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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. March 28, 2023

How to Sacrifice a Work ‘Must-Have’ for a Job You Need

Plus, strategies for making the most of a role that isn’t your dream job

Woman deciding whether to accept a job offer
Photo courtesy of Arif Riyanto

One of InHerSight’s core pillars is the concept of must-haves—the top benefits, pay, needs, etc. women require in order to feel satisfied with their company and their role. Must-haves are different for everyone, and they change over time as women’s wants and needs evolve. 

We could go on and on about the importance of must-haves in driving workplace happiness. However, with a looming recession, mass layoffs, and an ongoing pandemic, for many people right now, a job might just need to be a job. 

We asked Dana Hundley, head of coaching and content at Allspring, a platform that connects learning to your work, to share her thoughts on times when sacrificing a must-have for a job is necessary—and how to do it strategically. Here’s what she had to say. 

Tell us about times when you should consider sacrificing your must-haves and taking a job that doesn’t totally deliver. What are the signs that a must-have should hit the chopping block?

A must-have needs to be reassessed (and potentially cut) if it is in direct conflict with another “must-have” that takes priority; becomes a consistent blocker to a new role, promotion, or feeling some fulfillment; or just doesn’t make sense anymore or right now. 

At Allspring, we’ve been collaborating with mental health professional Alex Yannacone, director of education and community programs at CU Johnson Depression Center, about taking care of yourself and how to create and build resiliency. Something that comes up a lot in this work is thinking about what’s in your control and what’s not in your control.  A lot of times we focus on what’s out of our control, and that’s when things get really overwhelming—you can end up just spinning in circles. But if you focus on what it is that you have control over, you’re better equipped to effect actual change.  

As mass layoffs continue and the chatter around the coming recession grows louder, all while we’re still trying to figure out what post-pandemic work actually means, keeping a close pulse on our needs and wants becomes more and more imperative to being thoughtful and strategic about our work, job hunting, and career. 

On our platform, we ask women to pick three of InHerSight’s 18 metrics to be their top must-haves, but obviously must-haves can reach beyond that. How would one decide which must-have(s) to axe? Are there any questions women should ask themselves when reassessing their needs, for instance?

It’s not necessarily that you have to forfeit some of your must-haves, it’s that you have to get really clear on what you need in this moment and to what degree you can withstand altering those must-haves for a job. 

The key to all of this is to understand your baselines (what will you not compromise on?), reassess your timelines, and then get really good, and frankly rigid, in how you are taking care of yourself so you can adjust as needed.

For a lot of people, baseline needs have to do with your job logistics (location if onsite/in person, hybrid/remote work policies, schedule, etc.), compensation, and benefits. Basically, does this job financially and logistically support your life?

It can be helpful to reassess or establish your timelines. A big shift, post-pandemic, has been how people think about their career timelines. Big long-term plans and goals feel harder to nail down in this ever-changing world. Focusing on right now and the immediate future can be more beneficial. I think often in “seasons” and “transitions”—it’s okay for a job to serve a season, or hold you over if you are in transition.

Then, imagine in an ideal situation: 

  • What are your must-haves? 

  • What would you ideally like to have so you can be good at the end of the work day? Define “good” for yourself. 

  • How do you want to feel when you start your day? What would it take to achieve that?

  • How do you want to feel at the end of the day? What would it take to achieve that?

Now weigh your “ideals” against what you need and want right now. It’s really important to remember that nothing is forever. You can take a job that may not deliver on all of the things, because it serves you now. This doesn’t mean you have a blasé attitude in the job because you’ll be out of there soon; you still do the best you can in the situation you’re in. But when you know it’s not forever you can see more clearly what you need in the moment and how to get that. 

Try imagining your must-haves as a lever system. If you pull the lever on how important one must-have is, does that mean you can release the lever on something else? For example, right now I need the lever on a “flexible schedule” and “supportive team” to be at the highest-level of importance, but I can lessen the lever on a “defined path to promotion” because that is not my priority in the immediate moment. 

So, the job offer is accepted—and we know going into it that it won’t totally deliver. How can women change their expectations of the role to gain some satisfaction from the experience? 

It's a combination mindset shift of accepting the role you’re in—you did what you needed to do, and that is more than okay—and, asking yourself, ‘How do I get the most out of this?’ and ‘What are the opportunities?’ And then being really open-minded when identifying those opportunities.

What is the opportunity to learn something new, or meet new people and expand your community? Sometimes the opportunity is that because you know this role isn’t the “end-all, be-all” and not forever, you have the space to step back from the pressure, grind, or expectations you may typically put on yourself and focus on clarifying what you really want, creating a better work-life alignment, or having more energy to focus on something completely outside of your job. 

I am a firm believer that with any new opportunity, job, or team, there’s an opportunity to learn something. All of the experiences we amass in the many types of roles we take on—the good and bad and everything in between—contribute to the value, impact ,and unique perspective we bring to the table. And our careers are the breadth of all those experiences.

So, get really curious and intentional on, ‘What’s your opportunity here?’

And I want to reiterate, it’s okay if the opportunity is ‘I took a job that I needed to.’ Maybe you’re going to make it work for six months because you need the security of getting a paycheck even though it doesn’t light you up in the way that you want. Maybe it gives you the runway to devote some really deep thinking around what you do or don’t want. Maybe in being comfortable and “fine” at work, you get to experiment or take risks with new projects. Maybe you have the space to have some deep conversations and expand your community and develop these mentorship or sponsorship relationships that are going to propel you in the six to 12 months.

How can women make evaluating must-haves a more regular practice?

We can get easily disappointed if we don’t feel like we’re making progress when it comes to our careers,  but in order to do that, we need to take the time to actually figure out what progress means to us. Reevaluating your must-haves and making a career transition are the perfect opportunities to define what progress, growth, or success means to you, so you can more clearly identify which opportunities actually move you forward. 

It can be helpful to create a regular check-in with yourself in that new role—put time on your calendar, get your favorite caffeinated beverage, and check in on what you need, and if your work is serving you. 

Feeling stagnant or like you settled can quickly turn to getting stuck. A good way to avoid feeling stuck is to continue to explore and invest time and energy in yourself and what you want, in the same way you hopefully did in your job search. It doesn’t mean that you have to stay in a really aggressive job hunt mode or always be thinking about what’s next, but keeping up some of the job search activities you engaged in can be really valuable. For example, continue to engage with your community and talk about what you're working on and what you want, or continue to receive and peruse open job newsletters in your inbox. You’re likely not doing this at the same volume you were in an active job search, but keeping those lines of communication open and habits around having a pulse on the job market or a specific industry of interest is a really healthy, productive way to avoid feeling stagnant. And don’t forget to refresh your resume and LinkedIn profile as you're taking advantage of those new opportunities. 

Is there anything you’d like to add about must-haves or job searching in challenging environments? 

Nothing is permanent, it’s okay for something to be good enough for right now. You’re not alone. Community is incredibly powerful, from a strategic job hunting perspective, but even more so, the reciprocal emotional support of community. 

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