Does your new job align with your life’s priorities? Here’s how to tell

It’s a good time to be a job seeker, so you can be selective about making sure that your role aligns with your priorities.


You’re thinking about taking a new job, and you’re in the final interview phase. You should be as selective about the role and company as they are about you. After all, it’s a job seeker’s market, the unemployment rate is at its lowest since 1969, so you can afford to be picky.

In an age where every company tells you it values work-life fulfillment, how can you tell whether a company means it? What will it really be like if you join the organization? Here are a few ways to find out:

Ask about the company’s specific policies and practices supporting work-life. What are their approaches to vacation, leave, benefits, or working at home?

It’s essential to pay attention to formal policies as well as informal ones, which may be the result of a particular leader’s bent. If your leader changes (which is typical in corporate life), what policies will you have to fall back on? Make sure that you’re comfortable with the written policies in place and that they’re robust enough to support your work-life priorities even in the case of a leadership shuffle.

Find out what the company supplies in terms of tools and technology. Even though it’s hard to believe, not every company provides mobile technology. Will you need to bring your own devices? Or will the company supply them? Also, determine whether you’ll be able to use your preferred operating systems or whether the company uses a standardized version of your less-preferred platform. You need to think about hardware, as well as software and social media. Will it allow you to work anywhere or be tethered to your desk? Will you have a desktop publishing program or will you have to muddle through with basic packages? Will you be able to access social media now and then while you’re at work, or does the company have firewalls that make that impossible? These kinds of questions are relevant to your work-life fulfillment because software affects your efficiency and effectiveness. When you get your work done, you have more time for you, and social media can affect your connections with others outside of work and, in turn, your quality of life.

You can tell a lot about a company’s values by observing how others work. Can people come in early on summer days and leave early once in a while to get to the beach or the golf course? Do people head out of the office to catch their daughter’s soccer game and then turn on later in the evening to finish their project? Are people open and transparent about their working habits, or do they have to keep quiet about their lives outside of work? If having a life outside of work is important to you, you need to make sure that the company you work for values that, too.

It seems like a minor miracle that leaders can choose employees, and employees can choose leaders and companies based on a simple interview (or two or three). After all, when you join a company, you’re probably doing so for the long-term. That’s why before you start, you should try and find opportunities to meet your prospective employer outside the realms of a formal interview—whether it be for coffee or lunch.

When you’re away from the office, people will loosen up and share things that they might not disclose in a formal environment. You’ll learn the good, the bad, and the ugly. This peek behind the curtain may help you decide whether you can trust what you’ve learned about the company and whether what you’ve heard is for real.

Interviewing is increasingly happening through remote means like Skype or telepresence. But if you can get on site and see the company, it will be useful. After all, the place is the body language of an organization. Is there a positive buzz in the environment? Are people talking to each other? Exchanging ideas? Moving around? Are the facilities fresh and inspiring, and does the company provide spaces that demonstrate they value employees? Do you feel comfortable in the environment, and will you have the opportunity to personalize the way you work? Can you imagine yourself there, doing your best work?

We all spend a lot of hours at work. So you should make sure it enhances, not detracts from, your overall experience.

Of course, you’ll also need to do your research about the company. Look online to see what they say about themselves and what others say about them. Keep an eye out to see if what they proclaim matches up with how they treat people. It’s a red flag if a company says one thing and does another. However, if you see a pattern that keeps reemerging from reviews, then it’s worth paying attention.

Ultimately, you need to weave together your various threads of information from multiple sources. Listen to both your head and your heart as you make your choice. Yes, you do have to consider facts and logic, but ultimately, your decision comes down to your gut. Never underestimate the power of intuition and your judgment of whether a place is a ‘fit’ and whether you can imagine yourself there. You need to be selective about where you work if you want to be fulfilled in all parts of your life.

Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCRw, is a sociologist focused on work, workers, and workplace, working for Steelcase. She is the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations.
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