Company culture: Yes, it’s a thing. Yes, it matters.

When I meet with students preparing for an upcoming interview (or preparing for a first day of work), I often mention “company or corporate culture.” Company culture can be hard to define – but you experience it, are impacted by, and contribute to it each day as an employee (or as an intern or co-op student). In short, it’s the way things happen at an organization – the vision, attitudes, values, and manner through which goals become accomplishments. Think of it as the company vibe.

So, how do you figure out what a company’s vibe is? Here are five questions to consider when evaluating corporate culture:

  1. Do people look happy? Hear me out: if you show up to an interview, and everyone looks miserable – that might not be a good sign. Interviews, especially 2nd or 3rd interviews, can often include a short office tour. Sometimes, we’re so nervous during interviews that we’re only focused on ourselves. During an office tour, be sure to look around. Do people look comfortable in their workspaces? Are they smiling? Do they look approachable? Would you feel comfortable joining this team in this space? Are you excited by what you see?
  2. What happens when someone makes a mistake? Mistakes happen – and mistakes can be really, really good. Now, there are some mistakes that are difficult to come back from. You know what I mean – those massive, huge, life-altering bad decisions. We’re not talking about those. We’re talking about small mistakes that come with learning, time, and effort. Are people terrified at work? Are mistakes never allowed? When employees are encouraged to step beyond their comfort zones, mistakes can happen. But – so do growth and development.
  3. How are decisions made? Titles aside – who has power? Who can make things happen? Is it a team effort? Are employees included in some decision-making? Of course, most offices are going to have management – and management must, at times, make unpopular or controversial decisions. But, how are people treated when those decisions are made?
  4. What benefits are offered to employees? Does the company value their employees? Do they celebrate successes? Do the benefits available to you match your values? For example, is a flexible work schedule important to you and your family’s needs? Or, would you prefer to work long hours, then have vacation time to recharge? This is different for each person – allow yourself sufficient time to process a benefits package to see if it matches your goals and needs.
  5. Is feedback a thing? How often are employees evaluated? What does the evaluation form look like? How often will you be meeting with a supervisor? If you find that you aren’t able to meet regularly, or feedback is not part of the conversation, consider reaching out to a mentor. Hearing constructive and appropriate feedback can help you in growing as an individual – and feel as though others have your back and are noticing the work you’re engaged in.

So yes, company/corporate culture is a thing – I promise. And, it really does matter. It can be the difference between being comfortable, supported, and energized at work – and learning that an organization may not be the best fit for you. Have questions? Want to chat about this more? Contact the Center for Career Development to chat all things company culture with a Career Consultant!


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By Ana Clara Blesso
Ana Clara Blesso Associate Director, Career Coaching & Experiential Learning Ana Clara Blesso