In what seems like an eternity ago, I was invited to an interview at a hefty multinational. Let's call them Shiny Sparkles Corporation, because they would look quite glam on my résumé. I bragged a little about this to some close friends, because, you know, they wanted to talk to ME! But then, as I cracked my knuckles and started doing my job opportunity homework, I began to uncover a thousand little yellow lights about Shiny Sparkles that would eventually turn into one big red flaming one.
I can't quite place when the signals became undeniable, like a swarm of late-afternoon mosquitos forcing you to reach for repellent rather than enjoying the view. Was it the two-in-one job description plus the (publically available) annual reports, hinting that the company had been cutting staff and cramming together multiple functions in order to hike profits? Perhaps it was the fact that, in spite of the "inclusive" culture touted on the Shiny Sparkles website, employees had to walk a literal mile to get to the building, which was prettily surrounded by manager parking spots? Perhaps it was the fact that nobody smiled in there... nobody, not even once. Could it have been the horribly uncomfortable sofas placed just so you could appreciate the dusty plastic plants in the main lobby, as if Shiny Sparkles had long ago stopped trying to even pretend to be nice? Or was it the receptionist's sentence as she answered the phone, sliced midway when the hiring director glared at her in silence, eyebrows raised and lips tightened (which in Primate Land, where we're all from, means aggressive dominance)? Maybe it was the director's lack of interest in going beyond her scripted, shallow questions in order to see what the person in front of her was really about? Or the fact that she dismissed hundreds of bullying foul-cries against the company on Glassdoor as "normal complaints you always get in any target-driven organisation"?
In the end, what really saved me was my gut.
A very dear coach once asked me, "When do you give your power away?" That question had never made too much sense until that very moment. I felt drained thinking about working at that company. I just knew I'd be missing dinners and school plays and sunshine and cosy rain, but not in the name of a joint project that made sense to me, my company and my community; rather, the result would be improve numbers in next year's annual report and nothing else. Sure, I needed a job, but as I envisioned myself in a future at Shiny Sparkles, all I could see was I'd be miserable. So the morning after the interview, still donning my jammies, I typed a thanks-but-no-thanks email to the hiring director, and felt a cool spring breeze caress my face as I hit "Send". I was still jobless, but now felt empowered, and this was the right mindset to have.
What I hope you can learn from this:
I once found a great article by Sigmar Recruitment outlining some vital criteria to consider before taking a job opportunity: salary, benefits, opportunities for progression, work/life balance, commute, company culture, and stability of the company/industry. I would like to add a few key tips of my own:
- Read the job description carefully.
Play a little movie in your head of you performing each of the required tasks. Would you be able to execute them competently and happily? Also, consider what the job description itself is saying about the company as a whole. What is the story it tells? What are the evens that caused this job opening to arise?
- Looks matter.
Décor and maintenance speak volumes about a company. Some go to great lengths to portray excitement, or comfort, or efficiency. Some choose to focus on other things, like cutting costs. Likewise, how do employees present themselves? Do women have to wear heels, and men ties? Do they have time to go to a hairdresser? Do they try too hard? Are their desks spic and span, or are there little personal touches? Arrive a few minutes early to drink it all in. Do all the little details portray a company culture you would feel comfortable in?
- Have a silent chat with yourself.
There might be times when working at a company like the one I described above would be perfectly digestible. At the time, the concept made me heave. A good, simple guideline to assess where you stand in relation to the opportunity before you is Maslow's Hierarchy of needs:
You might be at a point in your life where you need to belong to a group, or become the best at what you do. Likewise, you might be going through a critical phase where you need to put food on the table and avoid eviction due to overdue rent. Your journey is your world, as I say, so no matter your circumstances, make sure you become an agent, and not a passive victim, of your career development.