The holidays have come to an end and it’s already time to get off the couch. You’ve sent a couple of CVs and someone has finally called you for an interview. Damn it, it’s tomorrow already and you can’t sleep thinking about everything that may eventually happen. Stop overthinking. Whether you are about to enter the job market for the first time or even if you are thinking about changing jobs, here’s a 15-idea round-up to do your mental checklist:
Editor’s Note: this article was originally published in [September, 2018] and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
1. Where do you come from? Where are you going?
Take another look at your starting point. What luggage are you carrying with you and what do you still need to gather to get where you want? Even if you don’t know your final goal yet, you certainly have some sort of direction established, even if it is “the opposite direction from where you were before”.
2. Manage your expectations
You must balance your expectations, check mindset, realign your chakras, and keep in mind that, if you’ve just finished college, chances are you won’t earn a millionaire wage right off the bat. Your dream job may not be the first step. It may be the third. Think of a dream job… that’s realistic right now.
3. Look for reviews and feedback
If your doubts have deeper roots, then there’s nothing like diving into the most reliable source of all: the good old Internet. Look for forums and online communities that discuss your questions openly. It may be a Facebook alumni group from your course, Reddit (here, at KWAN we are also available to address any questions!).
4. Research the company
Release your inner stalker and stick your nose into everything, before and after the interview. Okay, this may seem a bit obsessive, but it will help you understand the company that will eventually hire you. Some companies do not introduce themselves before the interview, something often seen in the IT area, but, since there are usually several stages, once you know the source of your proposal… just google’em! Do your search on Glassdor or Teamlyzer to access reviews from employees and former employees regarding the company environment, benefits, salaries, and so on. You can also do it on LinkedIn, you may know someone there that can answer your questions.
5. Be aware of any red flags:
Too good to be true? A job offer that is nothing short of a bed of roses may raise suspicions. Too many promises can give you false feelings of security or misleading prospectives. If they fail to answer your direct questions and this makes you uncomfortable, if they don’t listen to your preferences and want to stick you into that X project when you have a Y profile… If you sense something fishy, trust your instinct.
6. Plus signs:
How did you feel during the interview? Not everything is bad, your gut feeling also has a word! If you felt empathy and trust during the interviews, to the point where you felt at home or between good friends, then everything seems to be fine. Magic Eight-ball says “outlook good”.
7. Bring home the bacon
Duh, …and the dollars too, after all nobody feeds on code. Will you work to live or live to work? Is it an unpaid internship? Does the wage offset what you’ll miss by accepting this new challenge? Or can your emotional compensation and personal growth justify a few euros less? We all want the best of both worlds, but take into consideration whether the salary pays what you’re worth and if it actually allows you to have the life you want. A good life or a worthy life?
8. Who will teach you?
Learning is always important, ok? Managers and seniors will be your mentors in this new job. They must understand you, stand by your side and encourage you to assume a stance of continuous self-improvement, kaizen. Your talent, kindness and wisdom will give you immeasurable tools to achieve your dreams and more.
These will be the people from whom you will learn, but not all managers are awesome. Some always have their door open to answer your questions, others will throw you at the lions to see if you can survive on your own. If you want to identify a Great Manager during the interview, learn to recognize that person’s traits. You can also ask if they have training activities scheduled, or even if they support academic courses.
Strong management will steer you onto projects that stretch you and teach you, and catch you when you stumble. Poor managers come in a variety of flavors: micro managers, absentee managers, inconsistent managers, and the list goes on, but they share one characteristic, they deprive you of valuable learning. – Penny Herscher in ” 3 things to look for in your first job“
9. Who will your colleagues be?
This item is not just a nice-to-have. You’ll spend more time working with your colleagues than chilling with Netflix. These people will shape your daily experience at work. If you don’t expect a great sense of fellowship, then your days will probably be dismal. Come on, you don’t have to go for happy hour every day, but we all need to identify with our own tribe, to coexist in an environment of trust and empathy, which is positive and productive. The office environment is shaped by everyone that’s part of it, it’s related to the cultural fit.
10. Where are you going?
Is there any internal evolution-driven plan? Are the challenges and responsibilities increasing? Is there room for you as the company or project grows? This project may be a ladder to achieve different objectives. The growth opportunities are crucial, they ensure the continuity of your species. But it is something that also depends on you. Growth generates opportunities, if there are new tasks or projects that you can volunteer for, don’t miss the technology train. Be willing to accept challenges, solve any issues and increase your skill set. Keep in mind that stagnant or inert companies will hardly provide you with these opportunities. You must catch those waves at the right time.
11. Who are you going to become?
Your dream job may not be within your reach right yet, but there is no need for despair. See what you may eventually gain from a possible proposal. You may learn skills that you can use later. You can increase your experience in an area closer to the one you aim to achievee. All skills that you can gather during your path are yours to keep. Make it worth your while: it’s better to increase your market value while you aren’t where you want to be, yet.
12. … and will you have a life?
Life can’t be all work and no play. You’ll make yourself sick in a blink of an eye. Or at least your screen will make your stomach turn. You need a life outside work. If the schedule is too demanding, you’ll compromise your social habits, hobbies and your mental health.
13. Will you be challenged? Or… stagnant?
We all need to feel that our work is acknowledged and get some constructive criticism. But if the workload is superhuman, you’ll simply feel overwhelmed and crushed. If it’s too easy, then, of course, you won’t need to extenuate yourself, but you’ll feel as stimulated as if you went back to elementary school. The ambitious but not impossible challenge is the sweet spot.
14. A cultural shock? Or soul mates?
There are many kinds of companies, some are more laid back, others are more formal, and we all know where we fit. The company’s values and goals should be in line with yours, so that you can feel you’re working for a bigger and rewarding purpose.
15. Ask questions:
Talk to your family, friends, older colleagues or even your teachers about their experiences, whether they’re part of the technology market or not. Some advice and experiences are shared across many different areas. Ask questions like: “What do you regret in your first job experiences?” or “What would you like to have known before entering the job market?“
… and keep asking questions, particularly in interviews. You should ask open questions, relying on the classics: “What? How? When? Where? Who? Why?”. Make questions about the future, past and present of the company, and about the area or the position that you’re going to fill. Look for news about the company to know what questions to ask.
…go get ‘em, tiger!
EXTRA, EXTRA: We also recommend that you read this article to know how to part ways with your company on good terms.