You must determine exactly what you want before you can conduct a thorough, accurate, and ultimately satisfying job search.

Consequently, below is a list of six questions you should ask before launching your search:

  1. What’s your target location? In other words, where do you want to work? Is it locally, or do you have plans for another part of the country? If you’re looking to move, you need to do the appropriate research about the area you’re interested in. How is this location going to affect the people closest to you? Have you researched the cost of living in the area?
  1. What salary and benefits are you looking for? This is the question that most people ask themselves first, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the most important question or the one that you should spend the most time trying to answer. When you secure the services of a recruiter, they should be able to tell you what you can expect for the position you’re seeking. In terms of salary, have a range of numbers in mind (for example, $50,000 to $60,000).
  1. What kind of company do you want to work for? Do you think you’d feel more comfortable with a smaller company, or have you always dreamed of working for a bigger, more prestigious firm?
  1. What’s your projected career path? You need to think beyond your first year on the job, or even your first few years. Map out your career path and use that as a framework to put your first position into context. Then you can use that as a blueprint for your job search. Start with the end in mind.
  1. What work environment suits you the best? More specifically, do you want to be in a lab, in an office setting or classroom, or out on the farms? If you work with people, do you prefer to work alone or with a group?
  1. What’s your contingency plan? You never want to embark upon a job search without a contingency plan. In other words, if you can’t obtain your “optimal job,” what other positions would you consider taking? There’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic and positive, but be prepared at the same time.

In the final analysis, being as prepared as possible is the key to completing a successful job search. And part of that preparation is conducting a thorough needs-analysis on yourself, your plans for the future, your needs and wants, your goals and ambitions.

After all, you can’t expect an employer to give you what you want if you don’t know what you want first.