When you find a job listing you’re interested in, what do you do? You scan the job ad, and if you’re me, you’re already envisioning how your life would be better if you had that job and subsequently making a checklist of the things you’ll need to address in your cover letter & resume. Sound familiar?
Especially when I see a job that is super tempting – maybe it’s the exact job title I’m looking for, or a group with whom I’ve been wanting to work or for work I think I’d be great at – it’s tempting, sometimes impossible, to not get ahead of ourselves. After all, you’ve already
- decided it’s time to find work,
- got your search query all built, and now
- found something very intriguing.
Here’s where I constantly have to remind myself to take a step back, take it down a notch.
There’s a step in between reading the job listing and jotting down what needs to go in your cover letter.
It’s deciding whether you’ll apply or toss this one in the recycle bin, a go/no go decision. At the end of your go/no go decision, you’ll decide either:
- yes, I’m applying (GO!) or
- nope, passing on this one (No-go).
The go/no go decision helps you separate opportunities into two piles: those that you’ll pursue and those that you won’t. Taking a moment to think through whether this particular opportunity is really worth your time & effort will save you invaluable time & effort on your job search. I’m all about making the time-consuming process of finding great work as easy as possible, so any time you can save time or effort in the long-run, it’s well worth examining.
When do you do a go/no-go decision?
After you read (and re-read) the job listing.
How do you make a go/no-go decision?
What kinds of criteria should you consider? Well, that’s up to you, but here are things that I take into consideration, in this order:
- When is the application deadline? Did I just stumble on this and it’s due by 5 pm today? Then maybe it’s worth shooting off the application materials ASAP and postponing the go/no-go decision until later. After all, I can always withdraw an application further down the road, but I can’t apply after the position closes.
- Do I at least meet the minimum qualifications? If not, I almost never apply. It’s almost never been worth my time.
- How well does the job line up with my existing KSAs and experience? Will I be able to make a convincing case in my cover letter & resume that I can do the work? Or is this a pie-in-the-sky job that exceeds my current abilities & knowledge? Starting a new job is stressful; the last thing I want is to have to oversell my KSAs & experience and potentially find myself starting in way over my head.
- Does the job get me closer to my next career goal? I’m looking to do career coaching full-time, but when I find myself looking at an opening for the same kind of professional development work I do right now…just in a different pasture, I ask myself: is that really getting me where I want to go? Nope. Sometimes you gotta kill your darlings. That being said…
- Is this in a team / organization / sector I care about? For me, personally, this matters a lot. Your mileage may vary. I need to work in a place and industry where it’s easy for me to buy in to support the mission, values, purpose, and services.
- Do I keep daydreaming about the job? Even if I decide that the job wouldn’t get me closer to my career goals, every once in awhile I find myself thinking about it over and over. There are all kinds of reasons people look for new work – more money, different kinds of tasks, a shorter commute, bigger challenges, more growth, less stress, a different office culture, better schedule, more work-life balance, and so on. So when I find myself where the practical part of me is leaning towards a no-go decision, but keep thinking about how much I might enjoy the work, that the organization is one I admire, that the team would be awesome to work with, or anything else that I can’t really rationalize …I usually decide it’s a go and apply. There have been a couple of jobs that I’ve really regretted talking myself out of after it was too late. It’s not like I’m guaranteed my application will even get me noticed, but by not applying, that sure guarantees they won’t know about me.
A note about pay
Notice that I didn’t say anything about salary. Now I’m not saying that if you scan the job ad and see it’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list of tasks & responsibilities requiring a terminal degree and yet it wouldn’t even cover your internet service provider bill…toss that aside immediately!
But if you’re at one of the most common ends of the spectrum – either “well, the pay isn’t great….” or “look at that salary! Who cares what the work is?!” – definitely take the time to work through a go/no-go decision using criteria like I do. I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll be able to negotiate a better salary or handle a super-demanding workload in exchange for high pay, but you’re nowhere near that stage yet. You haven’t even applied yet 🙂