job satisfaction

Where I've Been for the Last 4 Months

Oh, it’s good to be back!

For those of you who follow the blog regularly, you may have noticed some changes in historical content, as well as some major radio silence since my last post in October 2017. This is certainly an unusual lapse in content for me, and I’m thrilled to be able to resume my regular posting as of today.

Let’s rewind a bit for context.

Back in early November, I was doing life-as-usual when I got a phone call from one of my previous employers. Collaborative Strategies, Inc. (CSI) is a St. Louis-based consulting firm with an executive search practice; I supported them back in 2016 as a member of the Search Team prior to starting my career coaching business. My colleague Sarah called to request my services and support as the Search Team underwent a staffing transition.

My response was a resounding yes!

The engagement with CSI began as a temporary, interim gig to bridge a staffing transition. As we worked together, there was a mutual feeling of fit. I wasn’t the right person to fill the permanent open seat, because I love my career coaching business and am eager to continue serving my clients in that capacity. Even so, we explored what it might look like for me to continue my partnership with CSI in a different capacity, and I’m pretty stoked about the results.

New Role with CSI

As of February 2019, I serve CSI’s Search Team in a limited part-time/remote role. My primary responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing applications and making preliminary decisions

  • Sourcing qualified candidates and pitching relevant opportunities

  • Conducting preliminary phone interviews

  • Executing reference checks

All of my responsibilities are candidate-facing, meaning that I primarily work with candidates in consideration for a given search, rather than working with the client organization that is hiring the new position.

So what does this mean for my clients?

Added Client Value

My capacity for serving my clients hasn’t changed. I only accept work from CSI as my workload allows, and I continue to prioritize my clients in all of the work that I do.

On top of continued priority and access, my clients will see added benefit from my new relationship with CSI. A few perks include:

  • Increased, up-to-date knowledge of industry sourcing practices

  • Daily application review and deepened understanding of what employers are looking for

  • Inside information about St. Louis-based work opportunities

While my partnership with CSI will NOT give my clients any sort of leg up in the interview process, my role will provide valuable information and resources that will allow me to better serve clients as a career coach. I’m thrilled to amp up the quality and value of my services as a result of this new partnership!

Blog Content Changes

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you may have noticed that some prior blog posts have fallen off of the archives. Don’t worry — the content isn’t gone forever! Posts have just been shuffled around a bit.

In an effort to better serve my clients and tailor my writing to the correct audiences, I’ve separated professional/career coaching content and personal content. You can continue to find helpful blog posts about job transition and career development right here!

For those of you looking to follow my personal blog that covers a variety of topics, I hope you’ll pop over to Calling All Courageous and sign up for updates via Wordpress. I appreciate your continued interest in that content, and your comments are always a tremendous blessing as I continue to share my random thoughts with the world.

————

So that’s the scoop! I’m so thrilled to report that the radio silence is over, and that my partnership with CSI begins a new stage in my business efforts. Thanks for sticking with me over the last few months, and as always, don’t hesitate to contact me or drop a note in the comments section below. It’s always good to hear from you!

Introducing: New 'Career Exploration' Service!

After months of deliberation, lots of prayer, and no shortage of beta-testing, I’m thrilled to announce the official launch of a new Career Exploration service!

This service is one that I’ve been wanting to launch for months, but was honestly hesitant to shout about openly. Sure, I’ve been providing informal career exploration services for years, but the fact remains that I do not have a degree in career counseling. Some people really get hung up on the letters after your name, don’t they?

After a lot of thought, however, I realized something. I don’t have a specialized degree, true. But what I do bring to the table is a profound interest in professional identity, a passion for individuals who feel lost in their careers, a background that allows me to serve across various professional industries, and the tools to support job seekers with excellence. So no, I’m not a licensed career counselor. But I feel called and equipped to serve others as they work to unearth their professional identities, and I believe I am uniquely gifted to facilitate that process.

So let’s dive right in!

Who is this service for?

Career Exploration might be for you if these statements resonate with you:

  • “I don’t like what I do, but I don’t know what to do instead.”

  • “I feel stuck in my career.”

  • “I don’t see an opportunity to move up from this position.”

  • “My boss asked me about my dream job, and I have no idea how to answer.”

  • “I have no idea what I want to do, but I’m ready to figure it out.

Defining your professional identity and specific career objectives can lead to increased motivation in your current role, as well as momentum for the steps to get you where you want to be. Anyone looking for direction in their career—entry-level, C-suite officer, and everything in between—might benefit from the Career Exploration process.

What does the process look like?

