In an ideal world, we’d all have our dream jobs — and be getting paid handsomely. But because we live in an imperfect world, most of us walk a delicate balance between doing a job we enjoy, and doing a job that pays the bills. If we’re lucky — even some of the time — we have both.

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But when financial obligations or external pressures foist us into difficult situations, we tend to start thinking about finding jobs that pay well, period, says Anne-Marie Ditta, an executive career coach and public speaker.

So when — if ever — should you take a job for the money? Whether you already have a lucrative offer or are merely considering making the jump to a more well-compensated job, heed Ditta’s advice:

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Clarify your values
Ditta strongly advises against taking a job for money if you’re certain it will bring daily misery. However, if the gig falls somewhere in the gray area between dream job and toiling in a gulag, the consider the following: “The measuring rod that I use is: Are the culture and environment in alignment with your values? Will the position challenge you? Will it make good use of your skills and your interests?” says Ditta. If you can answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, then the job is probably worth the extra money in the bank.  

Be clear on your purpose  
“My experience is that when people go just for the money, I see them back in my office six months to a year later. It’s not going to work out,” says Ditta. However, that doesn’t mean money shouldn’t influence your job decisions. Taking what Ditta calls an “in-the-meantime job” is a legitimate choice, but you must know why you got into it — and what your exit strategy is. “You have to make time in your schedule to do that process of career exploration,” says Ditta.   

Set goals
If you do take a job for the money, just be very clear on what you want to achieve, and what the tradeoff is, says Ditta: “You really need to assess the cost-benefit.” Working a high-paying job to pay off student loans or a mortgage payment makes sense. But setting goals — like a time limit or a dollar amount earned or paid off — can help make the situation more palatable.

Accept when it’s time to change
For those frustrated with their meager earnings, forgoing a career passion for a well-paying gig can be tempting. But when do you know you’re ready to make the switch? “If you think about it infrequently, then maybe it’s not a big issue. But if you’re losing sleep and you're getting stressed out about it, that’s when it’s gone over the line,” says Ditta. You may very well decide to stay where you’re at, but people who consistently think about alternate career options “owe it to themselves” to explore a transition, and find a sense of direction.   

In fact, it’s practically a career necessity.

Says Ditta, “If you don’t know where you’re going you might end up in Alaska with a bikini."