Building your career is already an arduous and long process.
Filling out long application forms, completing psychometric tests and skills test, even crafting individual resumes and cover letters all turn the process of finding a job into a full-time job.
However, there are ways that you can cut down on the number of hours you spend applying and increase your chances of getting called back. By looking at yourself and opportunities you choose to pursue critically you can skip the ones that are less likely to be a good fit and focus on the more promising prospects.
The following are the top five questions you should ask yourself before submitting an application.
1. Will this position get me to where I want to go?
We all know stories of people who took jobs that they swore they would only work “until I find something better.” Several years go by and “better” never shows up and now they are stuck in a career they hate because it pays the bills.
A new job isn’t just a compensation and benefits package; it should be a stepping stone to where you want to be in life. Before applying, consider how this position fits into your career plan. If you don’t have one, now is the time to write one.
2. What do I know about this company?
Things like the company’s employee turnover rate, position in the industry, and employee promotion practices are all very important things to consider. Companies that seem to always be hiring for all but the most senior managerial positions are companies that have little room to grow, inadequate compensation, or poor management.
Any combination of these factors can be disastrous for your career. Some of the world’s largest brands suffer from this problem, and although their business model continues to allow them to thrive, labor relations problems are a way of life for them.
3. What are the trade-offs?
Maybe your dream job is an hour long commute each way. Maybe the long hours and frequent business trips will keep you away from your family. There is no such thing as the perfect job, but you must decide if the things that you must give up are worth what you hope to gain.
If being able to spend lots of quality time with your growing family is a priority for you, it’s safe to assume that a position that requires fifty or sixty hour work weeks isn’t a good fit.
If the salary offered is less than what you expected but the experience is invaluable, it may be worth the pay cut. Whatever the circumstances, be prepared to accept the realities of the situation, because you may not be able to negotiate them later on.
4. Am I what they are looking for?
Quantifying your own experience can be hard. You must be keenly aware of your strengths, weaknesses, competencies, and skills. Take stock of what it is that you bring to the table and then read the qualifications for the positions again.
If they say you need an MBA and six years of experience, you may get your foot in the door with a Master’s in a similar subject and a few extra years of commiserate experience. But you won’t get your foot in the door if your only experience is as an intern is a lesser known firm. Discover what is unique about you. What combination of skills and strengths do you offer that nobody else can?
5. Is this the kind of environment I want to work in?
Of the hours you spend awake, nearly a third will be spent at work. This percentage can increase if you work a lot of overtime, work for yourself, or have multiple jobs. Since work is such a large part of your life it’s in your best interest to avoid cubicle hell. Take a look at the company’s corporate culture.
If you prefer a less structured, more open environment, then it makes no sense to apply to companies with rigid hierarchies and a very formal structure. It’s not just about finding a job, it’s about finding an environment that is right for you.