How do you decide whether to apply for a particular job?

You have had it happen before. A job posting pops up and you have to decide whether you’re going to invest your time in researching the position, polishing your resume, drafting a cover letter, and applying for it. For one reason or another, you decide not to apply. Maybe it is located in a city you never thought about living in. Maybe you think you’re not qualified or they won’t take you seriously. Maybe the job just doesn’t jump out at you.

Should you have applied? Applying for a job takes a non-negligible amount of time. How can you assess whether a  job posting is worth that investment? How do you decide whether to apply for a particular job?

The answer is pretty easy. Err on the side of applying. If a job interests you in the least, go ahead and apply.

It’s easier to explain this by giving you advice on when not to apply for a particular job.

I encourage you to be guided by this idea:

Only decline to apply for a job when you would rather be unemployed than take that job.

The corollary of this idea for someone who is already employed and thinking about making a job switch is: Only decline to apply for a job when you would rather stay in your current job than take that job.

If you follow this advice, you will apply for most of the jobs that you come across but not all of them. If you see a job posting in Manhattan and you decide that you would rather be unemployed than live in New York, do not apply. That makes total sense. You are so certain that you do not want to live in New York that you would rather invest your resources in searching for a job in another city, even if it means being unemployed for a little while.

If you see a job posting for a trial attorney and you know you never want to step foot in a courtroom, don’t apply.

But keep in mind that you will feel very different about a job emotionally once you have an offer and even when you just have an invitation to interview than you felt about the job when weighing whether to apply for it to begin with.

You will find that when deciding to apply for a job, you may not feel that excited about it but once you have been invited to interview for that same job opportunity, your excitement skyrockets. You start researching the employer and the city and see all of the positives.

This happened to a friend of mine who accepted an offer to work in Dallas. A mutual friend sent her a job posting for the exact kind of job she wanted but in Dallas. She had never been to Dallas in her life, certainly never considered living there, and did not give the job posting a second thought. I encouraged her to just apply and see what happened. She did, she interviewed and thought Dallas was actually a really cool city, and now she is working in a job she absolutely loves in a city that she actually ended up loving too.

The truth is, you can turn down any job offer you want. It’s your life. If you find that after some introspection that a particular city or job just isn’t a fit for you, you should absolutely turn down the offer. Life is too short to be miserable.

But don’t decline to even apply for the job if you have even some interest.

You can turn down an offer but you cannot take a time machine and go back and apply for a job that you wish you had applied for.

Don’t disqualify yourself because you think they won’t pick you either.

When the Institute for Justice posted a job for an entry-level attorney in their Minnesota office, I thought they would never pick me. They regularly litigate in federal appellate courts and are the leader for what they do in constitutional litigation. I thought for sure they would pick someone with a fancy clerkship and amazing grades.

I also had never set foot in Minnesota except for a brief two day period when I was looking at colleges there. All I knew is that it was really cold and they had once elected a governor who had been a wrestler.

Still, I applied, remembering Wayne Gretzky’s great quote that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You know how this ends. I got the job and had a blast litigating there for three years.

So the next time you see a job posting that vaguely interests you, throw your hat in the ring. You never know what will come of it. And for the record, Dallas and Minnesota really aren’t that bad.

If you’re weighing applying to a particular job or have a job offer you’re unsure about, come see the CDO. We’re here to help.



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