If you’re a recent graduate or preparing to head out into the work force, you’ve probably got a list of things you’re looking for in a future job. From salary range to benefits to retirement plans, you know what you’re looking for and how to negotiate during the offer process.
But have you considered the one factor that can have the biggest impact on your career success and happiness: company culture?
Why Cultural Fit Matters
Especially in an economy like this one, worrying about company culture might seem silly when having any job at all is a blessing. But the fact of the matter is that you will spend at least 8 hours every day at your job. That’s more time each week than you spend with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, college buddies, or pet turtle. If you don’t like the culture of your company, it can lead to serious dissatisfaction and burn out down the road. Finding a company culture that fits with your personal and professional goals is key to long-term career success.
How to Determine Which Culture Is Right For You
So if you’ve never been out in the working world, how do you know which cultural fit is right for you, especially because it’s pretty intangible and subjective? You can start by making a list of your life and career goals and finding out how they fit together. Ask yourself these questions to get a sense of where you’re headed and what you’re looking for:
- Are you someone who is solely interested in focusing on your career after college? Are you ready and willing to put in 60+ hours a week to jump-start your career and move up the corporate ladder?
- What kind of work/life balance are you seeking? Do you have hobbies, sports and other activities that you want to explore after work? Do you have a family that you need to spend time with at the end of the day?
- Are you looking for a large corporation that will offer lots of growth and advancement opportunities? Would you prefer working for a smaller company, such as a start-up, that might not be as structured, but would offer more freedom and flexibility?
- Is flex time an important option to you? Or are you looking for a traditional 9-to-5 job?
- Are you looking for a job where you’ll be part of a team environment, or do you prefer to work independently?
- Are you willing to travel for work?
Answering these questions before you start your job search can help you narrow down which companies and positions will offer the best cultural fit for you.
Sizing Up a Company’s Office Culture
Now comes the hard part: figuring out what kind of culture a company has to offer. With some subtle detective work during the interview process, you should be able to get a sense of how traditional, laid back, creative, or corporate your future employer may be.
When you arrive at your interview, try to be at least 15 minutes early. Observe the employees and staff you see around the building. Are they in business dress or creative casual? Are they smiling, laughing, and talking amongst themselves? How are they dealing with customers and clients? Do they look relaxed and calm, or stressed and anxious?
During the interview itself, the questions you ask will also give you a deeper look at a company’s culture. Ask the hiring manager how different departments work together and collaborate, how the company fosters teamwork and camaraderie among employees, if they have a long-term learning and development plan in place, and what their goals are for their employees.
During the negotiation process, details regarding flex time, vacation and holidays, and comprehensive wellness packages can also tell you a lot about a company’s views and expectations of employees.
It may seem like an extra step in the job search process, but figuring out what kind of cultural fit is best for you can save you time, and maybe even money, in the long-term.
Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages. Noël writes and edits the career and education blog, myPathfinder and is passionate about using these technologies to help students and job seekers alike find the degree program or career that is right for them. Visit myFootpath.com to find the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD program that’s right for you.