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How to Decide What Job You Want Next

This article is Part 2 of a 2-part series on searching for a job. You can find the other article here: How to Find Your Next Job


You will feel most happy when you wake up to go to work every day when you have a job that is a good fit with your talent.


That sounds fairly simple, but there are many varieties of fit that intersect and in some cases conflict with one another. There are so many aspects to any job that a "good fit" can feel like a unicorn. In this article, we will give you an overview of the ways you can prepare yourself to get out there and find your next job knowing that you are aiming at a target that will result in a job you actually want to wake up and do every day.


The reasons you're looking


Typically, people start exploring new career opportunities after some kind of inciting incident. Because some part of their current situation isn't working, a new opportunity presents itself, or another aspect of life changes.


Depending on the trigger event, this is sometimes a difficult part of the process to think about and to share with others because it can feel vulnerable. But, the insight you can gain about what you will be happy doing next by unpacking what has made you happy and unhappy in the past or what is making you unhappy right now is an important opportunity you don't want to miss. 


Did you lose your job? Are you so successful in your current role that it has gotten too easy and you are bored? Are you trying to casually explore and see what else is out there? Would you like to earn more money? Does your boss drive you crazy? Does someone else on your team drive you crazy? Is your commute too long? Do you want more vacation days? Are you about to graduate from college and it's time to look for your first job?


Give yourself plenty of time and space to think freely about what is making you want to look for new opportunities and write them down so that you have clarity about the actual problem you are trying to solve by finding a new job.


What you are good at doing


Essentially, when we go to work we are doing stuff: tasks, activities, behaviors, projects, etc. When we are good at those things, it feels good to do them and we will do them well and want to do them more. So, it's good to define what you are good at and then find work that needs those things to be done well.


The things we are good at doing are called skills. There are two broad categories of skill to consider, a) the technical or hard skills required to perform a job, and b) the softer, personal skills that can be a helpful complement to those technical skills. Both are critically important to performing any role well and with enjoyment.


An example may be helpful. Do you drive a car? Consider your auto mechanic for a moment. Hopefully, she is highly competent with a wrench and has a strong understanding of what kinds of things go wrong with cars and how to fix them when they do. Those are her technical skills. Now suppose that when your mechanic explains to you what isn't working with your car she talks down to you with a condescending tone and so you take your business elsewhere. In this case, she would be highly competent technically but would struggle with other important soft skills like customer focus and diplomacy. With that matchup of hard and soft skills, she can become a decent mechanic but not a great one. 


Conversely, let's assume that her customer interaction skills are top-notch but she actually doesn't know how to fix your car. She is going to struggle equally with retaining customers at her shop.


The fact of the matter is that we live in a world where hard skills are relatively well defined compared to soft skills. When you are looking for your next job, most postings will include a list of required hard skills -- Microsoft Office 365, Teeth Cleaning, PMP Certification, etc. There are a number of licensing bodies and associations that control these kinds of qualifications. Most states have medical boards, a Bar association, and a Board of Barbers to ensure that professionals have a minimum of technical skills.


What can be more elusive to measure are the soft skills.  There are a number of different ways to capture a list of what you are good at. We primarily use a competencies assessment that measures 25 soft skills and ranks them in order of your level of development. Gallup has also made a great tool called Clifton Strengths with 34 themes based on their years of research. You can also just ask your coworkers, friends, and family and do some soul-searching to make a list free-form. Look at your endorsements on LinkedIn to get started.


For the sake of our exercise, we use a list of 25 competencies to help our corporate clients evaluate how well their candidates fit into a role. You can use this same list to help you determine if a role is a good fit for your strengths.  Here is the list of 25 Personal Skills (in alphabetical order):

  1. Appreciating Others
  2. Conceptual Thinking
  3. Conflict Management
  4. Continuous Learning
  5. Creativity and Innovation
  6. Customer Focus
  7. Decision Making
  8. Diplomacy
  9. Employee Development/Coaching
  10. Flexibility
  11. Futuristic Thinking
  12. Goal Orientation
  13. Influencing Others
  14. Interpersonal Skills
  15. Leadership
  16. Negotiation
  17. Personal Accountability
  18. Planning and Organizing
  19. Problem Solving
  20. Project Management
  21. Resiliency
  22. Self Starting
  23. Teamwork
  24. Time and Priority Management
  25. Understanding Others

Each of these represents a measurable skill that you have some level of development in and that any job you are exploring requires some level of competency in. 


The trick is to match up the top seven as much as possible. When your job requires you to be strong in something you are weak in, it won't feel very good to go to work every day and fail at that skill. On the other hand, when your job requires you to do things you are very good at, you will feel better about doing that job.


How you approach the things you do


We all work differently, and so we want to find work that aligns with the way we tend to operate or behave. The best research into human behavior categorizes human behavior into four main categories:

  1. How we respond to problems and challenges (Reflective versus Direct)
  2. How we influence others to our point of view (Reserved versus Outgoing)
  3. How we respond to the pace of our environment (Steady versus Dynamic)
  4. How we respond to procedures and constraints that are set by others (Precise versus Pioneering)


Stress at work can be a result of misalignment between how we do what we do and the way our job needs to be done. It can also be because the people we work around tend to work and/or communicate differently than we do. In both cases, it helps to start out with understanding our own behavioral style. 


