The first step in launching a successful career is finding the right company to build a foundation with. This can be increasingly difficult with many company websites preaching similar values, however steps are outlined below on how to truly understand the organizational culture.
According to an academic research article assessing person and organizational fit, a company’s values are considered the starting point, the selection of employees and the complementary social interactions going forward creates the culture.
1) Use LinkedIn to Network
Conversations with employees at a targeted company will help you better understand the organizational culture. Ways to schedule these conversations include using your personal network to see if there are any connections, but also using LinkedIn to send a direct message asking if they have time to schedule a coffee chat. These conversations can last anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour, just be cognizant of the person’s time.
2) Ask for Specific Examples
In conversations with employers or managers, avoid asking general questions such as “Is your company collaborative? Does the company value their employees?” The easy answer to these questions is yes and every company will say so. The key to digging deeper is asking the employer for an example or a project that displayed the collaborative nature of the company. At that moment you will be able to tell based on the response if it is genuine and honest.
3) Make Personal Priorities
Before networking and talking to companies, it is helpful to make a list of priorities for what you seek in a company. The more distinct order of importance for yourself will make it easier to decide between companies. Example of priorities can include geographic flexibility, upward mobility, work-life balance, salary, or health benefits. Ranking these priorities and being honest with yourself will help provide clarity in which company to pursue.
4) Research and Read
Starting with the company’s annual 10-K, this SEC filing document will help you understand the direction the company is headed and the financial performance. At the management level, it is expected you understand the strategic direction the company is headed and how you can best contribute. Other relevant articles by searching the company in newspapers such as WSJ, Bloomberg, NYT will also provide recent news such as leadership changes and organizational changes made. Based on the frequency of leadership changes, you can better understand the stability of the company and the expectation going forward.