It's Okay to Reject a Job Offer

This is going to sound strange, but bear with me. After coaching hundreds of folks on their job searches, I've noticed a pattern – and it's not one I would have expected.

Believe it or not, one of our No. 1 fears when we're on the job hunt is that we will get the job! That's right: Many of us are afraid of being offered a job.

Why in the world would that be the case?

Before we can answer that question, we need to rewind a bit. Think back to how you got your current job. Then, think about how you got the job before that and the job before that. If you're like most people, you got most of your jobs through a networking contact. Someone happened to know who you were. They thought you might be a great fit and offered you a job. It was as simple as that.

This makes a deliberate job search so much more difficult. Many of us have much less experience selecting what we want to do and going after it. We've typically just gone with the flow. If a friend thought we might be good at sales, we tried sales. If an uncle had an operations role available at his company, we gave it a shot.

But when we proactively and deliberately search for a job, we take on so much more responsibility for the future.

If you're like most people, you've taken every – or almost every – job you have ever been offered. When your friend or your uncle told you about a great opportunity, you went for it. When, on the other hand, you aren't quite sure what you want to be, you might be afraid of getting a job offer because it could mean taking a job that's not right for you.

So why are so many of us afraid of job offers? It's because we think being offered a job means taking a job.So instead of finding a new role, we sit and stew. We think about what we might want to be – one day. We are so paralyzed by fear that we make no choices.

What if we decided it would be okay to turn down a job offer that didn't feel like the right fit? What if we decided it wouldn't be wasting the company's time to go through the interview process even if we didn't take the job?

My guess is we would be less paralyzed by fear. We would approach the job hunt like a fact-finding mission instead of a scary commitment. And why shouldn't we? Any company would happily interview a candidate five times before walking away if it determined there wouldn't be a good fit. Why shouldn't we, as candidates, be willing to do the same thing?

A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.