One of the things I suggest in Manage Your Job Search is to think about your culture when or before you start interviewing. How do you do that?
An organization's culture is made of these three things:
- What's okay to talk about?
- How do you treat people?
- What do you reward?
You can't just ask these things of yourself. But you can start setting boundaries about what you do want.
Set Boundaries About Discussions
Start with your most recent job. Think back to some conversations you had that made you happy with your boss and with your colleagues that were about work. What did those conversations have in common? List three things. Those are three things that were great. You want to keep them in mind. Those are things you want to be able to talk about at work.
Think back to some conversations that made you uncomfortable or made you say, “Huh?” or “What is going on here?” List three things either in the content of the conversation or about the conversation. Now you have three things that are okay to talk about and three things that are not okay to talk about. Those things you weren't comfortable talking about? Those might lead into how people are treated at work, too.
Set Boundaries About How the Organization Treats You
Now, how have you been treated at your past job? Did you have one-on-ones with your manager? Did you received feedback and career guidance every week? Did you have collegial relationships with people you worked closely with? Are those things important to you? What else might be important to you? Take your time and list at least three other things that are important to you. Take your time. I know I said that. This is an important step. You don't have to rush.
Now, list three things that are anti-patterns for you, things that will drive you away from a culture. I don't mean the paint on the walls, I mean things that will drive you away from an organization. Is it a manager canceling a one-on-one? Is it someone who doesn't understand continuous integration and won't learn? (Gee, guess what's important to me?)
Set Boundaries About Rewards
The reward step is next. Once we are paid enough to get money off the table, we don't work for money. (See Dan Pink's Drive.) Many of us in software work for recognition by our peers, but not all of us. Some of us work for a promotion. Some work to accumulate people “under” us. If you want a paternal organization, you want to find someone like that. Me, I ran away from people like that. What do you work for? Again, take your time and list three things that are important to you.
Now, list three things that the company might have done to reward people that just made you nuts. One of my companies a long time ago had an Engineer-of-the-Year award. They only gave it to developers. I was a tester. They only gave it to men. I was (and still am) a woman. They only gave it to single men. I was (and still am) married. Did they think I wouldn't notice? They gave it at the company Christmas party. It was so noticeably one-sided that I wasn't the only one who noticed. Several people thought I was going to be rewarded because of my efforts on a particular release. It looked like I had been snubbed.
Here I am, almost 30 years later, and I still feel the anger. Wow. That's a lot of emotion about a job long gone. That company didn't recognize me for my efforts. And, I liked working there!
So, list the kind of recognition/reward efforts the company has made that doesn't fit your style. I'm not saying you will find the perfect company. I am saying that with your lists you can find something that fits you more, rather than less.
Sum Up the Culture For You
Now, you have six lists, three lists of good cultural fit, and three lists of things that don't fit you so well. Now you get to create questions for the good and bad cultural fit. That's in Part 2.