By Susie Concannon
I’m a career breaker. Almost two years ago, after finally deciding that working in healthcare administration was not for me, I made the
scary terrifying decision to jump ship and follow my passion. I started a blog and took an internship in social media which all lead to a great digital marketing gig at a local start-up. I did something most people will never do. I broke free of my comfort zone, figured out what I really wanted to do, and actually landed a good job doing it. All signs pointed to easy sailing. “THIS IS IT!” I thought. “Hellooooo, happiness!”.
Fast forward a few short months and I found myself sitting at my desk thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I happy here?” The people were kind. There was an office full of knowledge ready for me to soak up. I was given the chance to have a voice in the workplace for the first time in my career. But there was a big problem: I just couldn’t find my groove.
After grappling with feelings of being ungrateful for the opportunity that I was given and knowing that I wasn’t living up to my potential, I finally realized that the problem wasn’t really me. At least, not totally. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming my unhappiness on the company or anyone who worked there. The real issue was that I didn’t jive with the office culture.
There were a few things about the culture that rubbed me the wrong way, but one major issue was the baby boomer-millennial tension. In my estimation, it was the same old generational misunderstandings that are plastered on every corner of the internet. The boomers didn’t understand what made the millennials tick and were frustrated with the results (or lack thereof) that they were seeing. The millennials were frustrated that the boomers weren’t keeping up with the times and didn’t understand what went into the job the younger set did. No one seemed to recognize at the time that a generational showdown was taking place (Isn’t 20-20 hindsight wonderful?).
I eventually left that job for reasons unrelated, but I certainly learned my lesson when job hunting going forward: The job you’re doing and the environment you’re doing it are equally important. Some people are workaholics and some just aren’t productive working more than forty hours a week. Some people are perpetually uncomfortable in business attire and some can’t conduct business without a suit. Some people like a wide open work environment à la Facebook and others thrive in a more private space. We all need different things to be successful. The key is figuring out what makes sense for your lifestyle and work habits.
The endless intricacies of a company’s culture can make it a tricky thing to assess without test driving a job for yourself, but you can get a pretty comprehensive view of the environment with the perspective of three key people:
Never leave an interview without discussing company culture! It’s important to know what your manager will expect of you and how they view the experience of working there. How do employees communicate with each other? How do they encourage teamwork? Do they expect you to be on call 24/7? Is it an open working space? Get answers to these high-level questions early on.
Work your LinkedIn contact list to find a mutual connection to someone that works (or has recently worked) at the company and ask for an introduction. Managers have a view of what the culture is supposed to be, but the employees know what it is actually like to work there. In my experience, these peer connections often produce a very honest and more insightful view of the company than any manager could provide.
Nothing can ever replace your own judgment. Look around when you’re visiting the office and take careful note of the employees. Do they seem happy? Are they friendly and welcoming towards guests (you)? Are they running around like chickens with their heads cut off? What are they wearing? Your gut will be your best friend in this situation.
Susie Concannon is a Boston-based digital marketer and writer with a passion for all things millennials. She injected a little girl power in the conversation about an often misunderstood generation by founding Millennial Woman Speaks– a blog and online community that is giving Gen Y women a place to raise their voices about everything important and fun in their lives. You can also reach Susie on Twitter.