Turning Down a Job Offer: Finding the Best Fit for You Post-College

Getting my first full-time job post-college took a lot of phone calls. I pulled all the strings I could to make one connection stretch to another. From my connection to Indiana University’s alumni association to my involvement with the American Association of University Women’s staff and membership base, I sought out informational interviews, taking extremely loose professional ties and turning them into strong job prospects along the way.

So strong in fact that I got two job offers two months after I graduated from Indiana University in 2017.

Landing the two job offers in New York and DC respectively was hard, but picking which job offer to accept was even harder. Before I made my ultimate decision, I had numerous conversations with friends and family and a dozen or so pro/con lists floating around my parent’s house.

In the moment, it was a long journey to turning down my first full-time job offer to take another opportunity. But looking back, it was only a few months out of my very short life thus far. I should have given myself more grace and more time to soak up the magical moment of pre-adulting.

One thing I got right, though? Accepting a job offer that would help me grow even though it meant turning down a job offer at a bigger, more prestigious nonprofit. I chose growth over being stuck in an admin role.

So, here’s my story of finding the right path out of college. Certainly not a perfect path, but the path that offered me the most growth opportunity.

All My friends Are Landing Jobs . . . Why Can’t I?

But any old job offer is not the right job offer. I wish I would have known that then.

Jealousy is a dangerous path that I found myself on many times senior year. The feeling can lead to resenting yourself, and isolating yourself from some of your best friends. So I advise anyone reading this blog to be weary and check yourself when the green-eyed monster emerges. Your time will come.

In college, I was an English major, but many of my close friends were in the business school. They were landing entry level roles in August with start dates the following summer. So naturally, I wanted to be in their shoes!

What I didn’t realize was that I was on an entirely different career trajectory. I was applying to nonprofits who weren’t going to wait 9 months for an entry level employee to start.

With classes, extracurriculars, and senior year stress, I wish I would have given myself some room to breathe and set realistic expectations for finding my first job.

Screw the Perfect Fit: I’ll Take ANY Job I Can Get!

It’s the curse of every senior in college to be plagued daily with the dreaded post-college questions. Your professors, family, and classmates all ask . . .

“So what’s next?"

“Where will you be working after you graduate?”

“Do you have a job yet?”

. . . and you probably have no idea how to answer them!

The pressure of these questions makes it even more likely that you’ll jump at any opportunity. I almost did!

I almost took a job that was in a city that I was scared to live in, that was at an organization that would have swallowed me whole with bureaucracy, and that would have prevented me from growing as a marketer and writer.

Thankfully, I took a beat, told them I’d think about the offer, then immediately emailed another organization that I was interviewing with to see if I was still in the running. I eventually got a job at that other organization, which ended up teaching me so much more than the job in New York ever could have.

I know it’s hard, but you have to stop worrying about getting any job post-grad and focus on one that will be right for your career.

Even if it’s hard to envision where you want to be in one, two, five, or ten years, try to get a general idea of where you’d like to head. By going through this exercise, you’ll learn how you want to grow in the short-term and the long-term.

Don’t jump at the first job offer to come your way. Consider if the company culture fits, and if you’ll be happy in that job role. Consider the city, and if you’ll enjoy working and living there.

Do your research.

Weighing the Offer

Long story short, it’s okay to say “no” to a job offer.

You have to consider if you’d like your coworkers, if you’d get along with your boss, if you’d be able to have the lifestyle you want on the salary, if the benefits are enough, if the commute will be okay, and if the career path is right.

The list goes on and on.

Bottom line: this is your life, and you need to be happy at work. If that means turning down a job that isn’t great for your growth, then so be it.

Have you ever turned down a job offer? Leave us your story in the comments below!

For more from Carmen, follow her on Twitter at@vernon_grrrl or connect with her on LinkedIn.