by Samantha McGurgan
Congratulations—you got the offer! This is cause for a celebration! Except…why are you experiencing the sinking feeling of dread? You may feel obligated to accept the offer because you already invested so much time and effort in getting to this point, and starting over takes So. Much. Work. You might be thinking:
Is it ok if I say no?
Who says no in this economy?
How do I even determine if it’s not right for me?
As someone who has said no to few offers over the years, I understand how uncomfortable and scary it is to say no to a perfectly good offer on paper. And I can also attest to the fact that I have never regretted saying no to job that didn’t feel right, and only have regretted saying yes. Here are a few questions to ponder through this decision-making process:
1.) How does your body feel? Stop analyzing, over-thinking, second-guessing, and Googling for the answer. Check in with your body: what is your gut telling you? Listen to it. Unapologetically. It’s never wrong. It’s normal to have a bit of nerves when facing a new challenge or embarking on new territory. But there’s a difference between distress (unhealthy) and eustress (healthy). Get to know how your body reacts to negative and positive stress by reflecting on the last time you experienced something of each type—how did it feel? How do those two experiences compare?
For me, I feel depleted, tired, and unconsciously withdraw when experiencing distress. I clench my teeth. Deep down I know it’s not right, but I run over it repeatedly in my mind trying to find a way to make it work. My husband says: You just got an offer—why aren’t we celebrating?
Conversely, I feel charged up, energetic, and motivated when faced with the possibility of a new and exciting challenge (aka a job I actually want). I feel inspired. I literally jump for joy after getting the call that I’ve been selected as the top candidate. I feel like everything was worth it after all.
Bottom line: If the offer doesn’t make you feel good, this is a warning sign. It’s worth it to wait for the job that won’t make you want to quit after three months.
2.) Are you running toward the finish line or being chased by wolves? Both of these instances involve quick, forward momentum. The difference lies within the motivation. My first question is always: Do you want the job or are you afraid that it’s your only option?
There are currently more job openings in the United States than people who are unemployed. The culture of scarcity that has been drilled into us since the Great Recession doesn’t reflect the reality of the job market. Given that you are qualified for the role you are seeking, wait for the job that will provide a sustainable opportunity for career growth, rather than accept the first one that comes along (if it’s not truly what you want).
Many of my graduating seniors who are in the midst of their first job plan on accepting a position as a safety net with the intent to keep looking for a better option. I ask them to think deeply about what is lacking in the opportunity, decline the offer, and seek one that is a better fit.
This doesn’t mean don’t accept an entry-level position. This means don’t settle for something okay when you could have something even better if you’d only waited another month or two. Or six. And don’t accept an offer with the intention to bail when something better comes up.
Bottom line: You’re going to find a job. Trust in that. And aim high. Do you really want to go through the interview process any time soon anyway? If you’re already planning to quit before a year or two, decline the offer.
3.) What do you want your life to look like?
If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself lying awake at night asking the Internet for a glimmer of hope or a strategy to make a non-ideal offer work with my life.
Ok Google: Is there a way to spend a two-hour commute that won’t make me angry and hateful?
I’m exaggerating, but the answer is no. For me. Because I have a family, and I know the excitement of a new role would quickly wear off after spending 12 hours each day away from home. Other people I’ve spoken to don’t mind their commute at all because they love their job so much. The question to ponder is, how will this job affect the rest of my life and therefore my happiness? How does this position relate to my ultimate goal? There are going to be sacrifices. Let’s make the sacrifices worthwhile.
Bottom line: The more you know yourself and your goals, the better you can discern if the position is right within the context of your life as a whole.
Samantha McGurgan is a career counselor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and college success adjunct at Cuesta College. Her greatest moments of joy involve expanding the career horizons of first generation students and supporting military-connected students in their transition to civilian careers. She holds an M.A. in education, with a specialization in counseling and guidance in student affairs from Cal Poly SLO, and a B.S. in human ecology from The Ohio State University.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.