a job if your gut is telling you something is wrong, no matter how good the pay/beer fridge/ping pong table/commute/title/prestige is
    -Settling is okay if you learn to balance work and real life
    -No job is forever. If it pays the bills and it isn’t harmful to your health, there’s nothing wrong with a boring/annoying/weird job for a few years.
    -Always have your resume ready in case an opportunity too good to pass up comes knocking

  33. The New Wanderer*

    TL:DR; if the content of the job isn’t very interesting, make sure there are other benefits to make up for it (short commute, good salary/benefits, good team and manager), and you can probably put up with anything for a year or two while you build a network. But no interesting job is usually worth the tradeoff if other aspects are miserable, because you’ll want it to work out even if it clearly won’t.

    I’m struggling with this and I’m at the mid-senior level of my career. I’m fortunate in that I’m not in a situation where I have to take anything offered, but on the other hand, the number of jobs I can apply for is a lot higher than the number of jobs I want to apply for.

    For example, a couple separate positions just opened up that are directly in line with my experience and what I want to do career-wise, but for each, 1) it’s not a step up, or even sideways, 2) it’s being posted for the second time in less than a year (it’s possible but unlikely to be in addition to the position posted earlier), and 3) the most recent Glassdoor reviews for the two companies sound pretty awful. Bad upper management, long hours without commensurate high salaries, frequent layoffs (that don’t affect mgmt), that sort of thing.

    Or, I could apply to jobs that are a lateral move but pay well and offer potential new skills, except they’re all based in the city with one of the worst suburbs-to-city commutes in the US, and the type of work is not something I think I could even fake a mild interest in for the hour-long interview, much less the “passion” these job descriptions are asking for. I know it wouldn’t have to be a forever-type job, but if I’m going to sign up for a stressful 2 hr commute every day, there’s no way I’ll make a year it if I honestly don’t care about the work at some level.

    However, when I was in my mid-20s, I did take a job with a Highly Regarded company for $$$ (for those two reasons alone). I also had an awesome couple of managers and really liked the whole team, and my commute was maybe 15 minutes each way. The job itself was so non-descript I barely remember what I did there and when layoffs hit in my 16th month there, it only hastened my inevitable departure. But it sure looked really good on my resume for the next time I went looking for a job.

  34. Erin*

    I’m a fan of *not* working in fields that are really relevant to your personal interests, to be honest. My worst employment experiences have almost always been when I took a job related to something I love (say, sport) and then it quickly became work and sucked a lot of the joy out of it. Conversely, my best jobs have been in fields that I’m less passionate about (construction, agriculture), but where the work itself was challenging and interesting. And then my passions and interests get to remain fun and exciting, rather than a bore.

    1. A Reader*

      I could have written this post, so I will +1000 it!

      I agree with everyone above who also suggested making a list of what you want from your next job. Maybe you want a job that is 9-5, giving you plenty of time and energy for your outside hobbies. Or maybe you want a job with advancement, career training, etc. Sure, a job at Cool Company might offer those perks, but so might a job at Not-Cool Company.

      Don’t focus on the type of industry or what the company does, as you will limit your options. I almost did with my current job. I always said I would never work in a particular industry because it sounded boring. But I filled out a job application on a whim to this job in that industry, interviewed, and fell in love with the job right away!

  35. Suzy Q*

    Also, triple the amount of time in your head it will take to find a job, especially if you’re moving to a smaller town. You’re lucky you will have a dependable living situation.

    1. LJay*

      Maybe she’s moving to be with a significant other, or maybe she’s moving to be closer to/take care of a parent or other relative, maybe her house in Texas got flooded out and she needs to move somewhere else, maybe she got sick of living in 110* heat for months out of the year. Does it really matter? She didn’t ask for advice about whether she should move or not.

