Find Your Dream Job, Episode 260:
Determining What Matters Most in Your Next Job, with Corbin C
Airdate: September 9, 2020
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Here’s a common question every job seeker gets: “What do you want to do next?”
Corbin C. is here to talk about how you can determine what matters most in your next job.
He’s a career and technology advisor at Boly:Welch. It’s a B Corp that offers recruiting, staffing, and executive search services.
Corbin joins us today from Portland, Oregon.
Corbin, let’s jump right into it; now, why is it important to know what matters most in your next job when you’re doing a job search?
Yeah, so one of the most common things I hear when I’m talking to people looking at jobs is, “I’m open to anything.” And I think the impulse there is to keep yourself open-minded. You don’t want to turn down potential opportunities. And what it does is, it shows that maybe you don’t really know what you want, and you don’t know what you’re looking for. And I think the reality is that if you don’t know what you want, you can’t really sell yourself to your next employer, and you’re not even going to know who that is.
The more that we can define what is it that we want from our next job, or even what we don’t want, the better that we can get to that place, and the better we can really utilize resources along the way.
What do you say to someone, Corbin, who says, “Well, I know what I want, and I’ll know it when I see it. I just want to stay open to all possibilities.”
You know, I totally understand that, but when you have that mindset, I think it kind of misjudges the power balance between a job seeker and an employer. Because, ultimately, it is the employers who are making the choice on whom to hire, and they want to hire somebody who is excited about the job that they’re looking for. So, if you are just sort of wishy-washy, “Could you this? Could you that?” Maybe you really could do all those things but you don’t ultimately get to decide which job you get because we have a job market where, as job seekers, we’re selling our labor and we have to have a compelling pitch for why we’re a worthwhile hire.
Don’t you risk missing out on a great opportunity, Corbin, if you close the doors on certain kinds of jobs?
Well, I mean, personally, I’ve never been offered an opportunity for a job that I wasn’t qualified for or looking for. That may happen for some people but I think that generally, jobs come to people when they have some sort of focus and intention on how they’re getting there. If you just leave it all open, you’re really putting the burden on everybody else to figure out why they should hire you and why you’re worthwhile. It’s unlikely that an employer is going to take that time.
You know, there’s a metaphor that one of my colleagues likes to use that, if you go to someone and say, “Hey, do you have a restaurant recommendation? I’m hungry.” They then have to ask a lot of questions on, like, “What kind of restaurant? Where are you looking to eat? Do you have a price range?” If you go up and say, “Hey, I want a breakfast sandwich, downtown, Portland.” Then they have something to work with.
They know what your focus is, they know what you’re interested in. Even if they don’t have an answer for you, they can at least give you some sort of useful direction. Otherwise, it puts all this work on them to figure out what they can do for you.
I want to talk about how to figure out what matters most in the job in a moment but first, tell us more about the benefits of knowing this. You mentioned what employers are thinking but tell us more about how this is going to help someone in their job search, Corbin.
Well, it’s definitely going to be a better use of your time. If you start your job search out just sending out resumes to things that seem interesting, you’re going to waste a lot of time applying to jobs that you wouldn’t want even if you were to get offered it. If you really focus in on the things that you want first, don’t even deal with your resume, don’t deal with the job boards, but consider what matters to you in your next position, along with the duties that you’ve got, you can build a framework of where you might put your attention. And if you can really hone in on small, local businesses that allow work-from-home opportunities, because that’s what you care most about, then you can focus all the attention on that and not even look at the other opportunities that are out there.
You can really hone in, dedicate time to write comprehensive cover letters, and really doing intentional research, and networking with people who might actually have opportunities for you.
Save time, create more targeted, focused applications; any other benefits come to mind?
Well, you’ll definitely be a more compelling hire. The person who comes up to me and says, “I’m open to anything,” I don’t want to hire that person. I don’t know why I would want to hire that person. But if I’ve got a position open, and someone comes up and says that they’re excited to work that job and they’re excited to work for a company just like mine, that’s a much more interesting sell for me as an employer.
That would be much more compelling than the person who says, “Look, I’ll do anything for a dollar.” That’s not really a mindset that an employer is very interested in.
I think some listeners will be surprised to hear that because I think when people say that to someone at a staffing agency, like the one that you work at, what they’re trying to communicate is a willingness to work, but that’s not the message that is getting across to you?
I mean, I would assume that there is a willingness to work if you’re looking for work, but again if you say, “I’m willing to work,” the onus is really put on other people to determine what sort of work you should be doing. When you know best what sort of work you should be doing, based on the experience that you’ve had, if you know that you’ve never wanted…you’ve hated every family business that you’ve worked for then you would know, “Well, I don’t want to work for a family business.” Even little bits and pieces of what you could say will help structure it, because “anything,” is just too broad and it’s never going to be the case.
