What’s most important to me in a job

This is in response to John Stockton’s post on To Code or not To Code. (The entries I mentioned about coding will come next week.)

Like John, my rankings change from time to time, usually depending on the situation and what’s making me really unhappy or super stressed out. There are also prior experiences that steered me away from certain places. So long before a company interviews me, I’ve already Googled it and talked with all of my contacts to find out more about them and whether I really want to go there.

So what is it that I look for in a job (and company)?

  • Employee satisfaction: Does the company take care of its employees? Are those employees truly happy or do they have to fake their happiness to maintain a public image?

    This is typically high on my list. When my current company contacted me, I had already known quite a lot about them, as a friend had been waiting for 4 years for me to join her there. They went through tough times, as expected of most small companies in this area at that time. But no matter how tough the times were, she raved about the place. Her excitement about the place told me that I had to be there. She knew that I’d be a good match for them, even though she knew me in my non-programmer (tech support/management) capacity. When I went to interview with them, I saw that same excitement in everyone there. And once I was hired, I knew for sure that it was genuine excitement and not just a front. When employees are well taken care of or at least surrounded by the right group of people, employee satisfaction can easily be seen.

  • Industry outlook: Is the company in an industry that interests me? Is the industry going well enough that the company will be around a few years?

    When I take a job, unless I know ahead of time that it’s a short term (like internships), I go into it hoping for a long-term commitment. So I need to commit to something I enjoy doing, to an industry I like working in.

    My last job was in manufacturing. I was there for almost 4 years, and I picked up all sorts of skills in the first couple years. When a co-worker moved on, I had the joys of stepping up and picking up database administration as I went. But my skillset went stagnant in my last year, as the demand for new technology wasn’t there. Manufacturing doesn’t always require new technology, sometimes it’s just a “keep it working” attitude rather than a “improve this process” attitude. Having a discussion with a co-worker about never learning C# since the job wouldn’t need it was probably my wake-up call that I needed to look into other options.

    The industry was taking some serious hits, so that also was a hint for me to move on. Once I left, they didn’t replace me – which was final confirmation that moving on was a good thing.

  • Projects: How challenging will they be? What kind of projects will they be?

    I don’t mind being pushed into learning new technology for projects. I like being challenged into expanding my skillset and into getting out of my comfort zone. But at the same time, there are certain projects that I will not take on because they are in my extremely uncomfortable zone. They get me stressed out, and no matter who I’m dealing with on the other end, I won’t take them on. It’s sad, though, as they are projects that I would truly excel in and that could make really good money. Until I can disassociate stress from that type of project, though, I stay away from them and stand my ground.

  • The team: What kind of people will I be working with? Will I be able to work with them?

    I typically get along with most people that I work with. As those who’ve met me can tell you, I tend to be fairly easygoing and easy to get along with. However, when I first got into computers (an internship right out of high school), I was met with dealing with a team out of my league. My boss knew I could get the job done, and the team lead knew that they needed me on board. But at the same time, some of my teammates couldn’t handle a young female programmer on the team. Ah yes, the joys of age and gender coming into play. I was half their age (literally) and breaking into a field that’s truly male-dominated. That was the one time where I was truly aware of my minority status. It was a very long two month internship, and I was glad when it was over. I owed it to the guys who looked after me – the consultant who took me under his wing and the programmer from another team who did breakfast with me every morning and encouraged me to stick with it.

    Since then, though, I’ve been on some awesome and exciting teams. I’ve learned that the guys on my first team who felt threatened by me, thankfully, are few and far between. But I need to be happy with my team or else my productivity will take a hit as my overall morale takes a hit.

These are just a few things I look into when I’m looking at jobs and companies.

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