When you were planning your career, you probably didn’t think in terms of specific employers. When adults pester to kids to describe their future jobs, they ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” not “Who do you want to work for?”
But, as you grow up and progress in your career, you begin to realize the profound impact your employer has on your overall happiness. If you really want to be happy at work, you need to find a good fit with the right company.
Here a few key things you should look for:
1. Company ethics and overarching philosophies
It’s important that you be morally and philosophically aligned with the company you’ll work for, if you want to be happy at your job. Some companies value profit, growth and gains more than others, while other organizations are more driven by the impact their products and service will have on customers.
Take stock of your values. How do you think business should be conducted in your industry? If you have strong feelings, be sure to pick a company that is aligned with them. You might find yourself looking for another job again sooner than you’d like, if you go against your own judgment.
2. Work environment / flexibility
It’s a good idea to think about the particulars of how you prefer to work before accepting a position. Do you want to work in an office closely with others? Or, do you prefer to work independently? Would you like to have the option to work from home on occasion? Do you need a flexible schedule in order to accommodate parenting responsibilities, for example?
These are all things to consider in advance. Then, you can be on the lookout for a company that will offer the options that will meet your needs.
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3. Growth opportunities
It’s important to think about where you’d like to go, not just where you are now, when looking for a new job. Take some time to understand the kind of opportunities that might be available to you in the future when evaluating a potential employer. Will they help pay for further education? Is there room for advancement?
4. If you can, get the real dirt
It’s hard to know what it will be like to work for a company until you’re actually working for the company. But, if you happen to know someone who works for an employer you’re considering, they can be a tremendous resource.
Schedule some coffee dates and keep it casual. Talk about what it’s really like to work for this employer. Ask questions. Try to understand the realities of working there, day in and day out. Can you picture yourself being happy in that environment?
5. Company culture
There are many different aspects to company culture. The good news is that it is possible to evaluate and understand some of these qualities before your first day. You just have to know what to look for and remain diligent in your search.
Pay attention to company culture when you visit an organization. Ask about how decisions are made and how goals are set. Inquire about communication norms. How do people communicate with each other on the team — email, Slack, Skype? How much time can you expect to spend in meetings? Try to get a sense for the overall company culture. Can you see yourself fitting in?
At the end of the day, these are the kinds of issues that can really make or break a person’s overall job satisfaction. So, be mindful about finding the right employer, not just the right job opportunity, during your next search.
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