When BYU student Xander Dorius accepted a recruiting position at a small home health company, he didn’t realize he would also be responsible for front desk, filing and training duties. His help was needed in a much wider scope than just recruiting because he worked at a small local company.
Even if the job description for a position may look exactly the same between companies, the day-to-day experience of the job can vary greatly based on the company’s unique culture.
Choosing the right job is more than accepting a position at a reputable company within the chosen field. While many programs are in place to help students and recent graduates find a job, fewer resources are available to help students understand how to find a workplace environment compatible with their personality and goals.
Although a company might have great Glassdoor reviews and happy employees, not all personality types will be happy working there. Knowing about a company’s workplace culture is an important factor in determining whether the position will be a good fit for the potential employee.
The way employees receive recognition or feedback can be very different between companies. Amanda Fails, a student who interned at GE, worked on a team of mostly remote employees and rarely got feedback or interacted with them. Daniel Bluhm works at a local tech startup where many employees also work remotely. However, his team makes regular meetings recognizing employee successes a priority.
Some people might find Fails’ situation ideal and become embarrassed by praise or criticism in front of a team. Others may prefer Bluhm’s team meetings and feel unappreciated without regular recognition or feedback.
Most jobs and companies fall on a spectrum of independence and collaboration. On one end, employees receive tasks and complete them on their own, sometimes remotely. On the other end, people might sit together in pods and frequently discuss issues with each other.
Tyra Draper spent the summer interning at Intel, a longtime tech giant. While celebrating Intel’s 50th anniversary, Draper’s department was taking notes on some of the newer tech companies, hoping to move their culture in a more modern and collaborative direction.
She said they were lowering cubicle walls, implementing regular team meetings and using technical teamwork technology. While there was some pushback from older employees, she thought the company was trying to move in the right direction.
Fails had interned for a smaller and rapidly growing tech company the year before interning at GE. After seeing the two very different corporate culture experiences, she discovered which environments she worked best in and what she would look for when finding a more permanent job after graduation.
“A lot of newer companies are fast-paced; they have a flat structure. People can move around and find a team they like, then get promoted within the team and more easily become a manager,” Fails said. After being in both situations, she learned she prefers having multiple localized managers to one central manager who is removed from the daily tasks.
One difference between large and small companies is employee responsibilities. In Bluhm’s position at a local startup, he is involved in business decisions that will shape the direction of the company. Meanwhile, Draper said she sometimes felt like a “tiny cog in a giant machine.”
“We’ve been making computer chips for a long time. We’ve gotten really good at it, so we’re just cranking it out,” she said. Some people value the consistency and lack of uncertainty in Draper’s experience, while others may prefer the fast-paced decision making at a growing company.
Internships are a good way to test out different types of companies and see which culture fits best. Students in many different majors value internship experiences because they learn about whether those companies are the type they’d like to work for in the long term.
Perks and Benefits
Larger companies are more likely to offer traditional benefits like 401k matching, good health and dental insurance, and family leave. In fact, only companies with 50 employees or more are legally obligated to offer family leave.
While a startup may be less likely to offer those types of benefits, smaller companies try to entice employees with other perks like leaving early on Friday, free snacks, ping pong and team activities.
Startups are known for having a ping pong table where employees can bond and let off steam. Growing Utah tech companies are adding unique perks in an effort to attract younger employees.
Friendship and teamwork are also important considerations when deciding on whether to accept a job offer. Is there a budget for team lunches and activities each quarter? Do people go to lunch together and chat during their down time? CNBC reports that 70 percent of employees say having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life.
Understanding a company’s culture
Although different types of companies approach processes and culture in different ways, in the end an employee’s direct supervisor and coworkers have more impact on job satisfaction than any corporate initiative.
However, an understanding of the type of environment they work best in and how to find companies with that culture can be helpful for someone just starting their career.