No matter what is prompting you to search for a new job, there's a lot to think about. There are the numerous factors you have to consider during your job hunt. What kind of position will your educational background help you qualify for? Also, how do you want your career to look in five, ten, or 20 years?
Once you narrow down your prospects and land a few interviews, however, the stakes get even higher. Choose the wrong offer -- or fail to ask the right questions -- and you could wind up regretting it.
To prepare yourself for the challenge, there are several issues you should confront before you sit down with a hiring manager or recruiter. To find out which questions to ask yourself, I reached out to several financial advisers with experience in this space.
Here's what they said.
1. Do I have a mentor?
While plenty of job research can be conducted online, few resources are as helpful as having a real, live mentor to turn to for advice. With a mentor by your side, you can learn the ins and outs of your desired profession, plus moves to make that can help you get ahead.
Of course, having this mentor before you land a job is a better idea than landing a mentor after.
"Before you do anything, find a mentor," Taylor Schulte, financial adviser of Define Financial in San Diego, said. "Don't go on the job hunt alone. It's a competitive world out there and you need all the support you can get."
2. Am I the ideal candidate for this position?
Financial planner Clint Haynes of NextGen Wealth in Kansas City, Missouri, adds another tip that can be helpful before an interview. Before you waste your precious time trying to get a job, he says, you should ask yourself if you're the ideal candidate to begin with.
"This question will open your eyes to exactly what and who it is they're looking for in the ideal candidate to fill this position," Haynes said. "The answer will provide you with tremendous insight when you are called back for follow-up interviews."
By asking yourself what your potential employer might be looking for, you create an opportunity to accentuate those skills. But if you don't have the skills you think they want, this could also backfire.
"On the flip side, their answer might help you realize that maybe this isn't the perfect position for you," Haynes said.
3. Do I know how much I should be paid?
While you might be inclined to accept any offer you're given, you can lose out on thousands of dollars if you're unaware of average earnings for your profession, or if you don't like to negotiate.
Charles C. Scott, a financial adviser in Scottsdale, Arizona, suggests doing your homework to see what other people make for the jobs you're applying for.
"A good place to start is reviewing websites that can provide general info about salary scales," he said.
Most of the time, websites like Salary.com and Payscale.com will offer the information you're looking for.
"Also try local recruiters or job-search consultants who are familiar with your area of expertise or the company you're interviewing with," Scott said.
4. Am I prepared to compare offers?
Ideally, you'll interview for several positions and wind up with more than one choice. But, how will you vet those choices? And, are you adequately prepared to compare offers?
Financial planner Tom Diem of Diem Wealth Management says you should be prepared to compare each offer in its entirety and ask "what makes one firm an attractive choice over the others?"
Just make sure you're not comparing apples to oranges. When you compare offers, you should see how total compensation stacks up. Total compensation is everything you're offered, not just your salary. Remember, benefits like a 401(k) match, company-sponsored health insurance and vacation pay can be lucrative, too.
5. Am I putting my best face forward?
With competition for jobs at an all-time high, it's crucial to find ways to stand out. In addition to creating a carefully crafted resume, you have to put in some work online, too.
As a financial adviser who is active on the internet, I know how important it is to make sure your online presence is the best it can be. If you haven't already, take some extra time to update your profile on any career websites you belong to. Because more and more employers have started using LinkedIn to find details on potential candidates, it's absolutely essential to keep your page looking sharp.
If you really want a job, you have to make a good impression. Fortunately, the tools to do so are readily available.
Your new career
Applying for a brand new job takes some guts. You're not only putting yourself in a vulnerable position, but you might be changing your life drastically in the process.
The best way to prepare for a career change and any accompanying interviews is to ask yourself the right questions before you dive in. With enough research and preparation ahead of time, you'll be in the best position to land a job you actually want.
[Editor's Note: Many employers look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process, so it's a good idea to know about your credit ahead of time. You can get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three main credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- every year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also view two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.]