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What’s the “Right” Work Environment for You?

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Having worked in the IT Placement industry for close to three years, I’m constantly meeting people who describe their current jobs with words such as “boring,” “unfulfilling,” “too corporate,” “mundane,” etc… There are absolutely a wide variety of factors that can trigger or contribute to these feelings, but one of the most common reasons I’ve seen, is that the job they are in may not be the “right” fit – meaning the overall work environment and how well their current role aligns to their goals.

Here’s what I’ve found — each person I’ve worked with has different desires, personalities and goals. Some have families and are looking for a job that provides stability. Some are recent college grads and their number one goal is to find a job that can help them grow their skillset and provide a path for promotion. As your desires and goals change throughout your life, the work environment that aligns with these desires and goals will also change. You may notice this when starting a new job, or it may hit you after being with a company for 5 – 10 years.

Whichever the case, if your work life feels dangerously out of alignment, there’s a strong chance the current environment is not right for you. Hopefully, by sharing some of what I’ve learned over the past few years, it will help you determine where your chances of success are better.

Screen the Employer

I know first-hand how challenging it is to land a job interview, which is why walking away from a potential opportunity might not seem like the most practical thing to do. But if you jump on job offers without knowing what you’re getting yourself into, you might end up taking a position that makes you miserable later on. I fully believe in taking chances and jumping on great opportunities that present themselves, but take these chances and opportunities knowing that you did your due diligence.

That’s why it is important to evaluate your potential employer as much as they are evaluating you during the job interview process. Ask questions that will help you find out as much as possible about the work environment and be skeptical of employers who brush aside your questions or are overly secretive.

But first of all, you need to realize what your motivations and goals are. This understanding is critical for you to make the right choices. And to do so, begin by asking yourself the following questions.

Are you Promotion-Focused or Prevention-Focused?

How we approach challenges at work and in life is guided by our motivational focus. If you’re someone who sees their goals as a way for advancement and achievement, you’re probably promotion-focused. You tend to view your goals in terms of the rewards they provide. In short, you play to win.

On the contrary, if you consider your goals as responsibilities, prioritize security over risk-taking, and take every step with caution, you are prevention-focused. Or you could say, you play not to lose.

We are normally motivated by both promotion and prevention, but we also tend to have a dominant motivational focus. What’s most critical is to understand that promotion and prevention-focused people have — due to different motivations — distinct strengths and weaknesses. For instance, promotion-focused people are (typically):

  • out-of-the-box thinkers
  • quick at seizing opportunities to get ahead
  • risk takers
  • fast-paced at work
  • good at generating lots of options and alternatives
  • optimists
  • short-sighted
  • driven by positive feedback and lose steam without it

For prevention-focused people, their strengths (typically) lie in:

  • analytical thinking and reasoning
  • being thorough and detail-oriented
  • meticulous planning
  • working flawlessly
  • being good at anticipating problems

Some of their weaknesses include fear of change, rigidity, and their low risk appetite.

Look for these signs in yourself to figure out whether you are promotion- or prevention-focused.

Do you prefer a Startup vs. Corporate Environment?

Before you step out in the job market, it’s important have a clear picture of what to expect in terms of work environment and what your options are. You should have at least a basic idea of what’s meant by “startup” culture and an “enterprise” or “corporate” environment and how they differ. Both traditional corporate environments and startup cultures have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Part of the job hunting game is figuring out if your personal work style and priorities align with the culture of the company you’re looking to be a part of. Here are a few questions that may help determine if you’ll thrive at a startup or shine in a corporate setting.

StartupCorporate
1.     Are you a risk taker?1.     Are you risk-averse?
2.     Do you enjoy creative freedom, flexible hours, ability to work from home, extended time off to travel?2.     Do you prefer financial security, standard workplace perks, and stability?
3.     Do you enjoy having visibility into the company?3.     Do you prefer keeping your head down and minding your own business?
4.     Are you open to pulling the occasional all-nighter?4.     Do you prefer to work a set schedule?
5.     Are you willing to put in the extra hours for the success of the company? 5.     Are you seeking the consistent 9 to 5 and 40-hour work week? 

Do you have a strong view of your strengths and weaknesses?

Reaching out to people that you trust within your network — friends, colleagues, recruiters J — can help you gain an objective view of your strengths and weaknesses. This can help you make more accurate choices. Talk to these people about their experiences and why they’ve been successful in certain environments. Think about how their answers relate to you and as a bonus, you can even use interesting elements from these conversations as talking points in an interview.

Work is where we spend a big chunk of our lives — one-third, to be precise. Naturally, the long-term effects that a work environment have on our physical and mental well-being is further reaching than you could possibly imagine.  Before accepting a job offer, it’s essential to make sure that factors like company culture and work environment are well-aligned to your personality, skills, work style, and priorities.