If you’re wincing at the prospect of time-consuming assessments and binders full of charts, fear not! While I will be the first to admit that assessments are useful tools in career exploration, I prefer an approach that leans toward conversational, targeted self-reflection. After all, the goal is to define the professional you and your unique career objectives—not to fit you into a convenient, binder-friendly category.

Every interaction will begin with a conversation to determine your context and goals for the process. From there, the process is completely customizable according to your preferences.

Here’s what an example process could look like following the initial consultation:

  • You reflect and pick the Top 5-10 highlights from your professional history

  • We discuss those highlights, and I ask a bunch of questions

  • You select 4-6 professional and personal individuals that you trust

  • I prepare a survey that you share with those individuals in order to solicit feedback about you as a person and as a professional

  • I share a report with you with feedback from the survey as well as insights from our conversation about your professional history

  • I facilitate conversations that allow us to explore the components of your professional future, like job environment, responsibilities, knowledge areas, etc.

  • We wrap up by exploring career opportunities that capture all of your “must-haves”

Because of the conversational nature of the process, I prefer to meet clients face-to-face. “Unsupervised homework” like targeted self-reflection allows me to facilitate a rich conversation while also reducing costs on your end.

Speaking of investment…

How much will this cost?

If you do a little Googling, you’ll find that career coaching services can run anywhere from $200 to $500 per session. Personally, I find this to be an exorbitant fee! Because I own my own business, work from home, and have minimal overhead expenses, I can keep my rates much lower than a traditional agency or career center.

My pricing strategy for Career Exploration is the same as pricing for my other services: I charge by the hour, and I only charge for time spent on your behalf. I keep my rates crazy-low (seriously, ask my clients!) to ensure that services are accessible for everyone. Yes, everyone, including anyone who is transitioning out of unemployment.

If you’re concerned about fitting this service into your budget, let me know and we will absolutely find a solution that works for you.

——————————

In the beta-testing of this service, I learned that it is one of the most fulfilling and impactful services that I could possibly offer. The opportunity to walk with my clients through a period of professional uncertainty is a true honor. It is a joy to explore with you, to dig into your professional life and see what we find. I delight in the moments when the lightbulbs switch on, when you uncover new possibilities and develop a deeper understanding of yourself as a professional.

If you or someone you know might benefit from a Career Exploration process, contact me today to get started. I’m excited to hear from you!

15 Interview Questions to Gauge Company Culture

During a job transition, it's tempting to focus on a one-sided approach. This is especially true in the interview setting: how do I get out of my current job and into something else? How do I get this company to hire me? 

While it's good and right to consider your professional brand, your interview skills, and your ability to ultimately land a new gig, it's just as important to look at the interview process as a two-way street. In addition to being the right person for the job, you need to verify that the employer is the right company for you. Fit is a two-way street!

I've served as a sounding board for countless friends, clients, and loved ones who felt blindsided and disappointed by unexpected, awful company cultures. Their comments generally sound something like this:

"It sounded so much better in the interview process!"
"This is so, so much worse than I expected it to be."
"The company doesn't treat people like people."
"There's no flexibility or opportunity to have a life outside of work."
"Everybody is exhausted and fed up with management."
"There are no opportunities to move up!"

Sound familiar? While the culture in the average American workplace is a mixed bag, not all employers are bad employers. But how can you gauge company culture before signing on for a new job? How do you preemptively identify cultural red flags instead of being startled by a churn-and-burn culture, or ineffective leadership?

The responsibility is on you as the interviewee to answer the culture question. You have to play the investigative role, and do your homework to get a full and accurate picture of a potential employer's company culture. Nobody is going to spoon-feed you the bad news in the interview setting; to get an accurate picture of company culture in advance, you need to ask the right questions.

15 Interview Questions to Gauge Company Culture

Topic #1: Tenure and Turnover

1. Why did the previous person in this role leave? How long was that person here? 

2. What is the average tenure on the team? What about the organization's rate of turnover overall?

3. (To the direct manager): how long have you been with this company? 

These questions aim to unearth one of the biggest red flags for poor company culture: a high rate of turnover. You might not get ultra-specific data, like the actual rate of turnover for the entire company -- but you can still get an indicative response regardless of the metrics you receive.

Pay attention to how the question is answered. If the interviewer seems to be dressing up their response, talking around the problem, or justifying high turnover, something is wrong. If everyone on the team is new, and the previous round of employees didn't last long, there's probably a major issue with the company culture. Run the other way unless 1) you are in desperate need of a paycheck and 2) you are prepared to accept the consequences of a bad company culture.

