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How to Sabotage Your Career By Landing the Wrong Job

You’re sick of hearing it. You know the job market is tight and competition is ridiculous. You’re doing everything you can to build your network, stand out to recruiters, dazzle interviewers and ultimately score a position.

But is the role you’re going after right for you? Are you sabotaging yourself by not looking past the goal of landing a job?

In the current professional climate, it’s easy to focus on “winning” in the job hunt game and forget that a new role should be a thoroughly evaluated stepping stone in your career. In short: it’s easy to land the wrong job. Here’s how to do it:

Be a marvelous presenter

It’s no secret that communication skills are in high demand among employers, and for good reason: in many roles, it’s important to clearly articulate the value of your company’s product or service and to represent your organization professionally.

Hone those communication skills, but superstar communicators, beware: your talent could work against you. Presenting information in the best possible light seems like a smart strategy, and nowhere is this more applicable than in an interview. If you’re a fantastic presenter, you know how to read a room, how to get heads nodding and how to paint the picture of you as the perfect person for the job.

You could walk out of an interview having charmed the pants off of everyone in the conference room and influenced them to vote for your hire—but did you showcase your skills and talents accurately? Is your experience truly a good match for the job’s responsibilities? Did you sell yourself as the best candidate when someone with a different background would actually be a better fit?

It’s best for the employer—and you—to reign in the polish and carefully discuss the facts. Realizing you’re unprepared for the role after you’ve committed to each other is a disaster for both parties.

Be 100 percent agreeable

It’s important to resist the temptation to avoid questions or topics that are less than exciting or could steer the conversation into not-a-strong-candidate territory. It may feel uncomfortable to describe, for example, your preference to work alone when it’s becoming clear the role will require significant teamwork.

Everyone is better off, however, if you’re upfront about your personality from the get-go. The same is true for disclosing your actual strengths and weaknesses.

If you do manage to keep it honest, avoid glossing over the details or attempting to smooth any wrinkles if it means you’ll be, in effect, taking back what you just said. Don’t follow up an explanation of how a calm, quiet work environment is best for you with a contradicting statement about how you could be quite productive in a fast-paced office because you never miss a deadline. (That may be true, but will you be functioning optimally?)

An interviewer motivated to fill the position might latch on to the part of your answer that indicates you’d do well in the hectic environment and forget the rest in a subconscious effort to make you into the perfect candidate. If this happens, both of you lose.

Be a “Polly Positive”

As you look over your notes after the interview and recount the conversation—the job responsibilities, company culture and anticipated organization and career growth—you must include the negatives in your evaluation. A new job can feel exciting, and it’s fun to look at all the pros associated with the role and imagine the rainbow-filled paths your career can go down.

But it’s crucial you weigh the cons of the situation, too. What seems like an insignificant factor can feel like a huge problem when the newness of a position wears off. As much as possible, try your best to be objective and see beyond the bright side.

Sometimes you don’t have much of a choice and life circumstances dictate how picky (or not) you can be about your next job. When you’re able to, though, move past the “score a gig” goal, and think strategically about your career. It’s exciting to land a position, but it sucks to later realize it’s the wrong one.

Cassie Nolan is the blogger behind Alternative Badassery, a creative guide to being good at life, where she covers career, writing and health topics. She also regularly disseminates awesome on Facebook and Twitter.

17 comments

  1. Cassie, all of your points are so important. Many people unknowingly sabotage their careers by landing the wrong job. That’s why it’s vital to do your homework before applying, interviewing, and taking a job. This is how you can be as prepared as possible and understand why a job is right or wrong.

  2. Cassie, thanks for this. Especially in this climate, society tells us that we are lucky to be offered the job and are idiots if we don’t take it. It’s not that simple, and it’s OK to be choosy.

  3. Nina Renee

    I wish I would’ve read this nine months ago. I ignored all the red flags in my interview at a publishing company–disorganization, a recruiter who ignored my editing skills and insisted I focus on social media, and a disconnect with the publications’ subjects–and now I’m paying for it. I’m so ready to use these tactics!

  4. MrNguyen

    It’s important to resist the temptation to avoid questions or topics that are less than exciting or could steer the conversation into not-a-strong-candidate territory. It may feel uncomfortable to describe, for example, your preference to work alone when it’s becoming clear the role will require significant teamwork.

  5. Rebecca

    Hi, I quit my job a few days ago after only 2 months. I was working in a completely new field of work but it was not impossible. The thing is, I thought it was… I was so scared of doing it that I quit and am now home wih the parents and broke! I did have a great salary and it was a great company, although the training turned out to be very minimal hence my insecurities about the new position. Basically I just didn’t believe I could do it. How sad and stupid I am. Don’t quit! Carry on! If I learn anything from this then I guess this is it! I hope I am lucky enough to find something as good again or maybe I just was never going to be compatible to this different and new kind of work? Thoughts?? :(

  6. Kristen

    This happened to me a few years ago, and I ended up getting fired. It took me months to figure out that all of the red flags were there from the beginning, but I’d been out of work for a year and was just so thrilled to be offered a position. It took me some some time to sort it all out and move on – I eventually changed careers entirely and so far, it’s been a great fit.

  7. Anon

    This article is helpful for those who are interviewing, but what about those of us who have already made this mistake? Once you realize you’ve taken the wrong job, what’s the next step? Can you graciously quit? What if its already apparent to your employers that they’ve made the wrong choice?

    • Kathy

      I have been there before. It’s better to resign before you are fired. I didn’t see the signs and I was fired (twice). Unfortunately, I had done the job before (staff pharmacist), but it was fifteen years ago and quite a lot had changed, especially the expected pace of the work. Now, I have been out of work for 7 months and I am finding it very difficult to find a new job. So, my advice is to resign graciously and you might be able to use that employer as a reference. At least you were professional enough to realize your limitations.

  8. Gabrielle Andrews

    This is really great advice and a great article. Very refreshing from the norm. I agree 100 percent that being authentic is the best way to find a good fit.

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