You probably get asked, “what do you want to do as a career?” all the time. But have you thought much about the “where”?
Your job environment—where you work, the type of people you’re surrounded by, the hours in which you’ll be doing your job, and the overall vibe of an employer—is pretty vital to your happiness!
For example, if you’re a super outgoing person, you’d be pretty unhappy working in a cubicle as a data analyst. On the other hand, if the idea of approaching new people and talking most of the day gives you hives, then you’ll be miserable working as a sales associate.
Once you’ve started the self-reflection work that’s so important in making career decisions—like identifying your natural talents and aligning those with your interests—then it’s time to factor in your job environment. The wrong one can prevent true work satisfaction, while the right one can bring a lot more energy and passion to your work.
Here are 4 important job environment factors to look at:
You’ve probably heard about the “9-to-5 workday,” but that’s become old-school, as technology has given us access to work-related activities nearly anytime from nearly anywhere. The U.S. Department of Labor allows employers to determine what’s considered full-time work, but it’s typically between 30-40 hours a week. Depending upon how demanding your job and your employer is, you may have to work more or less than that each week—physicians, attorneys, and clergy, for example, routinely put in very long work weeks.
Another key variable is how your work hours are allocated across a week—this will depend on your type of job and on the company you work for. If you’re a doctor, you may be delivering babies at 3 a.m. or treating emergencies at midnight. Cybersecurity specialists work in shifts to cover their clients 24-hours a day, so you might have the flexibility to sleep in and work later in the day into the night. Coaches, police officers, and chefs work non-traditional hours and weekends. What’s important to you in terms of a schedule? And how might other factors like your social life and desire to have a family come into play?
When you’re considering a career, don’t forget about where you’ll be actually doing your work. In a private office? A cubicle? A wide-open office space? Remotely from the comfort of your home? Behind a front desk, on your feet, or out and about in other people’s offices?
For example, if you’re a researcher for a biotechnology company or a scientist working for the Environmental Protection Agency, you’ll find yourself in a more investigative environment where you’ll be solving problems and encouraged to think innovatively. Your work will likely involve building research, writing papers, and collaborating with other researchers in a laboratory setting or similar environment.
Maybe you prefer a more realistic environment to do your job, one that involves getting hands on and working outdoors… or creating, building, or fixing things. Architects, construction developers, and engineers often work on-site and on-call. Coaches and trainers are on athletic fields and locker rooms. Interior designers work in their studios and visit the residential and commercial buildings they are working to renovate.
The people you’ll be working for and with matter. Much of this will be determined when you interview for a job—that’s when you’ll get a real feel for the workplace culture… but think about the type of people you want to surround yourself with before deciding on a career. If you’re someone who requires downtime to re-energize during your workday, then careers in teaching or nursing—which require lots of social interaction, energy, and compassion—won’t be a good fit. But, if you thrive on competition and challenges, your ideal work environment may be in a sales organization, where you’ll find a more fast-paced atmosphere.
Also, look at the “people” question from the perspective of company size. If your goal is to work in graphic design, do you want to work primarily with other designers? If so, you’ll want to aim for a very large company that employs a team of in-house designers. Or would you rather be exposed to a diverse team with people in different roles? In that case, working for a small agency might be right up your alley.
What kind of “vibe” do you want to feel when you head to work each day? Lots of people prefer a middle-of-the road type of culture—one that is predictable, organized, and includes routine, tradition, and procedures. Every company has its own work vibe that you’ll need to research, but jobs with a more traditional work environment include lawyers, accountants, public relations executives, information technology managers, and human resources specialists.
Does all that corporate stuff sound like your worst nightmare? Then you might look for a more unconventional and self-directed workplace. If your dream is to work in fashion design, for example, you won’t be working in a stodgy office. You’ll be collaborating with publicists to market your creations, organizing runway shows, fitting models, and more. And many jobs in more traditional fields like marketing, sales, and technology are available in companies that are known for their fun and edgy culture (think Google, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Facebook, REI).
Things like office attire and perks also play into work culture. Some employers are cool with employees in flip flops and t-shirts, while others want you in suits and heels every day. Some may insist you be in the office every day, while others won’t care how often you show up, as long as you get the job done. Are certain office perks important to you… like having free snacks and ping-pong tables? Childcare on site and access to a company gym? Massage breaks and yoga sessions?
You spend a WHOLE lot of time at work, so the type of environment you’re in is a big deal. Whatever you decide to pursue as a career, make sure where you work aligns well with your personality and values!
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