Saturday, 18 January 2014

How to find a company and job you love !

Whilst for many, particularly in the early career stage, finding a job with a salary that reliably pays out each month whilst being asked to carry out reasonably interesting tasks some of the time, is probably a decent and realistic expectation.  A newbie usually recognises that their limited knowledge and experience means "paying your dues" by shouldering routine tasks whilst assimilating tacit and codified information and developing a social network that begins to establish your organisational credibility.  It took me far to long to appreciate the importance of informal networking.  Eileen, who is in search placements for senior roles, said the best piece of advice she had ever been given was simply "Be brilliant, they will find you."  Whatever the tasks in front of you, you need to perform your best, make friends and be noticed.

Source: Eileen Lee, Nichols Executive Search

Many students are a bit surprised when they hear that after sixteen years, having started as a graduate trainee and benefitting from a company funded executive MBA,  I decided to leave British Airways.  I loved the company, and still do.  I felt profound pride being associated with the organisation.  My mum and dad did too.  Essentially having been given creative and financial autonomy during my time working in Germany and Russia, a London based head office career just was not for me.  But a working wife and child care responsibilities meant that overseas roles were no longer a sensible option for our family.  Thus, reluctantly it was time to move on.

The challenge was finding a new role and organisation that I really wanted to work for.  My passion had always been training and development, my mother had talked me out of being a school teaching after I finished university, so I had followed the travel route, which was lots of fun.  The challenge around leaving a great company like BA is that the grass isn't greener.  And in fact, in leaving, I realised just how good the company's processes and people are.  Good and best practice had been imbibed into my being, and fortunately I found I was probably able to use these skills in a wide range of new avenues.

Eventually I spotted a university teaching role that drew on my aviation background and MBA education, but did not need the PhD and research publications I lacked.  The building, an old school, needed demolishing.  It was, shortly after I left, although not related to my departure. 

The staff were passionate and worked hard.  The students were fantastic and it was very stimulating to develop creative ways of communicating a blend of industry insight with academic business school theory, whilst learning the craft of teaching.  The ranking and reputation of the institution was the polar opposite of BA.  I ended up leaving after four years into unemployment because the Theory X leadership style suffered from the excessive influence of the omnipotent, micro-controlling and short term oriented Big Boss.  Rather than encouraging and nurturing a respectful, empowered and fun working environment, it all felt a bit hostile with a small cadre of 'in' and a wider group of 'out' people.  My direct line managers were fabulous, but rather constrained themselves.  

Luckily, after four weeks, I found myself hired into a temporary role at the School of Management at Royal Holloway.  

"Pinch me ! I had died and gone to heaven."  

Royal Holloway University Chapel

Not only is the campus stunning (I had to pinch myself for 18 months each morning "I work in this beautiful place") but the working culture is fabulous.  I have autonomy, mostly fun work that I can influence, have some super colleagues and I am empowered and trusted to get on and do a good job.  No sniping comments about not being at my desk, or being expected to drop everything to achieve stupidly short term goals.  Eventually I realised it was a function very much of the culture, as both exist as UK universities and influenced by the system of peculiar constraints this brings.  

I saw a post about the HubSpot culture code on LinkedIn.  Clever viral WoM PR using an open approach to their leadership approach from an entrepreneurial organisation. Clever marketing.  I loved the summary list and wanted to share it with you all, having been the key inspiration for this post.  

Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing

Whether you like it or not, you're going to have a culture.  Why not make it one you love ?

Solve for the Customer - not just their happiness, but also their success

Power is now gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant"

You shouldn't penalise the many for the mistakes of the few

Results should matter more than when or where they are produced

Influence should be independent of hierarchy

Great people want direction on where they're going - not directions on how to get there

"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without"

A decent mantra to my mind.  Several ideas concentrating on what and how things should be done combined with a strong customer orientation, but also recognising that people are profoundly important.
Some of these I find metaphorically wonderful, they appear to be begging to be combined with a cracking image and made into a t-shirt.   

So, the advice I end up giving to students I now work with is to highlight that  the two way interview process as an opportunity to understand the employing organisation, to assess whether it would be fun to work there.  To get a sense of the degree of personality fit, the individual into the company, not just about the all powerful company deciding your fate.  

Can I grow ?  Will I be valued ?  And to choose a role not primarily on salary, but on the potential for happiness through meaningful and fulfilling work.  

PS:  there is nothing wrong in being a pebble !