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Be a Good Consumer



7/11/2007 5:48:20 PM

By Peter Weddle -- One of the most important aspects of a successful job search is good consumer behavior. You have to shop smart for an employer. Now, I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort. Why? Because research shows that the number one reason a person doesn’t work out when he or she joins a new organization is not that they can’t do the work. It’s that they don’t fit in. Their personality and values do not align with the culture and values of the employer. If that happens to you, you can’t do your best work, and when you don’t do your best work, your job security is at risk.

So, how do you shop smart for an employer? Simple. You take exactly the same steps you use when shopping for a product or service, but you take them in a different way. For example, when you’re looking to purchase a new car, you:

  • research the range of makes and models that are within your budget;
  • winnow this universe of possibilities down to a smaller number of alternatives that you can investigate in depth;
  • collect information about each of those alternatives from their manufacturer and other sources;
  • compare the alternatives one to another using the information you’ve collected;
  • select an even smaller set of finalists that best seem to meet your needs;
  • test drive the finalists to confirm their manufacturers’ claims by evaluating the reality of the driving experience each provides;
  • determine the single best car for you given your financial situation, driving needs and personal preferences.

    When you shop for an employer, you take the same steps, but perform them differently. The changes you must make are relatively straightforward. To determine which employer is best for you, you must:

  • research the range of organizations that offer employment opportunities in your field;
  • winnow this universe of possibilities down to a smaller number of alternatives that you can investigate in depth;
  • collect information on each about those alternatives from the employer and other sources;
  • compare the alternatives one to another using the information you’ve collected;
  • select an even smaller set of finalists that best seem to meet your needs;
  • test drive the finalists to confirm the employers’ claims by evaluating the reality of the workday experience each provides;
  • determine the single best job for you given your financial situation, career objectives and personal preferences.

    Given their familiarity from car, TV and cell phone shopping, I suspect that all of these tasks seem reasonable. There is, however, a problem. One of the steps cannot be accomplished as described. As you may have noticed, test driving an employer is simply not a feasible course of action. Except in rare situations, such as internships and temp-to-perm staffing assignments, employers do not permit prospective hires to sample their workday experience. Yet, confirming a vendor’s claims—whether the vendor is selling tires or offering you a job—is a critical component of good consumerism.

    What should you do? I suggest you adopt a surrogate. Use the employer’s recruiting process to evaluate its employment culture and values. The way it treats candidates is almost always an accurate gauge of the way it treats employees, so you can use your experience as an applicant to assess the way it will treat you once you are hired.

    From the moment you are first contacted through your various interactions with recruiters and other employees to the final outcome (positive or otherwise), look at the organization’s:

  • operating standards (e.g., its commitment to open and complete communications, its willingness to listen to individuals and answer their questions);
  • norms of behavior (e.g., the level of respect it shows for workers, the courtesy it expects from individuals during their interactions with others);
  • institutional values (e.g., its recognition of the role and value of individual contributions, its commitment to and support for quality work); and
  • caliber of leadership (e.g., the vision with which the organization is guided, the resources that are provided to enhance the candidate’s experience).

    While most of us are familiar with a structured decision-making process and use it effectively to make important product or service decisions, far fewer of us do so when making critical career decisions. And unfortunately, bad career decisions have lasting consequences. Accepting a job with the wrong employer not only causes you to under-perform and thus risk termination, but it short circuits your search for the right job—a dream position with the best employer for you. In effect, you set yourself up for short term failure and deny yourself the prospect of long term success.

    So, remember your basic rule of consumerism: Caveat Emptor. Buyer beware. The next time you look for a new or better job, shop smart. Select the employer that will enable you to do your best work.


  • Read at BioSpace.com


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