Maintaining a List of Deal Breakers Will Help in Your Job Search

Nancy Anderson
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During a job search, it's crucial to have an idea of your needs and preferences, but it's equally important to know what you don't want. With a list of your professional deal breakers — the immovable factors that are crucial to your practical and emotional well-being — it's easier to identify unsuitable positions and make confident decisions on job offers.


When it comes to deal breakers, salary often tops the list. Before you start a job search, make a list of non-negotiable financial obligations, including rent, food utilities and car insurance. Then, assuming you want more than a bare-bones existence, figure out how much you need for personal-happiness activities, such as traveling and dining out. The final number is your absolute baseline for evaluating job postings and final offers. If you know in advance that you need at least $45,000 per year, it's easy to eliminate job postings with a salary range of $30,000-35,000.

Company and Culture

Company culture can play a big role in your happiness, so it's important to know what you need in advance. To start, think about the things you didn't like about previous positions. If you struggled as a social butterfly in a culture that prized quiet, independent work, one of your deal breakers might be an open office or a highly collaborative team. Other items on your list might be transparent communication, a focus on diversity, or a culture that values family and offers excellent parental leave.

Career Growth

For many professionals, the goal of a new job is to move up on the career ladder. To that end, it's important choose jobs that are a step up from your last position. In this area, deal breakers might be a better title, increased responsibility or at least three direct reports. Knowing these priorities can be invaluable as you evaluate postings and offers — it's easier to say no to a company with killer perks or an amazing health care package when you know it can't help you make progress toward your ultimate career goals.

Opportunities for Advancement

Most jobs have a natural end point — usually, this comes when you achieve mastery of the position's tasks and responsibilities. Avoid changing companies in two or three years by adding internal opportunities for advancement to your list of deal breakers. If you're looking for a copywriter position, for example, you might decide to consider only the companies that also have senior copywriter and writing team manager positions. In contrast, a company with only one writer on staff is unlikely to offer room for promotion. Alternatively, look for companies with a set schedule of promotions and raises.

Hunting for a new job is often stressful and time-consuming. With a list of deal breakers, you can save time at every step of the process and spend your efforts pursuing only the jobs that offer progress toward your goals.

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