Job seekers can get specific about what you really want from a job through your Must Have List. The Must Have List allows you to specify your bottom line requirements for your “right fit” job – those things that will make it possible for you to take and stay in a job happily. Once you’ve come up with that ideal, two questions often arise:

  • I finished my Must Have List. Now what do I do with it?
  • I can’t seem to find any jobs that match my criteria. What do I do now?

Once you have a Must Have List, you can begin to use it to evaluate job possibilities throughout the entire job search process – from deciding which jobs to apply for, to negotiating a job offer. In interviews, you use the list as a guide to questions you will ask the employer, to find out if this job is in fact the “right fit” for you.

Someone right now is in the fortunate position of be considered for several possible jobs at a single company. She is using her Must Have List to guide discussions toward the position that most nearly meets her requirements. For example, she does not want to relocate to the Middle East but would be OK moving to Europe. She has a strong sense of the right compensation for the work she wants to do, as well as a very powerful need to do work at the right level for her skills and abilities. If these two things are not right, she will not pursue a job. She has specific subject matter expertise, so clearly she’s looking for a chance to use that expertise. As she continues in her discussions, she’ll ask questions intended to find out how much authority she will have and the location of the position.

Another person decided not to apply for some positions right off the bat because, though they initially appeared to have the right title, a close reading of the job posting revealed that either the position was really too junior, the organization was too small to pay her what she needed, or the responsibilities were too narrow.

Those are good ways to use the Must Have List. Another good way to use the Must Have List is using it as the basis for developing your short answer to the question “what are you looking for?” Short, specific, to the point answers will help people point you to possible opportunities.

Of course, too narrowly interpreting the Must Have List can be a way for you to stop yourself from applying for jobs. While there are six elements of the Must Have List, it is unrealistic to expect to get a job that matches all six elements. (If everything is perfect, there’s no room for growth!) Our goal is for you to get a position that offers 50 to 75% of what you Must Have.

It’s good to apply for most jobs that immediately interest you
, even if at second glance you think it could never meet your needs. If you are the least bit ambivalent, apply. Your application is simply the beginning of the conversation. You will later find out what the job really entails. So start talking. Indicate willingness to fully engage in your job search by applying to several jobs a week. Network, too, so you start learning about “hidden job market” positions that may more closely align with your Must Have List.