Some tech professionals are consummate trailblazers, energized in a fast-paced “disruptive” environment, while others prefer a more moderate pace, with incremental change, stability and structure. Some like “open offices” that encourage collaboration, while some would really, really, really like a door and four walls that define their own space.
It can take some time (and more than a few jobs) for many tech pros to find their ideal comfort zone. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s time to take a step back and really think about all the factors involved. Here are three ways to save some time, and find a work environment that brings out the best in you.
Take an Inside-Out Approach
Start with a self-analysis. Which work environments motivate you, versus those that merely sap your energy?
Here’s a hint: Satisfaction rarely results from pay, perks or job titles. People tend to thrive when they enjoy a company’s culture, leadership and working style, suggested Joyce Gioia, president and CEO of The Herman Group, a workforce-consulting firm based in Greensboro, N.C. When you feel comfortable in an environment, pay and promotions tend to follow.
For instance, if you like independence and remote work, reporting to a helicopter boss in a highly structured environment will probably drive you crazy. That’s in contrast to those people who prefer a hands-on manager and constantly spending time around co-workers. (By the way, new data suggests that remote workers actually earn higher salaries than those stuck in an office five days a week, so consider that additional incentive if you really feel that you do your best work from your couch.)
“Our surveys show that meaningful work, where you contribute to an organization’s bottom line, and being challenged, are important intangibles,” Gioia said. “The other thing that’s important especially for IT professionals is teamwork, a sense that everyone is working together toward a common goal.”
Think about your ideal vacation, suggested Alan Carniol, founder of Interview Success Formula, an interview coaching firm based in Reston, Va. “Do you like a strict itinerary, or do you prefer to be dropped off somewhere and take things as they come?” he asked. “Looking at what you prefer in non-work settings can help you identify what you like in a work environment.”
Identify Your Strengths
Most people are happiest in a role and environment that leverages their strengths, explained J.P. Nicols, president and CEO of Innosect, a Silicon Valley based innovation advisory firm. It’s not about tech skills; it’s about finding your inner strengths and natural talents that lead to career success. To figure out what you do best, Nicols recommends an assessment called StrengthsFinder 2.0.
“The assessment identifies your greatest strengths which correlate to what you enjoy doing,” he said. “It’s not that you should ignore your weaknesses. You should work on them, but only to the point of preventing failure. You don’t need to be an expert at everything.”
The bottom line: Don’t chose an environment where you have to rely on your weaknesses, because it will make you miserable and increase your chances of failure. As long as the position and work style leverage your strengths, an opportunity is worth considering.
Conduct ‘Intercept’ Interviews
An “outside-in” approach is another way to discern your ideal environment. Speaking with outsiders, including current and former employees, is a great way to see if your strengths align with a company’s culture and work-style.
If you don’t have an opportunity to meet your potential peers during the interview process, connect online and invite them to coffee. Informal surveys are a great way to take the pulse of a company’s ecosystem. Do the employees seem energized or burned out? Do they have similar views? Could you see yourself working with them?
“Look for like-mindedness when you speak with them,” Gioia said. “Find out what they like best and least and what frustrates them. If you connect with the people, and they like working there, chances are you will too.”