So, you’ve made it. Your time in university has (finally) come to an end and it’s time to start thinking about moving into the big bad world of work. For many graduates, that step from studying to their first job can be a challenging one — especially when you haven’t a clue what you want to do.
Choosing the right company to work for when you graduate can be a difficult decision. The graduate job market can be competitive and oftentimes, graduates feel obliged to jump at the first offer that comes their way.
This is completely understandable. While experience in part-time jobs or internships can be useful in knowing what you want to do (or don’t want to do), going through the process of finding a job and a company you love can be long and stressful
This blog post will provide a framework you can use in order to choose the right company as a graduate. We refer to this as the IDEAL framework;
You are going to be doing this job for 40+ hours a week. Needless to say, work can sometimes feel mundane and boring but the time will pass a lot quicker when you’re interested in not only the role you’re applying for but the industry you’ll be working in.
It’s a good idea to look at the job description and try to picture yourself in the role to get an idea of whether it compliments your skillset well and if it will sufficiently motivate and challenge you.
As well as that, your role may potentially change the more tenured you become so it’s important to find out what typical paths for progression look like beyond your initial role.
If you’re planning on being with the business for a few years the next thing to consider is what are the opportunities to grow with that employer. The maturity and size of the company are two things worth evaluating at this point.
For example, in younger companies which are (normally) smaller, there will be fewer processes and structures in place meaning that you’ll be likely to have more autonomy and variety in your role. This can often lead to enhanced learning and development opportunities as you get ‘hands-on’ experience.
Pressure can often accompany that increased autonomy and responsibility. However, if you join a smaller company and demonstrate that you're a valuable asset, as they continue to grow you will be in a strong position to forge your own trajectory as more roles become available.
In larger companies, on the other hand, many of these processes have long since been figured out and there are structures in place with a lot of support at your disposal. Having that additional structure and a clearly-defined career path are two massive benefits to working in a larger company.
There is no right answer to which you should prioritise. The pace at which your career moves will vary dramatically based on whether you join a 10-person startup vs. an MNC with 10,000+ employees. However, with startups, there is an increased element of risk that they will fail.
Ideally, you should be able to see a path for acquiring skills that will enable you to not only do your current role exceptionally well but prime you for any future opportunities within the company and beyond. At this stage, it's helpful to ask yourself what your career goals are which might help you identify what kind of company you want to join.
Is this the type of work environment that you can thrive in? These days, companies place a huge emphasis on values and fostering strong company culture. So it’s crucial to uncover whether you are not only a good fit for the company — but the company is a good fit for you as well.
Something else to examine is the people that you’ll be working with. You’re going to be seeing and collaborating with your colleagues every day so ideally, you’ll be working with smart and intelligent people who you can learn from. This is particularly important in the early stages of your career.
A final factor to consider is the physical environment that you’ll be working in. Is the company fully remote? If so, do you do your best work in a collaborative environment like an office? What does the commute look like? Flexible working policies vary hugely from one company to the next so it’s important to find out what their expectations are.
Another thing to take into account is whether the work you do will be acknowledged. It’s very hard to be successful if the company doesn’t support you and your team with the resources you need.
While that will be hard to assess from the outside looking in, you can use LinkedIn to see what kind of investments have been made in headcount in the department that you want to move into to see whether it’s a priority for the business or not.
While the work itself is important, something else to consider is how the work gets done. Will your opinions and input be valued? As a general rule, the larger the company that you’re in, the more clearly defined your role will be and the less likely it is that you’ll have a significant impact on final decisions.
Last but certainly not least, it’s essential to look into who makes up the company’s management and leadership. This can be quite a big differentiator from company to company and unfortunately, it can be quite hard to assess prior to applying.
While they may not be the first person that you speak to, you will meet your potential manager at some point throughout the interview process. While it might only be for 45 minutes, it’s important to use this time wisely. This blog post on asking questions at the end of an interview should provide you with a few ideas.
After meeting them, you should ask yourself a few questions. Do they seem like the kind of person you would enjoy working with? Do you think you could learn something from them? Do you think they can help you take that next step in your career?
Before applying to a job with any company, it’s imperative that you do as much research as you can. Not only will this allow you to make an informed decision on whether or not you want to invest the time and energy into the application, it can be a major competitive advantage if you do end up moving forward with the interview process.
Use resources like Glassdoor to read ratings and reviews from both current and previous employees about their time working with the business and whether or not they approve of the CEO. These can provide some great insights into what the company culture and values really are and whether or not what they preach is practised.
While you will get the opportunity during the interview process to meet people from not only the team you’ll potentially be joining but from other departments as well, it's worthwhile reaching out to someone prior to applying to carry out an informational interview. This involves asking for a 15-minute call where you can find out more about the company from someone currently working there.
Whether it’s finding out what a typical day involves in the role, what great performance looks like or what learning & development resources the company offers — try to use this time to ask questions that matter to you. This idea may seem daunting for some people, so we've put together a blog on how to contact potential employers that should provide some guidance.
Finally, try to find blog posts or podcast interviews that members of the executive team or people at the company have previously done. Not only will it give you a better idea of their true personality, it will enable you to see how they think about the business and the plans for future growth.