So, what do you want in your next role?
I get it—it can be confusing to know what direction to take next. Before you start the process of applying for open positions, interviewing, and evaluating job offers, let’s take a step back and use a little ~magic~ to nail that down.
And the magical element we’ll use to break down what you want and need in your next role?
Two of them, to be precise.
Yes, lists are simple. But they are almost magical in their simplicity and hugely helpful during a job search. First, they are easy to write and yet require focus and attention. This lets us zero in on what matters. Second, they provide a written record we can use later to evaluate multiple job offers. And third, they save a ton of time and energy that could be wasted applying and interviewing for jobs that don’t meet our requirements.
So grab a sheet of paper, fold it in half to make two long columns, and let’s get started.
The Must-Have List
Simply put, our Must-Have lists are a comprehensive list of everything we absolutely must have in our jobs to be satisfied and content.
Read that last part again—to be satisfied and content. This is not the bare minimum we can accept. It’s what we need to have a “nice enough” job, a “nice enough” life. The most important thing is that our Must-Have lists reflect our individual preferences and needs. That they are specific to each of us.
On one side of our sheet of paper, start listing things you value, such as:
- personally meaningful types of work (this is a biggie! If you’re not sure, set up a call with me and we’ll figure it out together)
- work environment
- health insurance, other benefits
- job location
- commute length
- company values
- company culture
- job focus
- skills you will use most
- vacation time
- flex time
- work from home
- perks such as a company car, event tickets, reserved parking
- type of workspace (open, cubicle, office)
- type of supervisor
- dress code
- company type (family-owned, small, national, independent, etc.)
The Cherry-on-Top List
Next up, our Cherry-on-Top list. In this list, we’re going to go one step further and list everything we’d LOVE to see in our next role. Everything that would contribute to a job where we can really thrive and succeed.
This is almost a wish list of sorts, where we can envision our dream job, including what we truly value in a work environment.
Let’s get started the easy way. On the other side of our sheet of paper, write the Cherry-on-Top version of items from our Must-Have lists. Examples might look like the following:
Must-Have: commute less than 45 minutes
Cherry-on-Top: commute less than 15 minutes, no freeway driving
Cherry-on-Top: $110k with $5k signing bonus and annual bonus structure
Must-Have: cubicle with screen privacy
Cherry-on-Top: office with desk facing the door
Now we can really have some fun and add ideas that didn’t make our Must-Have lists but would be amazing to have in our next job. Those might look like:
- A free coffee and espresso bar
- Lush office plants
- Working on exciting projects
The list can include anything, really, so long as we value it and it contributes to our ability to thrive and succeed in the position and life.
How realistic should you be? Somewhat. For example, if the average salary for our desired position is $50k per year, we probably wouldn’t want to list $200k as our Cherry-on-Top salary. But $60-$70k? There’s a chance we could do that!
Now, the Magic
With our freshly finished lists in hand, we’re ready for some of that magic I mentioned earlier. And here it is:
Just by writing our lists, we increase the likelihood of getting what we want.
Whether we call it manifestation or plain ol’ cognitive bias, once we designate something as important, our brains get busy trying to find it. But we have to keep what we want top-of-mind. Luckily, our lists are useful at every stage of a job search.
- Use the lists as the benchmark for applying.
- Is the position likely to meet our Must-Have list?
- As an example, if health insurance is an absolute Must-Have and there’s no indication the company offers health insurance, it’s probably not worth taking the time to apply.
- Ask questions to fill in missing Must-Have details, but be careful about how they are phrased; applicants that only ask about what’s in it for them are less appealing.
- For example, ask for a brief tour of the department to find out more about the workspace, dress code, and company culture.
- Likewise, if we ask how the company handled the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll learn about company values, working from home, flex time, and possibly health insurance.
- We know what we want; now we can ask for it! And there is a lot that’s up for negotiation.
- Vacation time, flex time, work from home, perks, workspace, and of course salary and sign-on bonuses are all negotiable.
- Also double-check your Must-Have and Cherry-on-Top criteria for places where you can compromise or trade perks.
- A perk we don’t care about is not a perk. We can use the lists to evaluate multiple offers against what matters most to us (and not the company pitching the offer).
- By having a consistent yardstick to measure each offer against, we can easily compare apples to apples and make an informed decision.
- There’s nothing wrong with choosing to compromise. Our lists will make sure we know exactly what the trade-offs are and help us make the best choice.
Remember, not just ANY job will make us happy.
Thriving at a new job involves more than the money, the benefits package, or the job title. Taking the time to develop a comprehensive list of Must-Have and Cherry-On-Top job criteria gives us a better chance of finding a job that meets our individual needs.