I created this list to help people zero in on what they want in a job or work.  When you know what you want, it is far easier to develop a plan to get there.

This is a list of aspects of a job or work that you MUST have.  This is not “want to have.”  This list is of the things that you must have in order for you to be satisfied and content in your work, the things that will make it possible for you to be excited to start the day when you wake up every morning.

You’ll want to have a “must have” in most or all of these categories:

  1. Work you will do
  2. Role you will play
  3. Impact of your efforts
  4. Physical environment
  5. Colleagues, culture, emotional environment
  6. Compensation

1.  Work you will do

What do you like doing?  What gives you great satisfaction? What industry or subject area do you love, care about? In what field does your expertise and talent lie?  What do you want to occupy yourself doing for work? What are your skills, talents, preferences, likes and dislikes?  What brings you joy?  What can you lose yourself in so time flies?  Do you prefer to have a single focus or are you happier with a variety of tasks?

2.  Role you will play

What position will you have in the organization or company?  Will you work for someone?  For yourself?  With others?  Be a leader or a follower?  Do you like working alone or in a team?  Being visible or behind the scenes?  Playing the same kind of role consistently, or do you like to move around? How much time do you want to spend working?  Do you want to be someone others depend on or free of responsibility for others?

3.  Impact of your efforts

Does your work need to matter to anyone other than yourself?  Do you want to make a difference?  If so, what difference do you want to make?  Does it matter what kind of company or organization you work for?  If so, what kind of company?  And what impact will it have?  Is there anything that will make it worth doing drudge work?

4.  Physical environment

What do you need to be at your best and do your best work?  Do you need privacy, light, quiet, noise, open floor plan, a desk and comfortable chair, no desk and always being outside?  There are many variations – only you can decide what kind of physical environment you thrive in.  Also can be about location, commuting, hours.

5.  Culture and colleagues

What kind of emotional environment do you want?  What kind of people?  Do your values need to mesh with the values of your workplace and colleagues?  What kind of atmosphere helps you do your best?  Fast-paced or laid-back? Lots of deadlines or little pressure?  Competitive or supportive, or a little of both?  Structured or flexible?  Formal or casual? 9-5 or varied?  Task or mission focused?  Start-up or established organization/company?  Close supervision or self-direction?

6.  Compensation

What’s the bottom line dollar pay or salary that you can live with?  A figure that covers your basic needs and then some?  You can have a figure you request that’s higher than your “I can live with it” figure.  Are there other ways you can be compensated, such as time off, benefits, recognition, or travel?  How much compensation do you need to reflect your value to your employer, or to quit a temporary or maintenance job to work full-time for yourself?

After answering these questions, try to boil down your responses to short phrases of one to five words.  You know the intention behind each phrase, and can explain them to people when you tell them what you want.

As you go forward in looking at potential jobs, it is probable that one or two of these items will rise to the top of your list as the most important variables for you to have your best work experience.  That will help you decide whether to accept a job or not – if it doesn’t meet those top “must haves,” it’s likely that you won’t last there very long.

In a tough economy, it’s great to have 51% of your “Must Have” List met. Employers have their own “must haves” and they are more likely to demand that potential employers meet 100% of their list – no matter how unrealistic that is.  In a good economy, we can aim for getting 75-80% of our “must haves” – the same as an employer will get.

The goal, after all, is for your “right fit” work to be the fit of your skills, abilities and talents with the needs, requirements and opportunities of the job or work you get.