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Finding a Job That Fits

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When it comes to job searches, knowing what you want is the key to finding a position that’s right for you. Learn how to ask the right questions (and collect the corresponding answers) to help you decide what kind of job you’d like to have and how to compare what you’ve already got (or may be offered) to what best fits your wants and needs.
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Finding an ideal job requires much more than having a great skill set or sending out hundreds of resumes in hopes you’ll get lucky. Landing a job that fits also requires a deep understanding of your personal core values, wants, desires, and needs. It also forces you to weigh those wants and desires against your actual needs to strike a balance that works for you. While no job is perfect (it is called “work” after all), self-understanding and awareness can make the difference between simply going to work versus going someplace where you enjoy the people and where you find your work to be both stimulating and challenging.

When it comes to finding an ideal job, attitude is as important as aptitude. Round pegs don’t fit well into square holes, so it’s important to understand what shape you are. As you begin your job search, ask yourself these two simple questions:

  • What do I want?
  • What do I need?

You may find that the answers to these apparently similar questions differ dramatically. If that’s the case, you’ll need to refine your self-discovery process to find the right balance between these two important driving factors.

When determining wants and needs, it’s helpful to make a list of all the items you’d like to consider in a decision-making process. Such a list not only ensures that you won’t leave anything out but also enables you to examine your wants and needs from more impartially. You’ll want to include items on your list that motivate you and reflect your career strengths, interests, and core values. Such a list should include items like these:

  • Type of company: Identify what kind of company you want to work for. Consider such things as whether or not the company affords an opportunity to move to other geographic areas (local, national, international), its financial status and stability (start-up, established company, bankruptcy, market share), and its size (small, mid or large number of employees). Other factors to consider include whether it’s a public (government), private, or nonprofit organization.
  • Compensation: Compensation includes much more than a base salary. It also includes benefits such as retirement plan contributions, bonuses, health insurance, comp time, and perks. (Perks might include discounts on merchandise, company cars, or free lunch every Friday.) Although we all need some money simply to live, any offer must be evaluated in terms of the complete compensation package offered and not just base salary. Understand what you want and need with respect to compensation. For example, if health benefits are a high priority, companies that offer those benefits as a part of their compensation packages should be more attractive to you in the job search than those without or only minimal health insurance.
  • Work environment: Everyone has different ideas about the type of work environment they need not only to function but to thrive. Understanding how you work, and what you need to be successful, are key factors in finding an ideal job. Consider the following when evaluating what you need in a work environment:
    • Do you thrive on challenge and high-risk, high-energy transactions?
    • Do you like to be the leader, or do you prefer being one of a gang?
    • Are you more successful if you work independently with minimal supervision, or do you need to share space and work closely with others?
    • Are you okay with a cubicle, or must you have a corner office with a window on the outside world?
  • Personal preferences: Don’t forget to assess your personal work preferences. A close match between personal work preferences and local corporate culture is often a deciding factor when evaluating job offers. Be certain to include the following items (along with anything else that’s important to you) on your list:
    • Work-life balance
    • Commute or telecommute
    • Potential for career advancement
    • Hours (full-time, part-time, contractor)
    • Management style
    • Relationship with co-workers
  • Community: For many, the community in which they live, or want to live, is a powerful motivator in seeking a perfect job. Community factors include schools, rural versus urban settings, religious or cultural activities, recreational facilities, and taxes.
  • Career strengths and interests: In finding a job that’s right for you, it’s essential to understand your career strengths and interests. Consider such items as:
  • Relationship to people and organizations: How you function in various organizational structures and matrixes; how you relate to co-workers, vendors, and clients
  • Management style: How you communicate, problem solve, lead, and make decisions
  • Personal strengths: Negotiating skills, communication skills, and interactions with peers, superiors, subordinates, and clients
  • Assessing your own personal skills and interests can be daunting. If you need help assessing your strengths, a Google search can turn up a multitude of online self-assessments tools you might useful in eliciting your core strengths and skills. A couple of assessments worth mentioning are:

    • Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II (KTS-II): The Keirsey Web site bills this as the “most widely used personality instrument in the world.” Keirsey offers a “mini” test and report for free online. Additional reports, including a career analysis, are available for a small fee. Check them out at: http://www.keirsey.com/sorter/instruments2.aspx?partid=0
    • CareerPlanner.com: This company offers a free Myers-Briggs–type personality test (advanced results are available for a fee). Other resources, such as a career assessment that matches your interests against potential careers, are also available. Visit http://www.careerplanner.com/ for details.

For every item you include on your list, ask yourself, “Is this something that I want or is it something that I need?” People often have a job-is-a-job-is-a-job attitude when it comes to work. While no job is perfect, a job that doesn’t meet your basic needs is not right for you, and it can’t satisfy you in the long term. As you evaluate your list, rank the items most important to you in finding a perfect job. Focus on opportunities that come closest to fulfilling the higher-ranked items. Also, take time to evaluate your current job against the list you create and decide how it measures up. Examine what currently works for you, and what does not. Evaluate what you’d need to change to make your current job a better fit. Then go back to your “wants and needs list,” and make sure those items are present.

While any job search can be a challenge, understanding your core values, motivations, desires, and needs can simplify that process and empower you to target companies closer to your ideals. Remember, every job is someone’s dream job— it just may not be yours. By doing your homework, you’ll recognize a perfect job when an opportunity to land one presents.

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