Even if you’re very, very open, you’re probably not open to a three-hour commute to go work for $14 per hour somewhere; that wouldn’t be enjoyable in almost any circumstances. So, any kind of framework you can structure around your preferred next job will help you get to something. It might not be your ideal. I’m not a big fan of the “Dream Job” sort of rhetoric because I think that closes people off but at least having a sense of what you’d be happy with and what you really wouldn’t be happy with.
Well, let’s talk about that framework. I know one of the steps that you recommend to determine what matters most in your next job is to focus on what you don’t want. You actually just touched on that a moment ago. Tell us more about that, Corbin.
Yeah, I think it can be difficult to really know what you want. There are lots of things that might seem nice but you can often know what you don’t want because you had negative experiences at some point. So, if you had a boss that yelled at you in your last job, and it really sucked and it sent you home every day miserable, then you know that a kind, compassionate supervisor is going to be a priority. If you don’t care how you’re treated at work, you just want to make a bunch of money, that might be your priority, but it’s really a matter of, which of these things are most important to you?
You know there are two sides to look at this. The one side is the job duty. You have to have some kind of sense of, where does your experience make sense? You can’t just have preferences based on salary. And then the other side is not about the duty but about the structure of the job itself and the company.
There’s an acronym that I’ve been using for years that just sort of summarizes the list of things to keep in mind, which is CLAMPS: challenge, location, advancement, money, people, and security, and these are all things to evaluate. What are your real concerns with each of these things, and what matters most to you when you’re evaluating this?
If you know that you had a job where you had a very long commute and you hated it, then you know that location is very crucial to you. Or, you know, nowadays with Coronavirus, it might be that your focus is on remote work and that you don’t want to have a commute at all because you don’t feel comfortable going out into the world. And there’s no hierarchy with any of these things. You know, if you care more about money than anything else, that’s fine. If you don’t care about money at all, that’s fine too.
You just have to know internally, “At what point would I say no to a job?” If it checks all the boxes but this, you need to know what that but is so that you can say, “Well, you know, this seems great, but I just can’t do a company where there’s no advancement opportunities.”
How do you distinguish between the things that you intensely disliked in past jobs and things that you’re maybe not crazy about, but there’s always going to be a certain amount of routine work in any job?
Well, you know, I would just kind of write everything down and weigh it. Just give some thought to like, what are the things that stuck with you? If you went home each day and the routine of your work was the most frustrating thing, then maybe routine really is something you want to avoid. But if it’s just a minor annoyance, and like, you get home at the end of the day and that’s not what you’re thinking about, but you’re bothered that you don’t have enough to pay the bills, then that’s where your concern is.
I think it’s just identifying which things do stick with you and just writing them down, weighing them. I think it’s a good idea to write things down when you’re doing a job search and take notes on what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you’re seeing, so you can look back on that and see, “Well, I told myself at the beginning of the search that this is what I really care about. Is that still true? If so, then I’m going to keep that in mind for the opportunities that I’m looking at.
Tell us that acronym again, Corbin. CLAMPS?
CLAMPS, yeah, challenge, location, advancement, money, people, and security. Some of those are what are, some a little less maybe, you know, challenge. Evaluating how hard you want your job to be, do you want it to be something that you really can just sit back and do? Because that’s not your primary concern or do you want something that pushes you all the time? Again, whichever you want is fine, you just have to know it.
Location, I mentioned, your commute. Advancement opportunities, this one often reflects the size of a company. At a small business, there might not be any advancement opportunities, period, because there are only 12 roles, everyone has a unique role, there might not be somewhere to advance. At a larger corporation, there’s often a track that you can get into and you’ll know exactly where to get to next.
Money, you know, money is important to consider, not just for what you want but really having an understanding of your value on the labor market. I would love to make as much money as possible but I understand that based on the experience that I have and how things pay in the Portland market, there’s a certain range where I’m most liable to actually get work and if you are totally off base with what the value of your labor is, it shows that maybe you don’t understand what you really want.
I had a young person who came into our office one time who had been working as an arborist, doing manual labor sort of work, and he was very determined to become an executive assistant. And he came and said, “I’m going to be an executive assistant, I’m going to make 80 grand.” And I said, “Okay, I can’t help you get there because you don’t have any experience, and the fact that you are demanding this salary shows me that you don’t understand what’s going on here.” So, it looks worse than if you didn’t say that or if you had done your research to see what an entry-level role might look like. It’s part of your whole sales pitch to understand what your value is.
