What I Am Looking For In My Next Job

Friday I have an interview at a company I am really excited about joining. So far, my calls with the hiring manager and senior person above them have gone really well. Now it’s time for the four hour marathon on-site interview session. #tech #do other industries make people do this?

Looking at the role, it hits so many of my criteria in what I want for a “good job” that it feels like the standard bearer for the type of position I’d like. I lucked into an interview thanks to a referral from an academic I work with. Something something don’t just work for your network, make your network for you, yada yada yada. #maxims by yapfb

Even if I don’t get this job, though, as I’ve been applying to places, I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of what is / isn’t important to me in my next job. Here’s what I want:

Opportunity for a career switch

I have a non-compete that my employer would enforce, so in a sense I kind of have to make a career switch anyway. But there’s a particular type of tech role that I really want. Since I’m not looking to be a developer, those jobs are aplenty, it’s a bit more competitive to get my foot in the door, especially at a good place.

Nice, smart colleagues

I’m still mourning leaving all my wonderful colleagues at my current job. While I don’t know if I’ll find a group as actively funny and willing to be friends at my next position, I do know I want to be in a place where those I work with are reasonably nice– though can be direct about constructive criticism/getting things done–, intelligent, and competent. Speaking of…

Competent management

For better or worse, company life is affected by the decisions of senior and middle managers. Their decisions can make day-to-day easy or really, really hard. I feel like having a well-connected senior management is more likely at a smaller company. However, I am fine working in a big company, so long as their processes seem to make sense and don’t leave workers in weird bureaucratic limbos trying to secure basic things necessary to do their jobs.

Intellectual stimulation

I will take a “boring” product with interesting technical problems over a flashy product that’s super straightforward to implement any day of the week. I also refuse to take a job where my main responsibility is to run and analyze A/B tests all day. Just, no.

Good work-life balance

There are many aspects to this I’m looking for, but mainly I’m focusing on finding a good vacation policy, people putting in an average 40 hour week, colleagues with kids (especially women who’ve gone on maternity leave) that are able to make it work, and proximity to my house for a minimal commute.

Not too much of a pay cut

If I’m being honest with myself, I am 99% likely to experience a pay cut if I’m switching roles. Frankly, I don’t have experience in this new type of position and the 25-75% range for pay is much lower than in my current role (though there’s a long tail on pay, especially as you get into senior versions of this new position). So I’m setting my bar a little low here. In an ideal world I’d lose no more than 10% total cash compensation. Up to 20% still feels “acceptable” especially if I hit all my other criteria. Max I am willing to go down is 30% (that’s near-ish the median pay for this position) and that’s if I’m really desperate to get my foot in the door.

Things I don’t care about / actively do not want

I do not want to join a small, young start-up. Even though I myself am 26, the thought of joining a company composed only of other twenty-somethings, with a few thirty-somethings as founders sprinkled in, makes me deeply uneasy. I’d really like some company stability and older colleagues with experience I can learn from. Also, all the small start-ups I’ve talked to have given me a very Silicon Valley vibe. They hit all the common stereotypes: ping pong tables, craft beer on site, twenty-something coders sitting on couches instead of desks, bro-y hiring manager, everyone’s tired and overworked. Not my jam.

I do not care about equity. Unless a company is already publicly traded, it is as good as Monopoly money to me. Even then, vesting periods are long and I don’t want to be tied to a company that may not be a good fit for the promise of future stock.

Also, free food is nice and all, but more often than not will not fit my dietary criteria and/or is representative of a company culture that overly values hours on campus. Ditto all the other big company luxuries (gym, laundry, whatever).

What are your requirements vs. nice to have’s for a job? What couldn’t you stand or is unimportant? How much of a pay cut would you be willing to take for switching into a new type of role that you think better fits your interests? Do you have to endure marathon on-site interviews for your industry?




11 thoughts on “What I Am Looking For In My Next Job

  1. As someone much older than 26, this strikes me as a pretty thoughtful/insightful list that you’ve put together after just a few years of work! The nice thing about effectively managing your finances and living below your means is that PAY doesn’t have to be at the top of the list of priorities for the new job (to the detriment of all the other lovely features you’re looking for).


  2. I wrote about some of this here: https://stackingpennies.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/why-i-love-my-job/

    I think “solving interesting problems with smart people” is a great starting point for me. Then throw in work-life balance and commute considerations, and I’m mostly covered. I’m a little less concerned about overall career trajectory than when I was younger. Then again, I never really made career decisions based on that. I felt more ambitious, but I also mostly just took whatever project/role sounded most interesting.


