Reaching the end of a job interview, the recruiter asks a soon-to-be graduate with an average GPA from a B-level college, "And what starting salary are you looking for?"
The student replies, "In the region of $100,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."
The interviewer inquires, "Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks of vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental insurance, company matching retirement fund and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?"
The job hunter sits up straight and says, "Wow! Are you kidding?"
The interviewer replies, "Yeah, but you started it."
[See: 25 Best Business Jobs for 2017.]
This story, which makes its way around the internet periodically in different forms, highlights the fundamental importance of having realistic expectations when you are hunting for a job.
It doesn't matter whether you are soon to join the workforce for the first time, or if you are a seasoned professional with decades of accomplishments that testify to your competencies, your chances of a successful job hunt will dramatically increase when you have realistic goals.
Here are some examples of times when it is important to keep your hopes in line with what is realistically possible.
Compensation. Are you asking too much, or too little, for the role that you seek? It's wise to check sites like Glassdoor, SalaryExpert, Indeed and CareerOneStop, among others, to see what fellow workers are earning in your locale for the kind and level of work for which you are applying. Being realistic doesn't mean you should set your sights on a lower level of the salary scale, but rather that you understand you need to make a reasonable and logical case to find yourself at the upper end.
Who cares what you did in 1990? When you begin to introduce yourself by claiming "20 years of experience doing X," not only are you inviting age discrimination, but you are claiming some relevance for things that you did at the beginning of your career.
Alternatively, some people are insistent on including work experience that dates back that far on their resume. Not long ago, an engineer remarked to your author that he wanted to emphasize the job he had for a famous but now-defunct company in the early 1990s. "Even though it was more than 20 years ago, it speaks to what I want to do next," he contended.
His problem is twofold. First, the products he was working on then are no longer relevant, as they've long since been superseded by newer technology. And, the tasks he was doing are accomplished altogether differently today.
It is unrealistic to rely on your dated knowledge or way of doing things any longer. Instead, it's imperative to keep your skill set up to date no matter what your occupation might be.
Are you applying for the right position? One of the key questions employers seek to understand as they compare applicants with job openings is whether the opening for which you are applying appears to be an appropriate current progression in the arc of your career.
If you've been out of college for just a few years and, for example, earn between $50,000 and $60,000, you likely aren't yet ready for a senior-level position that pays several times your current salary.
Often, people want to switch career tracks. If you are looking to make a significant change, you may be at a disadvantage compared to people who are currently in the field into which you want to enter. Still, people do make such changes all the time. But are you equipped with the right set of transferable skills to be successful at the next thing you want to do? If not, it may not be realistic, at least until you gain a better basis upon which to build.
When you are realistic about the nature and level of the jobs for which you apply, understand an appropriate level of compensation and present an up-to-date skill set, you'll see that your chances of having both a short and successful job search significantly increase.
More From US News & World Report