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The word corporate may summon thoughts of pantsuits and cubicles, but the notion of a corporate company has evolved over the years. In short, corporate simply refers to a corporation, and especially a large company. That company might have pantsuits — but it also might have jeans. It might have cubicles — but it also might have open-floor office plans.
Whatever the company culture, you should be well aware of what you're walking into before accepting a new corporate job. There are some things nobody tells you about corporate jobs, of course, and there are some questions you should ask regardless of the new job type you're considering.
When you've sent countless resumes to the deep abyss of the internet and flooded recruiters' inboxes, it's a rewarding feeling to receive your first offer. But just because a company tells you that you're their best fit for a position doesn't mean that the position is necessarily the best fit for you. Consider these questions before taking a corporate job.
No matter the position nor the company, you should always ask yourself what you want to gain from your career. Are you seeking a promotion for higher pay, more challenges, a better work-life balance, different benefits or more variation in your work? Think through this question carefully, and reevaluate time to time as your wants and needs may change. Consider the company for which you may start working, and confirm whether or not that company can or has the potential to eventually provide you what you want.
If you've gone from working as an interior designer working for yourself to working for a corporate company selling home products, your experience may be applicable (you know what people want and how to market it, perhaps) but your new work will look a lot different. Make sure you know what is expected from you in this new corporate career in terms of daily duties, who you'll report to, goals you'll be working to meet and more so you're not blindsided coming in.
If the position does not challenge or interest you, you might want to reconsider it — even if it's with a credible, large corporate company. You don't want to risk boredom or burnout. It's better not to build bridges than to burn them, especially with bigger companies with wide networks.
What does the office floorplan look like? Will you be working at a communal desk on an open floor or will you have your own space? Are you going to be traveling for business a lot or will you be in the office most days? Make sure that whatever your environment will be, you're used to it and can excel in it, or are at least prepared to give it a shot.
The reality is that you may not necessarily like with all of your prospective colleagues and bosses, but you do need to have working relationships with them regardless. The fact is that work runs a whole lot smoother when teams know how to collaborate together and when you can communicate effectively even with people of different opinions, ideas and plans. But if there's something that already doesn't sit well with you about one of the people with whom you'll be closely working, consider whether or not you can deal with that or if it'll hinder your productivity and, ultimately, success.
Before taking any new job, make sure you're comfortable with the salary. If you're not, be sure to negotiate because you don't get what you don't ask for.
Make sure that you understand all of the benefits being offered to you — your 401(k) plans, your health/vision/dental insurances, parental leave policies, paid time off offers and more. And remember that you may be able to negotiate some of your benefits, as well.
Are you going to have to commute far? Are the hours longer than you're used to? Will you have to work on the weekends or at night? If so, are you OK with any of that? A lot of corporate jobs require long hours and commute to headquarter offices, which are often located in bigger cities. Ask yourself what your work-life goals are and then make sure that your new position fits into those goals.
Think about your own skills and the skills that you'd like to hone. Then consider whether or not this corporate job will allow you to utilize those skills or if you'll instead be spread thin around the company.
Make sure you have at least a grasp of the company culture — read reviews online (you can check out Fairygodboss' crowdsourced database of women's reviews), talk to other women who work for the company already and read up on the company's mission and core values. Beyond that, look at the company's structure, find out who's in leadership positions, dig into who's been promoted and why. If the company has very little diversity in leadership, despite touting diversity on its website, that may be a red flag. Do your homework to make sure the company's perceived culture aligns with what it claims to be, and then decide if you're comfortable with it.
When you find out what the company's core values are during your research, decide if those values are also your own values.
While it may be easy to jump at a new job opportunity, make sure that if you're making a move to change positions, jobs or even careers that it's a smart move. While it's OK to make lateral moves, for example, make sure you can justify it (more flexibility, a shorter commute, a more aligned vision, a serious interest etc.). Make sure that the new job title reflects your experience, as well, so that you're moving closer to your career goals.
Find out what success looks like in the role in which you'll be working. Then find out what the next steps are beyond your position — is there a corporate ladder to climb? Will you have positions to move into and, if there aren't any obvious positions above you, is there the opportunity to create new positions? Make sure that there's a path or the opportunity to carve a path for your career, because you don't want to be stuck in the same role forever.
When you're looking into what success looks like in your new role, also find out how that success is measured within your company. Will you have to meet specific deadlines, grow sales by a specific number, acquire a certain amount of new clients, tap into a new demographic, increase web views or social media followings by a certain percentage? Whatever the measurements for your performance are, know them before you start working. You don't want to be in your first performance review with no concrete examples to prove how you're doing.
A wealth of studies show that a major key to success, especially for women, is having a mentor. Are there women in the company who could be potential mentors or advocates for you? Are there employee resource groups to which you can turn for support and advice? Make sure that you're aware of any tools that can help you grow — and if a company doesn't seem to have those tools, decide whether or not it'd be a wise move to work for them.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
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