Whether you’re starting your career or looking to improve your present one, you need to start looking out for yourself. After all, if you’re not for yourself, who will look out for you? But on the other hand if you’re only out for yourself, what kind of person are you? The wisdom behind these questions can be applied to your job search. They force us to look inward and consider the way we’re living our lives. They also challenge us to be accountable for our choices.
Would any employer want to hire you if they sense your goals are entirely self-serving? I’m sure you answered, of course not. At first glance these questions might sound obvious or too philosophical to apply to your life right now but they are the most essential questions job candidates need to ask themselves.
You need to understand the yinyang of the employee-employer relationship to make the most of your situation. Striking the right balance between caring for yourself and filling the needs of your employer will determine your success, happiness and fulfillment at work. On one hand you have to think about what you can offer your employer that will add value to his/her firm, but on the other hand you need to look after yourself. Ultimately it’s up to each person to do his research in order to find an optimal work environment.
As a career coach, I’m responsible for helping people match their interests and skills with the needs of the world may it be for college admissions or for employment. I consistently stress the importance of getting yourself known as a person who identifies problems, finds solutions and is a valuable team player. That being said, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the other side of the coin.
There is a pervasive problem of unfulfilled potential and mismatches in the job market. Far too many people are leaving jobs disgruntled because they didn’t really know what they were getting into when they accepted their job offer. More often than not I’d argue that this situation could have been avoided.
A recent poll by consulting firm Accenture shows that many 2013 grads, 34%, say they were willing to take the first job they were offered. The urgency to accept a first offer sheds light on the high anxiety among job hunters. It also suggests that many think it’s presumptuous to have any personal criteria in one’s job search. In doing so candidates miss the opportunity to find a job that fits their needs. This strategy hurts both the job candidate and the perspective employer.
Take stock of the big picture
In today’s challenging economy it may sound absurd to suggest that prospective new hires should be discriminating when it comes to choosing where they work. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, College graduates’ of 2014 have an unemployment rate that is the highest in over 20 years. CNN called them the ‘Boomerang’ kids: 85% of college grads moved home in 2012. This could explain why in recent years job candidates have become more conservative in their approach to seeking employment.
Here’s some encouraging news
Though job candidates need to be realistic about the competitive market they’re entering, they needn’t fall into despair. The median forecast in a recent Bloomberg survey called for 4.02 million job openings. In other words, there are still jobs available and companies who are hiring. Having a strategy for getting hired is more important than ever in both preparing for your interviews and knowing what to look for in a prospective company. Now’s the time to focus on what will make you happy in the long run and see what you CAN do to leverage your skills.
A great match in the job force is at the intersection of what you want and what the world needs. This is also the intersection where you can find your purpose and will be engaged and productive at work. Take time to understand yourself and your desires. Infuse some realism into your idealism and approach your job search with positivity and some criteria that’s focused both on what you can do for the firm and what you need to get in return. Be discreet in terms of what you share about your personal needs. This is for you to know as you pursue a specific place of employment. It’s not what you share in your interview. As a wise person once said, “Hold your cards close to your chest.” See: ‘how to ace any interview’
5 things to know before accepting your next job offer
- Your boss’s management style. Most job candidates don’t realize that your boss will have a huge effect on your overall well-being at work. Find out as much as you can about him/her before accepting your offer, as s/he will determine the major factors, which will affect your job satisfaction.
- What you’ll need in terms of salary and benefits. Learn what it will take to cover your living expenses. Salary.com is a good place to find out what you’re worth in the marketplace.
- Job duties that will be interesting or challenging.
- Company’s culture. What is the atmosphere in the firm? Do they encourage creativity and innovation. Is it formal or informal?
- Growth opportunities.
In short, learn as much as possible about what you’re getting into so you don’t end up frustrated and burnt out in your new job. Working for a boss who is a great leader will make a huge difference on how inspired you are to get up every day and go to work and whether you go home everyday feeling fulfilled by your work. Try to assess how employees feel about their immediate boss and about the CEO.
Your supervisor typically controls the work you get, your salary, growth opportunities and the overall atmosphere in the office. Don’t underestimate the importance of being able to click with him/her. This person will either nurture your innovation and creativity or stifle it so look for a boss (not just a company name) who is known to be a great leader.
Look beyond a company’s management profile, website and Facebook page and find people who actually work at this company (or who previously did) to learn the truth about what it’s like to work there and what you can expect as a new hire.
If you don’t know anyone personally who works at a firm you’re interested in, use LinkedIn to connect with people there; Join your LinkedIn alumni association group and industry related groups on LinkedIn and connect with people from these groups who work at firms that interest you. You can then request a 15-minute informational interview with these current (or past) employees. The personal stories insiders share will give you a glimpse into your future. The insights you gain could help you avoid unnecessary headaches from accepting an offer where the culture could stifle your growth and happiness.
Key questions to ask in an information interview: The answers to these questions could help you discern whether your next job will be a great fit or a potential disaster.
Here’s a list of positive traits you should look for in your next employer:
- Builds trust
- Gives public recognition of others accomplishments
- Puts employees needs before his/her own
- Make people feel they belong
- Frequently says, ‘How can I help you?’
- Gives employees his/her time
- Give up perks when it matters
- Encourages employees to take control of projects and run with them
- Creates a safe environment; one where employees feel they express views, no finger-pointing
- Is open to creative ideas (employees don’t feel they’re being critically judged)
- Encourages people with different skills to work together
- Fosters Leadership: give others leadership opportunities to drive action
- Encourages taking risk: allows employees to try new ways of doing things or new projects that no one has tried before
- Affords autonomy: allow employees to work independently on projects
- Offers training
- Offers meaningful work: delegates work that is challenging and interesting
- Provides space for both social and private time
Five signs your next boss could be a nightmare
Has a reputation for:
- Taking control of all decisions
- Assuming credit for other’s work
- Pushing hard for compliance
- Expecting others to follow whether right or wrong
- Always knowing the answer… gives orders vs. encourages collaboration
Hiring managers appreciate candidates who have done their homework about what the company does, how they do it, what distinguishes the firm in the market and how they could add value there. Being able to articulate what you like about the company’s culture is a sensible thing to mention in an interview as it will show your emotional maturity. After all, companies make a huge investment in training new employees. It’s in their interest for you to succeed as they’re investing in you from the moment they say yes to an interview!
Great corporate cultures do exist at both large, medium and small companies but they aren’t necessarily ones that pay top salaries or have a known brand. Since you’re the one who will benefit from finding a place that makes you happy to get up and go to work every day, it’s worth doing some preliminary research before you set off on requesting interviews.
The best companies to work for are ones that help their employees develop their skills, foster a collaborative atmosphere, celebrate each other’s successes and have a collegial culture. They groom leaders who will perpetuate this supportive, trusting environment. Looking for these corporate cultures will give you your best chance to thrive.
Ignore the naysayers who discourage you from looking for meaningful work in the marketplace. The process might take a little longer, but the result could be life altering. With the right kind of research you might find work that’s challenging and an environment where you can have an impact. If you feel happy at work 80% of the time that’s a sign you’ve found the right balance between your needs and your employers’. Your scoping out the marketplace prior to accepting an offer will improve your chances of achieving your career goals.