TAO Self-help

Title:For Career Success, Pick Your Employer Carefully

Author:Susan P. Joyce, © All rights reserved

Date:December 2014


As anyone who has had a job knows, where you work — the environment, the people, the "rules", the compensation, etc. — has a very big impact on you and even your personal life.

In a job search, however, we often focus only on the job itself — the job title, duties and responsibilities, hours, and salary — paying little attention to the other important issues that impact us when we have that job. That's a big mistake.

Why the Employer Is Key to Your Job (and Career!) Success

When you work in a good environment, you enjoy your job more than when the environment is not good. And, when you enjoy your job, you do it much better than when you hate it. So, where you work is very important to both your personal satisfaction and your performance in your job.

A 2010 study by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania showed that companies with high rates of employee satisfaction financially out-performed companies with lower employee satisfaction. Really, not very surprising, and something both job seekers and employers pay little attention to when engaged in the hiring process.

NOTE: That's employee satisfaction, not customer satisfaction, which resulted in higher financial performance!

The connection with customer satisfaction is obvious — presumably, happy employees translate into happy customers. Otherwise the financial performance would not be influenced. Some employers do "get" that connection between happy employees and happy customers.

So What?

How does knowing this help a job seeker to prepare for career success?

To perform at their best, job seekers need to be satisfied with their workplace and colleagues, regardless of the job. Performing at their best usually, although not always, helps insure longevity with that employer, acceptable pay, and good health.

Interviews Are the Proverbial "Two-Way Street"

A total focus on impressing and pleasing the potential employer in an interview is only part of the equation that leads the job seeker to become a "satisfied" employee.

Job interviews are two-way streets. Job seekers need to ask the questions that will help them evaluate whether or not they will be happy in the job, if they get it. Each "side" should be evaluating the other regarding this potential long-term relationship.

Employers are trying to evaluate whether or not the interviewee has the right skills and attitude to do the job, they are also trying to evaluate the job seeker's "fit" with the employer. Job seekers need to have a similar mind set — will they feel comfortable working for the employer? Is the employer a good fit for them?

Preparing for Success

When in job search mode, job seekers are often focused only on "making the sale" (landing the job). I know because I've made that mistake myself, and I hear that same comment made countless times by other job seekers.

So, smart job seekers are in observation and evaluation, as well as sales, mode when they go out for an interview.

The location and environment:

  • Is the employer in a good location? Safe? Parking or public transportation available (whatever is important to the job seeker)? Reasonable commute or too long?
  • What is the physical location? New building, or old building? Tall building, short building? Clean and well-maintained, or not?
  • On-site cafeteria, no food on premises at all, or good bring-your-own-lunch facilities?
  • Offices, cubicles, "bullpens," or a combination? Who goes where, and why?
  • Snazzy new PC's or Apples or older, perhaps out-of-date, technology?
  • Does it look like people are comfortable with their co-workers or worry about their personal security?
  • Restrooms are close by and private, shared with other businesses in the building, or completely public? How well maintained and clean are the restrooms?
  • Does everyone works on site, or everyone/many/few work at home? How and why?
  • Ping pong tables, on-site childcare, free coffee, and at-work massages or strictly a no-frills, "100% business" environment?

At first glance, those may seem like meaningless things to consider. But, when you've been in the job for a while, they become more important, even critical to your satisfaction with the job and your performance.

The answers to all of the questions above depend entirely on the job seeker's preferences and comfort level.

The job:

It's best to develop these questions in advance, based on thoughtful evaluation, rather than trying to punt after the interview has begun. But, be observant and tactfully ask about anything that is troubling or that you don't understand. For example:

The hiring manager seems reasonable, capable, and accessible?

Colleagues, if any, seem nice, capable, and friendly?

The structure makes sense (some people do X, some people do Y, and that division is logical)?

Success in the job is clearly defined, understood, and reasonable?

Expectations for the person doing the job are understood and reasonable?

New position or filling an existing position?

After that first big mistake I made (when I was more interested in leaving the old job than what I was getting into with the new job), I always asked questions about the environment and paid attention to what I saw (only men in the window offices with the women in low-status cubicles, for example).

Bottom Line

Job seekers need to evaluate every employer in every interview to see if the employer feels like a good fit. And, by asking questions relevant to that goal in the interview, the job seeker demonstrates awareness and interest in the opportunity as well. So, a big payoff is possible, in many ways.

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPost. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.

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