Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking and job search 24 – job search and your constraints box

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 29, 2009

One of the issues that I raised almost as an aside in my posting Structuring an Elevator Pitch was the concept of our constraints box – the geographic and other limits we impose on our search as we explore and pursue new career opportunities. I am going to examine this in more detail in this and the following three postings, with an eye to expanding your range of the possible, and even the preferred – and your chances of finding and landing that next great job.

The next three postings will look into:

Localized to globalized in the workplace and how businesses operate in this widening context, and hire to meet these expanding needs.
In-house versus consultant positions with their growing ranges of variations and options.
On-site versus telecommuting with their growing ranges of variations and options.

The basic point that will run through this posting and all three of these follow-ups is that the constraints box is not and should not be viewed the same way as it has traditionally been. We all have more options in this than we used to have, and an awareness of that can open doors to new opportunities that a more limited perspective would deny us.

One of the points that I have raised repeatedly in this series is that you need to present yourself as the answer to the hiring manager’s problem if you are to be their preferred candidate for that hire. A key to that is in more clearly understanding the hiring manager’s issues and their context, and the basic parameters that the hiring business operates in for settings its priorities and identifying solutions for meeting them. Your constraints box has impact on this, both for its potential in limiting your ability to meet that hiring manager’s needs, and for your limiting your own options, and perhaps in ways that cut against your own interests and priorities.

This is also a place where effective negotiating skills come into play as very important to you. And that definitely includes timing issues for when you discuss anything like possible job constraints.

The important point here, is that you need to have and understand your constraints, but with the growing range of options and conditions under which businesses hire and employees work, even the seeming basic immutable constraints may offer areas of flexibility. And that can make a possible position more attractive to you and at the same time make you look like the more flexible and accommodating candidate to the hiring manager.

• Starting with your basic background research find out if the businesses you apply for positions with are looking for nine to five and in one location only, or if they consider or even prefer other arrangements.

This can vary and even within businesses, depending on the type and level of position sought. Members of the Sales team, for example, are going to have to spend significant percentages of their on-the-job time on the road and the hiring business’ conception of acceptable and even required geographic bounds in their constraints box for that type of position would be shaped accordingly.

It should be noted here that:

• Both the prospective employee and the prospective employer have constraints boxes in mind, even if not always fully specified for any given job opening.
• It is that lack of fully considered specificity that makes room for negotiations in this in bringing the prospective employee’s and the prospective employer’s constraints into agreement.

It is important to remember in this context that while hiring decisions and negotiations leading up to them are not symmetrical in that the hiring manger’s side of the table always makes the final hiring decision for any given job, if the employee is able to develop a buy-in where that hiring manager sees them as their best candidate, the employee has leverage too.

Timing is everything here. As a prospective employee, you want to hold off on discussing constraints issues from your perspective, until after the hiring manager has come to see you as a specifically and even uniquely valuable resource they can hire.
Alignment is everything here. You want to show how your meeting your constraints box will benefit the hiring organization and the hiring manager in particular for how that can help you take problems off their desk.

I am going to touch in more detail on several of the basic areas where constraints can be reconsidered, and negotiated on in the next three postings in this series. I will finish this posting by making two final observations.

• The most important constraints to consider here are the ones that you initially view as absolute and unchangeable as they are the ones that are probably least analyzed for their possibilities – and for their potential variations that could meet your needs.
• This is definitely an area where you do not want to settle for anything less than a win-win solution. You want that hiring manager and their manager too, to see your constraints negotiations resolutions as meeting their needs at least as much as they meet yours.

