How Long Should You Hold Out for the Dream Job?

By: Caroline Ceniza-Levine

A question that I get from many job seekers is: How long should you hold out for the dream job before moving to plan B?

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and your own opinion on this issue can change over time. Here are three guidelines to consider.

1) What are your prospects for that dream job?

If you are targeting a growth area, there will be more hiring and more chances for everyone, including you. If you are targeting an emerging area, there will be fewer candidates with direct experience, and employers could be more open to considering different backgrounds, including yours.

Finally, every job has its ideal requirements and qualifications, so an honest self-assessment will tell you how competitive you are. Some job selection processes are very inflexible (e.g., front-office investment banking role at a bulge-bracket firm); the more flexible you can be in defining your dream job, the wider your prospects.

[Related: Being Open In Your Job Search Could Close Employment Opportunities]

2) What is your deadline?

The more you need the job, the less time you can hold out for the dream job. The more time-pressed you are, the wider your job search has to be, in order to keep multiple options in play.

On the flip side, if you don’t need the income — say, you have a portfolio of assets to draw on or you have part-time consulting work that covers your everyday bills — then your job search can go on indefinitely, and you can hold out indefinitely for whatever job you want.

[Related: How to Find Your Calling When You Don’t Know What You Want]

3) How much risk are you willing to take?

Even if you’re gainfully employed doing something other than your dream job, you will need to explain why you stayed so long in something you don’t want to do. Holding out for any one job risks missing out on other opportunities. Holding out requires emotional fortitude, and only you can determine if you are willing to pay that price.

Get real about your risk appetite. Get real about how much time you have. Get real about your chances.

The answer to, “Should you hold out for the dream job?” is not a single right or wrong answer, but a process of sifting through numerous decisions. As you consider your options, you are taking a self-assessment, calculating your financial cushion, and weighing your risk/reward calculation.

You are not passively waiting, but actively doing several things to make an informed decision to the question: Should you hold out for the dream job?

[Related: Five Things I Learned From Applying for 200+ Jobs]

Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people make a great living doing work they love. Take her free online job search mini-course to go behind the scenes in hiring and learn how recruiters read resumes, fiften interview mistakes to avoid, and more.

Originally published at

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