Searching for a job is hard work. Few of us find it enjoyable. When a search ends in a job you love, the sense of achievement is thrilling. But searches often yield less-than-thrilling results. Sometimes we accept an offer because we, um, need the cash. That's understandable. It happens. But there are steps we can take to make somewhat easier the decision to decline an offer while feeling confident that we'll find something better.
Last time I explored at the effects of dislike of the job search process, despair, and wishful thinking. In this post, I describe a strategy for limiting the effects of financial pressure. Briefly, the strategy is to align with reality your sense of confidence in your financial resources so as to widen the range of job offers that you feel comfortable enough to decline.
A strategy of "Informed Choosiness"
The strategy is simply stated:
It's OK to feel financial pressure to accept a job offer, provided you actually are pressured financially.
I call it "Informed Choosiness" because the goal is to be choosier in the face of financial pressure, but only on the basis of information about your financial status. Here's a rough outline showing how to execute the strategy for your unique situation. There are four steps to financial confidence:
- Make a Needs list. Compile a list of Needs that require financial resources (money) over the duration of your job search.
- Make a preliminary Needs Budget, which is a schedule of those expenditures.
- Get real about your Needs. Develop a Wants Budget and a revised Needs Budget by reviewing your preliminary Needs Budget.
- Make a Resource Plan that shows where and how you'll secure the financial resources to fund your Needs Budget, and possibly all or parts of your Wants Budget.
Two different job search scenarios
Two different scenarios require slightly different approaches. The first scenario is a job search by a job seeker who is employed and not in imminent danger of termination. The job seeker's current job is not ideal. It's tolerable at least in the intermediate term. Perhaps there's some concern about the long-term viability of the company. Or there's concern about advancement opportunities. Or the supervisor bullies subordinates. Call this scenario "Employed."
The second scenario is a job search by a job seeker who isn't employed, and who's living on savings or help from family or government. Call this scenario "Not-Yet-Employed." I prefer the name "Not-Yet-Employed" to "Unemployed" because "Not-Yet-Employed" is both more accurate and more optimistic.
Four steps to financial confidence
Below are more detailed descriptions of the four steps to financial confidence in your job search.
- Make a Needs list
- Needs are things you cannot do without. They're the commitments you cannot close out, or items that support your life: food, shelter, and the basics. And now that you're in job search mode, Needs also include items that support your job search. Examples include home office equipment and software, wardrobe updates, fitness membership, professional society memberships, networking, certifications, certification exam prep courses, personal Web site, career coaching, LinkedIn page makeover, and so on.
- Make a preliminary Needs Budget
- Your preliminary Needs Budget is a month-by-month schedule of the expenditures required to acquire the items in your Needs List. It isn't constant. There will be months when your budgeted Needs might be greater than others. Do what you can to determine what your Needs will be each month for the next few months. Update your preliminary Needs Budget every month.
- For the It's OK to feel financial pressure
to accept a job offer, provided you
actually are pressured financiallyNot-Yet-Employed, consider scheduling as early as possible any Needs that have inherent lead times or that require your personal time and effort. Examples are weight loss, certifications, certification exam prep courses, personal Web site, career coaching, and LinkedIn page makeover.
- For the Employed, consider the consequences of your current employer learning of your intention to change jobs. If you expect the consequences to be problematic enough, consider deferring any of your Needs that might cause your current employer to take actions you wouldn't welcome. For example, if you believe that creating a personal Web site could potentially cause problems with your current employer, consider creating your Web site, but making it inaccessible to the public or to Web crawlers, for the time being. When the time is right, you can open the site to public view.
- Get real about your Needs
- Review your preliminary Needs Budget. If it's much more than you expected, review it to see whether you can eliminate or defer any items.
- Needs and Wants are different things. Take a look at the Needs you've listed, month by month, and ask, "Need or Want?" The first time you do this, there's a good chance that you'll find some Wants mixed in with the Needs. Collect your Wants, month by month. Repeat this a few times, until things stabilize. Then you'll have two lists, Needs and Wants, for each month. And the Needs will be real Needs.
- The final result of this step is a Needs Budget that's free of Wants, and a Wants Budget that's free of Needs.
- Make a resource plan
- Your "Resource Plan" is a schedule showing how you'll provide the financial resources to fund your Needs Budget and some of your Wants Budget over the duration of the job search.
- Examine your Needs Schedule and Wants Schedule. If you're Not-Yet-Employed, determine how much "dis-saving" to do and when. If you're Employed, use the two schedules to determine how much saving to do and when. That schedule of saving or dis-saving is your Resource Plan.
That's it. Whether you're Employed or Not-Yet-Employed, the Resource Plan tells you how long you can be choosy about any job offers that you might receive. The Resource Plan gives you some protection against a worry-induced acceptance of a job offer that isn't actually a fit.
Update your Resource Plan as new data becomes available. Use it as a guide to determine whether your feelings of financial pressure (or feelings of financial security) are based on reality. You might be surprised. First in this series Top Next Issue
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