Taking a job when you know you won't be staying long
October 13, 2016 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Recent grad school graduate here on the first adult job hunt. I'm quickly realizing that it won't take a magical month to find the job I want. I'm living at home while searching, and a job in my hometown is hiring. It is in my field, but exact opposite of what I want to do, however it would help me save money. Would it be wrong to take a job that I know I would probably only stay in for 4-6 months or so?

If you need more details:
I'm very conflicted. I know that I can most likely get this job in my hometown since I'm qualified and the hiring manager specifically reached out for me to apply (we knew each other in college.) however, I KNOW I don't want to stay in my hometown (very small, not much room for growth, and this job is nothing about what I want to do for my career.)

It's a hospital/clinical job and my focus and graduate degree is in public health. My public health mentor advised me not to do clinical work since I could get sucked in and make less public health connections. But she did also say that if no jobs pop up, do what you need to make money.

I've been applying for jobs for about a month now. Most are federal jobs, so I know it can be a while for some of them to get back to me. My parents are very kind to let me live with them for a few months while I keep applying.

My worry is if I do take this job, would it be terrible to quit it in less than a year if I find a job in public health? From my colleagues, I know it can take a couple months to even a year to find a job--but I know I'll find one in my sector. At this point, I'm just desperate to save money so that when I do find a job, I will have money to move. But would I tell them that I'm not thinking this will be a permanent position? I feel like I would burn bridges by taking a job when I'm looking for others.

I'm also concerned that with a full time job I will not have as much energy to find my desired career. I'm currently applying to jobs like it's my full time job and it is e x h a u s t i n g. I'm also studying for my certification exam on top of that. My parents have given me the undeserved luxury of living rent free for about three months. Part of me wants to devote that time to studying and applying for jobs, but beggars can't be choosers? I also have the option of doing a part time job that is unrelated to my field, but this hiring manager is quite pushy in wanting me to apply for the FT job at their hospital.

Sigh. Does anyone have any advice or experience with this? I've balanced a job and full time grad school, but somehow this time seems way more demoralizing and I feel like I can't concentrate as well. I think I'm partially burnt out. Doesn't help that I can't stand being in my little hometown away from friends and big city life... thanks in advance! x
posted by socky bottoms to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Would it be wrong to take a job that I know I would probably only stay in for 4-6 months or so?

No, this is not "wrong". But don't expect a reference after you leave.
posted by cnanderson at 7:12 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've balanced a job and full time grad school, but somehow this time seems way more demoralizing and I feel like I can't concentrate as well. I think I'm partially burnt out. Doesn't help that I can't stand being in my little hometown away from friends and big city life.

See, if you actually enjoyed your current situation--or if it seemed like there were any chance of you actually finding the job fulfilling, even for a few months--then I'd say go for it. As it is, I think you'd just resent the job, the town, your parents, etc.

When you're doing it right, looking for a job is a full-time job, and a demanding one at that. I spent about eight months looking for my current job (though I was fortunate to be making a little money from consulting at the same time). It's okay to want to take a break from that for a bit and just do an easier job and hang out with your parents. But it doesn't sound like it would feel like a break for you.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:26 AM on October 13, 2016

People often let their desperation to hire a "known quantity" over a person with more relevant and applicable experience take over. Hiring candidates is a stressful and complicated job and the idea that you could just slot in a "good person" and not do the heavy lifting of interviewing more appropriate candidates is the easy way out. Ignore the hiring manager's desperation. I was faced with a similar situation earlier this year and while it was plain to me that I wasn't a good fit, the hiring manager was willing to ignore all that because I was a friend of a friend. It was nice to be wanted but I had to decline. Sometimes it's better to walk away than spoil a relationship with a bad fit.

This doesn't seem like your thing. If you decline, be honest and thankful to your connection: "Thank you so much for bringing this opportunity to me. I really do appreciate it but for the moment I'm very focused on the public health path and I need to keep pursuing this and see how it pans out. If I come across any good candidates, I'll send them your way."
posted by amanda at 7:50 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

The only thing I would caution, if you're looking for federal jobs, is that they take a LONG time. My friend just got hired as a passport specialist and it was an 8 month process and she had Bon Compete Eligibilty.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:50 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, the fact that you don't want to live in that town or live with your parents indefinitely means that there's less risk of being "sucked in" to the clinical work. I would go ahead and apply, but don't feel that you need to be sneaky about the fact that this isn't your long-term dream job. If they want to hire you, with the understanding that you will be good at the job while you're there but will be looking for policy jobs, that's their decision, there's no need to decide for them by not applying. If they want a forever employee with well-matched long term goals, that's not you. But if they really just need somebody to fill the position, it could be a great match - they want tasks done and you want a paycheck.

