Have you ever found yourself wondering where you will be in 5 years time?
It’s a question that should be defined by more than your abstract career goal of becoming the next Ban Ki-Moon. It’s important to think about what makes you personally happy and what kind of environment you will thrive in professionally. You have to figure out how you work.
Over the years I have realised a few things about myself and what I want from my future. I have worked for a number of very different organisations – from small think tanks to large international organisations. But the one thing that, above all, has defined my career choices were the people I worked with rather than the different jobs and positions I have had.
When you start a new job, be it in a small 10 people team or in a huge organisation with thousands of employees, it will never take long for you start feeling a certain way about your colleagues, the team and ultimately your job.
This might be obvious, but you should not be filled with a sense of dread when you leave the house on Monday morning to head to work.
It will never be good for you to feel like you contributions at the work place are not valued – it will affect your productivity and the quality of your work. You should look for an environment that fills you with a sense of worth and excitement. A new task or project should not make you want hide because you feel it’s pointless.
On a side note, the lack of worth and challenges you may experience at one point or another in a job is not necessarily your own fault. Often it will be a result of bad management and a lack of understanding of the employees and the company needs.
What you should keep in mind is that you will learn much more in a workplace that accepts your questions and where you are allowed to challenge things – it’s the best way to grow professionally. You don’t want to belong to the 87% of people that don’t enjoy going to work.
You might be thinking that you prefer working by yourself in your home office, but I would argue that is simply because you haven’t had the luck to experience a truly great work environment.
A good team and company will be able to push you to a new level and you will gain much more than by working alone.
I have found myself in positions where I saw no future for myself in that company, not because of bad colleagues or my “boring” job but purely because of a lack of company culture that made me proudly want to say what I do and who I work for. (This is an interesting look at company culture and it’s different definitions).
The value of your labour and the intrinsic motivation attached to it are very important drivers for how well you work and how happy you will be.
I have been very lucky to have worked for some fantastic organisations, as well as some that have been less good. This has taught me to spot a few clear warning signs of a bad company culture.
Here are some questions you should be asking.
- Have you spoken to people that work for that organisation, if so, what was their reaction to being asked about their job?
- How often do people leave the organisation, how long have your boss and your immediate colleagues been there? (It’s always a bad sign if no one has been there for more than a few months or a year.)
- Does a company value it’s interns (and for that matter also the secretaries and lower level office staff) and their contribution or are they just nameless, ever-changing elements to help with the more menial tasks that no one really wants to do?
These are questions you can quickly find out about during an interview or by talking to someone that already works there. You can even start finding answers by reading about the company values or their vision statement.
Ultimately I would say that beyond the immediate experience you might gain from a great position, there is little value in risking your own happiness and sanity for the sake of that experience if you cannot see a future for yourself in the company and cannot wait to leave the office every day.
You will gain a lot more by becoming a part of a team that values you and your efforts. There is no better feeling than achieving something together and feeling proud of your work and the organisation you work for.