When you’re looking for a new job, and you’ve been looking for a while, you might have gone through some emotional ups and downs and you may be getting (dare I say it) a little desperate? You’re feeling the “fear”. Don’t get me wrong, this is healthy fear, but you don’t want to let it impair your decisions.
What I normally see happen (and it’s happened to me, too) is the moment you get a job offer and you’re evaluating it (after you’ve been in the looking stage for a while), you can easily get blinded. What I mean by that is you can easily just want to accept it because you’ve longed for it for so long! “Yay, someone wants to hire me” syndrome! This is the exact moment where you need to be careful and evaluate what you’re really signing on for.
At the time where we need to be asking some intelligent questions, we start to think, “I really want this job, I’d better sign the offer and get it over with before the offer is off the table. Thank goodness, sigh of relief, I now have a job.”
Then the regrets and painstaking truths set in. If you have ever been in this situation, where you take an opportunity because you were desperate and thought nothing better would come along, you know what I mean. (I’ve done this and my story is what inspired this article.)
I could tell within 2 days of being in the environment that this place was NOT for me. Unfortunately, I made a rash decision out of fear. (This is not a decision you want to make hastily.)
I then had to decide whether I wanted to stick it out and start looking for another job while trying to learn this new stupid job; or, if I should just walk out and hope for the best. I was also worried that I couldn’t go back on Employment Insurance if I quit.
Based on this experience I’ve put together 5 questions to help you make a better decision BEFORE you get yourself into a less than ideal situation.
You have the right to ask some good questions before you commit your life and yourself to spending 8 hours a day working for this new set of people. If you feel nervous to ask the following questions,that’s not a good way to start out a new job in itself, so listen to your gut. If you’re uneasy about asking, take that as a sign in itself. 😉
Question 1: “How do you support employee growth in your organization, in terms of learning and support from one another?” or “How do your staff support each other here?”
The answer to this question will tell you a lot about how you’ll feel in the environment and in the role. You are looking for a place where you will be able to learn from other people there. They should ideally have a “same team” inclusive vibe and if they do they’ll be excited to tell you about it when you ask them this question! They should want to bring you on so they can learn from your unique gifts, too!
If they seem confused by this question – that says a lot. 😉
Question 2: “How do you communicate within the department and with the other departments within the company?”
They might say that they have a weekly or monthly department meeting, where they discuss items on an agenda, or perhaps managers do regular one on ones with each of their reports, or they may do small team meetings, depending on their organizational structure. Some organizations don’t do any of this, they might have quarterly meetings, or communicate via all staff email or department distribution lists. Another way is some companies might put together lunch and learns so that each department can see what others are doing. For example, Finance and HR might do a lunch and learn one month, and another month Development or Sales & Marketing might do a lunch and learn so that everyone can see what’s going on within the departments. I’ve worked at a company or two where they do this and it’s really quite cool. I looked forward to these events!
You can tell a lot by this answer, and you should consider whether their answer matches your communication style. If everything is done via email and you need more social contact, you might not be happy in a place where you have to knock on a cubicle wall and ask permission to speak first.
Question 3: “What is the process for time off requests for someone in this position? I am not planning any long vacations but I wanted to ask how much notice is needed when someone needs a few hours or a day off? Can you let me know of the process?”
In this day and age I would really hope that whatever job you have, you can pre-arrange to go for a doctor’s appointment in advance and have that be totally fine with your manager and your organization, right? But there are times when companies are so rigid and inflexible that it can be difficult or “not possible” to miss work for an appointment. The answer to this question will also give you a good idea of the vibe at the company, how flexible they are and how much they value work/life balance.
From personal experience I can say that I asked this question when I was being shown around for my first day, and the lady said, without being phased: “Oh, that won’t be a thing you can do, you will need to be here at all times, especially if you haven’t accumulated any paid time off yet.” This was like 7 years ago, and it was for a Reception position. But come on! Seriously? People miss work sometimes and the building doesn’t implode!
Question 4: “When communicating, like on weekends or after hours, how do you handle that type of thing? For example, in my previous job I stayed in close contact with my boss when we had a lot of tasks going on that were time sensitive, so we would text and email on the weekend if it was necessary. Where some of my friends work they don’t do that at all. How do you operate here?”
This was something I really wish I had asked at that uncomfortable job I was telling you about earlier. My boss texted me on the weekend when he was at a baseball game with his son, asking me to put in an order that had just come in. This meant I had to go back to the office, and likely spend all day filling in paperwork, as I couldn’t access the network from home.
Question 5: “What does a normal “day in the life” of an employee look like here in terms of work hours? For example, some places like to have “flexible hours” and are more “results based” (as long as you meet deadlines and produce good quality work we are happy), some companies start super early and finish super early. What do you guys tend to gravitate towards?”
You will want to know if they expect you to work over time, or if that’s the norm for their employees; you don’t want to be uncomfortably waiting to ask when it’s okay for you to leave. I’ve been there, and I can’t hold my tongue for very long, and then everyone gives you a funny look. Not fun. 🙂
You want to get a job, yes, but you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you can’t wait to quit and find another job almost immediately.
When this happened to me I kept trying to talk myself into liking the place. “Well, I really like my desk and my workspace is pretty cool,” I would tell myself. Truth though, no matter how cool the workspace or the desk or the chair, nothing will make up for having to drudge through an archaic billing system with 25+ steps when my brain kept saying, “This is so stupid, it could all be done in like 3 steps if I didn’t have to jump through these hoops because the system needs me to enter things into certain fields!” (Plus I hate all things that have to do with accounting.)
Do your best to avoid a bad situation by asking these 5 questions! If you have some other great questions that you think are really important to ask, please mention them in the comments below! Let’s build a bank of ‘em!
Get a job that really makes you happy! Do you know of one person who may benefit from asking these questions? Please pass this article on to them when you get the chance!
In Work and Life,