Should You Make Compromises in Your Job Search?

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Should You Make Compromises in Your Job Search?

Compromise gets a bad rap sometimes, but it’s a huge part of what makes society work. For example, under ideal circumstances, government is all about compromise. Look at the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare: The bill went through over 100 public hearings and received 161 amendments from opposing parties before it was passed. Nobody got everything they wanted … but no one went away empty handed either.

Compromise is also a significant factor in the hiring process. Admit it: when you’re reading through the openings on, more than once you’ve scanned a job and thought “Man! I can’t do all of THAT!” The “ideal candidate” description for the position would have to be a gold-medalist in multiple disciplines, have 30 years of award-winning experiences … oh, and be willing to work for in intern’s stipend.

In the HR world, that’s known as a unicorn: in other words, you won’t find one. You can get an animal with a single horn, or a horse’s body, or cloven hooves, or a goat’s beard and tail … you might even be able to get an animal with a two or even three of those attributes … but an animal with ALL those traits doesn’t exist.

By the same token, finding a marketing candidate who is a high-end designer, an Addy-winning copywriter, a master photographer, a multimedia genius, and an omnichannel programmer–well, that type of multiple discipline Renaissance Man hasn’t existed since Da Vinci … and even he didn’t have an MBA.

Thing is, though, companies know that … they know they’re not going to find their mythological ideal candidate. Job descriptions aren’t really descriptions at all: they’re more like wish lists. Sure, a manager would love to find a candidate that meets or exceeds all their criteria … they’d love to, but they don’t really expect to. They know they will have to compromise.

Which brings us to you, the potential hire: do you have to compromise as well? Most likely, yes–that’s why it’s so important to think through your wants and needs before you get too far into your job search. Compromise will be necessary, but there’s also a point of diminishing returns, when you can compromise too much. In the words of positive thinker, Zig Ziglar, “Be careful not to compromise what you want most for what you want now.”

So exactly how do you straddle that fence? Well, to start with, you need to take a good look at yourself and figure out the non-negotiables: what are the things you know you cannot live with? And on the other side of the equation, what are the things you absolutely can’t live without? Your first step is identifying the deal-breakers.

You’ll probably find some good indicators simply by looking at your most recent position. What do you love about the job? What are the parts you’re not crazy about, but you can live with? And what are the things you swore you would never accept again?

Look at everything from drive time and vacation days to co-workers and salary. Was the atmosphere conducive to getting things done? Were the company’s goals in line with yours? Was there enough flexibility? Start a list with pros, cons, and maybes. Figure out what job YOU would be an ideal candidate FOR.

Keep in mind that yours is a wish list, too: it’s doubtful you’ll find a position that completely aligns with your description.

The ability and willingness to compromise can be a great tool in your job search. Once you know what you won’t compromise on–the things that really matter to you–you’ll be in a better position to find the job that fits.