By Kathleen Furore

According to the third annual Campus To Career Report from Handshake, a site that connects students with prospective employers, only 39% of students surveyed felt confident or extremely confident in finding a job or internship by summer 2021. The question many of these students have: Should I take the first job offer that comes along – even if it isn’t exactly what I’m looking for?

Here, career experts weigh in with their advice.

“Often after graduation students are eager to take any opportunity that comes their way. In the current climate, as we continue to face a global pandemic and economic uncertainty, those feelings might be even stronger,” says Christine Cruzvergara, vice president of higher education and student success at Handshake. “While graduates shouldn’t lose sight of what truly motivates and interests them in the workplace, they should be more flexible when responding to job offers.”

Being flexible, Cruzvergara explains, means focusing on opportunities that allow these young job seekers to build a strong, transferable skill set.

“Even if the job isn’t exactly what they had envisioned, it is important to focus on what one can learn by being part of the larger organization – you’re able to learn about company structure and process, different roles and responsibilities, and general workplace habits and skills,” she says. “If they are fast learners and perform well in one position, they’ll set themselves up for greater opportunities in the future.”

Cruzvergara also says it is important to remember that there are different perks for different types of opportunities. “At a big company, entry-level workers might have fewer responsibilities, but higher pay; smaller start-ups tend to offer lower salary compensation, but often offer greater responsibilities and other perks like a stake in the company through equity,” she says. “Remember that there are always learning and networking opportunities in any position, and there can be opportunities to move into a different role at the company once one has proven oneself.”

Laurie Berenson, of SterlingCareerConcepts.com, says she coaches her clients to understand that value of an entry-level position is often better viewed as part of the bigger picture.

“For instance, consider the value of getting into a large, reputable employer with the plan of advancing or switching departments after a couple of years or accepting a junior position working for someone respected or well known in an industry,” Berenson advises. “A junior position at an up-and-coming startup or a company known for being an industry disrupter can also offer value. Junior sales positions can also teach valuable lessons in work ethic, communication skills, and follow up … One position earlier in my career that taught me quite a few life lessons was a sales job,” she adds.

But what if the job offer is in a completely different industry or area of interest?

“One can always pivot back to an area of interest or industry,” Berenson says. “Or this initial job may open up or create opportunities that will unexpectedly take you in a different direction. All things [being] equal, if I were an employer interviewing young professionals during, say, the year 2023, I would much prefer to see someone who accepted a role out of college in 2021 and rolled up their sleeves, worked hard and gained experience versus someone who chose not to accept a position because it didn’t fit their expectations and ended up wandering around for a year after college. Employers value work ethic, drive and the ability to switch gears. Show them you have it!”

Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.

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