The motivating values that drive you


We have all experienced moments when we are doing things and we lose track of time. Even when the things we are doing would feel awful and mundane to others, it can feel like play to us. Sometimes this is referred to as being in a state of, "flow." We know that this feeling has a lot to do with what values motivate us to do the activities and tasks we are doing in the first place. This can be referred to as our, "Why." These drives fall into six main categories:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Utility
  3. Surroundings
  4. Others
  5. Power
  6. Methodologies

Each is a continuum and when ranked in order of our preference, they can tell us a lot about the kind of work that will feel rewarding to us when we do it as well as the kinds of work that will feel offensive to us. 


The people you do things with


People don't leave jobs, they leave bosses. When people don't have a best friend at work, they often feel dissatisfied. Finding a group of people who you enjoy working around and a manager who you report to who you respect and trust will make the difference between a job you love and a job you dread going to. But how do you define what you are looking for?


The categories and assessments will help a lot, but ultimately it will be about meeting the particular people with who you will be teaming up and gaining an understanding of what matters to them. The hardest part about this is that during a series of job interviews everyone is putting their best foot forward. In many cases, you are becoming familiar with who someone wants you to perceive them as and not the person you will experience a day in and day out over time and especially when the going gets tough.


The purpose of the organization you work for


Most people want to work on things that matter to them. All humans have a need to find meaning. It's not always best to get this sense of meaning from work, but sometimes you can.


Does your personal sense of purpose align with the mission of the company or organization you are thinking about working for? Are you already working on the same mission even though you don't work there yet?


Creating your own business instead of working for someone else


A brief note on entrepreneurship: The goal of this article is to define what kind of work you want to do. In most cases, you can do that work as an employee working for someone else or as the owner of a business that does that work for others.


For example, there are doctors who work as employees of hospitals and there are doctors who own their own private medical practice. Defining what kind of work you want to do and deciding whether or not to own your own business should be done as two separate exercises. Once you decide, one of these two articles may be helpful to you:

  1. How to Find Your Next Job
  2. How to Start Your Own Business (Coming Soon)


Your finances and your job


Most people look for a job because they need to earn an income. We've found from our coaching with thousands of individuals that it's most helpful to have defined specific income goals than it is to leave them undefined. It's tricky because when you ask people how much money they want to earn their gut response is, "as much as possible." For a simple starting place, you can add 20% to what you are earning now or what you earned in your last full time paid position. Use that as a ballpark for what you should aim to earn after your job change. 


We've also found that jobs are not the only way to earn an income and that sometimes people are happier doing work that earns less money and they can make that work because they have other income sources outside of the activities that take up most of their time. If you're at a spot where the amount of money you earn is not the number one thing for you then you can set a goal of a lower amount, which may help open up a larger number of opportunities.


It's not always necessary to find a job that makes you happy and meets your financial goals. Sometimes those can be two separate goals.


What is your annual income goal for the next 12 months? What would you like it to be three years from now? 10 years? What about saving and building wealth? Do you plan to do that by investing some of your income in other assets?




So many jobs are done virtually now, that your answer to this question might be, "from my home office." On the other hand, maybe you thrive by being in the same physical space as your coworkers. In either case, it is a criterion that you need to have clarity on and look for specifically in your search. You'll have the most luck if you focus on regions, not zip codes. For example, "the tri-state area," or, "Seattle metro" is better than, "lower Manhattan." But, you can start specific before broadening your parameters if you have time to do that.


Your Ideal Work Schedule


In addition to everything we've listed above, there are a few other key factors that end up making a huge difference in people's day-to-day work satisfaction. One is their schedule. Do you prefer to work Monday through Friday, 9-5 (traditional business hours) or would you prefer the schedule that a nurse or firefighter might have where you work a few long shifts and then have multiple days off in a row? Maybe you're a night owl and you prefer the graveyard shift or cleaning up after the bar closes. Maybe you aren't the only one involved in the decision and your schedule is dictated by kids at home or elderly parents who need your care.


What about time away from work? Most people report that they don't like not having any work to do but they also don't want to be overworked. Life is too short to spend every day at the office, they say. What is your ideal vacation schedule?


Putting it all together


Once you've written down your preferences for everything above,  you know a lot about yourself, what you bring to the table at work, and what kind of work you want to look for. But, how do you know if a specific job will be a good fit?


For each specific job opportunity you look into, you will need to give it a score from 0-100 on the same categories that you evaluated about yourself. For example, if you said your ideal location is in San Jose, California and you are looking at a job in Mountain View California, it will score lower than another option that is in San Jose.


You can also do this with your list of Behaviors, Motivators, and Competencies if you took an assessment to measure them. Just like those assessments give you a score from 0-100 in each of the areas, you can rate a job in the same categories as you attempt to process job fit before you take a new role.


Once you have defined what you are looking for, you need to be able to share it with others in a way that they can do something with it. Namely, you are going to want them to introduce you to other people who are going to be able to help you find multiple job opportunities that match what you are looking for.


We have always really appreciated the approach we learned from the Manager Tools podcast episode, What are you looking for?


Your job search needs to include at least two primary aspects: 1) the concrete, practical action plan you have to find an employer that will hire you and 2) the abstract process of discovering what to look for in the first place. In this article, we've covered the more abstract side of things. We wish you the best of luck and as always, don't hesitate to reach out if we can be helpful in any way!


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