  36. Hannah*

    I think it is important to identify what it is you like about work that you do vs. not like about work that you do, and see how that relates to potential jobs. For example, what about social media makes you like doing that? (if you indeed like doing that). Do you like coming up with clever wordplays in your posts? Or maybe you like the analytics part of it? Or is it that you like interacting with others in a particular field? (I don’t work in social media so these things may not be at all what you do, but just for example…). When looking at potential jobs, try to think how those aspects of the job that you enjoy might play out at that particular job.

    For example, if you really like meeting people in a particular field, maybe focus on jobs in that field. If you were doing social media for a llama company and you just really liked talking about llamas as part of your social media job, maybe you’d like a job at another llama company, but can expand your search to things like planning llama events or working in development, where enthusiasm about llamas is very important. Or if you like the analytics part of social media, maybe you will see that the subject matter doesn’t make as much of a difference.

  37. Phil*

    Interviewed for a job that didn’t excite me, because it was a huge organisation in the industry I studied to get into, and I figured it was a foot in the door. Because I wasn’t 100% sold on the job, all normal interview jitters were gone because I figured “what’s the worst that could happen?” This meant I aced the interview and got offered a higher position than the one I went for.
    Both the position I got and the one I went for ended up being better than what they originally sounded like and I ended up working in that department for over seven years across three different positions.
    Still with the same company even now, just promoted into a new department.

    So yes, definitely apply for jobs that don’t wow you, you might get to the interview stage and find out it’s way better than you thought.

  38. SS Express*

    My first job out of college was in the automotive industry. It was a good role at a good company in a good location with good salary/benefits, so it was only natural to apply and to accept the offer. It honestly wasn’t until I was on my way to my first day of work that I went “whoops, my complete lack of knowledge about/interest in cars might be an issue here.” But it wasn’t!

    I loved learning about something totally new and different. Because I wasn’t the “typical” person they’d employ, I brought different abilities and perspective to the table – when our brand was struggling most people wanted to copy what our competitors were doing, but I was looking at companies in other industries that had faced similar issues and learning from them. And because I wasn’t just happy to be working near cars, it was easier for me to be objective about the bad parts of the job. Plus, it kind of sucks that this is a thing, but I come across as very stereotypically feminine and having worked in a male-dominated field with a “technical” product challenges people’s assumptions about me.

  39. AdvertisingAce*

    I’m a social media department head for an ad agency. I’ve found that the “boring” topics (tractor sales, small brand grocery manufacturers, etc) are the ones with the best work environments. Folks realize their industry isn’t glamorous so they work really hard to have great culture, do charitable work, and otherwise be a good employer or client. Whereas the companies in exciting industries (Broadway theatre, big name video gaming) know they have hundreds of applicants for every job and so they seem to view younger people (and digital marketing people) as more replaceable.

  40. Beth Anne*

    I think it can be really hard to judge what a job is going to be like by reading job ads. So many of them are so vague!

  41. Michaela Westen*

    I’ve done a lot of job hunting and what I’ve noticed is there are jobs everyone wants – wouldn’t it be great to do Cool Job or work for Cool Famous Company! And this job/company is overwhelmed with applications.
    Often the jobs that seem cool aren’t any better, sometimes not as good, as a job with an ordinary company. I’ve seen or heard about Cool Companies who pay low wages and sparse/no benefits for those cool jobs – they take advantage with their reputation.
    Look for a company that treats you with respect, pays market value, and has good benefits. It’s a good sign when the employer or department has low or no turnover. :)

  42. Junebug*

    Hi OP! I currently work in marketing and oversee our company’s social media. I agree with everyone that the particular content you’re writing about is not super important. Instead, think about your strengths in your job and how you would like to grow in your job. Basically, approach job postings & interviews from a skills perspective, rather than a content perspective. Have you always wanted to learn more about video? Are you the person who can always find a hilarious pun? When you’re thinking about applying to a company, check out their current social media and see if a) their current style meshes with where you are now; b) or meshes with where you want to be one day; or c) you have some great ideas for how you could grow and expand what they’re doing.

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