Finding a new job is like committing to a new relationship. You search, hope you like what you find, and rub four-leaf clovers together in yearning that they like you, too. In fact, even the search is a commitment. A recent Randstand study found that the average job hunt lasts 5 months. You have to wonder: can we be intentional about finding our perfect work culture?
I say yes. When my job search begins, I start with discerning cultural fit first. I vet a potential employer and their team members (thank you, Google!) before applying for a position. This elaborate pre-application process has resulted in holistic professional experiences with access to amazing work environments and leaders who push me to find new personal thresholds.
A 2016 FastCompany Survey found that 66% of responders labeled a company’s culture as their top priority during their job hunt.
If you’re thinking about the next step in your career, or are in a position to be a disruptor in your current organization, it’s time to audit your work and personal values.
Know Your Strengths — And Weaknesses
Identifying where you’ll thrive best requires self awareness. Your most productive self probably lives as part of a team that capitalizes your best traits, participates in rectifying your growth opportunities, and supports your career trajectory. Examine your most prominent characteristics (i.e. I’m an ever-curious, knowledge-seeking, workaholic) and weaknesses (need consistent engagement, yet am rather introverted, annoyingly cautious, and sometimes too thorough) before beginning the hunt.
Your turn: vet your strengths and identify how you can add value to your potential employer, then do the hard part — take an inventory of your weaknesses.
Pinpoint what kind of leaders and settings you need to be productive and mature professionally. This could mean mastering a particular skill, like how not to get cold sweats when speaking in public or writing funding-happy grants. If you sense you are getting too bogged down on tactical skills — don’t. The world wide web is still a great resource. What’s most important is to determine what spaces feel comfortable and don’t require leaving you at home, offer the support you need, and challenge you to be greater.
Not sure what makes your work-happy place? Here’s a short list of my requirements to help you get started:
- Collaborative environment |Bringing different perspectives and experiences to the table can turn a good contribution into a phenomenal one.
- Emotional safety | Trusting your team to respect your involvement is paramount. Having that safety gives you the freedom to bring your craziest ideas forward. (Bonus Fact: Google found this one trait to be the one that permeates their best teams. Not such a ‘soft’ skill anymore, huh?)
- Inclusive like everybody’s business | Representation matters — having different backgrounds and experiences offer more well-rounded and dynamic insights.
- Natural aversion to stagnancy | Innovation requires a natural restlessness to explore and deliberate actions that don’t allow complacency to exist.
- Space infiltrated by avid learners | Curiosity shouldn’t be limited to educational institutions.
- Appreciators of a good meme (yes, this is a priority) | Teams are a sum of their [joyful] parts.
Define Your Personal Core Values
Let’s get this straight: You have core values.
You know what matters to you and where your boundaries lie. Write them down. They’ll guide you through building a crew of personal cheerleaders, sourcing and maintaining partnerships, identifying financial priorities, and, yes, finding a work-home that aligns with them, too. You’ll notice a clear difference in your drive, work performance, and general happiness when you find your organizational soulmate.
Take the following steps to define your core values:
Step 1: Write down things you always and never do.
What really matters to you? What gets you fired up? What do you not have tolerance for?
Step 2: Put each item from your list into buckets.
You’ll start noticing overarching themes.
Step 3: Give those themes names.
For example, if you love traveling, dabbling in discomfort, and trying new things, being Purposefully Open could be a core value of yours.
Step 4: Own your core values and check them against your potential new employers’ to see if they align.
Be Unwavering In Your Requirements And Ask Questions During the Interview Process
Let’s put that thorough analysis to work and let it guide your search and decision-making.
Employees who rate their work culture poorly are 24% more likely to leave a job
Go into every job interview fully present. Allow yourself to take in the energy of the space. Ask questions, and listen — really listen — to what your interviewer is saying. Some questions (and their translated meaning) include:
Q: What are you looking for when filling this position?
Translates to: Are they intentional about bringing technically qualified candidates and diverse perspectives? Do they take into account the team’s dynamic? Am I the right cultural fit for this position?
Q: How would you like to see this role grow?
Translates to: Will I feel stuck here? Am I going to be able to stay with this organization long-term? Are they proactive about supporting their team members’ growth?
Q: How does your team collaborate?
Translate to: Will my perspective be valued at the table? Do I have the opportunity to regularly work with others? Will my [introverted/extroverted] personality get what I need?
If something doesn’t align with one of your established values, walk away. Remember, compromising on a company’s culture could result in another five months’ search.
Go With Your Gut
Business coach and author Sarai Johnson talks about the neuroconnections that exist in our three brains: Head, Heart and Guts. In How To Use Your Three Brains, she says, “one of the things that holds us back from making changes in our lives is that we don’t believe our guts.”
Your intuition is smarter than your think. If something about the interaction between team members, a corporation’s policies or practices don’t feel right, believe your gut and ask yourself “why?”.
And if it feels right, go with it.