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Define the Job before It Defines You
Executive Search
New York, United States
INFLUENCER: Sasha the Mensch's president Sasha Martens considers the ins and outs of applying for a new job

You are considering a new job. Whether it is the result of your own initiative because you were approached for a position, one thing is imperative: you have to be several steps ahead of the hiring process. From the very first interview through your first day, you have be prepared and be ready to respond to any questions, negotiations, or offers and be confident in your decisions.

Landing a new job doesn’t have to be a drawn out, agonising process. If you take the time before the first meeting to really understand what you want and what you are trying to accomplish by making a job switch, you will be better able to articulate your questions and evaluate information to determine if the role is right for you.

The first step is to define what you are looking for and want to accomplish. Make a list. Write down the aspects of the job that are most important to you and rank what is most important to you. Are you looking to step up into a greater leadership role? Are you looking to work at a high-profile company? Are you looking to work with a great mentor? Do you seek a different work culture or environment? What does that look like? One important question to always ask is, “where do I want this job to lead?” Think of the job you are interviewing for as a three-to-five-year position. It will allow you to think about potential trade-offs. You do not need your next job to match every single career goal, but it should position you to reach some of these goals in the future.

Next, identify the tradeoffs you are willing to make. Would you take a lower salary for a better title? Are you willing to move to a less desirable city for an opportunity that could really advance your career? Are you willing to work on the least glamorous brand at your dream company? Your feelings may change throughout the interview process, but if you keep coming to back to this thought process, you will be better prepared to respond quickly and assuredly. The hiring process moves fast, and hesitation is often the undoing of opportunity.

Keep your eye on your list, be deliberate in your thought processes, and you’ll be less vulnerable to seductive promises. Often when a candidate is interviewing for a job at their dream agency, they don’t ask the hard questions and hear only the answers that justify taking the job rather than giving the job proper scrutiny. Hiring managers sense over-eager candidates too and can deliberately keep the conversations vague. As an example, an art director I was working with wanted to make a job change and was presented with an opportunity at a reputable company with a significant pay increase. After two interviews, she accepted the offer, but a week into the job she realised she'd made a mistake. During the interview process, she didn't really get an accurate picture of what she’d actually be doing in the new position. She took the job based on the fact that she wanted something new and the money was good, but the work proved uninspiring. “I felt I had to take it,” she said. But it wasn’t the right job for her, and she soon ended up moving on.

When you thoroughly define the job for yourself, you open yourself up to more options. In the same way candidates sometimes accept bad positions at good companies, sometimes candidates are just as superficial by being quick to dismiss opportunities with newer or lesser-known organisations. The best opportunities are often found in places where others are not looking.

If you have defined your terms prior to interviewing, adjusting your acceptable parameters is easier than starting from scratch once negotiations begin. More importantly, it allows you to better focus on information given in the interview, giving you the opportunity to craft the appropriate questions to better understand the role or to clarify any concerns you may have. Moreover, a potential employer will see you in action, focused and organised.

This is particularly important because accepting or rejecting an offer can often be an emotional process. You may feel like you are disappointing someone, whether that’s the team you are leaving or the company you are rejecting. If you are uncertain, you’re more likely to be influenced by others to a decision you don’t really want, especially by our current employer or potential future employer. You may be overwhelmed by the prospect of leaving a city or going to a new one. The list goes on.

Opportunities are often lost quickly, you may not get more than a few days to decide on an offer. Before you get the offer, it should be a foregone conclusion in your own mind that you want it. Not that you shouldn’t negotiate terms, but that you know you are ready to move company’s, move cities, move forward. 

Sasha Martens is president of Sasha the Mensch

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