Another Blog About Finding Your Dream Job
A sensible photo of my desk setup. Ps. Zadie Smith is my favorite author.
The concept of one’s “dream job” has been a fairly ubiquitous one, and every thought leader, social media guru, and lay-person across the world has either written, hosted a podcast, or given a Ted Talk about it.
I am not here to necessarily add to that list (and yet, by writing this blog, I suppose this automatically puts me in the above list). Rather, I am widely known for not using euphemisms, for being brutally honest (but not to offense), and for my direct tone (which has only come with age and experience) and, given my job function, I feel inclined to share what has led me to my own professional happiness.
Much to our chagrin, we live in a “grass is always greener” society. Think about it: we’re at the point in our technological culture where we can “swipe right” on dating apps, where profiles contain very little information beyond a photo (and there are so many dating apps in general, how does one even keep track of virtual conversations, let alone “settle” to date one person exclusively? Too many options!).
The same could be said about jobs (particularly in the software industry).
Presently, I have yet to encounter a software company (specifically within the Campus Recruiting landscape) who isn’t touting their “unique, vibrant” culture, their “extremely generous” benefits package, their “unrivaled” location, and their “unparalleled” values.
See how these four things alone create a dilemma for the ever-eager job seeker?
As a global university talent acquisition manager (and former educator), I meet and counsel thousands of students every year on the process of finding what will hopefully be their “dream career.”
To be clear: I am not a career counselor. Rather, I am a recovering academic, teacher, and general lover of working with students who has indeed found what I believe to be my dream job at my dream company. (Here is a video of me speaking about it).
I also don’t believe in any one definition of “dream career.”
What I do believe, however, is that by better understanding and defining one’s own needs — both personal and professional — an individual is better emotionally equipped to embark on the journey of finding employment happiness (particularly when dealing with companies who have seemingly similar corporate cultures).
In recent years, I have been diligent about routinely auditing my professional needs, and by the time Appian had contacted me, I had a relatively concrete idea of what those needs were. Although this should appear obvious, these needs should be specific to YOU, and to you alone.
Define your own “BQs”.
“BQs” is talent acquisition speak for “Basic Qualifications,” and who’s to say that companies hold all the cards? . Location is, very commonly, most job-seekers #1 basic qualification (for obvious reasons).
A personal “BQ” for me was that the role must be a position with clear, defined upward mobility; promotions would need to be performance-based, not position-based (to clarify: a performance-based promotion means you are awarded a promotion as a result of your performance; a position-based promotion means that regardless of how well you are performing, you may only be considered for a promotion if a position is available to be promoted in to). Correspondingly, the work itself must be intellectually and creatively challenging, diverse, and stimulating to keep me amped on the daily.
One, if not the most rigid basic qualification I have, is to work alongside a team of extraordinary, brilliant overachievers who by their very presence alone inspire and emit positive energy. Of course, with each successive interview at Appian, I knew I had found those who met my criteria. In that vein…
Join a team who gives you wings.
I cannot overstate enough the value of working alongside managers, peers, and direct reports who share comparable professional drive, dedication, and focus.
To be surrounded by rockstars in your industry is one of the greatest professional boons.
This isn’t a college group project; you do have a say here. But how?
Job seekers become so focused on impressing a prospective company (as they should) that they forget (or don’t realize) they have the same agency in the decision making process as the hiring team. The interviewing experience should be a two-way street; you should be interviewing your prospective team, as they are interviewing you.
Keep in mind: by not being actively cognizant of an interviewer’s/prospective teammate’s demeanor, you are disallowing yourself the opportunity to get a sense of what your life would be like working alongside of the person. I can’t tell you how many offers I’ve personally declined on the grounds of a bad/negative/strange experience with one (or several) potential teammates or managers.
(Seems obvious, right? You would truly be appalled at how many individuals “black out” and forget to ask quality questions of their interviewers, or even think critically about the aforementioned during or after their interview process).
Make them your squad.
Perhaps less important to some, but certainly worth noting: join a team with whom you can laugh, socialize, and share personal experiences; we spend at least 40 hours of our week at work — who doesn’t want to have a little fun?
Acknowledge that the grass is NOT always greener…and avoid “shiny objects”.
In the spirit of honesty, I am becoming increasingly disheartened by the number of young people who fall victim to the “Perks Package Trap” (a term I’m coining literally in this moment).
Perks Package …what?
Perks Package Trap = a primary reason a job seeker accepts an offer. Perks may include, but are not limited to: all meals provided by company, kegerator in office kitchen (and wine fridge), nap pods, laundry service, ping pong tables, the ability to bring pets to work (while I LOVE animals, some people have severe allergies; how are these people accommodated?), etc., etc.
(I would make the argument that this happens more with recent graduates, and less with experienced professionals, though). I also want to admit that even I wouldn’t mind some of these perks…
This is NOT to say perks aren’t fun, convenient, and generous. Obviously, perks are amazing.
What I am saying: BE ON THE LOOKOUT! DO NOT ACCEPT A POSITION EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE AFOREMENTIONED PERKS! I HAVE SEEN THIS HAPPEN A DEVASTATING AMOUNT OF TIMES!
MAKE SURE THE COMPANY IS, FIRST AND FOREMOST, MEETING YOUR BQS AND YOUR FUTURE TEAM IS BALLIN’ AND YOUR POTENTIAL MANAGER WILL BE YOUR BEST ADVOCATE AND GIVE YOU MEANINGFUL WORK AND YOU WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GENUINELY BE A SUPERSTAR.
Then, okay… the perks are fine, too.
P.S. Apologies for the caps lock rant; I wasn’t yelling — just, simply conveying passion. :)
P.P.S. I’m not the only one who thinks Appian is the best place to work (we won the Washington Post’s #1 Top Place to Work in 2020 !).