People at the company are the whole company culture. Who is in charge? How do they treat their workers? How do they treat their employees? Do they have diversity initiatives? What do they focus on? What do they care about?
Good, and there’s an S too…or was it just CLAMP?
Yeah, security or stability. You know, this is the difference between a startup and a corporation that’s been around for 100 years. Like, is this company going to be there? Is your job going to be there? Is this a market where there’s a lot of turn over and you’re sick of finding a new job every six months? Or is this a position where you can kind of settle in for the long term, and you know that things aren’t really going to change?
Of course, that one’s a tricky one when things change all the time, nowadays. I think companies that were once viewed as stable have changed a bit in the past few months.
They certainly have. I love that mnemonic, that’s a great list, and great categories for getting clear about what matters most to you.
Another tip that I know that you have when determining what matters most in the next job is to ask yourself questions and to be honest with yourself about your answers to those questions. Tell us more about that, Corbin.
Yeah, I mean, I think like I was saying, really evaluating, what things would you turn down an opportunity for and just being realistic about that. If you know that, “I’d love to work for this company and everything about them seems great, but there’s that one thing.” You need to know what those things are so that you don’t get yourself excited about an opportunity and think, “Well, if I could just change it, then it would be great.” Because again, there’s a power in balance here.
As job seekers, as workers, we don’t have the power to change our employers, most of the time, especially when we’re just starting. We have to find the best fit for ourselves that we can and hope that we can make the best of it, but there will be things that you can’t change. So, if you see that something is happening at a company, maybe it’s that they have financial instability and everything seems great but their vested capital investors might vanish someday and you’re scared about that. Then it’s not the right opportunity for you.
Well, I want to pause here and take a break, and when we come back, Corbin, I want to talk a little bit more about other questions you might ask yourself as you think about that next job.
Stay with us. When we return, Corbin C. will continue to share his advice about how to determine what matters most in your next job.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Corbin C.
He’s a career and technology advisor at Boly:Welch. It’s a B Corp that offers recruiting, staffing, and executive search services.
Now, Corbin, before the break, we were talking about asking yourself questions and being honest with the answers about what you are most interested in, in your next job. Any other questions you recommend asking besides those we discussed in the first segment?
I think, if you haven’t worked a lot of jobs, or if you’re new to the workforce, or if you’ve held a job for a while, it can be difficult to even know what to look at if you haven’t had variables to be concerned with. So, I think, look at other parts of your life outside of your working life and evaluate what your current skills are. If you’re volunteering, what kind of organizations do you like to be with, and how does that impact your day-to-day life? There may be things outside of your working world that you haven’t really considered as part of your occupation, that could be part of your next job or could impact how you feel about your next job.
Are there questions you think candidates avoid asking themselves that they should ask, that might be difficult or hard to answer?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think that people are often hesitant to admit some things, like, that they want to be at a company that’s well-known, sort of things, and maybe they’re not proud of, I think sometimes people turn down opportunities because the company is not popular, and maybe you don’t want to admit right off the bat that your main concern is that you work somewhere that has a good brand name, but, again, it’s okay. There’s nothing good or bad about any preference in your job, and ultimately, most jobs are not good or bad themselves. They just exist within our economy, so there’s never really any need to feel guilty about what your preferences are and that may be something like, you really want a lot of money and you don’t care how you get there.
Maybe you’re proud of that, maybe you’re not, but if that’s really what drives you, so be it.
How do you recommend people take these answers and apply them in practical steps that they can use in their job search?
Well, I think, I always recommend networking and informational interviews being a major, if not dominant part of your job search, and when you know what you’re looking for and you can define it and structure it, or at least what it might not be, it makes it so much easier for other people to help you. If you reach out to a random person on LinkedIn, and say, “Hey, I’m looking for work,” they’d have no reason to respond to you. But if you reach out to someone who’s in the field that you’re looking for and the type of company that you would like to work at, and reach out and say, “Hey, I’d love to connect with you. I’m really interested in the field that you’re in,” there’s a connection already formed there. There’s a legitimacy that makes them want to connect with you, and they can understand how they might be a resource to you that otherwise, they wouldn’t even know what to do.
What about volunteer work, Corbin? How can that help you, or even hobbies, determine what matters most to you in your next job?
I mean, personally, I think volunteer work is work. If you’re spending your time doing something, it doesn’t matter if it’s paid or not, but it can be a good way to try different things and see what you may or may not like. Plenty of volunteer opportunities are actually not what people want to do but they may have similar duties or environments to a lot of offices. If you don’t have the opportunity to, or haven’t had the opportunity to, find a lot of things in companies that you don’t like because, again, limited opportunity to work, you’re new to the workforce, whatever it may be, doing volunteer work is a good way to see, well, how do organizations function in general?
