Most people have a mental checklist for an ideal next job.

Do you? Even if it’s not fully fleshed out or written down, I am guessing you have at least a working “wish list” for your next role.

Here are the most common “wish list” items that job seekers include when they start to map out their next ideal job:

–> Should have a good job title.

–> Should be within a reasonable commute.

–> Should have good pay (whatever that means to you).

–> Should have growth potential.

–> Should have good work-life balance.

–> Should use your skills in an advanced way so that you stay current in the marketplace.

There are a few other nuances, but you get the drift.

Let’s say you’re looking for work, and you come across THE ABSOLUTE PERFECT JOB according to your mental list, above.

Here’s what starts to happen: we fall in love – sometimes even the minute we see a particular posting – and we begin to go down the road of daydreaming about how great that particular opportunity might be. The pay! The title! The day we get to tell our boss we’re outta here!

We see the posting and, on paper, it seems like a match made from heaven. We begin to tell our friends and family that we saw this great job and how excited we are about it. We’re practically driving there already for day one of work!

We often fall in love with how a job looks on paper, before we ever have a conversation with anyone at the organization.

Then, if you don’t hear back about the role, you feel let down, like you just lost out on the job of a lifetime.

If you DO hear back that you’ll get an interview, you go into the conversation already predisposed to steamroll over any information you could glean that this might not be a good fit.

We get attached to the idea of a particular job – formed in our own mind, on little bits and pieces of information – and then have a hard time letting go of that daydream to evaluate a job in reality.

You may have gone on a “rose-colored interview” because you may be hearing the potential boss disparage people, talk about the hectic work schedule, speak about “leveling up” the staff (by replacing people, not training them). And all the while, you’ve got your daydream-glasses on, not wanting to see anything bad about the job.

As the interview process progresses, you may feel their interest dwindle; you may not go on to the next step; or you may be stuck in perpetual candidate limbo in a drawn-out process. And you find yourself once again at the same cross-street –

“I thought this was a great fit. I’d be perfect here, and this situation is my ideal job. Why can’t they see it? What went wrong here?”

Typically, what went wrong here is that you got too far in your thinking, too quickly, based on your paper checklist. The role checked off most of the requirements, and you thought it was a great fit, so you might have just as well already accepted it in your mind. Often, any job that barely meets the “on paper” requirements goes on the pedestal of “job of a lifetime” and sets yourself up for huge disappointment if it doesn’t come through.

The truth is, you need to have a lot of potential jobs in the hopper, and no one knows if they’re the job of a lifetime, unless:

–> You’ve had multiple conversations with the organization

–> You’ve heard, in detail, what they really need in this role

–> You’ve done your homework to find out as much as you can about the work culture

–> You paid close attention to your possible boss and cultural cues during the interview process (see the post How to Identify a Toxic Work Culture Before Taking the Job)

–> You’ve evaluated enough potential other opportunities that you know what’s out there and you’re not settling

–> And, most importantly, when you talk to people there (and visit the work site, if it’s local), you feel completely at home, supported and inspired.

Title, commute, pay, growth opportunities – what good does that bring you if your boss treats people horribly or there’s constant turmoil within the organization?

And, guess what? You can’t find that out on a job description, no matter how good the job looks on paper. You have to have actual conversations (multiple ones, in fact), before you’ve identified your perfect job.