If there is one generalization about young adults that has been true more often than not, it is that they (we) lack motivation. Whether that is motivation to pay off our debts, ask a girl for their number, or get a better job. This last situation was the case for me until very recently.

It’s not like I am just like your average freeloader, aimlessly drifting through life without any ambition. But getting a job where I was paid decently wasn’t a priority. Instead, I had other goals that focused around finishing my graduate school and starting a small side business. As I come close to finishing the former and have accomplished the latter (with relative success), I found myself needing to make another improvement: it was time to look for a better job.

What Makes a Job Better?

One of the first questions that I had to ask myself was what type of job would I be happy with. I didn’t want to settle for just another job based on the salary, even if it was the best paying 9 to 5 job. While salary may be the only consideration for many people, this wasn’t the case for me. Sure, it’s important and considering that I was already making below average when you factor in my work experience and education, there was no way that I would be willing to accept a pay cut. My wife already took a big enough pay cut when she took a lower paying job. Salary was therefore an important factor, but not the only consideration.

Breaking down what I wanted out of my career was important because I know that it would ultimately determine how happy I was in my professional life. Getting involved with a career that provided the opportunity for advancement was always important, since I do not want to end up stuck at a particular pay grade for the rest of my life nor do I want to experience a glass ceiling as far as promotions go. I realized that I might have to take an internship to realize my goals, but that was fine because I was already working towards building my own personal brand, which would help with my future aspirations.

The other main thing that I was looking for is purpose or meaning. It sounds cliche, but I have worked a couple of jobs that have absolutely no meaning while going to graduate school that I was sick of having “just a job.” Sure, it may be nice to not have to think about work outside of 9 to 5, but doing something meaningful was more important to me than any other consideration. Naturally, I started looking at non-profits. While I didn’t limit my scope to this sector, it was where I spent the majority of my time searching.

As strange as it may seem, the last major consideration was the location. Job location is usually one of those factors that hides in the background. Unless you start thinking about moving, rarely do you ever acknowledge it. Very few people, from my experience, are willing to move for a job. Moving to a new place is a difficult thing to do, especially if it is away from family and friends. For me it was different. My wife and I are currently planning to move to a new city in a little over a year. This both complicated and limited my search. Either I was going to get a job for a year (and not tell them of my aspiration to relocate in a year when applying) or I was going to get a job that did not require me to live a specific location. While this gave me some motivation to increase my self employment income so that I could justify taking the leap to blogging full time, I would much rather have a stable paycheck.

How to Stand Out When You Find the Perfect Job

As I began my job search, I did not expect to find a job that fit all of my “requirements” and be one for which I was qualified. I am sure we’ve all had a taste of insecurity in terms of employment in the past 5 years (with this recent economic hardship), and so I bet you can relate to what happened next. I almost did not apply for the job that I ended up getting. That’s right. I saw the job posting and despite it fulfilling everything on my “wish list,” I almost kept going. If it weren’t for some support for my wife, I might have missed out on a great opportunity. Yet, I applied and knew that I had to do everything that I could to get this job.

I made sure to double check everything. I already had a template for my cover letter and resume, but I refined them and made them specific to the job for which I was applying. You want a company to feel like you belong in that position. I made sure to include some of my unconventional skills like managing a website and experience with marketing (I’m definitely glad I started blogging). While I don’t know yet what helped push me over the edge, I do know that I got the job. I’ve been working at my job for two weeks now and I have enjoyed every minute. It’s such a nice feeling to wake up to a job that you enjoy. This is something I haven’t experienced for years and while the job will keep my busier, I feel like there has been new life breathed into me to do the other ambitious things in life.

As I go back and think about how I almost didn’t apply for the job and the uncertainty with which I was even looking for a new job, I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities we miss because are aren’t ambitious or motivated enough.

Change isn’t easy (it was hard to say goodbye to previous colleagues), but life is ever changing and we have to learn to adapt with it. If I didn’t finally step up to the plate and improve my situation, I would still be working a job that I didn’t enjoy. While I don’t think that you can do ANYTHING that you put your mind to, it has become clear to me that there are a lot of things that we can do if we work hard enough.

Three Concrete Steps Every Job Seeker Must Take

1. Develop tangible skills that apply to the jobs for which you are applying.
2. Be creative and and flexible when deciding for which jobs to apply.
3. Highlight ONLY the reasons you ARE a good fit for the position.

Photo: Not a great job, Tallinn, Estonia. Sam D.