But what about the qualities that job seekers should look for in potential employers? What should applicants seek in the companies to which they are applying? Though it can sometimes seem as if job searching is all about what the employer wants, it's essential for job seekers to know what they're looking for in a company, too.
Below are a few things all job seekers should consider when evaluating potential employers.
On paper, a job may seem great -- good salary, comprehensive benefits, impressive title -- but it's important to think about how working for a certain company or at a certain job will align with your personality and interests. Often, it's your fit with the company and job -- not your salary or title -- that will determine true happiness at work.
"Many of the career changers I have counseled have, after a thorough self-assessment, become attuned to the kinds of working conditions that make them truly happy and fulfilled," says Cheryl Heisler, president and founder of Lawternatives, a career coaching service for lawyers exploring career changes. "In exchange for achieving that kind of 'psychic benefit' from their work, these folks are often willing to make substantial compromises in other areas of traditional compensation such as salary or benefits, perks or fancy offices, to bring their work and their personal morés into balance."
Accepting a job offer without considering how you'll fit into a company's work environment can mean misery down the line. For example, "A culture clash might arise between a collaborative working parent trying to achieve that elusive work-life balance in a culture that values hard-driving competition," Heisler says.
Like your work environment, your co-workers can play a big part in how happy you will be at a job. "Liking the people with whom you work and sharing at least some of the same values is more than a mere nicety," Heisler says. "It takes a great deal of effort to be a square peg in a round hole; if much of your efforts are going into trying desperately to fit the mold, you will have that much less to give to your work product."
Your co-workers don't have to become your best friends, but naturally fitting in with the people you work with every day will go a long way in ensuring your happiness -- and effectiveness -- at work.
During the application process, job seekers should try to get a feel for the company's reputation. What does the company value? Have people had positive experiences working with -- and for -- the company? Are there any complaints against the company on Yelp or with the Better Business Bureau? If the company has a reputation for being dishonest or deceitful, job seekers should take this into consideration before proceeding with their application.
"No employee should ever have to compromise their values for a job," says Bethany Myers, career consultant and owner of career coaching firm BLM Consulting. "For example, I value honesty and integrity. If a company is in the practice of cutting corners, bending rules or just outright breaking laws, then they are not right for me."
While many of us evaluate job offers based on short-term factors (Is the initial salary higher? Will I have a better title?), it's also important to consider the long-term growth potential you'll have with an employer.
"Being able to grow with a company is a big plus for anyone who is building a career," Myers says.
To find out if there's potential for a promotion at a company you're interviewing with, Myers suggests bringing up the subject during the interview process, which can be as simple as asking "What growth opportunities exist for this position?" Just be sure not to make your personal growth the focus of the interview, or it may appear as if you're disregarding the position at hand.
If there's one thing that the recession has taught us, it's the value of job security.
"There isn't a feeling worse than uncertainty, and especially uncertainty surrounding your job," Myers says. "Knowing that you have a stable position within an organization not only is comforting, but it also is in the employer's best interest because it will eliminate that fear that tends to stifle a worker from being productive. If that looming dark cloud of, 'When will my job end?' isn't hanging over your head, you can focus on what you have been hired to do versus worrying if you should find a new job."
Having a mentor or manager you can look up to will help you adapt to and grow in a role at a new company.
"This is a valuable tool that is often overlooked," Myers says. "When an employee has a mentor within the organization, it works for everyone. This is the best way to mold new employees and re-energize seasoned ones. It's also a great opportunity for higher-ups to ensure a superstar employee doesn't fall through the cracks. It's a win-win in my book."
So remember, although it may not always seem like it, a job search is a two-way street. Hold potential companies to the same high standards they've set for you, and you'll assure that your next position is a perfect match.
Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter
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