Give Me Back My Five Bucks

What do you look for in a job?

Recently I was head hunted for a management position with a different company in the same industry. It would have been a promotion with a higher salary, and with the type of organization I was interested in working with. The opportunity came as a bit of a shock because I’m happy where I am, and haven’t actively looked at job postings at all for the past 1.5 years. So while I was flattered that they were interested in me, I knew I was never going to seriously consider the position. And after talking it out with a few friends and stressing for a few days, I knew I had made the right decision.

This experience got me thinking again about what I look for in an employer, and how much that has changed over the years as my career has progressed. When I first graduated, jobs were pretty easy to come by, and I spent a lot of time chasing dollar signs and job hopping. While I was concerned with the integrity of the company, admittedly I was more concerned with my salary. And because of this, in the first four years of my career, I was able to double my income … but my resume looks pretty horrible. :)

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

Now the job market is a lot tougher, and my career direction has become a lot more focused (which means less jobs to choose from). 10 years ago, I was a marketing generalist by choice. I knew that by not specializing in anything, I could try a variety of different roles to find what aspects of marketing I enjoyed and where my strengths were. Now, it’s safe to say I’ve become a specialist with a somewhat niche skill set. With a decade of experience under my belt, I know that a pay cheque isn’t everything, but I also know that I have the luxury of saying that because my salary is comfortable.

Related: When it’s worth it to take a pay cut

Deciding not to pursue this job opportunity has really reinforced what I want out of my career. I’m also happy to see that the gamble I took by entering into this industry 3 years ago (by taking on a junior position) was a good decision, because this isn’t the first time I’ve been head hunted before. It seems that this type of marketing is always in demand, and there just isn’t a huge pool of people to choose from here in Vancouver.

Aside from salary, here are a few key things that I look for in a job and a career:

  • Work-life balance. Overtime cannot be avoided in this fast paced, deadline-driven industry, but there has to be a trade off. Because my job isn’t my passion, I value my time away from the office. I want a 40 hour/week career and flexible hours because so many things that I love (like freelancing, sports, and travel) happen outside of the office.
  • Good people. I don’t necessarily want to become best friends with my co-workers (and I’m a pretty introverted person), but being able to be social while at work is more important than I realized when I first started my career. When I look back at all the jobs I’ve had, the best ones were where I’ve had friends.
  • A company I can believe in. I want to be proud of the company I’m working for, and I like knowing that they are helping to make a difference. Whether it’s through the work that they do, or through giving back to the community, I love companies that help make lives better. :) AND I find it so inspiring when others around me truly believe in making the company better.
  • Ability to learn. Getting stuck is a huge concern for me. I want the ability to keep on learning and growing as an employee, and if those options aren’t available to me, eventually I’ll have to look elsewhere for employment. And that’s not something I want to do, because I also value…
  • Long-term potential. I want to be able to stay with a company long-term. Job hopping is tiring and stressful. Finding a role I can settle into is something I value, and it looks good on a resume when you have stayed in a position for at least 3-5 years.
  • Location. I’m done commuting long distances, but it’s hard to get by in the city without a car. I drive a lot for field hockey and hiking as it is (where transit is not an option), and where we live right now, I wouldn’t even consider applying for jobs that aren’t located within walking distance of a SkyTrain stop.

What do you look for in a job (and in your career)?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. eemusings says:

    Interesting topic!

    I’ve been starting to think about my next move, am at the stage where I’m like whoa, I really need to start thinking more strategically about my career. There’s been a bit of a pattern in my history which would mean I’m due for a slower paced job at a bigger, ‘name’ type place next up. And I’ve had a couple of people reach out to me in the past couple of years for roles that fit this bill, but the timing was not at all right back then.

    Compensation is huge, but location is also important (has to be easily reachable by PT for me, and a reasonable commute) and something I believe in (so, probably not FMCG for example). That said all my jobs have been passion jobs and I’d be interested to see how I fare somewhere where I’m not necessarily 100% excited about the mission/brand. I’d still need to believe in it but maybe without living and breathing it. Long-term potential is an interesting one as I’ve never worked anywhere BIG where you could hypothetically stay for many years and keep growing and developing with a clear path.

  2. Money Beagle says:

    I’m curious how this came about and how you recognized it was a legit opportunity. I get calls and e-mails almost daily from people wanting to help me find a job, but so many of them are placement agencies that focus on contract or temporary positions, that I pretty much ignore all of them. It sounds, from your post, like this one came to you, so I was wondering how it made it past any filters you might have when it comes to taking calls or e-mails about work.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Hey, great question! It came to me via a phone call from a recruitment agency so I was skeptical at first. They said I had come recommended by someone else in the industry. I verified it was a legitimate full-time position because I saw the job posting on the prospective company’s website a week earlier on my own, and actually have interacted in the past with that company, as well as with the person who currently held the job.

  3. SP says:

    My list is really similar. The best parts of my job are the location/commute (4 min by car or ~20 minutes by foot) and the autonomy/flexibility I have with both my schedule and how I accomplish my responsibilities.I also sincerely believe in the mission. The people are really great. I wouldn’t trade this package for another job, even with a significant salary increase. While I know that things will probably come up and change the situation, if things stayed how they are today, I’d stay here until I retire.

  4. jill says:

    I have worked many jobs, none of them career based.

    I hate change, and get super comfortable. All these things you list are things i want, but i get a sense of guilt when I job hunt, and the entire process freaks me out :/ – ugh.

  5. Freelance says:

    I have similar question on legitimacy of freelance work? How do you find part time freelance work? How do you check those freelance opportunities are not scams on the internet? Thanks.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Another great question. When I first started out I couldn’t tell which companies were legitimate and which were more scammy. But I knew that if they were contacting me, they likely would have contacted other bloggers too … so I would email some people and ask if they had been emailed too. I still do that today with a small group of blogger friends if I’m ever hesitant. Another way was asking for half payment up front if I wasn’t sure of the company … and if they refused or if I just didn’t feel good about it, then I’d just decline the offer. Luckily today most of my work comes from reputable companies that I’ve worked with before, or who have worked with other bloggers who can vouch for their legitimacy.

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