Being offered a new job is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Searching for that job, on the other hand...well, no one likes that. Aside from the anxiety of opening yourself up to potential rejection, there’s a lot of information to remember (company research, scrubbing your social, customizing your resume and interview questions, preparing and memorizing an elevator pitch, etc.) the pressure of having one shot to get it right is stress no one needs right now. But for as stressful as job hunting can be, it can be exciting, too.
As someone who has made a career out of connecting professionals to their dream jobs, I can tell you first-hand, the secret to a successful job search is making you the top priority and knowing the difference between a need and a want. In today’s world, it can be so tempting to adapt to what you think an employer may want to hear or see, but just like in the dating world, not being transparent with --or compromising on-- your dealbreakers always ends up backfiring; they are called dealbreakers for a reason.
On the other side of that spectrum, jobseekers who think of their wants as needs will also find themselves struggling in their job search, too. So how do you determine what your list of job must-haves are? And more importantly, how do you stay true to yourself in your job search –especially when you’ve been searching for a while.
If you’re passing on an opportunity because of something on your dealbreaker list, you’re not saying no to a job, you’re saying yes to yourself.
This is probably the largest point of frustration people have when looking for a job. We all want to be paid as much as possible, so figuring out what our salary minimums are can be hard to do. In a lot of ways, negotiating with yourself on salary is harder than negotiating with an employer.
A lot of times, people negotiate themselves out of a certain pay range for other aspects of the compensation package, and then come to find out they are struggling financially because of the pay cut they took. Other times, job seekers will want to have a certain lifestyle and think that’s a need, so they price themselves out of the hiring process.
Your salary minimum is personal to you and can take some time (and honesty) to accurately determine what it needs to be. Consider what you can realistically live off of; research the job market and know your worth. If a company can’t meet your salary minimum, this would be considered a dealbreaker, and you can walk away from the opportunity early on.
Remember this number is your dealbreaker –not your target salary. Your dealbreaker salary isn’t a number that you need to share with anyone, and it should be different than your target pay goal.
Your Personal Life
Just like money, time is another resource you should prioritize. Your mental health, stress levels, work-life balance, and general happiness are all things your career should enhance—not take away from. If your commute to a prospective job would make having a healthy personal life harder, then it’s not the job for you.
Consider the location of the positions you are looking into. Is the commute something you can commit to each day? Given the world we are living in, you also need to ask yourself if you are comfortable working onsite at all. Would you be opening yourself up to a health risk you can’t afford to take?
A lot of companies have switched to remote work temporarily, intending to return to the office in the future. If that’s something you’re not comfortable with or open to, it’s important to set that expectation up front, so that it’s not a surprise down the road.
Travel is also something to consider as well. If a job requires you to work out of multiple offices or needs you to travel periodically for training purposes, is that something you’d be comfortable doing regularly?
If you have children or an elder family member who needs care, the ability to be close to home at a moment’s notice might be a need for you. If a company doesn’t have the capacity to have their employees work remotely or offer some flexibility to let you prioritize your life the way you need to, that would be a dealbreaker.
Most jobs will have a set schedule of work hours, but there may be times where additional hours are expected of you. If there’s a big deadline coming up or a certain project needs to be completed before leaving for the day, you might need to get in some overtime. Although most of us can accommodate the occasional work week over 40 hours, frequent requests for this from an employer can start to throw off that work-life balance I was talking about earlier.
On the other hand, some professionals love the ability to pick up a few extra hours each week. There’s no right or wrong way to feel about overtime; it’s a matter of preference. This is why it’s so important to ask about the overtime expectations/availability early in the interview process and be clear about what you’re willing to do. Inquiring about how success is measured (hours worked vs. project-based/deadline) can also give some insight into how much overtime will be required/is available to work.
Conceding vs Compromising
When you set out to find your next job, it’s important to always aim for what you want; compromising on this wish list is encouraged. Your list of needs, however, is a hard line in the sand. This is your list of MUST-HAVES from an employer. You defined them as must-haves for a reason, so it’s really important to respect the dealbreakers you set and pass on an opportunity if it doesn’t meet your minimum requirements.
In a lot of ways, saying no to an employer is a lot harder than an employer saying no to you, but if you’re passing on an opportunity because of something on your dealbreaker list, you’re not saying no to a job, you’re saying yes to yourself.
Ultimately, the above list of dealbreakers are just a few categories of what may be on your dealbreaker list (job responsibilities is another big one), but everybody’s situation is different.
Though your list is unique to you, the process of deciding what is on that list should be relatively the same for everyone. If you think about the things that are important to you, are honest with yourself about what’s realistically doable, and think about how you want your job to enhance your life, building the items on your “must-have” list will be just as easy as finding a job using the list itself.