Should I Take a Job I Don't Want?

Last Updated Sep 7, 2010 7:29 PM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,
Do I stand any chance working a different job than the one I was offered and accepted? I interviewed for a position at a prestigious financial firm in a dream location with great people and did exceptionally well. I'm expecting an offer soon.
The bad news? The position is a software engineering role. And I hate software engineering. Hence my dilemma. Unfortunately, I'm a good programmer and it's what I've been doing for 10 years. It's not that hard for me to get offers. The problem is I'm burnt out: I can no longer stand doing the coding part of the job anymore. I desperately need more people-oriented work, for my own sanity. But I don't have the financial luxury of taking the time to go to business school.
This firm is small, but growing quickly. There will be many new positions soon. Once employed, do you see any chance of working my way into one of these positions sooner rather than years down the road? I feel like I could only stand programming again for 6 months at most. What I'd like to do is somehow work my way into a different division that can still make use of my technical skills, such as business analysis, operations, sales, etc.
If I make myself well-liked and indispensible in the original role, would it be crazy to inquire, subtly, about a new (but related) role as soon as possible? I believe I could make my case if they were receptive to it. But if I let the cat out of the bag that I'm not satisfied with my current role, are they going to be disappointed and fire me? I feel like I may never come across such a great company any time soon.
You are in a bit of a pickle if you accept this new job. When I'm hiring, one of the things I really look at is if the candidate wants this job, not just a job or a job with this company. In fact, I've rejected numerous qualified candidates who, when asked, "Why do you want this job?" have replied, "I really want to work for [company name], and I'm willing to do anything."

To them, they are showing enthusiasm. To me, they are showing that they plan to start posting out as soon as they get their foot in the door. I don't want to take the time and effort to train someone who will be miserable in the role and counting down the minutes until they can leave. Of course, if I was desperate, and had no other qualified candidates, I might consider the person.

Many companies have policies against people posting out until they've been in the current position for a set period of time--usually at least a year. If you can only take 6 months of the job, this is not the job for you You will be miserable. Your boss will be upset that she rejected candidates who wanted to be in the role, and honestly you need a good recommendation from your current boss when you post internally.

So, is there a chance that what you want could happen?

Yes, but only if you go into it with your boss as an ally, not as someone who must be overcome to head towards the next goal. The time period to discuss this is before you accept the position. Since you're expecting an offer, once you get it speak candidly to the hiring manager. Tell her you are looking to move out of a straight programming job and into a different area. Ask her if it would be possible to use this new position as a jumping off point for that.

Don't be surprised, however, if she says no, or withdraws the offer as clearly it's not a good fit. You don't want to be in a job that will make you miserable, and the hiring manager doesn't want a new employee that is miserable.

If you can't afford to have the offer withdrawn, then go into the job with the idea that you will be doing this for at least a year before you can post out. Don't count on being able to go elsewhere within the company in 6 months. If you can, great, but you need to be prepared.

And, as I said, for internal transfers you need to have a good recommendation from your current boss. So, make sure you can get that by doing well at the job you were hired to do. If you can't, don't bother to take the job.

Good luck on the decision making.

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