Before you decide, talk to your parents. I'm sure if you said you needed to live rent-free for another 6 months while you focus on applying for the permanent jobs you want, they could go along with that. Or if you tell them you decided to take the job to reduce debt and not feel obligated to them, they could understand that. And maybe appreciate it. Or maybe they'd appreciate your dedication to your chosen goals more than they're appreciate rent money... The point is that there should be an open conversation about the options, before you start stirring their opinion into your pros and cons of this decision.
posted by aimedwander at 8:36 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, how long from now is your certification exam? Interview, and maybe you postpone the start date until after your exam, which will also give you more time to get more applications out.

Applying for jobs is a huge huge thing, and very time consuming, and it does make sense to reserve some time for that, which could involve not having a full time job. I'm not sure where you fall on this spectrum, but with a pretty specialized dream job and/or a particular part of the country you want to live in, you will eventually reach saturation. All the jobs that were posted when you started looking, you will have applied to, and eventually all you can do is apply to whatever new jobs are opening up (and worry, and start relaxing your criteria and applying to jobs you don't actually want). So maybe you could make a lot of personal progress by delaying your requested start date for a few weeks, without having to rule out the clinical job entirely.
posted by aimedwander at 9:16 AM on October 13, 2016

I work in public health, and I think your mentor is wrong. I have over a decade of policy experience in various topic areas, in three major cities that do a lot of public health stuff, and I have done hiring, and I can tell you clinical experience is actually helpful. The folks I know with a clinical degree and an MPH can basically do whatever they want! I love public health, but it is not the easiest field to find jobs in. Depending where you are looking, it can take a long time. When I started out I had a few years of PT contract gigs before I found a real, FT public health job. It's a little hard to tell from the post how much work experience you have already, but any relevant experience/more work experience is better than less.

Also....you might be surprised. My career has gone in a different direction than I planned, once I actually started working I discovered I liked different things than I expected and what I do now is fairly different than what I envisioned doing when I was fresh out of school. Try the clinical job. Don't lie and tell them it's what you want to do forever, but I'd really recommend at least trying it out.
posted by john_snow at 9:32 AM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

Only semi-relevant, but recently at work we celebrated a guy's retirement. He'd worked at the company for 44 years. He began his speech "This is the longest summer job I've ever had..."
posted by TomFoolery at 9:50 AM on October 13, 2016

Oh man, I really REALLY hope I don't stay in my po-dunk town for 44 years.
To answer some questions, I take my certification exam in 4 weeks. They told me that I have a year upon hiring to get my credentials.
I also am applying for jobs *everywhere* in the US as I'm open to moving and would like to leave my home state. If you can't tell already, I dread being home and in my hometown (I have a not-so-great relationship with my parents, which is putting me into panic mode in finding a job elsewhere. But this job in my hometown will at least get me out of the house, I suppose.)
I have two years of true "work" experience, which puts me at a disadvantage I think. I have 6 years of unpaid internship and volunteer experience though. I went straight from undergrad into graduate school, so I have less paid work experience than some peers. But in order to do the job I want, I needed the credentials which my MPH program gave me.
Sigh, I think I'll apply. They could find a better and more dedicated candidate and then the universe will have given me a path that way. Thanks for the responses so far!
posted by socky bottoms at 10:22 AM on October 13, 2016

As a hiring manager and someone who has hired people I know personally, don't do it. This will not get you a good reference. Hiring someone and training them is exhausting and takes a lot of resource and time. If you don't plan to stay a year or so, don't waste your time and theirs.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2016

Do what is best for you. If your concern is that leaving the job wouldn't be nice for the organization hiring you, then don't give it a second thought. They would fire you in a heartbeat if they felt it was necessary for their bottom line. If you think it may be damaging to your reputation or career prospects, then think about that. But new job seekers tend to worry about this too much -- people quit jobs all the time. It is very rarely a huge issue if someone quits a job early. I've job-hopped a bit and it hasn't prevented me from advancing my career. I'd argue that being willing to switch jobs has helped me advance my career. It doesn't look great to some employers, but it is hardly a disqualifying thing. In some fields, it may be a problem -- I've learned from AskMeFi that it is apparently hard to do in academia because of how insular that field is -- but I very much doubt that would be a problem in a field like public health. That said, I am no expert in this field. I would say just do what you think makes sense for you and will make you happy. Doing what is "right" in a situation like this is should not be your concern.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:22 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

After 18 months of unemployment, I took the first job I was offered (kinda had to, but it was in my field, and close to home, but low paying). I told myself I'd give it a year, which I felt was fair to the employer and to me. I hated the job (loved the co-workers, not the work or some of the management), and when I reached a year, I started looking. Got a new job within a couple of months. Don't regret taking the job, which I saw as short term, and don't regret leaving.
posted by lhauser at 4:11 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

If this is early on in your career I don't think it's a really big deal. Early in my career I took truly awful job because I needed something and was only there for... 4 months? I don't even put it on my resume. I don't really regret it though, it taught me how to work for/with difficult people...
posted by raw sugar at 6:45 PM on October 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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