As a Job Seeker, What Matters Are the Choices You Make

Image credit, Geralt

Most people don’t give their choices the seriousness they deserve.

When it comes to your job search, the universal truth that your life is the sum of your choices is especially true. If your job search isn’t going as you’d like, chances are you’re making the wrong choices.

When it comes to job search success and career advancement your choices are determining factors. Do you apply for the project manager job at Lomax Industries, even though you only have four years of experience and the job posting asks for “at least six”? If a job offer is $15K below what you want, do you accept it? Throughout your job search, you’ll make choices (aka, decisions) that either positively or negatively impact your job search and career.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll, evangelical Christian pastor, author, and educator.

The 90% is entirely your choice. Ultimately, your choices influence your outcomes, thus why you should take them seriously. You have no control over the job market, how employers decide to hire, or a hiring manager’s biases, but you do get to choose…

  • whether or not you network. 
  • what appears on your LinkedIn profile/resume. 
  • how you physically present yourself.

You have more choices that directly influence your job search than you probably realize. If you want a better job search—a better life—then start making better choices. Yes, it’s that simple.

Two mental states influence our choices:

  1. Emotions at the time (e.g., anger, happy, in love, frustrated, offended)
  2. Logical (e.g., financial situation, physical pain, available resources)

The following two data points provide some context for human decision-making:

  • Every day, you make over 30,000 decisions.
  • 95% of your decision-making is subconscious. (read: on autopilot)

When thrown into a job search, as 1,000s are these days due to layoffs, especially in the tech sector (Layoffs. fyi reports that so far in 2024, more than 42,000 employees have been laid off from 140 tech companies.) and media, most newly minted job seekers merely update their resume, browse job boards, and seek out job search advice looking for a magic bullet to landing a job fast. Job seekers who are more nuanced will strategically consider who their references will be and whether the navy suit in the back of their closet still fits. Job seekers rarely formulate a decision-making strategy for their job search, which begins with answering the straightforward question: What do I want?

Admittedly, when looking for a job, what do I want? isn’t a simple question, unlike choosing whether to have a cheeseburger, Greek salad, or turkey chili for lunch, which, since your diet directly affects your health, you should be taking your food choices seriously.

What you want requires knowing… 

  • your values
  • your non-negotiables

Your Values:

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney, Walt Disney Company’s former vice chairman.

Your values should always be clear to you. For example, if you value autonomy, you’ll want to ask pointed questions during your interviews to ensure you don’t accept (read: choose) a job where your manager will micromanage you. If you value flexibility, you’d be wise to choose an employer with a result-oriented work environment (ROWE) where results are valued over clocked hours. If growth opportunity is something you value, then start-ups and companies in growth mode would be your best choices.

You’ll make better choices throughout your job search and life when you make choices that align with and support your values.

Take some time and list what you value in a job and employer, such as simplicity, acceptance, openness, diversity, and accountability. Then, define what choices you’ll make and, more importantly, won’t. For instance, because you value integrity, you choose not to apply to companies with a history of unethical behaviour. 

Your Non-negotiables:

Most job seekers I talk to don’t have non-negotiables and, therefore, compromise their needs and wants when accepting a job offer. Inevitably, usually in a short time, they’re unhappy in their new job.

(If happiness is one of your values, then stop making choices that compromise your happiness.)

Accepting a job that pays $25K less than you’d like will only lead to you becoming another employee who complains they’re not paid enough. Is that the kind of employee you want to be?

As you made a list of your values, list your non-negotiables, such as minimum annual compensation, free parking, maximum commuting distance, number of paid vacation days, number of paid sick days, remote, hybrid, hours, benefits, etc. List everything you need and want from your next job that’ll motivate you to stay long-term. Commit to accepting a job only if it meets at least 80% of your non-negotiables. (100% is unrealistic.)

Once you’ve created both lists, which should be as comprehensive as possible, you’re ready to ask yourself the ultimate question every time you’re about to act on your job search, such as choosing whether to apply to a job posting, choosing the questions you’ll ask your interviewer, choosing whether to accept an offer, “Am I making the best choice for me?”

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Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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