Job search is a lot like dating—the more work you do at the front end to understand both yourself and your fit in the marketplace, the better the opportunities that will come your way.
A job that looks good on paper may not actually be the right one for you. No matter how good your skills are for a given job, it’s the intangibles that actually determine whether it’s a good fit. Sometimes the actual job is a lot less important than the people you work for and with. I counsel clients to look for the work environment and the people who bring out the best in them.
Do Some Internal Assessment
How do you know if a prospective boss and work environment will bring out the best in you? First you have to look internally. Take a Myers-Briggs assessment and do some reading about your personality type and where you’ll thrive. Read the book Do What You Are, the best book on the subject of personality type in the workplace.
Think hard about your skill set. What do people compliment you on, what activities bring you energy? Are there things you do well that you discount because they come easily to you?
Make a checklist of what you hope to get from a job and rate your top deal-breaker requirements in order of preference. You want to work hard to get as close as possible to your ideal situation, understanding, of course, that no situation is perfect.
Analyze the External Marketplace
Now it’s time to look externally. Talk to colleagues in your field about people and companies they admire, use Vault and other employee interviews to read about company culture and what different jobs are really like.
To prep for interviews, read up on hiring managers and do as much sleuthing about them personally as you can. Check out their LinkedIn profile, follow them on Twitter, see if you know people at the company who can provide insight. In interviews, take note of your chemistry. Does the interviewer make you feel at ease? Does the conversation flow naturally? Does this person seem like someone you would enjoy working with and who would challenge you in a positive way?
Before accepting any job offer, be sure to have a meal or drinks with prospective colleagues and listen closely to what they say about the work environment and your prospective boss. Get a sense of whether people appreciate each other and work well together. Listen for clues about how the work actually gets done and whether the company is well-run. Do you like the people you’ll be working with? Do you feel comfortable with them? Do they appear to be positively challenged? Can you imagine making friends at the company?
Check each job you’re considering against your initial list of criteria and see which opportunity rates the highest. After doing all your due diligence, check in with your gut to make the final decision on where you will thrive.