Fitting comfortably into an employer's corporate culture is vital to your career success. Employees who sense they do not mesh with the corporate culture may feel self-conscious on the job and awkward when interacting with coworkers. This can affect their attitude and performance, and may even cause them to eventually quit their jobs.
As a result, it's crucial for a job seeker to proactively look for an employer that can provide the most suitable work environment for his or her personality and work ethic. Admittedly, it's difficult to draw a completely accurate picture of what it's like working for a firm before showing up for your first day. However, in most cases, a wealth of valuable information about a company's corporate culture is readily available. Here's how to find it:
Do some digging. In today's ultra-wired world, it's relatively easy for a job candidate to find out something about a company's corporate culture. Start with a visit to the company's Web site.
Read sections labeled "About Us" or "Work At." Look for the company's mission statement, which could indicate what management believes should be the collective thinking among employees.
Look through annual reports and other investor relations documents that may be available for download. They can provide insight into corporate philosophy, financial status, management style, recent accomplishments and future plans. You should think of yourself as a potential investor in the company -- of your time, energy and talents.
Locate the company's corporate governance section, if applicable. While this topic may not seem important to you now, it will be relevant if you become an employee because you, your coworkers and managers must adhere to these standards of ethical conduct.
Listen to the buzz. Learn what the media is saying about a potential employer. Reading news stories about recent mergers and acquisitions, product launches and major hires or promotions can shed light on how a company operates. These news items can provide insight into the level of employee morale at the company, as well.
You can locate articles about major companies in the business section of almost any major news site or through search engines. If a company is based in your area, look to local media resources.
Find out what current and former workers are saying about a potential employer via blogs, chat rooms and message boards. Check out sites such as WetFeet.com, which has "Insider Guides" about various companies, or Jobster.com, which features a "People are Talking" section offering "the scoop" about many firms. Also, contacts in your own professional network may have firsthand knowledge about a particular company or know of others who do.
Keep in mind that not everyone is going to be unbiased or honest when talking about an employer, so don't be immediately turned off if you encounter a horror story. However, if you notice more than a few red flags, proceed with caution.
Take note of the little things. First impressions are important, so when visiting the office of a potential employer, observe the surroundings. The way an office is physically structured can provide clues to its corporate culture. Is the office a sea of grey cubicles where workers are hardly visible, or does it have an open-air environment that promotes interaction? Where does management sit -- in private offices or among other employees?
Observe the demeanor and appearance of your potential coworkers. When you arrive, are you treated professionally and made to feel welcome? How do other people acknowledge you -- with a smile or a suspicious eye? Is there a hum of productivity, or do people appear bored?
Remember, even the little things, such as work attire or office layout, can have a significant impact on your on-the-job satisfaction. So, while you may think you can work anywhere with anyone, the truth is you will work best where you feel the most comfortable.
Submitted by Julie Allson, Division Director of staffing service Robert Half Legal.