by Anne Libby, Anne Libby Management Consulting LLC
When you joined the military, you didn’t know the culture. You couldn’t speak the language, filled with acronyms and foreign expressions. You didn’t know what you should or shouldn’t say. You didn’t know what would be required for promotion. So you immersed yourself and learned.
Now you’re looking for a new career. It’s better to learn about a company’s culture before you join. Finding a culture that’s right for you will sure beat bouncing from job to job until you find it!
Ideally, all companies would have strong screening processes to find people who fit their cultures. And new hires would be given training, mentoring and guidance on how to excel. Some companies do this – some don’t.
So, you have to take the initiative to determine if you’ll be the right fit. Here’s how to start.
Focus on Culture
Cultural fit is an elusive quality. This fit affects how well you’ll be able to operate inside an organization. If you like autonomy, but the job you’re applying for is very rigid, you may not be satisfied. If you like a rigid structure, and the job requires you to think outside the box, you may not enjoy it.
Culture is a survival mechanism. Companies need the right people for the job. You need the right role in order to be challenged, stimulated, and motivated. If you take a job simply for the salary, you may not stay long. Compensation is a factor, but it’s equally important (if not more so) to enjoy your work and your co-workers.
Work habits differ between companies and industries. Work habits are part of the culture’s tone and tempo. Do employees work from 8am to 5pm? Do people take work home, or work on weekends? What’s the dress code?
Search for Clues
Companies leave cultural clues on websites, advertisements, and social media. Some firms have programs for veterans: if so, connect with those vets and set up an informational interview.
Look for Q&A sites for information about what it’s like to work at a particular company; you’ll find insight from employees, alumni and customers. Sites like Glass Door offer information for a broad range of companies; sites like Quora focus on tech firms. You could even Google, “What’s it like to work at [Company ABC]?”
You won’t find the whole truth on the internet! You need to talk with multiple people — face to face, and on the phone – to get different perspectives.
If you haven’t created a LinkedIn profile and built your network, this is a great reason to start. Start with people who you know from the military. Add friends, classmates, professors, and even family members. If you belong to a church or other community organization, reach out to people who know you there. You never know how someone you know may be connected to an employee or alumni of a company you’re interested in.
Use Every Resource!
Job search can feel like a solitary endeavor. Community helps.
If you’re a student, understand your school’s resources: commonly career coaching, job fairs, alumni databases and job listings. Some schools also provide these services to alumni. This is a great way to identify insiders at firms you’re targeting, and companies that like to hire alumni.
Your local public library’s reference librarians have access to information you won’t find online. Paid databases and industry journals offer a different level of insight on a company or an industry: they’re often available at the library.
While you’re at the library, pick up Richard Nelson Bolles’ classic, What Color Is Your Parachute. Read it to find additional ways to identify jobs and companies where you’ll fit.
Your research will also identify some great companies that aren’t a fit for you. This is actually good news! Interviewing at the wrong company is a poor use of your time: move on, and keep looking.
In Part 2, we’ll cover what you can learn by talking with people inside a company.