One of my biggest pieces of advice for soon-to-be graduates is to stop and think before accepting a job offer. In this economy, it is so easy to feel pressured to accept the first offer. It seems foolish to turn down work when the U.S. unemployment rate is at seven percent but it is important to understand the impact of the decision. You spend most of your time at work and even more time working after hours since our generation has smartphones, laptops, and tablets. It is assumed that we are getting our emails at all hours and should respond promptly. There are obviously going to be good days and bad days at any job but there are proactive ways to evaluate whether the job would be a good fit. Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I am not naive, and I understand that it isn’t always possible to choose a job you love. There are so many financial factors that weigh into the decision, but if you are fortunate enough to be in a position where you can be selective, I think you should be.
I recently went on a slew of job interviews and this is the criteria I developed for choosing the right job for me:
1. Will you enjoy the work you’ll be doing? You probably won’t enjoy every single aspect of your job but think about what you’ll be doing most of the time and whether or not it is something you are good at and enjoy. I found the Clifton StrengthsFinder to be so helpful in clarifying my strengths as well as how my ethical values come to play in the workplace. I highly recommend the test. Another helpful exercise was making a simple list of what I enjoyed most and least about each place I worked.
2. What is the company culture like? Are people competitive with one another or collaborative? Are they friends outside the office? Is the company hierarchical or flat? Is there a great deal of red-tape or will you have the power to make decisions and move quickly? Can people work from home or are people expected to work in the office? What is the work-life balance? Resources such as Levo League, The Muse and Glassdoor are helpful in learning more about a company’s culture. Some startups and small businesses will also have comprehensive job pages that will give you a feel of the company culture. Examples include Likeable Media, Warby Parker, and Bonobos. Check company ratings and rankings in publications such as Crain’s and Glassdoor.
3. Will you like the people you work with? You can get a feel for whether or not you will like the people you work with from the job interview.
4. Will you be able to live on the salary offered? Calculate whether you will be able to live on the salary offered but also take into consideration other benefits like health insurance and equity.
5. What is the retention rate at the company? On average, how long do people stay at the company? Is there a great deal of turnover? If people stay at the company for a number of years there is an indication that people enjoy working at the company! I think that a great deal of turnover can be a red flag.
6. Is the company generating revenue? Is the company profitable? These questions are particularly useful if you are joining a startup or small business. Even if the company isn’t profitable at the time you join, it is important for you to evaluate whether the company has a well-planned revenue model in place.
7. How close is the nearest Starbucks? Just kidding (maybe)! A coffee maker in the office helps.
8. Is there room for growth at the company? Is there potential for promotion? Would you want the job that your manager has? Research the company to find out the path for your position. If you can’t figure it out, ask!
Here are some helpful questions to ask during your interview:
- From 1 Thing You Must Do In Every Job Interview by Dave Kerpen:
- Who would make the ideal candidate for this position?
- How will the work I’ll be doing contribute to the organization’s mission?
- What were the best things about the last person who held this position?
- What are three ways I can contribute to the company beyond the job description?
- How can I best contribute to the department’s goals?
- How do you see me best contributing to the corporate culture and morale?
- What do you see as the biggest challenges of working here and how can I overcome those challenges?
- What is your vision for where the company or department will be in one year? In 3-5 years?
- How can I best help you and the team succeed?
- From Best Questions to Ask at the end of a Job Interview by Jamie Petkanics (The Prepary):
- What is unique about this company’s culture?
- How would you describe the day to day working environment here?
- What do you like best about working here?
- What types of characteristics make employees successful here?
- What does growth and mobility look like within the company/in this role/on this team?
P.S. You can use all of these images as iPhone backgrounds for happy little reminders.
Images adapted from: PetiteVanou, Coco + Kelly, Everygirl, Sugar Paper LA