Tips for Identifying Organizational Culture and Finding Your Workplace Match

Searching for the right organization to work for can often feel a bit like dating. In your search for “the one,” you typically have a pre-determined checklist of must-have qualities, as well as a few that you would be willing to sacrifice for the right incentive. Everyone puts their best face forward during the initial meeting and, if all goes well, will continue efforts to impress each other until you decide to make the relationship exclusive. Only after some time has passed, and you have become comfortable, do you open yourself up to really discovering the hidden traits of your partner and fully comprehend your level of compatibility. 

Throughout the years, I’ve done my fair share of “work dating” and have found that uncovering the culture of an organization can often be as complex (and frustrating) as dissecting the personality of your significant other. Here are a some tips for finding your workplace fit:

Brainstorm qualities of your ideal work environment. Make a list of what it would include and be specific. This is different from compensation requirements and specific job duties. For example, is it important to you that your workplace has on-site daycare or a gym? What about paid time off for volunteer activities? This list will come in handy when researching companies and preparing questions to ask a potential employer in a second interview.

Do a web search for reviews of the organization to see what other people are saying about it. Glassdoor.com is a great resource for this as reviewers are required to list both pros AND cons. Try not to focus on individual comments but look for patterns in the reviews that might indicate a cultural theme.

Talk to people who have experience with the organization. If you don’t know any, connect with people on LinkedIn and start a dialogue.

Research the differences between various organization types. Consider the pros and cons of working for each. Would you prefer to work for a publicly-traded or a privately-owned company? Small or large? Serving the public sector or private sector?

Read up on the organization’s mission statement, business strategy, and past performance. Do they have a history of taking risks or being more conservative in their business decisions? What are the company’s values? How do they align with your values?

Explore what a day in the organization typically looks like. Do they encourage collaboration on projects or autonomy? Is everyone in a central location or dispersed? Then ask yourself which style do you prefer?

As you can see, there are several factors to consider when searching for an organization that suits both your personal style and professional goals. Given recent trends in the economy, it sometimes seems easier to just take what you can get. But as with dating, overlooking undesirable qualities in order to secure an alliance can leave you feeling unsatisfied and searching for alternative options down the road.

Remember: just because you are a good fit for a job doesn’t mean the job is a good fit for you. Stay vigilant and never settle!