Face it: No job is ideal in every way, but having a list of priorities will help you find a job that’s right for you. Aerotek Senior Internal Recruiter Jami Wheeler recommends that jobseekers define their priorities. For example, asks Wheeler, “Are you willing to make less money for a shorter commute and work-life balance or more money for a farther commute? What is important to you?”
In other words, what are your “must-haves” — and your “nice-to-haves?”
Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder says, “Everyone has a different definition of the ideal work experience. For some, it’s being in the thick of the action in the office. For others, it’s the flexibility of not working behind a desk. There are advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios. With any job, it’s important to find a work environment that is suited to your work style and interests and where you can thrive.”
Work environment is only one consideration when it comes to determining “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves.” For some people, a high salary is non-negotiable. Others care most about prestige and advancement opportunities. Some professionals place the most importance on work-life balance, creativity, autonomy, a great boss or wonderful co-workers.
While some people are sure of their priorities, others, especially those who are new to the workforce, may be less certain of what’s most important to them. If this is your scenario, take time to learn as much as possible about the industries, companies and job roles under consideration. Find out what others are saying about their jobs, employers and fields by reading reviews on sites such as Glass Door and speaking with recruiters, colleagues and other professionals.
Studies on job satisfaction — such as a recent survey by Career Builder that measured the pros and cons of desk jobs versus non-desk jobs — can help you to recognize what suits you best.
Once you have developed a general sense of your professional goals and preferences, get specific. Create a chart with three columns: “must-haves,” “nice-to-haves” and “don’t wants.”
Writing out your priorities before you apply (and especially before you accept an offer) will provide clarity and focus your job search. Be honest about your priorities. Don’t allow your eagerness to secure employment take precedence over your need to find a job that checks the most important boxes in your “must-have” list. In the long run, this will save you time and help you to avoid accepting a position that’s not a good fit.
Realize that your non-negotiables may change over time. What is most important to you, as a recent graduate may be very different than what you most value once you become a parent, or approach retirement.
“There are so many factors that could be important to you, and these factors may very well change at different parts in your life. All are legitimate and you get to choose what you care about most right now,” says marketing blogger and career expert, Ellie Mirman.
In short, no matter how much your priorities change throughout your career — and your life — having a list of “must-haves” is…a must-have.