Choosing what to do when applying for jobs can seem confusing and daunting. If you know what career path you want to follow, how do you decide what company you want to work for? And if you’re still deciding on a career, how on earth do you go about choosing your first money-earner?
Salary. Location. Reputation. These are all factors that everyone considers before applying for jobs. It is easy to choose jobs just based on these types of considerations, but there are plenty of other factors to think about when looking for a job which suits you.
No-one starting out should expect to know exactly what they want from their job, and anyway, this will probably change over your lifetime. But start by looking at other areas of your life – hobbies, studies, beliefs and relationships – and think about what is important to you when it comes to them. Then consider some of the following points alongside the usual ones.
What does this actually mean? Even after doing some research and asking people around my office, I find it hard to define. But I’ll give it a go…
A company’s culture is essentially the personality of the company. It comprises of different elements, such as company mission, working environment, employee treatment, and business goals. The company’s stance on these issues add up to create what it feels like to work for them.
So overall it’s pretty important, but easy to avoid thinking about because it can be difficult to define. The best thing to do is to find out as much as you can about the company, including how it views the above issues, before you apply. It might even help you with the application questions!
You might think this is a silly thing to consider. If you find a good job, you’ll put up with any commute, right? Wrong. You must work out what your commute is going to cost you in both time and money.
Consider; is your salary enough for you when you minus your travel costs from it? Does your commute time leave you with enough of an evening to enjoy? Can you face your commute on a dark Monday morning in January? If the answer is no, think about whether you want to apply to the job.
Values and vision
To be passionate about your work, you need to believe in what you’re doing; what your contribution means to the business and what your business means to society. Trust me when I say it makes a difference; it inspires you to be successful, ensures you work hard, and gets you out of bed even when you feel shattered.
First work out what your vision is. Do you want to work for a company which directly improves the lives of people, makes better an aspect of our society such as healthcare, provides happiness and entertainment, helps run the country, or contributes to the economy? Or something else entirely?
Then do your research! Delve through the promotional material, and find out what a company is truly all about. Look at what its aims are, what it delivers, and the successes it has had. What are its promises to society? Would you be proud to say you worked for the company?
Opportunities or requirements to travel
What’s your opinion on travelling for work and what type of travel do you have in mind?
These are some important questions to ask yourself before applying to a job. You might crave a job that requires some international travel, in which case look at applying to global companies. Perhaps you’re interested in travelling to different places within the UK, to different company offices or to different clients, to add some variety to your role. Try to find out whether the job will lead to these opportunities as you progress even if they aren’t possible when you first start.
Equally important is being honest with yourself if you don’t want to travel and checking that the job adheres to this. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like the idea of spending nights away from home regularly then don’t apply to a role which needs this, even if you like another aspect of it.
Every company is unique and therefore expects different behaviour and actions from its employees. Expectations can relate to anything; socialising, dress code, formality of behaviour, how many hours you work, and the list goes on.
Ask yourself how you want to be treated as an employee. Do you desire a strict working environment with high standards of dress code to help you concentrate? Are you happy to work in a competitive atmosphere in which people will often stay late but get the salary to reward this? Or do you fancy a more relaxed environment with more casual dress codes and the radio on in the background?
This might be more important to you than you think. Company size can have a direct influence on the relationships you have with your employees, the opportunities you get within your role, and your chance for progression. There are pros and cons of all sizes.
Mid-larger companies will often already have a reputation and be a good name to put on your CV, and they also might have well-established benefits, volunteering opportunities and the chance to travel. Smaller companies might give you more responsibility and more chance of progressing quickly to higher positions. It is a given that you will know more or all employees if you work for a smaller company.
You won’t see an official contract until you are made a formal offer of employment, but you can get your facts straight before this. The trick is to keep asking questions, the whole way through the process of applying and being made a job offer. It’s easy to feel worried about asking certain questions, particularly around salary, but the way I see it, the more useful questions you ask, the more interested you look.
So check up on factors such as how long your contract would be, will you be offered a job at the end of your scheme, are you required to pay for anything like training, and is there any vital travelling involved. Write a list of you think your job could impact your life, and ask any questions relating to it.
This is a huge deal, but people rarely weigh it up properly before accepting a job. I personally have friends who opted for a graduate scheme which paid them well, but now want to change jobs because they have to work late, have very little time to themselves in the evenings, and feel exhausted by the time the weekend arrives.
I’m not saying choose the easy ride. If you love your job or you are pursuing a specific career path to get to the place you want to be, then working hard is vital and you should be prepared to put in every effort. You just need to decide what is important to you. Do you need a reasonable amount of time away from work to pursue interests that you see as just as important as your job? Or are you determined to follow a dream which requires you to work hard and leaves you with less of your own time? Your own work/life balance is up to you to decide.