Assessing a fit for a new job is a two-way street. Getting an intimate understanding of the true north of your future leaders, knowing what about you the company values the most, and a brutally authentic monologue to assess your fit for the role will drive your long term career success in the new environment.
Over the years, I have had dozens of conversations with colleagues and friends who were at the cusp of transitioning their career paths. Almost always, the trickiest and the longest part of the conversation hovers around objectively evaluating the intangible benefits of the current job vis-a-vis with the new employer. This is where numbers and data start to fade away over your intuition and instincts.
From all these conversations, I have picked a set of three least explored aspects of a career transition decision that may have the most long term impact on your career.
Aye Aye, Captain!
Your immediate leadership is going to have a disproportionate amount of impact on your success, or lack thereof, in your new role. This is especially true in case of large organisations. Most likely, what you hear about the work culture of a company during the recruiting process are carefully crafted messages that typically flow top down the hierarchy. However, true culture is often more than what is posted in Instagram photos, LinkedIn articles, and recruiting campaigns.
True culture is created in the trenches.
When you are knee deep addressing critical issues and meeting challenging timelines, the tone set by your immediate leadership is going to drive your well-being on the job. So before you shed any ink on the offer letter, try to explore who you are going to be “really” working for.
The challenge is that most organisational structures these days are a matrix with multiple reporting lines. Often, you may never get enough details about the leadership you would report to before joining work. In such cases, flex your muscles and your network to reach out to folks who are in the role you seek or have been there in the past with the company. You may never get an absolute answer, but you may find enough patterns in what you hear to make an informed choice.
Also, asking the recruiter for a short call with folks who are playing the role you seek for may not be a bad idea. Use this as a litmus test — companies that have nothing to hide will readily provide you access to your future peers to win your vote.
Who Art Thou? A Person or a Resource?
Has your future employer spent enough time in knowing who you are as a person? Or have they focused only on the skills you bring to the table and that alone did the trick?
You will have a much more rewarding experience working for a firm that believes in achieving commercial success by genuinely setting up individual employees for success, rather than in the companies where you are a resource entry in a staffing system that will automatically match you to the most economical opportunity based on your skills.
Hired as a resource, you are just that. Hired as a person, they value the whole of you.
When your interviewing experience singularly focuses on your prowess of the subject matter alone, you prove your viability for a return on investment for the company. Now imagine stepping inside an environment where every single colleague you work with was able to get a foot inside the door using this criteria, irrespective of their working styles, how they collaborate, what inspires each of them, and what they value of each other. At best you will find accidental one-off synergies, at worst, you may never be able to nurture a single meaningful relationship at work.
Now contrast this with a company that assesses your aptitude but also invests time in truly understanding what motivates you, how you define success, how failure has shaped your personal leadership, what you value in your co-workers, and where you desire to be in months to come. This demonstrates a deliberate attempt to empathise with your personal story and aspirations. When you receive an offer letter after a similar soul searching interviewing experience, there is an implicit message that says, “We heard your story and you belong here.”
Would I Hire Myself For This Role?
While seeking a job during my Masters, one of the interviews with a partner in a boutique consulting firm in Chicago began with a candid admission that went somewhere in the lines of:
Interviewing is an imperfect process. So don’t read too much into our decision to evaluate you, one way or another.
Some of your potential employers who offer you the job are going to misjudge the value you bring to the role they have to offer. Equipped with a clear understanding of the expectations of the role and by being radically authentic with your own self, you are the best person to assess your future employer’s decision to have you on board. This will help you avoid situations where either you are overqualified for the job or are not positioned to be successful.
Getting clarity on the role itself can be tricky. More often than not, the job description will have a rosy picture of a profile that will solve world hunger. One way to dig deeper is by having at least 20 questions handy during the interview that you can ask interviewers. Spend time to make these questions specific and personal to your aspirations. Have some questions that will help unravel the interviewer’s journey in the firm. Your potential employer is giving every shot at discovering if you are a fit for them — don’t go easy on them. Keeping the tangibles (salary, title, perks etc.) aside, evaluate if you will truly grow as a person and professional in the role.
Being authentic with your own self to discover your strengths and focus areas is a life long journey. There is no destination in this pursuit, only milestones. Use your trusted network who has seen you grow in your career to evaluate if you will be successful in your future role, once you have established the true ask and expectations of the role.
These aspects of evaluating a job offer will come naturally to you as you grow into your career. However, I discovered these by chance, mentorship, and as after thoughts through my early-to-mid career transitions. If you are fresh out of school or early in your career, hopefully these provide you enough food for thought as you line up your next gig. Good luck!