5 Responses

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  1. […] a more in depth discussion of the job search constraints box with the last posting in this series: Job Search and Your Constraints Box and said in that, that I would go into more detail on some of the specific areas were we set […]

  2. […] Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development series (postings 24 through 27 and definitely 24 – Job Search and Your Constraints Box) for more details on how you can bring your requirements of this sort into clearer focus to help […]

  3. […] functional areas, job levels, geographic areas and when measured and parsed according to most any job constraints box criteria. Most of what I offer as quantifiable measures of progress and success apply, however, to […]

  4. Timothy Platt said, on April 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I just sent an email to a colleague who has seen her constraints box change dramatically due to a need to care for an aging parent. A lengthy excerpt follows, added here as this is relevant to the issues of constraints boxes for a great many people in search. They only really become noticeable for most of us as they change and as that fact forces us to reconsider and change our job search itself. The excerpt I would add is:

    “I have been thinking about your email and wanted to at least initially reply to you by email. The basic issue you are facing is one of having to change your search because you need to change your constraints box. I have written about constraints boxes in at least three postings in my job search best practices guide:
    https://plattperspective.wordpress.com/guide-to-effective-job-search-and-career-development/
    (postings 24, 25 and 26) and you may find the first of these:
    https://plattperspective.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/social-networking-and-job-search-24-%e2%80%93-job-search-and-your-constraints-box/
    relevant in particular as I seek to lay out the basic issues of what constraints boxes are and how they shape a search.

    “Most of the time we simply take our basic search constraints for granted and do not think about them. So if I lived in Milwaukee and my wife worked there and our kids went to school there, I would just take it for granted that my search would be there too. And the same type of automatic and unconsidered assumptions can enter in for any of the other criteria that could go into forming and shaping my constraints box.

    “I wrote these postings because we sometimes have constraints that in fact do not really meet our needs and that can limit our search or make it more difficult. So I argue that we should all be aware of our constraints and even if they are going to remain basically “as is”. In your case, changing circumstances and family obligations have forced you to look at your constraints. Here the most important fact isn’t that you have to change your constraints box but rather that you know that and that you do have some flexibility — and that knowing these basic requirements you have to meet will make it a lot easier to plan and search to meet them.
    • How many hours can you work, and in a week and in an average day?
    • Would flex-time work scheduling help you more effectively find a balance for meeting both your needs and your family needs, and the needs and requirements of an employer?
    • Would a combination of in-office and telecommuting or other remote-location work placement work for you?
    • Knowing your constraints is a first step and the next is in working out the details as to what types of position and workplace requirements would work for you – and then you have to think through how you would present this as being a positive for the employer too.
    • Research your job search target markets with your constraints and possible mutually beneficial ways of meeting them in mind. Businesses that have a track record for working with people with your types of needs would be an obvious place to start as one of your target areas.
    • The key to all of this is that you know yourself what your constraints are and the types of work circumstances that would meet your needs and where you can excel. Then this all becomes a matter of finding job opportunities at places that would be receptive to this, and of marketing what you can do to highlight your strengths and value to the hiring organization, within the range of your constraints.
    “Don’t think of this in terms of what you cannot do but rather focus on what you can do and on what you offer as a positive to an employer. Focus on being the answer to their problems that would bring them to hire in the first place, and you just happen to have a constraints box like everyone else and in this case you are being careful to make sure your needs and those of the hiring manager are in alignment. And I finish this email response by pointing out that one key to that is in really looking at your skills, experience and interests/preferences and asking which of the sources of value that you bring to the table would be easiest to market in a job search and with your newly shaping constraints box? What do you do that would really mesh effectively with flex-time or telecommuting or whatever options you would seek out? What would you best do that work most smoothly and effectively for a prospective employer with the hours worked per week limitations you face from your constraints box? This brings up questions about need to directly interact face to face with colleagues and in real-time, or whether more distant and even asynchronous connections would work. There are a number of possible issues to think through and understand. You just need to make sure you have thought these things through going into any interview so you are prepared to present an effective case.

    “Good luck in your search, and from your email it is clear that a lot of what you do professionally would work within the confines of your developing constraints box, and just as effectively as they did before your family circumstances changed. Preparation is going to be the key to making this work and good fortune as you develop your new search approaches and move forward with them.”

    Tim Platt (added in April 28, 2010)

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