Non-Negotiables and Choosing Your Road during Job Searches

In the last few months, I found myself in a number of conversations with friends about what point is a non-negotiable must-have when it comes to their working for a company. A few of my friends have even called it their non-starter point on the topic of interviews. In other words, if the job is below a certain pay grade, or has expectations of a high percentage of travel (for example) then they weren’t going to waste their time going in for a formal interview because they would not (or could not) accept any offers.

This had me thinking about my own non-negotiables and wondering how (or if) that list has changed throughout the years.

When I finished college and started pounding the pavement looking for work in the “Computer Science” industry, it felt like trying to scale Mount Everest. The company I worked my Stage in were happy to keep me on, they just couldn’t pay me. Sadly, the prospects I came up against weren’t much better. One day, I received a call from IBM and immediately lined up an interview. They weren’t looking for a Programmer but I was open the idea of being an Operator for them. At least it was a position in IT!

I thought the interview went great and, in fact, the hiring manager and I hit it off so well that our conversation veered off when he learned about my interests in reading and writing. He told me of his favourite author (Spider Robinson) and shared what he liked so much about his work. I talked of the stuff I was creating and what I spent my time reading. Soon, the 30 minute interview went well into the hour range and upon realizing that, he stood up and gave me a tour of their server rooms and explained a bit more about the job.

Everything seemed good until he pointed out that his immediate need was for a Night Operator and that meant my shift would be something around supper time to early morning. Suddenly, I learned that I had a non-starter, non-negotiable item. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the idea of working a night shift that got to me, but the realization that if I took that job, I would no longer be able to have supper with my parents for the foreseeable future. This may seem strange for a young man in his early twenties to think about, but knowing that the day would come that “family time” would be over didn’t mean I was in a rush to make it happen. I also knew I didn’t have to sacrifice that “core” rule in order to get a good job.

In the end, I did not go further with the posting, but I did learn a very valuable lesson. One, I realized how much family really meant to me and that I was unwilling to do anything to impact it. Two, I found out how much I loved Spider Robinson’s work and became a big fan of his Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon series!

A few months later I did get a job which started my journey to the career I’m living today. Also, because of my other passion, I got to meet and hang out with Spider Robinson numerous times a few years later due to a mutual friend. Spider definitely got a huge kick from my story about how I got exposed to his work and his laughter at my re-telling is a memory I cherish.

For me, the old adage was definitely true. You never know what the future will bring, but if you stick with your beliefs and core values, you can help shape where it will take you. Understanding the emotional consequence of any decision is just as important as calculating financial and social impacts and each should be weighed accordingly. Only you know what’s truly important to what you want to do, and where you want to go. Your non-starters are not there to prevent you from getting a job. They are there to ensure that you will be able to give your best to the one you do get. There are enough challenges in the work day without your regret at your own compromises being one of them.

(Disclaimer: Mike Aragona found himself in Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon and learned that Shared Pain is Lessened, Shared Joy Increased. He also knows how easy it is to give fully to a company that matches your shared beliefs. His thoughts and opinions are his alone and do not reflect any person or company associated with him, alive or dead.)

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