Topic #2: Employee Engagement Efforts

4. What does the company offer to encourage and foster professional development?

5. How do managers provide feedback? Can I see an example evaluation form? What time of year are these performance reviews conducted?

6. Does the company have an organized Diversity and Inclusion effort? How does that department impact the culture of the organization in practical ways?

7. How does the company measure and celebrate success?

Good employers go out of their way to ensure their employees feel valued and engaged. Good employers are also smart employers -- they know that happy employees do better work! Use these interview questions to determine how the company invests in its employees. If there seems to be an absence of employee engagement initiatives, you might be walking into a company that treats employees more like bottom-line-driven robots. 

Topic #3: Leadership Styles

8. (To the direct manager): What is your leadership style? What about the second level manager, or the executives of the organization?

9. What impact do the middle and upper-management leaders have on the company's culture?

10. What is the biggest challenge this company faced in the last year or two? How was it addressed? 

11. What growth opportunities do you see for the organization as a whole? How about this specific team?

Leaders at various levels influence the culture of an organization, as well as the culture of independent teams and departments. Liking your direct supervisor in the interview isn't enough -- if your second-level manager and/or the company executives are ineffective, that void of leadership will trickle down and negatively impact your experience. Yes, those individuals might leave and be replaced some day. But if you see evidence of poor leadership at multiple points in the organization, that begs an important question: why are those people in leadership roles? 

Topic #4: Team Culture

12. Can I see the work space?

13. What do people on the team generally do for lunch? What about the organization as a whole?

14. What is the biggest problem that the team faced in the last year or two? How was it resolved, and what did you learn from that experience? If you could change anything about this team's culture, what would it be?

15. Are most people in the office during the same time frame every day? What work arrangements are currently represented on the team (remote, flexible schedules, etc.)?

The idea with this category of questions is to get a tangible, practical sense of the office culture. Check out the vibe in the work space. Do people seem engaged, or is there a thick cloud of dissatisfaction hanging over the entire room? Are people engaging with one another, or keeping their heads down to get out as quickly as possible?

This is also a great opportunity to determine how rigid the schedule expectations are, especially if you need flexible work arrangements in order to make the job work for you. Asking a general question about existing work arrangements is safer than demanding your own arrangements, especially in the early stages of the interview process. 

Beyond the Interview

While the interview is an excellent avenue for gauging company culture, it is not the only way to gather information. With a little bit of extra effort, you can uncover insider details about the company and avoid a nightmare employer in the process. 

Here are 3 ways to gauge culture outside of the interview process:

1. Ask your Network

Know somebody on the inside of the organization? Wonderful! Even if you don't, ask around your network. It's likely that someone you know has heard from employees on the inside, or can connect you with a current employee directly. (Hint: you should have already done this as a part of the application process!) 

Buy an existing employee a cup of coffee, and ask them for their honest opinion about the company culture. If the culture happens to be a negative one, you won't have to work hard to get them talking about those internal problems!

2. Read Company Reviews

Websites like Glassdoor offer user-submitted company reviews, including salary information, and anonymous pros and cons for the organization. Be sure to sort reviews by location for multi-site companies, and pay the closest attention to recent reviews from current employees, ideally in relevant roles or departments.

3. Check out Career Paths on LinkedIn

Yes, they might see you looking, but it's worth it to check out the LinkedIn profiles and professional histories for the people on your prospective team. This is another way to verify employee tenure, check turnover rates, and see if promotions or management-level hires are made internally or externally. Dig around, pay attention to trends, and see what you come up with. 

Summary: Red Flags to Note

If you're looking for a full-time job, you're going to spend an average of 1,811 hours per year on the job. That's a lot of time! Don't set yourself up for a miserable professional experience.

Instead, pay attention to these red flags for unhealthy, negative company culture:

  • Frequent turnover
  • Absence of employee engagement efforts
  • "Put your head down and work" vibe, anti-social culture
  • Expectations that don't suit your individual needs (ie: flexible work arrangements)

There's one other red flag that we haven't touched on yet, and it is one of the most tempting red flags to ignore: inaccurate titles paired with out-of-range pay. 

Sure, it's common--especially in younger companies--for organizations to get creative with job titles. But if you're offered a management title paired with lower-level job responsibilities and inexplicably high pay, the company might have a churn-and-burn culture. They're losing people so quickly that they have to offer new hires up-front incentive to convince them to sign on! This is not the sort of place you want to be. 

Do your research, and know the appropriate salary range going in so you 1) know what to expect and 2) are prepared to negotiate. 

-----------

Ready for more job transition resources? Study up on common interview mistakes, or visit the FAQ page for Job Seekers to explore a broader range of topics.