Have you been forced to find a new job due to downsizing? Are you unsatisfied in your current role? Is your work not intellectually challenging and rewarding? Do you have a lackluster manager who does not see or acknowledge your value?
The start of a calendar year often leads us to re-evaluate our current work situation and set new goals for the coming year. Sometimes the primary goal is to make a role or company change or secure a new job (if you are currently ‘on the bench’.)
To find your dream job you must first discover your ideal role and then find the right employer type of work (i.e. consulting or solopreneurship.)
Whether you are in the middle of a job search, just starting, or planning to launch a search later in 2023 it is essential to both know yourself and be able to articulate your expectations of the other party (the potential employer).
A non-work metaphor for this approach is the world of online dating. When you build a Bumble or Hinge profile, you reveal important things about yourself that you want others to know — your strengths, interests, preferences and sometimes non-negotiables.
Professional Vision Part I: Know Thyself
To get what you desire, you have to first know what really matters to you and what your strengths are.
Borrowing shamelessly from the Japanese principle of ikigai, here is my version of the four key areas about which you should be able to speak articulately.
- Skills. What are you uniquely good at? What skills or mixture of skills set you apart from others?
- Interests. What topics, types of work, and interactions interest you enough to spend your free time pursuing them? And even consider doing them if you were not being paid?
- Purpose. What motivates you to deliver your best work? What challenges interest you? What causes are motivating enough that you want to engage in them to help others without the need for a financial reward?
- Financial Need. What level of compensation is important to you? People have different financial situations and standard of living expectations which influence their financial need.
There are no right or wrong answers or value judgments associated with any answer. Each of us has different priorities and all of them are acceptable.
It is worth remembering that our priorities change over time as we age. Time rewards us with new and varied life experiences. And as we age, we undergo natural life changes (marriage, raising children, empty nesting, divorce, caring for parents, health issues etc.). So revisiting these questions once a year is a good idea.
The goal of this exercise is to identify things you are very good at and leave you feeling energized and satisfied after doing them.
Professional Vision Part II: Understand the Priorities of the Other
Ideally the employer will proactively disclose a lot of this in the job description, careers page, and interview process. In reality, the level of transparency is rarely sufficient because employers believe they are in the screening role and control the conversation.
Remember that both parties need to feel equally comfortable when entering into a ‘working relationship.’ And your time is valuable. My estimation is that companies expect that each new hire will add 4-5x the value of their total compensation to the business over time.
So you need to feel confident that a prospective employer is the right organization, and one you will feel proud to work for and contribute to.
- Problem. Does the problem the business is solving matter to you? Do you find it interesting? Can the employer clearly communicate how your role at the company will help solve the problem more effectively?
- Culture. What is the culture of the company? Can people articulate the key values that drive decision-making? How does that culture fit with your personal values?
- Manager. What is the work style of your manager? How do they develop people? How do they interact with their direct reports? How involved are they in the output of the team? What prior experience have they had?
- Compensation. What is the compensation philosophy of the company? How should you value incentive compensation (i.e. bonus or OTE targets)? What is the likely future value of any equity compensation?
Money matters but only to a point. You deserve to be compensated fairly for your skills at a market rate. But don’t trade above market pay or promises of huge equity upside for the quality of your manager, the culture of your company, the interaction with your colleagues, and your passion for the problem they are solving.
You are far more likely to find fulfillment doing work that provides you energy, sparks your creativity, and challenges you to rise to your potential. Even when the compensation (at least the starting salary) is only at the market average.
When you shine and truly enjoy your work, the world will find a way to compensate you fairly in due time.