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Not My Dream Job: When Should I Settle?

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Dear Career --

Let's start by saying one thing: I'm a planner. I need to have an idea in my head of how things are going to go. I know this is challenging with the military life, but I'm trying to get ahead of our next PCS in terms of my career search.

I have a dream job in mind. I'm reaching out and trying to network but -- knowing that we have a finite amount of time at each duty station -- at what point do I lower my expectations?

I mean, how long should I search for the dream job before settling for the next best thing, or even less than that?

-- Need a Plan in NOVA

Dear Need a Plan,

As someone who thrives on structure, I completely understand your frustrations. I'll warn you up front, I'm not sure I'm going to give you the answer you want.

There are so many personal layers that go into answering something like this that there's no way for me to give you a concrete cut-off.

That said, I have a few things I think you need to consider when answering this question:

1.Timeline. First, are you sure you're going to be in that area only for a set amount of time? In my mind, when it comes to the military, the only time you're positive about how long you're going to be in one area is either a schoolhouse tour or maybe your twilight tour. Everything in between may seem like a done deal, but it's often a little squishy.

With that in mind, I encourage you to let your plan be "ever so slightly squishy" as well. Meaning, make a plan that makes you comfortable, but don't be afraid to go down a few rabbit holes to follow a good lead and don't be afraid to keep looking a little beyond your original deadline. Life sometimes has a way of working itself out.

2.Math. Despite not wanting to believe my high school algebra teacher, there's always a little bit of math involved. Sit down with your spouse and have a candid heart-to-heart about finances. How long can you afford to be without income? If you decide to "settle," what salary can you really make work? This is one plan you should actually stick with once you've decided, so revel in its "concreteness."

3.Passion. Depending on your personality, this may be a little more squishy. But you said you have a dream job, so I assume that means you have something you're passionate about. My advice for job seekers (military spouse or otherwise) is to never stop pursuing your passions. There may be a time where you have to take a job that doesn't seem like the perfect fit due to one of the things above, but that doesn't mean you can't find a way to insert your passion. If you can't pursue your passion for paid work, find a way to work it into other areas of your life, and then use those areas to network your way into a paid position doing that work.

Again, I know this isn't the perfect black and white answer, but I think if you spend some time on the three things above, you can create a bit of a plan to help you put some structure to your job search and help you stick to your goals when working through another PCS.

Hope it helps,

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Dear Career tackles the trickiest careers questions from real military spouses with advice from spouse career experts at In Gear Career.

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