Once upon my career path, I decided to leave my (beloved) employer of more than 10 years to pursue a new opportunity. On paper, this new company was a dream to work for. The perks included, but were not limited to:
- insanely affordable, quality healthcare options
- flex schedules and telecommuting
- free parking
- paid reimbursement for your cell phone
- tuition reimbursement
- paid professional development
- free food at every meeting
- showers for each expecting parent or engaged person
- a TV lounge they encouraged us to work in
- casual clothing (jeans!) every day
- employee appreciation week with massages, wine, and gifts
- parties for any—or no—reason
Despite all these amazing perks… I hated it. From the very beginning, I knew that it was not a good fit for me. For the longest time I didn’t even admit it to myself, despite being unhappy and unfulfilled. Who wants to admit you left something amazing for a bad fit? But when I finally accepted that I needed to move on, a weight was lifted from me.
Is there a guaranteed way to know that a company is the right fit for you? Nope. Unfortunately, nothing can be 100 percent certain. However, there are some things that you can do to tip the scales in your favor. When looking for new opportunities, focus not only on job openings but on identifying companies you’d like to work for. Here’s how to get started with this approach.
1. Decide Which Companies to Research
How will you look for opportunities and companies? Consider the type of position, experience level required, industry, size of the company, and the location where the job is. Google is a quick and easy way to determine some typical companies in your industry and to get information on company size and location. Or, you can start by looking at job listings on a job board or social media group and locate companies that fit your criteria.
2. Investigate Specific Companies Online
This is the main part of your investigation. Once again, Google is handy for a deeper dive to find out further information on the company’s website and other resources. Look for business reviews (like Yelp and Glassdoor), articles or blog posts, and other information related to the company. Read these items to get more information about the company. Also check into the company’s social media profiles. Most businesses today have some combination of accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
Try to determine how the company treats its employees. If others are happy working there, it’s likely that you will too. Check into the company culture: the behaviors and beliefs that guide employee-management interactions. It can be difficult to determine company culture online. But most companies have some sort of information on their websites about their office environment. Further research might reveal volunteer or donation activities or workplace goals they’ve set. Any of this information can help you piece together the company’s priorities when it comes to employees.
Make sure to take your own priorities into account and compare with each company to see how they measure up. If work-life balance is your top priority, find everything you can about the company’s expectations for its employees. Or if finances are key, explore a resource like Payscale or Salary.com to see if you can get information about compensation. (Even if you don’t find information on your company, you can find details about your industry and even specific job titles.)
Look into each company’s available jobs, but take the results with a grain of salt. For example, if a company has many current job openings, it could indicate high turnover. Yet it could also show that they’ve had recent growth and need to expand to handle all their business initiatives. Additionally, if a job has been open for a long period of time, it could mean that the company is having trouble filling it. Or it could show that the company has a very long vetting and interviewing process.
3. Create a Target List of Companies to Watch
Based on your investigations, create a list of companies you’d like to work for. This should be a list of your best matches. Even if they don’t currently have any job openings in your field, you can check back periodically to see if anything has opened up. (Every few days if you’re currently looking, or every few weeks or months if you’re flexible on timing.) Many job boards also allow you to sign up for alerts on specific parameters you set.
The Realistic Viewpoint
It could take months or years for the right job to open up at one of your ideal companies. Most people who are actively looking for a job don’t have the luxury of waiting that long. But all the research suggested above should apply to any company you are thinking of working for. Before accepting an offer, you should have a good idea of what the company values, culture, and expectations are like. If you can’t find the information online, make sure to ask questions about these facets in your interviews. Take a look around when you go for the interviews and see if employees have a smile on their faces. Try to get a feel for the general mood of the workplace while you’re there.
Bottom line: If at all possible, wait until you find a good fit before accepting a position. It’s worse in the long run to accept a job that’s a bad fit than to wait a little bit longer for the right position and company. Your wait will yield reward, though, when your research pays off and you’re ready to make that move! As a bonus, you’ll ace the answer to that age-old question, “Why do you want to work here?”