    1. I’ve gone back and forth on how much I care about career trajectory. I am at a place, I think, where title increases are not at all important to me. Raises are also nice but not the highest priority. If I’m not learning or growing at my job, though, it’s porbably time to leave.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You asked the question about interviewing practices that we have endured. My last two jobs my bosses came to me and asked me to work for them. One showed up at my private practice office during Christmas break, unannounced. The other called me on the phone. I was a defense trial lawyer, and I have handled multiple murder cases, so they already knew my work. Since they were district attorneys, and I would be switching to prosecution, I can only guess they wanted someone experienced, and who was very familiar with “the other side” of the law. I gave no resume. They knew I was licensed, and saw me in action in court. So, I am not familiar with the interview process at all, except as a “newbie” lawyer, 31 years ago, in another state. It was rather stressful then. As I recall, I had to go for an interview, provide all sorts of documentation as to being licensed,resume, etc. and go through an interview that lasted about thirty minutes. I think, in my profession, once you prove yourself and have gained experience, it is easy to get jobs. .


  4. I think I expect to take a significant pay cut (up to, er, 55% or so) at some point in my next two or three job transitions. (Making the biglaw-ish bucks requires, at some point, being good at the business side of things for a law firm, which I think is so not my thing. I’m less sure of what is required to be making the bigger bucks in-house in the private sector, though everything I’ve seen so far suggests that I’m very unlikely to find the kind of intellectual stimulation I want from more litigation-like or regulatory investigations-like work in-house at a company.)

    In my mind, I think “nice, smart colleagues” and “competent management” end up blending together. Those things are definitely a must have for me, though I think it can be hard to suss that out from the interviews I’ve done for law firms. Intellectual stimulation is also a must for me, one I’m willing to take a pay cut for, once I’ve finished paying off my student loans or am close to it. (Ideally, the intellectual stimulation would only come with a pay cut if it was a job that opened other, more lucrative private-sector doors later. The most common such scenario is people who become federal prosecutors for a while and then go into biglaw white collar defense.) I think the good enough work-life balance to raise kids is also necessary too, alas, though it may be something I’m willing to give up a bit if K was in a job that had that kind of work-life balance.


    1. It kind of sucks that there’s such a tradeoff in terms of intellectual stimulation and work-life balance. I feel like the expectation is if you’re working on something important it need also be fast-paced which entails long hours.


  5. I think my requirements have changed quite a bit over the years and they’ve gotten harder to get. Must have: remote work set up, little to no travel or travel optional, no pay cut unless it was the only way to switch which is generally a yes when changing industries, lots of autonomy and decision-making power, no-drama workplace, few to no meetings.

    Getting my foot into the door of management, marathon interviews were a thing – too many stakeholders in a single position. But I’ve also been recruited with just a phone call.

    I will say that I wouldn’t rule out start-ups entirely because some are the total opposite of the SV vibe, even right here in SV adjacent areas, but I agree that the particular type you describe just makes me crinkle my nose.

    The nice thing is that I’ve landed in a position where I have all of the above and don’t have to sacrifice my entire life to make it work unlike most of my previous jobs. It feels like a bit of a unicorn but I hope we can make this more common for more people.


    1. “Lots of autonomy and decision-making power, no-drama workplace, few to no meetings” Yes! All super important.

      On startups: the place I will probably end up is a startup. And while there is a ping pong table in the coworking space in which they are housed, company itself seems like it is a bit more professional (though going through growing pains to add process, etc.). Here’s hoping it ends up being a good environment. *crosses fingers*


  6. What are your requirements vs. nice to have’s for a job? What couldn’t you stand or is unimportant? How much of a pay cut would you be willing to take for switching into a new type of role that you think better fits your interests? Do you have to endure marathon on-site interviews for your industry?

    These days I’m very pragmatic – I want a job that’s going to get me ahead financially and provide stability and flexibility. I spent years in fun creative lower paying work and while that was great I’m in a different phase of life!

    I want: a reasonable size (first interview on my last job hunt, the branch in my city was <20 people and the smallest physical office I'd ever been in, it was almost claustrophobic just being in there). A reasonable commute (quite picky about this particularly as I won't drive). Ideally all the good things that come with for profit orgs (benefits/bonuses/raises etc). A reasonable degree of autonomy, creativity, flexibility. Minimal meetings (I could never do my boss' job). I don't need to love the company/product but I do need to not hate it!


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