When you're just starting out or when your organization is struggling or when the economy isn't hot, it's very tempting to take what you can get.
You just graduated from law school and you have a lot of debt and the best job you can get is doing collections work. Should you take it?
Your consulting firm is organized around providing high-value work for large corporations, but the only gigs you can get in the consideration set for are small, struggling companies looking to spend a few hundred dollars a day. Should you take them?
The list goes on and on.
There are two things worth remembering here:
- Like bending a sapling a hundred years before the tree is fully grown and mature, the gigs you take early will almost certainly impact the way your career looks later on. If you want to build a law practice in the music industry, you'll need to take on musicians as clients, even if the early ones can't pay enough. If you want to do work for Fortune 500 companies, you'll need to do work for Fortune 500 companies, sooner better than later.
- The definition of "can get" is essential. Maybe it seems like this gig or that gig is the best you can get because that's all you're exposing yourself to. Almost always, the best gig I could get is shorthand for the easiest gig I could get.
Surviving is succeeding, no doubt about it. Doing the work is better than not doing the work. Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress. But, and it's a huge but, you define yourself by the work you do, and perhaps you need to redefine what you're willing to take and where you're looking for it.