Supercharge your job hunt by building non-negotiables first
Sonal Alva profile

Sonal Alva, Career Coach

05 Oct, 186 mins read

Last week we touched a bit on how to research on companies before you apply and score them on parameters of importance i.e. non-negotiables. Let's deep dive a bit on what exactly are non-negotiables and how you can build yours in a way that helps you make a smarter career decision.

Your non-negotiables are preferences of your ideal role and team. These are the ones that can never be sacrificed when deciding on a role

If you have 7-8 things that are important to you, then non-negotiables are those that filter out (not sort) a possible list of places you can join. And don't worry it's not really rocket science! The human mind, and our inner conscious that wants to belong at a workplace, already does this for us - but using this framework just helps you structure the whole thing.

What happens if you don't do this

Like every product and business, your career needs a plan-of-attack. Companies usually call this the go-to-market-strategy i.e. whom will we sell to, who is our target audience, how will we position the product etc. This helps them find the best customers in the least amount of efforts and time. And c'mon, it's a modern world :) Shouldn't you be using technology and frameworks to make informed decisions instead of blundering around in the dark.

It's very easy to get lost in the jungle of 100s of job listings you find on the internet. You end up applying to every job possible and then wasting your time with the wrong roles vs attacking the ideal role with all your power.

How to build your non-negotiables

To begin with, break down your preferences into various categories like team, industry, size of company etc. If you are confused about which categories are usually important, then use the image below or simply download a free template here and download a copy for yourself. A good way is to also do an analysis of why did you join your current organization and why I'm thinking to look out? Whatever you think isn't working out today must be corrected next time, and hence are non-negotiables. Screenshot 2018-10-05 at 6.09.08 PM.png

Apart from the main categories, you can add as many as you want in the others category e.g. diversity, distance from home, possibility of international work etc Screenshot 2018-10-05 at 6.10.09 PM.png

How many non-negotiables (NNs) can you have?

Ah.. my favourite question! I have helped 200+ data scientists in the past 10 months and this is mostly always the toughest one. Our tendency is to always put everything as an NN - because why wouldn't we want the best for ourselves, right? Wrong!

No role or new job is perfect, and that is why you must define max 4 non-negotiables for yourself. Otherwise you will never find the best job

Want a more advanced version of this?

You can of course put a weightage (_out of 100) _to each criteria and then make a normalised weighted average score. This does a great job of restricting you to a field of 100 units and hence balance out each criteria nicely. Here's an example:

  • Salary weightage is 20/100 and hence if a company is offering you the ideal salary then it gets a score of 0.2
  • But if salary is a big non-negotiable, then its weightage can be 60/100 and hence its gets a final score of 0.6 when the ideal offer is placed

Always keep in mind that you should not do the mistake of marking every criteria weightage as equal. Here is how that can look like: Screenshot 2018-10-05 at 6.10.59 PM.png The right way would look like this: Screenshot 2018-10-05 at 6.11.49 PM.png If you are using this framework for the first time, I would highly recommend you to keep it simple and simply work on finding your top three criteria vs adding weights to each criteria.

If this table is helping you surface some hard questions about yourself, and helping you answer them. Then it's doing its job well

A real example of this used recently

I was recently conversing with a Data Scientist who is working with a leading Fintech company. I was curious to know why she wanted to make a change from her current organization. Reasons included that her learnings were getting saturated and that most of her work was repetitive. While her reasons were fair enough, I wanted to dig deeper and get to know her job preferences further.

Below are the important criteria that came out:

  1. Location - Bengaluru (can travel upto 20 kms)
  2. Role - Has 2 years of experience and wants to work as an individual contributor owning a product which is using cutting edge technology to solve new problem statements
  3. Work culture - Startup (0-1 stage) where she can find awesome exposure to own things and learnings will be on upper curve
  4. Domain - Internet space and product company is great
  5. Compensation - 20% increase of current salary

The first 3 criteria came out to be her strong NNs, and gave her clarity on what to look for rather than getting confused by job board listings. She defined her preferences, bucketed them and then shortlisted a list of companies she can go after e.g. Kartogram as organisation for her matched this way:

  • Location: Bengaluru
  • Role: Individual Contributor and product ownership
  • Work Culture: Fast paced execution and scope to learn

Therefore, Kartogram gets a score of 10/10 based on her preferences and is a relevant option to go after. This doesn't conclude that Kartogram is a great or not place to work for _(that can never be defined) _it simply means that Kartogram is a great place for her and a match worth exploring. Win-win for both the organisation and her :)

A final tip

This framework should be used not only when you are finding a new job, but also on a regular basis at your current role. What better indicator of how well you belong by analysing it in a data oriented way.