Stop! Don’t apply for one more job until you complete this exercise.
If you’ve been looking for a job awhile, you know how frustrating and confusing it can be. You come across the perfect job description and then find out it has 50 percent travel time or only pays $7.25 an hour. You may have all the qualifications except for certification for some obscure software program. Or you spend hours trying to fit your experience into a job you like but aren’t really qualified for.
A lot of job seekers waste time because they haven’t decided what their perfect job description would be. The longer it takes, the more you are willing to ignore your “must haves” and settle for something less. I spent time filling out a job application and went through two interviews for a job I knew wasn’t going to pay enough. Good research for an article, but a poor way to spend valuable time.
Before you apply for another job, make a list of five “must have” elements and use it to quickly eliminate positions that don’t measure up.
1. The job title. When you take a job you’re making a commitment. Make sure it’s something you’ll trade your freedom for. Going back to what you had isn’t always the best choice. Did you love it? Was it your dream job? If not, what else are you qualified to do? Make sure you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for and pass on the rest.
2. Pay. This is the question you aren’t supposed to ask right away and information most job postings leave off. Do some research and you’ll get an idea of what jobs are paying in your area. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website, (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm) gives wages for over 800 jobs, by state and region. Government job wage rates are often pubic record and an online search can help find out if a job is in your pay range. Minimum wage is now $7.25, and many entry-level service jobs start there.
3. Schedule. Do you want the standard nine-to-five or a flexible schedule. How about working the night shift so your days are free to care for children or pursue other interests? A compressed schedule that lets you squeeze 40 hours into four days instead of five? Work from home or some combination of them all? Are you a gypsy that wants to travel the globe working for an international company or chase the next news story in some exotic location? Rather work from your spare room, car or an airplane? This is your chance to pick your work environment.
4. Company culture. Financial institutions have a different work environment than Google or Facebook. If you like skateboarding to your desk in the morning or wearing a suit and tie every day in a high-rise glass-and-chrome building, write down the perfect company culture. Money may be important, but if you’re not comfortable at work, you won’t last long.
5. Travel time. I once found a great job in a town about 30 miles away. It had all the elements I wanted, but I had to drive from Savannah down some two-lane roads through small towns back and forth to work. I had to share the road with construction dump trucks, logging trucks and locals who slowed down in the middle of traffic to turn into driveways, making the ride a little scary and dangerous. Thirty miles isn’t bad, but the trip was enough of a downer to leave after a short time. Bad planning on my part and I hadn’t done my homework. Travel time and conditions can be a deal breaker, so set your limits.
You get the idea. Find out what you want before you start shopping the job postings. Use your list to qualify jobs before you fall in love with the location, pay or company-paid BMW. Well, maybe you can stand the commute and low pay to drive your dream car if it, too, is on the list!
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