Opportunity Costs: Choices and Sacrifices in Your Job Search

opportunity costsLife is full of choices. And for each decision we make, there are inevitably going to be multiple alternatives sacrificed. In business, this is known as the principle of opportunity costs. It is essentially, the cost of taking one course of action over another.

Here are some ways the same logic can be applied to your job search:

Time Goes Ever On And On

Can we ignore Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity for a second? It is safe to assume time will always continue passing second by second, minute by minute. This is true no matter what we do. So when you spend time doing one thing, you lose out on other opportunities. You can’t do something else with that time.

Taking a moment to carefully craft a cover letter for each job application results in an opportunity cost. Because then you can’t spend that time practicing your job interview answers. Same with hours spent clicking through hundreds of online job vacancies. That effort cuts down the amount of networking you might be able to fit in.

Most successful job hunts will encompass a wide variety of elements. So balancing your time among them is something you need to get used to.

Assign a value to each of the activities. Then understand where diminishing returns kick in. Keep this in mind as you continue with one instead of switching to another.

Not Knowing What Is Around The Corner

There will come a time when you will be offered a job. Of course, this should be celebrated and treated as a success. There is, however, an opportunity cost lurking in the background here, too.

When you accept a job offer, you are essentially taking yourself off the market. You have agreed to start working for the company. Of course, this means many job seekers cease all job hunting activities.

What you won’t learn is whether a better job offer would have come your way. What would have happened if you had kept searching and applying?

If you turn down the offer, anticipating something else to come your way? Your opportunity cost is now the salary you could have been earning. So be smart. Take the “bird in the hand” approach.

Money Versus Satisfaction

When conducting a job search, you have an array of options open to you regarding the types of jobs and industries you prioritize. Two of the biggest things you’ll have to weigh are the remuneration on the offer and the level of enjoyment that you’d get from working in a particular role.

While not always the case, there is usually an opportunity cost when taking a job because you can either go for the better paid position, or one you consider more fulfilling. Your choice will depend on many factors, such as your financial and family commitments, the flexibility you require, and the lifestyle you wish to lead.

Work Goes Head To Head With Training

If you are out of work or considering a change in job, you have a second option open to you: new education or certification to enhance your future prospects. If you go back to school, it will be challenging if not impossible to hold a full-time working position, and this is your opportunity cost. Consider whether the extra training will lead you on the path to a higher salary or more satisfying career.

Conversely, taking or staying in employment will mean that you can earn a salary for the same time period, you won’t have to pay the inevitable fees associated with further education, and you might be able to work your way up the ladder. Again, your choice will largely depend on your own personal circumstances and desires.

Avoiding Resume Bloat

Your resume should be a concise document that allows a recruiter to easily assess your suitability for the role and your future potential. But, if you have a lot of qualifications and experience, your resume will be harder to scan.

That’s why there is an opportunity cost in terms of what gets to go on the resume, in the most prominent positions, at least, and what gets confined to the bin or page two. You might think your master’s degree is the thing to shout about, but where does that leave your five years of industry experience?

Perhaps you want to highlight your speaking engagements or article publications instead. Or could an industry award put you in prime position to be chosen? Hiring managers read the initial few paragraphs of a resume more thoroughly it’s often how they decide who to put through to the interview stage. Choosing what to shine a light on can make or break your chances in your job search.

Opportunity Costs Aren’t Evil

You may be reading this thinking you will be losing out no matter what you do in your job search because every choice you make has opportunity costs. While true, this doesn’t mean you should worry about it.

Indeed, knowing how opportunity costs work can actually help you make better decisions about the things listed above, or any aspect of your life. By working out what the opportunity costs of each action are, you can select the one which minimizes them.

The difficulty comes in the initial calculation because many costs are not tangible or easily measured. Do your best and trust your gut in terms of these intangible elements when trying to compare different options in your job search.

Remember, dwelling on something is never productive, you have to be resolute in your choice and get on with it.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Come Recommended.


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