At some point or another either by choice or by unforeseen or uncontrolled circumstances many of you will find yourself on the lookout for a new job or career. While I make no claim to be an expert in this, I have recently found myself in this situation and in my case it was by choice.
Before we dive in and have a closer look at this topic I think it’s worth stopping to reflect on a few things.
First off, you may not have ever consciously thought about it, but as a full time employee you’ll likely spend more time with your work colleagues than you do with you own friends and family! Why is this important? We’ll if you are looking for your next landing place, wouldn’t it be great if your work colleagues felt more like family and friends? For those of you who have had to work in jobs where work definitely didn’t feel this way, you know that eventually it has an impact on you and usually it’s not a good one.
Secondly, I want you to realize you have a choice. If you have a significant other, you didn’t just walk out the door and pick the first person you ran into did you? If you went to university or college, you didn’t just close your eyes and pick one … right? The point I’m trying to make here is that you could be in this new employment relationship for quite a while if things go well, so wouldn’t it make sense to make sure it was a good fit right from the start? If you’re just firing resumes out to anyone and everyone, you’re not being choosey and as a result you are highly likely to end up with an unfavourable match.
Realistically out of the entire realm of possible job opportunities, there are going to be some that are better matches than others. Your job is to sift through the opportunities you come across and filter out the ones that are the best fit for you. Ideally you looking for some kind of strategy that you can employ that will help you with this process.
As I mentioned previously, I’m not an expert but I am really good at coming up with and refining systems and here is what I’ve come up with so far.
The Values Filter
Many if not most companies nowadays will list their values someone on their website. Visit the companies site and find out what they are. Your first gut check will be to see how these values mesh with your own. If you see things like Profit, Growth, Efficiency for one company and People First, Do the Right Thing and Excellence on another, this may give you valuable insight into a companies culture and how they see and treat their people.
Be cautiously optimistic here because values are very easy to print out on letterhead or paint onto the office wall, but their much more difficult to actually live by day to day. Don’t necessary believe everything you read. Seek out evidence the support or refute the company lives by it’s values.
The Culture Filter
I don’t think anyone would deliberately look for a company with a bad culture, at least I hope not. For me culture is the very first and by far the most important factor in a company making the grade. Good old Google is your friend here and what you want to do right off the bat is do search for the company and see what you find out. You can also check social media and social networks liked Linked in. One of my all time favourite places to look is Glassdoor. On this site you’ll see both the good and the bad, if the company is listed, which many if not most are if they’ve been around a few years. What you’re looking for is an overall impression. One bad review is not the end of the world but if the majority of reviews are bad, this is a red flag.
Leverage your personal and social network to find out if you know anyone who works at the company and see if they’d be willing to give you and insider perspective. I’d also strongly recommend you check out the companies leadership, as a culture in a company often comes from and is modelled by it’s leadership.
Another good way to measure culture is to look at turnover. If you see a company is constantly loosing staff and advertising for the same positions, this could be an indication that their are culture or business is in trouble. Companies with low turnover will be happy to boast about it and this is a good sign.
If and when you get a chance to visit onsite, pay attention to what you see. What is the vibe like in the office. Do you feel energy in the air? Do the staff members look happy or does it feel like you just stepped into a graveyard? How are you treated while you’re there? Are people helpful and friendly and do they smile or do people seem a little standoffish? Does it feel like this could be you’re new home away from home, or are you looking for the exit doors and thinking about making a run for it?
The Health Filter
The bottom line is you need to do your homework and find out as much about the company as you can. You should be able to find out things like how long they’ve been around, if they are in a growth stage, levelled out and holding or in decline. Has the company just secured a new round of investment? Are they releasing a new product or starting a new division? Did they recently just shut down 3 locations and layoff 500 people? Does their senior management look experienced and competent?
The clues are there if you’re willing to get in there and look. If they are a public company you can review their financials and even read their annual report. Are they willing and able to pay fair industry rates to their employees? Glassdoor can help with finding out some of this information as well. Ideally you’re looking to find a company that seems to be in good financial and leadership health and looks like it has some room for growth and long term stability.
The Position Filter
First off, you’ll need to know the position exists in the first place. You’ve got a many options here. You can wait for a position to pop up online on one of the many job sites you routinely visit, spot a new opportunity in your LinkedIn feeds or maybe you’re lucky enough to learn about a position from a friend or an acquaintance. You can also take the bull by the horns and proactively seek out companies that you’d actually really enjoy working for, regardless if they have open positions yet or not and make contact.
Once you’ve determined that your values align, the culture looks amazing and the company looks strong and there are open positions, you’ll need to zoom in and closely examine the role you’re applying for.
First off, are you realistically capable of taking on the position and adding value to it? If you’re totally unqualified for the role, best bet is likely not to waste your time or the employers. Now it’s possible that you may have vast majority of what the role needs and are just missing a few small things that could easily be picked up along the way. All jobs will require learning and good employers will understand that and may often be willing to allow an employee to grow into the role.
The other really important question that you need to ask yourself and be completely honest … is would you really enjoy and thrive in this position. Just because you can perform a role doesn’t mean you’ll actually enjoy it and should take it on. This was a big one for me. While I’ve been programming on and off for almost 2o years both as a freelance developer and working in industry and I really enjoy working with technology, I’m now at a stage in my own personal development where I don’t want my job to focus solely on coding anymore. I discovered over the past few years that I really enjoyed flexing my leadership and business skills and that I really like working with a variety of people. So when a few developer positions popped, even though they paid handsomely, I realized this just wasn’t me anymore. You need to look at the fit between you and the company but you’ll also need to examine the fit between you and the position. Ideally if you have a strong fit in both, you’ll more likely than not to find yourself in your happy place.
Creating your Hit List
Ok, so now that we’ve covered of some of the filters we can throw on any given opportunity to see if it’s a good fit for you, it’s time to put this to practice!
I have a system I use whereby I’m constantly on the lookout for new opportunities, be it from popular online jobs sites, Linked, Glassdoor or some local technology sites I follow. I cast my net out on a daily basis and then I systematically go through each opportunity with the various filters I’ve talked about.
After I’ve gone through my filtering process I usually end up with several really high grade opportunities. I then sit down and take a deeper dive into the company and what they do and from this I take the time to craft a very custom and personalized cover letter and send it in along with my resume. Ideally I try to address this to a real person.
If I really feel like the company is a fantastic match for me, I add them to my hit list. This special list is not an easy one to make and so far this summer only about 6 companies have managed to make the grade. I keep a close watch on these special companies as it is usually not long before a new position pops up that may be a good fit for what I’m looking for.
You might be thinking, wow that sounds like a lot of work and to be honest it is. Don’t forget, you’ll likely be spending more time with your new work team than your own family. Good employers take the time to be choosy about who they hire so why shouldn’t you take the time to be choosy about your employer?
Statistics tell us that over half of the people out their don’t like their job. My hope is that by reading this article and then putting it to practice, you won’t be one of them.
So get out there and get started on that Hit List and with some hard work and a bit of luck you’ll be well on your way to finding a good job that you can make great!