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5 Things to Consider Before Beginning Your Job Search

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Looking for a Career Switch? Define Your Ideal Employer First.

When you’re working through a job search, your first thought may be to look for positions that align specifically with your background. You may work with recruiters directly, use your network to connect you to opportunities, or apply for positions that seem like a good fit. This traditional approach can be effective - but before looking for your next job, you may be better off first finding your next company.

There are few things worse than working for a company where you dread going to work each day. Whether it’s the culture, location, advancement opportunities, etc. – if some things are not ideal, it may be your dream job, but not your dream company.

There will be organizations on your target list based on industry or the potential for roles in your specialty. Beyond that, there are five criteria I recommend using to help target your company search - and end up in a place you’ll love.

1. Culture.

This may very well be the number one factor in choosing your next employer. Though culture can sometimes be hard to define, it’s primarily a combination of the behaviors of the company or their employees and the values they hold.

How can you find out about a company’s culture? Do your research. Use platforms like Glassdoor and look at the company’s website. You can also talk to people in your network who work there or have in the past. You may also want to consider their approach to work/life balance – including how their senior leaders set the example.

Early in my career, I was considering a role with a local company whose reputation was somewhat questionable. I was hesitant but had been traveling three weeks out of the month and with young children, I wanted to be home more. During the interview process, I took time to reach out to connections (and some connections of connections) to get their thoughts and opinions on working there. Turns out, the rumors were true. Though I was offered the role – with fantastic pay – I turned it down. No salary is worth working in a toxic culture.

2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Some people say this is part of culture, and they’re not entirely wrong; however, you’ll want to dig deeper. How new is the company to doing the hard work that builds a strong DE&I effort? Is it something they’ve been working on for a while and have made significant strides, or is it a nascent strategy that is merely a response to the current push for this long-overdue focus? Does the makeup of their leadership team allow for diverse perspectives? You’ll want to ensure the company’s DE&I efforts are sincere and ingrained in their culture. You can find out more about this by researching reports such as Forbes’ Best Employers for Diversity and HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, among others.

3. Performance management process.

Nothing says priorities like what performance is based on. (Remember ‘what gets measured gets done’)? In talking with connections and during interviews, discuss what employee merit increase and salaries are tied to in terms of performance. Do these measurements make sense? Do they align with your values and what you think is important?

4. Location, location, location.

Be very clear about how far you’re willing to commute. Though most roles are remote right now and may continue to be, there are still positions that will involve being in an office environment in the future. When that time comes, will you be happy with your commute? Does it fit in with your lifestyle and responsibilities? If you want to be able to spend time on weekday evenings seeing friends or being with your dog, don’t have a commute that’s an hour one way.

5. Opportunities for development and advancement.

During my corporate career, I worked for one company for more than 10 years. Why? Because I was able to develop, learn and grow in a number of roles, moving every two or three years into positions that challenged me. When I wasn’t looking for my next role, I was still given many opportunities to develop. You want to work for an organization that values learning and provides ways for you to enhance your knowledge, skills and abilities.

Always be thoughtful about this part of your job search and do as much fact-finding as possible up front. Once you’ve identified the companies that fit your criteria, then it’s time to work on getting noticed by their hiring managers and recruiters. Finding your next company is just one step in effectively managing your career strategy.


Sheila Cosgrove is a Leadership Coach, Career Strategist, and Founder and Managing Director of Achieve and Inspire Leadership Coaching. She helps leaders find their purpose and realize their full career potential through a powerful and transformational coaching process. Her mission is simple: to help others determine what it is they truly want in their career, and to work with them in designing strong, detailed and realistic strategies to achieve success.

Sheila is an advocate for women and frequently hosts webinars on career strategy. Find out more about Sheila’s career journey here and follow her on Twitter.

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