As a friend told me about some reservations that she’d been having at her new workplace, comparing the competitive nature of her colleagues to “The Hunger Games,” I couldn’t blame her for reconsidering her decision to accept the position.
My friend’s revelation got me thinking about the job search process and how we as young professionals often become so focused on how we’re the right fit for the employer that we forget to consider if the company culture is right for us.
While most of us have heard the term “company culture,” I’d argue that it’s still one of those ambiguous phrases that can be difficult to describe. In a 2013 New York Times article, Josh Patrick of Stage 2 Planning Partners defined office culture as “what you value, what is important for you and your company.”
When considering what we value most in a job, among the first things that come to mind are typically salary and benefits. While undoubtedly important, money isn’t everything and our generation has come to equally value the workplace itself; sometimes even sacrificing a lower salary for a more suitable culture.
Young professionals work hard (before playing hard) and, according to Geoffrey James of Inc., seek to be rewarded accordingly when it comes to perks and promotions. We don’t want to be seen as kids, instead value our voices being heard, opportunities for professional growth and fair treatment by senior-level employees and older colleagues. Although we thrive in a team setting, we expect others to pull their weight and to be able to work independently rather than being constantly micromanaged.
Perhaps most importantly, we desire a personal life. While long hours are often to be expected, we appreciate having realistic goals set for us as well as ample time to complete our work so we can hit the gym at the end of the workday before getting home to watch The Bachelor or some Monday Night Football.
But how do we ensure that we’ll arrive at this comfort level? Finding the right fit begins by determining what you value in the workplace and then asking the necessary questions during the job search and interview process.
Job seekers are encouraged to conduct informational interviews with individuals at a prospective employer in order to not only learn about potential openings, but to get a better feel for its company culture as well. Utilize personal connections to get in touch with individuals that also work there and ask for their honest opinions. Be proactive; there’s nothing wrong with cold contacting folks whose information you find on company websites and LinkedIn.
When you find yourself in the interview itself, have a number of questions prepared to ask different people at various levels of the company. Make an effort to talk with both veteran employees and new hires. In terms of the questions themselves, be sure to ask these potential colleagues about their favorite aspects of the company culture, any complaints they may have and how often staff meetings are held. For one resource, Scott Ginsberg of TheLadders.com poses seven insightful questions you should ask during the interview.
Moreover, keep in mind that unlike skills, the right fit cannot be learned. What criteria are most important to you and how does your company culture match up?
Zach Burrus is currently a public relations professional in Richmond, Va., with experience in both political and sports communication. He graduated from the University of Missouri and the University of Notre Dame and holds degrees in political science, journalism and strategic communication. Mr. Burrus is an active member of PRSA National, PRSA Richmond and the PRSA New Professionals Section. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.