Job search tip – know what you want!

Job search tip – know what you want!

Job search tip – know what you want! Over a very long career, I have advised and a coached lots of gifted, intelligent and ambitious people who were unhappy in their present job. I’ve learned lots of strategies for coping and for turning a negative short term experience into a long-term gain. I am writing today because there a has been a recurring theme. Most of those people had doubts before they took the job.

The exceptions were usually people whose circumstances changed. For example, they had a new boss they didn’t get on with or they had been through a badly handled outsourcing exercise where they ended up feeling like a victim. Sometimes, it was their own personal circumstances that had been changed. For example, a job with a lot of travelling was difficult to accommodate along side a very young family (for fathers as well as mothers).

For most, they knew when they took the job that it was wasn’t quite right.

Now, we have to be very realistic here. A good job is hard to find now. And jobs are very rarely the perfect fit. Common-sense says you apply the 80/20 principle in reverse. If 80 percent fits and the the 20 percent misfit is not in highly significant areas, most of the time that is good enough. But what about those highly significant areas?

Most people have a list of things they want in a job. This is in their head, if not committed to paper/laptop. (By the way, it is always best committed to paper/laptop, so that when you look through jobs specs you don’t miss something).

What many people forget to produce is a list of things that they don’t want. I’m not talking here about having just left a job where you had a bad experience, so now you swear never again to work with men or women with red hair.

Spending time on your real “no, noes” is time well invested. Make your list carefully and be very honest with your self. For example, if regular travelling really isn’t practical then put it on the list.

Some people do not want a job that is largely transactional (lots of processes to be applied), others do not want a role that requires a long period of quiet work on their own. Some people want to practice their technical and professional skills at a high level and will never feel truly fulfilled managing a team. You will find your list of don’t wants is not necessarily an exact mirror of what you do want. And there will be degrees of dislike.

To take the example above, “no regular travelling” may not mean no travelling at all. As you go through your list make sure you define what you don’t want carefully and then decide whether each item is of high, medium or low importance.

Now, of course, life and job search is all about compromise. Sometimes you may think that it is worth taking a job that hits so many buttons on your wanted list it balances out the buttons on your not wanted list. Please have a care, particularly with those items you marked as high. There really is a risk for you with those items. Only you can decide whether it is worth that risk. But please do it understanding the potential consequences.

Do not go into a job knowing you don’t want something and banking on your influence growing so quickly that you will be able to avoid it. For example, if a company has a long hours culture and you go in thinking it isn’t what you really want but over time you’ll find a way round it, you really are setting your self up for trouble and a potential loss of reputation. That particular item, like travel, is recurring theme.

Be careful, as well, with what companies say they want at interviews, if it is different to what they have said explicitly in their recruitment literature.

To take travel again, suppose the chair of the interviewing panel really likes you and wants you to join the company. All of sudden, you are being told the travelling isn’t so regular really and they are sure they can work round it. Now the hairs on your neck should start to rise. If it wasn’t so important, why did they bother to put it in their literature. If you are really interested, you need to ask lots of questions and, if you still have doubts, ask them to confirm in writing.

So I hope you will produce your “don’t want” list with the same enthusiasm or you apply to your “wants” list. If you need help. or you are already is a role you don’t like, please get in touch. As I’ve said above, I’ve worked with lots of other people just like you.

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link



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