Do Your Homework – Get Your Dream Job

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat; boredom did. And that’s an important lesson for those of us who wonder about the new and exciting opportunities that await us but, fearing the “worst that could happen,” never take the plunge.

I met Roman, an incredibly successful chief of staff for a well-known D.C. entrepreneur, while vacationing in Lewes, DE, and learned about his itch to explore new opportunities. While he’d thoroughly enjoyed his 10 years in this role, he was simply ready to move onto something new and exciting. And besides, there was no room for growth in his current position. “But I can’t put the word out that I’m job searching,” Roman explained, “because it will get back to my current boss.”

“It sounds like you need to have an open, honest conversation with him,” I suggested.

“I know him. If I say something, he’ll move me out the door immediately.”

“OK, then what? You’re ready to move on anyway, right?”

“Well, yes, but I don’t know what’s next and I have bills to pay.”

“Forget the bills,” I told him. “They’ll always be there. What do you want to do?”

He mentioned several ideas – all of which required talking to his current boss first. Almost immediately upon his return to D.C., Roman went into his boss’s office, closed the door and had that important conversation. And to Roman’s surprise, his boss gave him a year runway to find a new job. He was free to explore!

A couple weeks later, Roman and I met at a coffee shop in Bethesda, MD. When speaking about how he could help me, he rattled off a laundry list of “Who’s Who” in D.C. – people with whom he had genuine connections. Yet, with this impressive network, and even a potential opportunity on the table, Roman was extremely anxious about his next move.

I asked him once again what he really wanted. He simply replied, “My life back.” So I asked what that life looked like. “I want three things in my next job: clear focus, balance and money.” We spent some time discussing what he’d need to see in an organization to know it had focus and would provide the balance he wanted.

Moving on, I asked how much money he wanted. He hedged, “I’d be OK with $250,000.”

“What do you want, Roman?”

A little irritated with himself, he said, “OK, $300,000 and an opportunity for equity at some point.”

“Equity at some point?! Let’s get clear about this, Roman. What do you want?”

With a little disbelief and discomfort, he clarified: “$300,000 and equity. I’ll figure out how much when…”

“This is the only chance you have, Roman. How much?” Once we’d settled on 1 percent equity, it was time to figure out how to get these things. He looked a little nervous, so I asked, “Roman, do you know how to negotiate?”

He bristled. “You don’t want to be sitting opposite me at a negotiation,” he said. “I’ve been negotiating deals for more than 10 years.” So I asked him what he did when considering the buy or sale of a business. His ego soothed by the opportunity to demonstrate his skills, he provided a rich, thoughtful response about the many different types of research he’d typically gather.

“Awesome!” I said. “So, let’s pretend you are a business you’re preparing to sell. What do you do now?” His whole demeanor shifted as he considered my question. “That’s just it, Roman. If you did this research for you, as if you were a business, you’d hiring be someone to manage your money.”

Ready to lay out the research for your next career move? Here’s what to consider:

Your Value: What/who do you know that could be of value to a potential employer? How will you add to their bottom line? Sure, you can look at salary.com, but that only tells you what others are making, not how much your experiences, skills and connections are worth to a specific employer – and that requires extensive research into the company as well as yourself, research few people ever do.

Your Values: What’s most important to you at this stage in your career – money, flexibility, a fun working environment or opportunities to grow? Do your values match the company’s culture and the opportunities available?

Your Timing: Looking for a new opportunity is always easier (and more fun) when you’re already in a rewarding position. Imagine the difference in your self-esteem when you’re in need of a job, versus when you’re needed and appreciated in a job. Keeping your eyes open for opportunity, even when you’re in a job you love, will put you in a better starting position when it’s truly time to move on.

How are you keeping yourself up-to-date on the market? How are you ensuring opportunities continue to flow in? Few people do this level of investigation for their own career, which is why so few rise to the level of success they’re capable of reaching. Just like investigating before buying or selling a business is cumbersome, so, too, is figuring out what we want, what we’re worth and where we want to work. But the net result is landing an excellent position, doing work you love with great people. Is it worth it to you?

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