Being selective in your job search

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What does it mean to be selective in your job search?

I’ve noticed a trap that many job seekers find themselves in and that’s the fear setting standards for a job search. The concern is that they will miss out on an opportunity if they decide to stick to certain principles. I completely respect this mindset, and it’s true that it’s good to remain open to possibilities. With that said however, by setting no baseline standards, people find themselves in jobs or at companies that they don’t like or they rely heavily on their entourage to fill a gap that could have been prevented.

The interesting thing about being selective with your job search is that it is an art: you have to find a point where your desires are met while being realistic about what’s out there.

We need to explore the following questions to develop a set of standards:

  1. What’s available in your market?
  2. What are you qualified to do?
  3. What do you want to do?
  4. What are your deal-breakers?

I think that by exploring these four areas, we can arrive at a personalized answer to conduct a selective job search and find something where you can be truly happy. Let’s dive in.

1. What’s in your market?

We should tackle the question of environment first because it will determine a direction for the subsequent questions. Let’s say you want to be a Broadway dancer but you live in Nunavut. Clearly, this type of job search is immediately confronted with the reality of the environment.

So what’s in your market? Are there big companies, small companies? What are the main industries? What kinds of jobs are available in your market? Are you willing to change markets – either through moving or commuting – to get to the jobs you want?

I would suggest that you look into this objectively and gather as much information as possible to understand what’s in your market. When we have lived somewhere for a long time, it’s easy to believe that we know everything. This is why it’s important to challenge your assumptions and habits. I would recommend not only perusing the available jobs in your area, but also to take a look on LinkedIn to see if there is anyone in your general region who does the type job that you want to do. This search can point to the types of companies that offer the chosen job.

2. What are you qualified to do?

Now that we have an idea what’s out there, we can look at what you are qualified to do in the broad sense. With your current education, skill level and work experience, what jobs can you do?

When you are looking for a new job, it’s a good idea to apply for jobs where you can grow your skills. This is how you shape and develop your career. You want to ensure that you are always growing by either broadening or deepening your skills, or ideally, both.

Apply not only for the jobs which you are qualified, but also for those that are a bit of a stretch. You have nothing to lose. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t get called for the position. So the gain – the possibility of growing your skills and surpassing your current level – far outweighs the drawback. If you do get called for a job that will push your skills, emphasize it in the interview. Don’t just say “I want new challenges”. Be specific. What about this job is an exciting challenge for you and how will this benefit your career and the company?

Remember that a job is nothing without its incumbent. It’s the employee who infuses life into the job and this brings value to the company.

3. What do you want to do?

This is an area where many struggle. In every job, there are responsibilities which we enjoy, and certain things we would rather not do, but they are part of our job so we do them. These are natural trade-offs that will occur in every job.

The bigger question comes in when you have talents in a certain area or you’ve had certain responsibilities in the past but you have no desire to work in a job that includes these. This is normal, and everyone has things that they don’t want to do. In my case for instance, I am a friendly and enthusiastic person. Many people whom I meet say “Wow! You would be a great sales person!” While I do have certain sales skills, I have no interest in it as a profession. You cannot expect strong performance and career fulfillment when the interest for the job isn’t there.

The key is to be honest with yourself. If you don’t want to do the job, don’t apply for it. You will never be fulfilled nor be the best you can be if you work at a job where you simply going through the motions. People who are truly excellent at what they do have a burning desire that comes from within which manifests itself through their work. This is true regardless of the profession. One of my friends is a chartered accountant and this is the perfect profession for her. She is someone who is very precise and this precision has to make sense in the context of the whole. She is recognized and praised for her abilities because the work she does is in alignment with who she fundamentally is and what she wants to do.

4. What are your deal-breakers?

The final element to consider are your deal-breakers. Your deal-breakers are personalized, so what represents a deal-breaker for you may not for someone else. For instance, some people live in the suburbs and refuse to work in the city whereas others would never consider working anywhere but the city.

Some deal-breakers may include:

  • Commute and travel for work
  • Work environment
  • Job status (permanent, temporary, consulting etc.)
  • Work schedule
  • Salary and benefits
  • Career advancement
  • Vacation
  • Child care
  • Etc.

You will notice that some areas will matter to you and you will be indifferent about some. Some can be negotiated for the right opportunity and some are the breaking point. Some will be true at one point in your career and be a non-issue at another point in your career.

So for you, right now, what are your deal-breakers?

Putting it all together

Now that you have the answers to these questions, you can go through your job search confident that the companies you interview with are the right ones for you. If you need more help with the job search, feel free to check out my article How to conduct a thorough job search with less effort and How to research a company – in less time than you think!

Happy hunting!