Race to the Top: Same Job, Different Organizations, Different Experience

Q: I have applied for an analyst job in several places; a corporation, a non-profit and with a city government. I have had several interviews and expect to receive several offers. How do I pick the best job?

A: Congratulations. If you have had several interviews, you have packaged yourself well; your resume and applications must clearly demonstrate your skills and what you can contribute to an organization. Importantly, the exact same job, such as an analyst position, will be very different jobs based on the types of employers you listed. I recommend you ask yourself three questions.

First, after meeting with other employees and observing the workplace, what is your impression of the culture? What we actually do while we are at work can take a backseat to what is going on around us while we are doing it. And, be honest with yourself about what you prefer. On Wall Street, one of my previous employers had a very demanding culture. We worked long hours and there was constant performance pressure. But, there were equal rewards, including working with very smart people and receiving good compensation.

Second question, will the organization invest in you with training? This is a big issue. Especially if this is your first job; you want to be part of an organization that will invest in you because it will pay benefits later in your career as well. When I worked at Bankers Trust Company, we were encouraged to take classes that were taught by employees from other parts of the organization. I signed up for every class I could, even the classes that most people thought were boring. I learned so much in that job that I was able to leverage a much better job with a competing bank. Now, importantly, training budgets go up and down along with performance, so there can be years when training is unavailable. But, ask the employees you meet when you interview for their impression regarding the organization’s commitment to making employees smarter. When it comes to training, corporations typically offer more, because they can and because they know better thinking means better products and services.

Last but by no means least, what was your impression of your soon-to-be boss? If you are at the point where you are expecting offers, you have met your future boss, so you should have some information about how he or she works, is expected and if he or she is committed to developing and promoting their employees. I can’t stress this enough: your boss will play a key role in your career. And, frankly, if I had to choose between “great boss” and not-so-great anything else, I would take “great boss;” someone who will push you, support you, empower you, and yes, criticize you when it’s warranted. People often complain to me that their boss is overly critical and I always say the same thing: be grateful. Usually, a critical boss is a boss that is invested and that’s much better for you than a boss who could care less.