Many important factors come into play when choosing your next job – whether you are looking to take the next natural step up the career ladder, open yourself up to new challenges at a larger organization, make a career transition into a new industry or find a higher paying position.
But increasingly, it is the workplace itself—its culture, practices and values—that is making or breaking a potential opportunity. Millennial professionals are known for putting company culture at the top of their criteria when job hunting, but professionals of all generations are increasingly deciding that a strong cultural fit is non-negotiable.
It’s not surprising. A misfit between employee and workplace is one of the biggest drivers of career dissatisfaction.
As a result, more companies are taking an objective look at their workplace culture and adjusting to the shifting landscape. What used to be a matter of “that’s just how it works in this industry” is quickly shifting to a conversation on how businesses can use culture to differentiate themselves and attract the right people.
While that’s great news for professionals of all stripes, navigating this changing work world to find the right culture for you can be a challenge to anyone who’s considering a career change.
How can you ensure that you’re choosing an organization where you will feel at home, be professionally challenged and do your best work? Here are some things to consider:
What’s most important to you about your work? Maybe you aren’t fulfilled if you can’t connect the dots between your role and a larger purpose. In that case, you want to seek out companies that share your value for meaning and contribution. If freedom and autonomy are important to you, a highly structured workplace with rigid rules is not going to work for very long. Do you value being able to innovate and fail without risking your job? Some workplaces embrace that ethos and others aren’t built that way.
Getting your personal and professional needs met is an important part of finding the right fit. That can include everything from your salary requirements and potential for growth to required travel and a flexible schedule for personal or family reasons. If your career goals require continued education, how will the company help you get there?
If you thrive on making executive decisions on the fly, a collaborative culture where everything happens in meetings may not be the best fit. Are you comfortable working on global teams or virtually with colleagues in other locations? Would you rather work alone in your office or contribute to a team? Is it important to be able to build relationships with your colleagues and grow a professional network? Are you a strict 9 to 5er or someone who’s willing to put in long hours when working on an important project? What do you need (and not need) from your manager to do your best work? Be honest about how you work best rather than trying to fit yourself into a culture that isn’t you.
To learn more about whether or not a company is a good fit, their value statements are a good place to start. What does the company say it stands for and how do they demonstrate that? How are they helping employees thrive and grow? Is this a company that places a high value on creativity or ethical practice or dominating their market? Is it an organization that values learning or collaboration or being a good corporate citizen? While it’s important that a company walk its talk, it’s even more important that you’re walking on the same values path. Other areas to find clues about culture include organizational structure and employee wellness offerings.
Whenever possible, ask to walk around and get a feel for the environment that you’ll be working in (unless you’re working remotely, of course). Taking in the physical environment and the interactions of your future co-workers is a great way to gather intuitive information.
When you get to the interview stage, be sure to ask questions that will provide the information you need to make an educated decision about whether this opportunity is right for your values, needs, work style and objectives. But it’s not just the questions you ask. How the organization handles the interview process and how the interviewers conduct the interview can provide a lot of clues as to what they’ll be like to work for.
If you’re exploring what’s next for you, be sure to do your due diligence on any potential employers you’re considering. Even better, do a bit of proactive research to identify companies that seem like a cultural fit and narrow down your list from the start.
Sally Anne Carroll is a life / career coach for professionals and entrepreneurs who want to re-tool their work, define success on their own terms and design healthy, balanced lifestyles that match their strengths and priorities. She’s a freedom-focused advocate for helping clients reimagine, redefine and reinvent the status quo to achieve their personal vision of success and fulfillment. Sally splits her time between Portland, Oregon, and Christchurch, New Zealand.