Once upon a time, you could be selective about where you worked. An interview for a technology management position was as much a way for you to learn about a job prospect as it was for the company in question to learn about you. Unfortunately, that luxury has largely vanished.

Times have changed, and job expectations have changed with them. This article asks the question, “In the current climate, what’s your definition of the perfect job?” Read on for the reassuring results, and then post your own opinion in the discussion below.

A long, long time ago…
I recently found a document I had written in early 2000 that weighed the pros and cons of two possible courses for my career. I could either stay at the company I had been with for three years as a director or move to a new dot-com venture as a company officer. Things weren’t looking too great for the company I worked for, and I had no indication that the technology industry would crash within the next year.

The document listed the things that were important to me in a job, in order of priority. Here’s my top five from that year:

  • Environment: Would I like the work I’d be doing and the people I’d be working with? Do I feel like the company is “on the level”?
  • Challenge: Would the work keep me on my toes and enable me to experience new situations?
  • Industry: Would I enjoy working in the industry, or would the job complement my experience?
  • Technology: Would the company’s choice of technology for solutions appeal to me?
  • Salary: Would the job pay well?

Reviewing the document, it was more than just the picture of the perfect job for me. It was, in fact, an achievable reality at the time. So much has changed that, after finding this blast from the past, I wanted to see if hard economic times had changed other people’s priorities.

Define “perfect”
Builder.com contributor Abbi F. Perets recently wrote an article called “Seven reasons not to take that job,” in which she highlighted some things to look out for before accepting a new position. While I may not agree with everything in the article, she does raise some concerns about taking a job that’s less than perfect.

So with Perets’ article in mind and without trying to dictate what to look for in a job, I polled some sources, including several out-of-work techie friends, to come up with an informal list of the top five qualifiers for the perfect job, in the relative setting of today’s economic climate.

In all honesty, I was surprised by the findings. I had expected that things like job security and resume-building prestige would be high on the list, but instead, I found that the criteria for job satisfaction haven’t changed.

  • Rewarding environment: This was the number one response I heard from my interviews. Specifically, the ability to grow and learn new things, to be on board with the corporate mission, to stay challenged, and to have the opportunity to make a difference were at the top of everyone’s list.
  • Corporate mission: Along those same lines, the next highest priority is a consolidated corporate goal. Support from upper management, an organizational investment in employees and projects, and an agreeable and achievable mission are still important.
  • Business practices: Halfway through the list was the desire to work for a company with ethical, fair, and intelligent policies and practices.
  • Salary: I only asked people to list five characteristics of the perfect job, and for some, salary was not among them. For others, it was of moderate importance.
  • Industry: The particular industry that a technical position was in barely made the list.

Our priorities are still straight
Compared to the propaganda I found at many job sites and recruitment centers, I was relieved to know that, in the face of turmoil, the goals for technology workers haven’t changed, and people haven’t compromised their ideals. Job stability and risk factor were not among the top considerations of whether or not a job was perfect, as many sourcing firms and companies seem to think—or seem to want you to think.

Finding the perfect job in today’s economy is a different story, but job seekers still know what they want—a rewarding and fulfilling experience with a good company.

I’d like to hear feedback from Builder.com readers. What does the perfect job mean to you? Does your company live up to your expectations, even when there’s an ample supply of potential employees willing to settle for less than perfect? Post your answers in the discussion below.