A Step-by-Step Plan for Finding the Right Job for You

Looking for a job is hard. You have to find an opportunity, write something interesting about yourself and the company in a cover letter, tailor your resume to the specific job, interview for many hours, and then decide whether the job is right for you. There are plenty of resources out there for  finding jobs,  writing interesting cover letters, making the perfect resume, and answering interview questions. I’m going to cover the last part, finding the right job for you. There are many factors that go into whether a job is right for you, but I’m going to talk about the five most important, and what types of questions you can ask to compare opportunities:[bctt tweet="A Step-by-Step Plan for Finding the Right Job for You, by @mikeisman #careerinspiration"]

  • Company
  • People
  • Product
  • Lifestyle
  • Learning


Is it a big company with 10,000 people or a startup with 6? Is it publicly traded or still run by the founders who created it? How big is the engineering (or product, sales, marketing or design…) team that you’ll be on? How do people grow their careers at this company? Is this role open to replace someone who left or is it brand new?


Do you like the people you’d work with directly? What about the people you’d sit near? Are they smart people you can learn from? Is everyone physically in one office or spread out across different locations? Are there remote employees who you’ll never meet but still need to find a way to work with?


What does the company make and do you actually think it’s interesting? Would you (or do you already) use that product every day? If you’re not the target audience, do you understand who is? Do you have an opinion or understanding of how that product could succeed or fail?


How are you being compensated? If the salary is lower than what you could earn somewhere else, are you fairly compensated in other ways (equity, performance review, time off, benefits, etc)? How long is the commute? If you need to take your kid to a doctor’s appointment, can you take some time during the day to take care of that or do you need to be at your desk from 9-5 all day, every day?


Will you have a mentor, someone you can go to with any question about your current tasks or larger questions? Are there other people around you who will help you through a particularly tough problem? Is the company interested in you as a person or just as an employee in a specific job?

Each of these factors are key to finding the right job for you, but the order of importance will depend on you and your career aspirations. [bctt tweet="Company, team, product, lifestyle + learning are the keys to finding #careerlove—@mikeisman"]

If you have a mortgage and children to care for, it might be tough to choose an early startup salary. If you’re someone who loves interacting with people, you might not want to be at a company with no physical office. If you don’t like biking you might not want to work for a company that is building a bicycle sharing app. And if you’re finishing Startup Institute, ready to start your new career, you probably want to find a job that allows you to focus on learning and developing your skills.

[bctt tweet="When you make a #careerchange, focus on building skills—@mikeisman #careerinspiration"]

Let me put this into a context that I know best: software development. To be a successful developer, you need to have a solid understanding of computer science fundamentals, experience working with different types of technologies, the ability to read and write code in any language you might be dropped into, the ability to work with technical and non-technical people, and an understanding of how your job fits into product development. Very few jobs give a software developer exact specifications on what needs to be built, so being able to ask the right questions and make the right decisions is extremely important. But to be able to ask those questions and make those decisions, you need the experience and knowledge you’ll gain by learning on the job and from the smart people around you.

I wish I had gotten this advice when I started my career. I took my first two jobs because of the salaries they were offering but I didn’t learn much at all. I was just a cog in the wheel of big companies churning out code as part of big, nondescript teams with no sense of ownership over the product or its success. I also didn’t think that building software for insurance and healthcare was truly interesting, especially in technologies that were old and only being used because the companies were too slow to be able to move forward.

My career took off a few years after college because I finally found myself at a job where I had to learn and I had to learn fast. I joined a startup a few months before we had a big press launch, with very little product already built, in a language and tech world I knew nothing about. But I was on a close-knit, incredibly smart team that got the job done and had a hugely successful launch. It seemed like every day I was learning ten new things about Rails, about handling web traffic at scale, about Agile software development, about working with designers, product managers, marketing, and sales.

[bctt tweet="My career took off when I got a job where I had to learn + learn fast, says @mikeisman #happyatwork"]

After that experience, I was able to go on to different jobs because I wanted to make more money at a profitable company, or be a part of an early startup and learn about building a company and a product from the ground up. Eventually I was able to choose a job at a company I love, with people I love, working on a product I love and use every day, with the right lifestyle for my life right now, but where I’m learning a ton each and every day.

As you start your job search early in your career, make sure that learning is at the top of the list. You have to take all the other factors into account (maybe don’t take a two-hour commute or accept a job with people you don’t get along with just because you’ll learn more), but in my opinion, when it comes to finding the right job for you, focusing on the potential to learn now will help you build solid a base on which you can develop your career into whatever you want.

[bctt tweet="At the start of your #career, look for jobs that'll help you learn, says @mikeisman"]