To achieve career success, think carefully about what you want

"Spend some time thinking about what makes you tick before you sign on the dotted line."

You have perfected your resumé and written a beautifully worded cover letter. Lucky you, you got an interview! But wait… you have some thinking to do.

Disclaimer: This is not your opportunity to be a diva. Understand that fresh out of school you are lucky to gain any experience you can. Don’t go making crazy demands – this will make you unpopular with recruiters.

Before you go into the interview, spend some time thinking about what you’re looking for in an organization and a job. I lacked this kind of hippy-dippy self-discovery fresh out of school. I just wanted someone to want me. And want me they did – I ended up getting the job I was looking for.

However, had I done some soul searching, I would have known from initial conversations with my future employer that we had a fate similar to Bennifer – sexy, but short lived. Words that indicated fierce competition and sales permeated most discussions. This should have been a tip that my collaborative, people-loving, relationship-valuing work style wouldn’t fit in. I managed to do the work, but I was exhausted and spent most of my time trying to figure out politics.

I left after a year and a half feeling downtrodden.

Learn from my mistakes. Here are some questions to explore while you think about what you need:

What energizes you?

Think about the activities you enjoy and then think about why you enjoy them. The people, the accomplishment of a job well done, the skill and knowledge it requires?

What environment do you like to work in?

When you write a paper do you hide yourself away, or plant yourself in a busy coffee shop?

What do you want and what are you willing to give up?

Think about what you value most in your first opportunity and understand there might be tradeoffs associated with it. If your biggest driver is money (which is OK), understand you might be giving up some of your personal time. If it’s fun, some relevant and marketable experience for your resumé might suffer. Think about what you are looking for and be able to articulate it to the recruiter.

Where do your friends and family think you can succeed?

Ask people you trust what they think about you, your style and the environments you would do well in. I am consistently amazed at how well my friends and family know me, and the incredible advice that they have to offer. Also, there are tons of tools to help you in your quest for self-discovery. For example, check out the new edition of Barbara Moses’ book, What Next?

Quite simply, while you are looking to impress potential employers, they are looking to impress you too. And it benefits everyone for you to spend some time thinking about what makes you tick before you sign on the dotted line.