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What should I look for in a job?

Student Career Placement Consultant

A well-lit open office. Credit: Trollbackco (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trollback_+_Company_office.JPG), „Trollback + Company office“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcodeI recently read an article titled “8 Reasons Why Valued Employees Quit” and thought it would be a good idea to turn it around and give you some suggestions about what to look for in a job (that is, what would make a good employee — like you — want to stay in a job). What I’ll do here is tell you the problems discussed in the article and give you an idea of what to look for in a potential employer to avoid facing those problems down the line.

A lack of work/life balance 

While the article described this as a lack of flexibility (requiring an employee to use vacation time when caring for a sick child, for example), there are multiple ways that a job can fail to provide an adequate work/life balance. First of all, they may be rigid about timekeeping, requiring employees to either punch in and out of work or monitoring arrival and departure times closely. While it is reasonable for an employer to expect workers to put in the required hours, being called on the carpet for a few minutes here and there may lead you to feel resentful, so you need to find out ahead of time what the employer wants you to do to account for your time.

What could be a more serious problem (to me, anyway) would be an employer who routinely expects you to work overtime without being paid extra. You can politely ask, in an interview, how often employees are asked to work late or what situations would require employees to stay late, but make sure you don’t come across as someone who’s not willing to put in extra effort when it’s necessary!

Too much, or too little, work

It may be difficult to determine this ahead of time, but asking questions about the workload for a typical day or talking with other employees (or just observing whether employees seem frantic,  overly relaxed, or bored during a tour of the facility) may give you hints about the employer’s expectations.

Promotion issues

Most people are going to be unhappy in the same job for extended periods of time. While you certainly don’t want an employer to think that you’re not interested in the job for which you apply, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask if there are normal career paths that employees follow to move up within the organization.

Poor management

This is another issue that may be difficult to determine during the application and interview process, but you can get some ideas based on the responsiveness you experience throughout that process, the way you are treated during the interview, and by using tools, such as GlassDoor, that provide employee reviews of their employers.

A toxic work environment

As mentioned above, pay attention to the demeanor of workers you see on-site when you go for your interview. If people are unhappy, anxious, or angry, it will show on their faces and in the ways that they interact with one another.

Inadequate system of rewards

While you don’t want to ask questions about salary in an interview, you can ask questions about the basis for raises — in some environments, raises are given in equal percentages to employees for cost-of-living increases. In others, raises are strictly merit-based. Bonuses are also another indication of how employees are evaluated and compensated for their performance.

Stingy benefits

Once again, you don’t want to ask about benefits in an interview. However, if they’re proud of their benefits package, they are likely to bring it up fairly early in the process. Also, you should be able to get information about benefits from online research about the organization. And keep in minds that “benefits” don’t only include standard items such as vacation time, health insurance and retirement plans, maternity/paternity leave, and so forth; the term can also refer to less formal extras, such as on-site snacks, organized social events, or company team sports.

Changing career goals

It’s quite common to want to change careers — not just jobs, but careers — so you need to do some long-term thinking before going to work for a company that doesn’t provide many opportunities for personal growth and development. Will the organization give you a chance to change careers but stay with the same company? Or will you have to leave to do something different?

Share your thoughts!