JOB hunters and graduating students frequently ask me for advice on which companies they should apply to, especially if they have general degrees.
I usually reply with this simple question: “What are you looking for?”
Promptly comes the response: “Good pay!”
Back goes my retort: “Wrong answer!”
What to consider in a job
Choosing a job is about:
• Matching your qualifications, experience and attributes to the job requirements;
• Ensuring that you have the personal qualities and capabilities required for job, and
• Assessing if you are a good fit with the environment and culture of the employer.
Unless there is a person-job-environment fit, it is highly unlikely you will be even shortlisted for an interview, let alone be selected.
Understanding who you are, what you want to do and how much “extra value-add” you can bring to your potential employer are the key things you need to do.
To quote the late Professor Peter Drucker in his article, Managing Oneself, in the Harvard Business Review: “…to do those things well, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself — not only what your strengths and weaknesses are but also how you learn, how you work with others, what your values are and where you can make the greatest contribution.
“Because only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.”
When you find a job that suits you and gives you opportunities to use your strengths, you will succeed and earn “good pay”.
Desired personal qualities
When you look at advertisements for jobs you are interested in, check the requirements of the job and the personal qualities and attributes the potential employer seeks in candidates to be shortlisted.
The specific professional qualities and experience needed are fairly easy to discover by analysing the job advertisement and making enquiries with the potential employer or with other employers offering fairly similar jobs.
However, the desired personal qualities and attributes are more difficult to discover.
You will need to investigate this discreetly by contacting industry veterans or your seniors who may know people who work there.
Finally, determining your organisational and cultural fit with the organisation you are seeking employment with is vitally important.
In fact, “poor cultural fit” is often the reason many employees leave after one or two years.
The best strategy is to start one or two years before your job hunt to identify the organisational culture and practices of the potential companies you are likely to seek employment with.
If they are big businesses like large banks, shipyards, property companies, multinationals and conglomerates, it is easier to find out about their culture as they are often featured in newspaper and business magazine articles.
Fortunately, an increasing number of small and mid-sized companies are also being featured in articles in local newspapers and magazines, and these will provide clues about their culture.
Many companies are also profiling themselves on the Internet, making it fairly easy to ferret out information about them if you are willing to make the effort.
In fact, quickly scanning the Money pages of The Straits Times and company news in The Business Times often gives you insights into the culture of featured companies.
The type of personal qualities they are likely to seek in potential employees and their work practices can be inferred from the content of the articles.
Unless you have a good to excellent fit with the culture and practices of the company, it may not be wise to seek employment with that company.
It is important that your personal and professional values are congruent with the company’s values and beliefs. Failing to have this match may lead to conflict with peers and your seniors.
In today’s work world, career success is not determined solely by performance and productivity.
Being a good team player, demonstrating loyalty and exhibiting organisational citizenship behaviour are “must-haves” if you want to climb up the corporate ladder more quickly.
Article by Kamal Kant, a part-time lecturer in careers, employment relations and management at Nanyang Technological University and SIM Global Education. He conducts career workshops and career coaches in his spare time.