Hunting for jobs is a pain in ends both front and rear; optimize the experience by figuring out what it is you want. Money is important, but time is fleeting, and both family and love are important as well. Here’s a checklist of what to look for in your next job.

1. Optimus Time

Time is your most valuable resource, and you need to optimize it as your prime objective. What you learn where and from whom is up to you, but your experiences are valuable—they define who you are. The point of your job search isn’t to find some place that’ll pay you what you think you’re worth; it’s about who will give you the most value for your time.

2. What You’ll Learn

It’s not just what you do within a company that matters, but what the company does. A database at Google contains very different content than a database at Bank of America, so being an admin at either company teaches you different lessons. Once you leave school, work (and coworkers) is your only knowledge source. I recommend working for a company that does something you’re not familiar with so you can learn outside your comfort zone, but you have to decide for yourself what works.

3. Perform a Background Search

Your company performs a background search on you, so why don’t you perform a background search on your company? While they check out what you’re up to on social media, you can check out their media presence; is it good or bad? How are they viewed by the community at large? Glassdoor.com is a great place to read honest reviews about the company you’re about to dedicate your time to. You can get an idea of what it’s like to work there, along with comparing similar jobs and companies.

4. Not All Paychecks Are Created Equal

Some companies have great benefits, and others don’t, so weigh your options. A $20/hr job looks better than $15/hr on the surface, but when you add in cheaper (along with more comprehensive and user-friendly) health plans, 401k matching, bonus structures, and annual raises, a lower-paying job on the surface can actually pay much more.

5. Examine the Corporate Ladder

How much you make is important, but what’s more important is the ability to grow and evolve as a person. If you can’t do this at that company, you’ll either have to stop growing or move on. Read the bios of executives to see where they came from—were the executives recruited internally or externally? If they consistently go outside the company to hire leaders, that’s usually a sign to be wary.

6. Who Is Your Daddy, and What Does He Do?

Speaking of executives, while you’re looking them up, look up everyone whose name you know in that company. The Internet is a wealth of information. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter—check out your potential supervisors, HR reps, and other leadership’s profiles everywhere you can. Never be afraid to stalk anyone who owes you money or does business with you.

7. Qualifications and Experience

When looking for work, pay careful attention to the job requirements. If your qualifications and experience don’t match the job posting, you won’t even make it past the automated résumé filters. You’ll certainly never convince anyone you can make it up. It sounds like a catch-22, but you need to stick to jobs that you’re actually qualified for.

8. The Difference between a Job and a Career

A job is something you do to make money; a career is something you do that makes money. It’s important to have a clear dividing line between the two. Always work hard (even when it’s for free), but if you’re at a job, and it’s been more than three years, it’s time to take a long, hard look at what you’re doing with your life. You can’t find fulfillment in a job, so start searching for a career.

It’s nice to see Peeping Tom use his powers for something productive…

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