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Before starting a job search, ‘figure out what matters most’ by asking yourself 4 questions: chief career strategist

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Key Points
  • More than 4 million people left their jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • If you're among those looking for a job, it's important to be intentional about your search.
  • Ask yourself questions like what kind of flexibility you want, what kind of benefits package do you want, and what are your long-term goals.

Americans continue to quit their jobs amid the Great Resignation, with 4.4 million people leaving their roles in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In total, 6.27 million people were unemployed in February. With 11.3 million job openings that month, there were a record 5 million more roles available than there were people to fill them.

In many industries, workers have an array of roles they are able to choose from. But if you're currently on the lookout for a job, even before you begin your search, "figure out what matters most to you now," says Julie Bauke, founder and chief career strategist with The Bauke Group. The more intentional you are about selecting your next role, the more likely it is to be the right fit.

Here are four questions to ask yourself, to focus in on what matters to you most at work, according to experts.  

What kind of flexibility are you looking for?

Due to the pandemic, millions of people have been working from home for the last couple of years. And some found they love both the fluid schedule that remote work can enable them to have, and the comfort that set up can provide.

"Let's say you discovered the great joy of going to your kid's soccer games at 3 o'clock" as a result of this fluidity, says Bauke. Ask yourself how important it is to be able to keep doing that. Think about what you've been able to do without the commute to and from your office.

Consider your ideal work schedule and parameters going forward and keep them in mind as you seek out your next role.

What kind of benefits are you looking for?

"Companies have compensation philosophies," Bauke explains. There will be some who offer lower salaries with more benefits. Others may offer a higher salary and fewer benefits, or a higher salary with the expectation that you'll put in more hours.

Ask yourself what's most important to you in this stage of your life in terms of salary, vacation time, and other benefits, and keep that combination in mind as you search.

What are your long-term goals?

It's also important to consider how your next role fits into your long-term work plans.

"This next job very likely won't be your last job," says Gorick Ng, Harvard career adviser and author of "The Unspoken Rules." "It'll be a stepping stone to another opportunity." Ask yourself, where do you want your career to be in the next two years? Five years? Ten years?

Then consider how this next role could play into that. Maybe it could teach you new skills you'll need down the line or be a first step in the direction of a leadership or executive role. Make a plan for your career down the line and keep that in mind as you search.  

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Who do you want to be working with?

Some of the biggest reasons people leave their current roles include "problems involving your co-workers" and "issues around where the organization is headed," says Ng. As you explore your next role, consider the kind of environment you want to be in.

While you can't usually control who your coworkers are, a company culture can give a sense of the kind of people it attracts to work there. A shared sensibility or goal could help you navigate any potential co-worker conflicts that could come up. Ask yourself, what kind of company culture or values would help you thrive?

Ultimately, looking for a job "is kind of like shopping in a grocery store," says Ng. "You'll more likely walk out with the ingredients you want and the dish that you intended to cook, if you walked into that grocery store with a grocery list."

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