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Setting Priorities and Managing Your Expectations

For almost as long as I’ve been a headhunter, when I speak with someone I might represent, assist and coach, the first question I ask is why they are looking for a new job; what are the motivating factors? I want to learn about their priorities and if they are reasonable, realistic and can provide me a documented track record of success, I’ll often take on their cause and assist to varying degree. If money is their primary or only reason, I rarely take them seriously. I believe that if money is a higher priority than is the actual opportunity, they have their priorities bass ackwards. To be clear, what I am suggesting is about more than money, but if we are talking about money and tying it to priorities, we can use it to illustrate my point about priorities, as compared with expectations.
When I speak with someone about what they want in terms of compensation in a potential new job, I ask them:
A)   What would you like to earn in your next job? (what they want)
B)     What do you need to earn? (what is their low end minimum need)
The results are often two different numbers. As their representative, I will then seek to ensure they hit somewhere between those two numbers, aiming for the wish number as close as is possible but ensuring we don’t fall below the need figure. I also do the same with hiring managers, with whom I pose the same question about the low and high ends of the compensation range they are offering for the position. This is in order to realistically manage expectations for both sides of the process so that, as we near a positive conclusion, we can avoid the possibility of either side feeling misled, or their time wasted; it increases the odds of reaching a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
Setting your priorities, considering what is most important and keeping your expectations grounded and reasonable is something any job seeker should occasionally contemplate and remind oneself. As situations change, therefore so should expectations and priorities. I’ve witnessed many a good opportunity slip past someone whose ego and sense of entitlement blinded them to the current reality of the job market. I am in no way suggesting you aim lower, just more realistically. There are still a lot of great jobs and if you are in select market sectors the money is still quite good. But for the majority, wages are not what they were, nor are benefits. And looking back at our parents, who might have had career-long jobs, job security and great pensions is also a bit of a misnomer. Many of those retirees are watching their pension benefits being sliced and diced, so gazing backwards to the good old days will not solve a job seeker’s issues of today or tomorrow.
So what are you going to do? I suggest we look forward both realistically as well as optimistically. If you are going to have expectations that are over-inflated and outdated, you are very likely to be disappointed with what otherwise may be a good job, or at least a job that will take you in a new direction. Depending on your circumstances you might have to take a step back, in order to have steps available to move forward. Forsaking a few things you’d like to have in order to get what you need is not surrender. Whoa! A Rolling Stones tune just popped into my head – Thanks Mick, for helping me to make my point in closing this blog entry! “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you might just find you get what you need” 
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