When you rush into a brand new job search, you leave yourself open to mistakes, missed expectations, and frustration. Knowing what you want out of the process allows you to more efficiently find and capitalize on opportunities. To get yourself into the right gear immediately, consider your answers to the following three questions before you begin your job search.

What do I want my day to day to look like?

People often have very little idea of what they’re looking for in their next job. Leaving this question unexplored can result in an aimless and disorganized search. Ask yourself what the type of company you want to work for looks like -- size, location, industry, culture, and work-life balance are just a few of the components you should consider.

Then think about the day to day functions and responsibilities that have made you happy in previous jobs, and optimize toward a role that emphasizes those tasks. Finally, consider the achievements you’ve made that you are most proud of and what role types would allow you to achieve similar things. This will give you a strong snapshot of the baseline of what your next gig should look like.

What am I willing to compromise on?

Next, you should pin down what aspects of your next job you’re willing to compromise on, and what is entirely off the table. Consider the following: would you take a lower salary if it meant staying in your hometown? Would you work outside of your industry for greater career advancement opportunities? Are you willing to sacrifice work-life balance for better perks, benefits, and bonuses?

Think about what motivates you, what makes you productive, and what will make you happy in your next job. Consider the things that made you unhappy in your previous job, and which of those things must change. Finally, what small downsides can you cope with for the right opportunity? These considerations are key to having clear and transparent expectations both from the jobs you apply to and for the hiring managers you communicate with.


Who do I know and who can help me?

Go through your entire contact list and find the people who you think can be helpful in your job search – old professors, satisfied clients, friends, family members. A strong professional contact is anyone who may be able to give you critical advice or put you in touch with key decision makers at companies relevant to you.

Nurture relationships with these people as early as possible before you decide to start looking for a new job. Your personal contacts can be invaluable resources, but only if they know you well, remember you as a person of integrity, and can trust that their recommendation is going to a valuable candidate that will represent them positively. Lean on them, and pay it forward in the future when they need help from you.

The answers to these three questions will give you a solid perspective on what you want from your future employer and the resources available to you in your job search. You’ll begin a laser-focused search, concentrating on your own career development and goals rather than meandering through various job descriptions not knowing what you want to do.

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