Steve Jobs once said – “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied, is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Now Steve was a wise man, but in this instance, he’s only half right. You see, to have a truly fulfilling career, you need to also love where you work.
Unfortunately, this is a mistake a lot of us make. We place all our time, resources, and energy towards working in a specific industry/field and pay no attention to the company for which we will be working. And it’s regrettable because where we work influences our ability to do what we love successfully, and impacts our moods (both at work and at home). It’s such a big piece, yet we put no thought into it when searching for a career – until today.
What to Focus On
There are 3 areas that effect the majority of our happiness at work: The Boss’s Beliefs, Employees’ Mindset, and The Business’ Operations. By taking the time to think about and understand each category, as it relates to your career fulfillment, you’re setting yourself up to thrive in an opportunity you’ll love.
The Boss’s Beliefs
Everything related to culture, is connected to leadership. Their beliefs and their decisions, it’s all going to have a profound effect on your attitude, behavior, and motivation. Because of this, you should try to understand their stance on four main areas.
- Work Environment– Competitive vs. Cooperative
- Decision Making– Consensus vs. Leadership
- Focus– Short Term Goals Vs. Long Term Goals
- Definition of Success– Increasing Customer Satisfaction vs. Increasing Profits
By understanding their views in these sections, you’ll be able to make faster/accurate decisions (something all bosses love). More importantly, you’ll know if you can “live” with a decision that you’ll have to make. This is vital if you want a satisfying career. The reality is, your morale is tied to the actions you take at work.
Let’s say your boss defines success as increasing profits over increasing customer satisfaction, and you have to decide between keeping the packaging as is or changing it. The change will reduce the cost by 5%, but increases damaged goods by 1%. Leadership will be happy with the increased profits, but will you be okay making that decision? You love the work (being a decision maker), but do you like where you work when you have to make these decisions?
Understanding where your boss stands on these areas is going to bring you years of happiness and avoid a lot of headaches.
The next thing you’re going to want to determine is, what type of people you want to work with. You know what you want to achieve in your career, but will the people you’re working with help get you there? To determine this, you’re going to want to understand three traits of the staff.
- How do they relate to their work – Finding Meaning Vs. Just Tasks to Complete
- How do they relate to one another – Friends Vs. Strictly Co-Workers
- What are their drivers for success
- Getting a Larger Salary
- Gaining a More Prestigious Title
- Praise from Co-Workers
- Mission of the Work
At its core, this list is asking, what do you believe makes a team motivated, honest, and loyal? These are the three pillars of a strong team, and this is how your work gets brought to life.
Any misalignment here, and you won’t feel part of the team. When you don’t feel like you’re part of the team, your work suffers (even if you love what you do) and your day-to-day enjoyment drops.
The last big piece to your cultural research comes down to how the business operates. This area is actually the least reviewed of the three, and it’s a shame because it’s all about trust between you and the company.
Now each business is unique and they all operate differently. Regardless, there are still three main areas that are common between every company.
- Types of Products and Services – Revolutionary vs. Time-Tested
Use this list as a foundation and expand your business operational needs from there. For the time being though, what should you be focusing in on with these categories?
Overtime is all about your view on the work/home balance. You want to trust that the company will respect, which ever position you take. It’s so critical to your happiness. If you’re a workaholic, you need a place that lets you put in the time. If you want to clock out at 5pm, you need a company that allows that. If you and the company are not on the same page, there’s going to be a lot of friction.
Next you have technology. You need to trust that it’s not going to hinder your performance, invade your privacy (determined by you), or replace your current role. Any uncertainty in this area and you’re going to have a difficult time being fulfilled, even if you love the work (because the role may not be there in a few years).
Finally, by understanding the types of products and services a company uses/offers, you can trust that you’ll be using certain soft skills. Soft skills are personal attributes that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. These aren’t taught and can’t be taught. So when you get the opportunity to use these skills, it’s amazing. When you’re forced to use soft skills that don’t come naturally, your work suffers.
To see which area you’d thrive, I’ve put together a list of soft skills that are useful in each.
Traits for Revolutionary Products/Services
- Problem Solver
- Willingness to take risks / fail
Traits for Tried and True Products/Services
- Deep Understanding of the Field or Specific Task
- Respects the Chain of Command
Discovering If a Company has What You Need
Once you’ve determined your criteria for a company culture, it’s time to find a company that fits your needs. To do that, you’ll have to do a little bit more research. Here’s how to find out that information on a company’s culture before you take the job.
- Company Website – About Us Page
- Social Media – (Facebook, Glassdoor, LinkedIn)
- Ask Questions During the Interview
- Call the Company Before Applying
By taking all these steps and looking into all these areas, you’re going to have a satisfying career. You’ll love what you do. You’ll love where you do it. And you can’t ask for anything more!