What Can (Should?) Your Employer Do for You?

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I’ve been there; you’ve been there. You’re eager (bordering on desperate?) to land a new job. Maybe you’re unemployed, or maybe you just really want to get out of your current role. Regardless of the reason, you’re laser-focused on what you need to do to land your next gig. You find yourself thinking of every little thing that you can do to make sure they know that you’re exactly what they’re asking for. You know what they need, and you know you can give it to them. You are the solution for this company’s problem. And that’s all that matters to you in that moment.

It’s at this exact moment, when you’re thinking most about what THEY need, that you should take the time to be a little selfish and ask yourself what YOU need and want in a new role and a new employer. And once you’ve figured out what you need, make sure that this is an opportunity that can give it to you.

Of course there are the basics, which we all look for and ask about during the interview process: salary, health insurance, vacation time. But there’s more, and the best companies are already leading the way on employee-friendly benefits, perks and culture. They know that the best employees are the happiest employees; that respecting their people and treating them like adults has a positive impact on their bottom line. They understand that one employee who WANTS to be there and is inspired to do his/her best work is worth 3 employees who are only there to collect a paycheck until something better comes along.

So what are these things you should be looking for? Here are a few:

  • Vacation Philosophy: You know how many days off you get; but do you know how your prospective employer and boss feel about people actually taking those days? Is it expected that you’ll still be connected and productive in your time off? Is it really OK to go off the grid? What if you wanted to take a vacation longer than a week at a time? Is that frowned upon or are they OK with it?
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Is the occasional work-from-home day something that they’d be open to down the road? Is this a clock-watching culture or is it more about just doing great work – no matter when or where you do it? Does working more hours get you bonus points with the boss, or is working smarter more valuable than working more?
  • Employee Wellness: Outside of insurance, what else is the company doing to ensure the overall health and wellbeing of its people? Are healthy food and drinks offered? Is there other wellness programming available like gym reimbursements, smoking cessation programs, group wellness/fitness activities? Some employers even offer healthy office spaces (there’s a certification for that!) with good lighting, climate-controlled fresh air, clean/filtered drinking water, non-hazardous materials, etc. How much does your prospective new employer care about your health?
  • Professional Development: Is there any kind of formalized training program, or do they support you pursuing training and development outside of the company? What about fee reimbursement if you want to take a workshop or a class to improve your skills?
  • What’s the social vibe? The “culture” question has become standard fodder for candidates to ask – usually in response to the interviewer saying “So, do you have any questions for me?” – but it’s something you should know, and care about. Is this a team/company that all hangs out together after work and on weekends? Do they have families, or are they swinging single and sowing their wild oats? What’s the social feel, and is it right for you? There’s no “right” vibe or culture, but there is a right one for you. If you need to get home to your kids right after work, you don’t want to feel like the odd person out if literally everyone else is hitting the bars together after work. The opposite is also true. If you’re new to town and/or looking for your work colleagues to become your social circle, you don’t want to find yourself somewhere that’s full of folks who aren’t into hanging out.

There are countless other things you can, and should, be looking out for. You need to figure out what’s important to you, and to make sure you focus on those areas when you’re digging into your potential next career move. Keep in mind that you’re unlikely to get perfect answers to everything – most companies are moving in the right direction but still may not have everything you want. So take the information you have, and make the best decision for you. What’s important is to remember that you do have a say in whether this is the right fit. It’s not a one-sided decision that a company gets to make on its own.

A little disclaimer here, that there will undoubtedly be times for some of us where we just have to take what’s there and we don’t have the option of being picky. Financial and other responsibilities sometimes mean that we sometimes have to be happy for any opportunity and to jump on it. But even in that situation, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask. Even if you know you’re going to take the job if it’s offered, wouldn’t you rather know ahead of time what you’re getting into and what kinds of offerings you can expect? It can’t hurt to ask – you might be pleasantly surprised by the answer!

Feel free to comment, and share what kinds of perks or needs are important for you. What can (or does) your employer offer you that stands out? I’d love to know.

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