When it's the perfect fit, you know it. Just last night a news anchor was asking about moving to a PR/Communications role in healthcare because they weren't feeling the love anymore.
Unfortunately, love doesn't find you in the workplace, you must go find it. Added to your search is that the workplace isn't static, it's constantly changing. What is a perfect cultural fit, or the love, can change after an acquisition or a leadership change. The best fit starts with your understanding what a good fit looks and feels like.
Give yourself some love, find your fit. There are 7 things you must consider when looking at that new opportunity:
Public vs Privately Owned. Companies that are publicly traded can have a completely different sense of urgency than a privately held company. If you can't stand up to the sales pressure of 'making the numbers' every quarter or operations need to pinch pennies in the 4th quarter, a public company might not be for you. Strategy can be long term in nature but certainly the tactics have real here and now implications. If you are uncomfortable with a sales gun to your head four times a year, maybe a privately held company with a longer term vision and less pressure around month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter financial reporting is for you.
Control. Many companies are very closely held, especially if they are family owned and operated. Just today I had a maternal figure in a family owned business reach out for advice on how to balance the expectations of the 2nd generation with the need to hire and recruit outside business executives. If you're not comfortable with some level of nepotism, a family owned organization might not be for you. You need to understand you are a hired gun in a family clique that you'll never be part of regardless of your position. Face it, even if you are the hired CEO or President of a family owned company, you aren't going to be sitting at that Thanksgiving dinner table.
Industry. Every industry has it's own nuances and it's very important to know what you are getting into. Auto and Energy are VERY cyclical and run distinct cycles of intense hiring and growth followed by equally intense periods of divestitures and layoffs. These types of cyclical industries are not for the weak of heart or stomach. In the past ten years, we have seen intense gender bias in some industries, in particular the tech world. If you need a visual on the bias in coding and development, take a look at this photo from an Apple Developer Tech Conference. If you're a woman at this conference, well......there's no line for the ladies room.
Size. Company size can have a lot to do with job satisfaction. The smaller the company, the more visibility you may have to strategy and decision making. In addition, you'll be expected to wear many hats and you'll be able to make a difference that will be recognizable and have your personal stamp. Ok, now the downside. Small companies run very lean. They reinvest profits and margin back into the organization. You sit in second hand furniture and might be deferring compensation for future equity or profit sharing. There is no G7 waiting. There are no lavish sales meetings or client outings at five star resorts but there can be a tremendous amount of job satisfaction. Additionally, there can be a significant difference in the talent that is attracted by large public vs the smaller tightly held companies. If you take a highly cerebral approach to problem solving and like to be surrounded by thought partners, you may need to reach externally for that fix in a small or mid market organization.
Location and Communication Style. Communication style is usually driven by two things - geography and ownership. If you are working for a family owned, private company based in the Southeast US, you can count on a very indirect communication style. If you grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, you'll get a performance review in Atlanta and have no idea whether you are on top of the world or about ready to go on a PIP (performance improvement plan). Midwest and NE are direct and those from the south would say 'in your face'. As a holdover from an early farming culture, communication in the midwest can be polite, but firm and direct. The South and West Coast you might need a translator if you are a Chicago or Minneapolis native. Having worked for more than one Atlanta based company, I have found it necessary to triangulate conversation and ask polite but direct questions to garner clarity on ideas, issues, and opportunities.
Matrix Structure (COE's). One of the biggest challenges I've ever faced in my career has been the transition from an organization where I controlled all my resources directly to a highly matrix organization. The difference can sometimes be slower cycle times in exchanged for a higher quality output. Patience and ability to influence are keys to success in a COE (Centers of Excellence) model. If you find yourself in a matrix COE model, you better be someone who can sell internally and thrive in an environment that is highly collaborative. The upside to a COE/Matrix structure is that if you are someone who needs their voice or expertise to be heard, these organizations bring in cross functional partners as SME's (subject matter experts) as a normal course of business.
Centralized or DeCentralized Management. In the retail and restaurant industry, in addition to other B2C organizations, you'll find decision making pushed out as close to the client as possible. This enables higher client satisfaction as well as insights driving new product and service development. These are organizations that you can move and progress quickly. They value quick decision making and problem/issue resolution. They are fast paced and lively. The challenge comes if you are in a corporate office trying to drive branding or compliance in a marketing role. Support staff in a corporate office in a decentralized management structure can be extremely challenging. There becomes a high level of optionalism that leads to internal conflict.
In summary, the due diligence you do up front can save you a tremendous amount of frustration and ultimately job dissatisfaction in later weeks, months, and years. Knowing yourself, being honest with yourself, and recognizing where the right fit is can mean the difference between a career with lots of SOS's (series of successes) or an eventual severance package. Use these seven criteria as a checklist for your current job, a new job, or your one of your future career management tools.
Use the tools and LOVE will find you!
#fbf quote: Loretta Young
Photo location: Mari Winery and Vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula