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Employers vary enormously - the best will provide you with good training opportunities and will help you to fulfill your potential. The worst will wring you out and leave you with skills that are so out-of-date that you are unemployable.

It is up to you to select the best employer you can find. To be able to do this you must be active enough in your job hunt to generate many opportunities - this gives you the power to select the best available.

In looking at an employer, you should look at:

  • the culture of the company
  • the people you will be working with
  • the extent to which the role will meet your personal needs
  • the opportunities that the job will open to you.

Company Culture & People

Companies have personalities just as you have a personality - these are called 'Company Cultures'.

Company cultures can be extremely diverse, depending on what is important for the company: an insurance company may have bureaucratic, regimented culture that is geared to safe processing of customers' transactions. A sales organisation may have an aggressive, dynamic, competitive culture that drives successful selling. A school may have a culture that emphasises caring for pupils. Cultures can be constructive and can support the aims of the organisation, or can be destructive and can damage the people within them.

When you look at an employer, it is worth understanding the company culture and how your personality fits with it - you are much more likely to succeed (and be rewarded) in companies where your behavior is natural and appreciated than in one where you constantly struggle with yourself or with 'the system".

Look for signs of the culture when you meet people. Pay attention to the way that recruiters behave during the interview and look at how they interact with their colleagues. Listen to the words they use, the questions they ask and the emphasis they put on different characteristics.

Naturally, you need to get on well with your colleagues and your boss. Good relationships make life much more pleasant and help people to work together successfully. You will usually meet your boss during the interview process. In addition to this and at an appropriate stage of the process, ask if you could meet some of the people who would be your colleagues - find out if you like them, if you have interests in common and if you feel you can work happily and well in a team with them. Try to get a feel for how happy and energetic people around the company seem to be. Ask yourself whether you would enjoy working there.

Your Personal Needs

For a job to be good and satisfying, it needs to satisfy your personal needs. It should also lead you towards achieving your aspirations and personal goals.

As well as this, look at the job using 'Maslow's Hierarchy". This is a popular framework that can be used to look at whether work is meeting people's psychological needs. Maslow argued that in seeking satisfaction, people move through the needs below in sequence, satisfying each need before they move on to the next:

  • Physiological Needs: these relate to survival and physical comfort - in the context of your job, will you be paid enough to live reasonably comfortably? Will your working conditions be adequate?
  • Security Needs: Will you have reasonable job security? Will the job be reasonably fairly structured? Will you get consistent reward for hard work?
  • Social Needs: Will you like the people you work with? Will you feel part of a good team?
  • Esteem Needs: Will you feel valued by your organisation and by your colleagues?
  • Self-Actualisation: Will you have a reasonable degree of autonomy in what you do? Will you enjoy what you do? Will it help you to develop as a person?

While this model is obviously not perfect, it is a good practical framework for assessing how happy or otherwise you might be in a role. In time, a good employer should give you the opportunity to satisfy all of these needs if you work hard and well.


Poor employers may offer 'dead end' jobs - when you are at an early stage in your career, these can be very damaging - with dead end jobs you make little personal progress at a time when other professionals are building their skills, knowledge and experience.

Good employers will be able to offer you good opportunities for career development.

Good organisations will offer good training programs, will build people's experience by rotating them between functions and may offer training and sponsorship on educational programs.

It is an obvious point to make, but successful companies are also much more fun to work for than less successful ones. In the former, the overall mood tends to be optimistic and fun - companies that are growing offer more opportunity than static or declining ones. Life in a declining company can be insecure, stressful, grim and joyless.

Larger companies tend to breed specialists in particular areas. At the other extreme are small start-ups. If these are good enough to grow fast, then they will have a strong need for good people at all levels - start-ups can help you to develop a wide range of skills and for get early career advancement. A warning, though: it can often be much more difficult to move from a start-up to a major corporation than it is to move the other way. Similarly, be aware that often it can be much more difficult to move from a consultancy role into a line management role than the other way around.

Pulling this together, make sure that you research future employers properly before you accept a job offer. Ignore the hype you may have heard during the recruitment process, and look at the following:

  • Company Accounts: The company's accounts are constructed to give a true and fair view of the company's performance to people in the outside community. Get hold of a copy showing two or three years performance and compare them with the accounts of the company's competitors - this will show how the company is performing in its industry. Accounts are often available from company web sites under the heading 'Investor Information". If you do not know how to analyse them, then find someone who you respect who can and ask their advice.
  • Products: How do the company's products and services compare with those of the competition? Do they seem to give good value to customers? Where you can, use your initiative to research this - for example, do national consumer's associations publish surveys that compare the company's products against the competition? Are competitors reporting gains in market share? Can you make your own comparison of products?
  • Press Comments: If you search newspaper or industry publication web sites, can you find any independent articles on the company?
  • Human Resource Policies and Opportunities: Make sure that you understand the company's approach to training and staff development, and that you have a good idea of the opportunities that are open to you if you work hard and do well. You should also check that the role you are taking on has a clear and credible career path taking you to where you want to go.

In Conclusion...
It is up to you to put in the hard work needed to generate enough good opportunities for you to choose the best employers. Do your research and form your own opinion of the company. At interview, ask all the questions necessary for you to decide that the employer is right for you.