Beyond the Job Description: Assessing Work Environment and Employer Fit

Even on top of the pandemic, it has been a devastating couple of weeks as we have witnessed such brutality and injustice in Minneapolis.  One thing I am grateful for in the midst of this is having a supportive office that has held space for lament and debrief.  What I appreciate most about my workplace is not only the work itself but also a collegial environment that prioritizes wellness, collaboration and innovation.

Recent conversations with students and alumni have reminded me of the impact of considering what it means to sense an alignment (or misalignment) with a given workplace.  As you move forward with your job search or career planning, consider the following steps for assessing whether an employer of interest is likely a good fit for you.

Assess what matters to you.  A good place to start is to list previous work experiences, including jobs, internships, volunteer work, or class projects that were particularly energizing or fulfilling.  The next step is to reflect on why they were energizing or fulfilling.  Some of the themes you see in your reflections won’t be based on the actual tasks that you performed.  A work values checklist can help you process this but don’t stop there.  Consider carefully what impact you want to make and what legacy you want to leave in your work and in the world.  Think about how you want your employer to impact not only its direct stakeholders, but also the society at large.  Based on your reflections, develop a list of criteria that will help you assess employers and hold you accountable for career decision making that is grounded in integrity.

Research your target employers.  As you peruse the employer’s website, you will want to get a better sense of whether the employer lives up to the mission statement and core values that are posted. For instance, if inclusion is noted as a priority of the employer, you can look into who the decision makers are and what causes are supported. Dig deeper by reading articles about the employer, attending recruiting events (virtual if necessary), and conducting informational interviews with Penn alumni who work there.   If you decide to apply for a position and get an interview, the research continues, so you should prepare thoughtful, open-ended questions that allow for thoughtful, concrete answers.  For example, suppose professional development is a priority for you.  Instead of “What professional development opportunities are offered here?”, ask something like “What are the most impactful professional development opportunities you have experienced here and how have they informed your work and growth?” After thorough research, you will be more equipped to assess the employer based on the criteria that you developed.

As you move through this process, Career Services advisors can be a great sounding board.  We are still available for video conference or phone appointments this summer, so be sure to connect via Handshake.  In the meantime, be well and safe!

By Sharon Fleshman
Sharon Fleshman Senior Associate Director, Nursing, Education, Social Policy & Practice