Most volunteer work through nonprofits, those are still companies, so you still have interactions like that.
I know, often, when people think of volunteer work, it’s a way to grow a network, test a new skill, but some people actually have hobbies that they dream of turning into a job. Do you see any risk in that? Is that a risk, turning something you love into something that becomes a routine?
I mean, that’s a tough one. Personally, I’ve gone through this issue plenty of times myself; would I want to try to monetize my hobby? I think that’s a hard choice to figure out. Personally, I would not want to. I prefer to keep the things that I enjoy doing not being what I depend on to function because you’ve got to sell out sometimes. It is what it is, but if you can not do that, it’s great. My personal ideal is to have a job that sustains me so that I can do the things I want to do and not have to worry about them being financially stable because it just changes things.
When you’re doing work for money versus just because you want to, you ultimately have a client, you have a customer, someone who determines whether or not you get that money and whether or not there’s value to the work that you’re producing.
Well, I know another tip that you share is to be intentional as you think about what’s going to matter most in that next job and to reflect on what matters to you. What do you mean by this, Corbin?
Well, you know, it’s really just taking the time to focus on this. So often, the people that I talk to, they’ll say, “Look I sent my resume out 400 times and I haven’t heard anything.” And it’s just, you’re stepping way too far ahead. You need to really take the time to step back and consider these things. Talk to people, talk to friends, get other people’s experiences, have that understanding intimately, personally about where you can see yourself next and where you would like to end up, so that you don’t just waste the time sending resumes out to things that don’t even really matter to you. And I think that it can be really discouraging to send your resume out a bunch of times and never get a response.
I think if you have some focus, you can feel a little bit more confident going out in the search because you have some semblance of an idea of what you’re doing. You can mark off successes, you can plan a route. If you don’t know where you’re going then you can’t plan a route there.
When you think back about all the work that you recommend doing here, making these lists, going through the CLAMPS acronym, reflecting on what matters to you, how do you translate all of this into something practical that you can use both to set goals and to drive your job search, Corbin? Do you turn it into some kind of statement? What are your practical tips here?
Yeah, I would have a, or multiple, statements of sort of, “I would like a job like XYZ at a company like ABC.” And it’s okay to have multiple. It’s totally normal and it’s great to think, I could do this job, that job, or this job, and have three totally different things, different types of companies, but have specific statements of intent for each of those. So, if you’re reaching out to somebody about graphic design jobs, you have a great reason for why you’re excited about a career in graphic design at a company like theirs.
If you’re also reaching out about ad sales, have a different pitch for that. It’s okay to have multiple different directions that you’re heading in but keep that to yourself. You don’t want to tell everyone that you talk to that you’re looking in three different directions, but when you find someone who’s a good resource who could give you some direction, you want to already have something prepared, like an elevator pitch, basically, a sales pitch about who you are and why you’re trying to get to the place that you’re going and what that might look like.
It’s okay to have a shortlist of goals, you just don’t want to be “open to everything.”
Definitely and I think it’s good to have a shortlist of goals because you don’t want to close yourself off but being “open to anything,” it’s just not true. Again, I can always come up with some kind of gruesome job that somebody doesn’t want to do. There are plenty of jobs that I don’t want to do that are perfectly innocuous but I just don’t want to do them.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation. Corbin, tell us, what’s next for you?
Well, continuing on, we have a workshop series that I co host with one of my colleagues every Tuesday, focusing on different elements of the job search, resumes, LinkedIn, interviews, that sort of thing. So, we do one every week and I encourage people to come. Obviously, they’re all on Zoom nowadays, so we can accommodate people from all around the world.
Well, I encourage people to check that out and I know they can learn more about those events and the other services that Boly:Welch offers by visiting your website, bolywelch.com.
Now, Corbin, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to determine what matters most in your next job?
Well, you know, I guess I’d say, keep in mind the CLAMPS acronym because I think it gives a good framework for what to really focus on. You can run through these things one by one and write down your thoughts on each of them. These things I think are a little silly sometimes, but I think that anything that can give you some structure for how to discuss and think about issues like this can really help.
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Next week, our guest will be Ryan Rosenfeld. He’s the president of Greenforce Staffing. It’s a full-service employment agency for the cannabis industry.
When a new sector like cannabis appears, it not only offers new jobs but opportunities for career change and swift promotion, too.
Ryan and I will talk about these trends and how you can find a job in cannabis.
I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.