Choosing the Right Place to Work for You

Choosing the Right Place to Work for You

Choosing the Right Place to Work for You - Bob and Nick Slater - Look Out Above! - Young Professional Career

“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” Stephen Covey

You need a place to work that offers more than just a job. Armed with guidance from Look Out Above! you will work hard, and smart, and be productive. You will be a contributor who adds value in excess of your cost, and your manager will view you as integral part of her team. Now, what will you get in return?

Here’s suggesting that you always be mindful of whether you have leaned your ladder up against the right wall. Are you choosing the right place to work for you? A company can reward you financially only if it has both the desire and ability to do so. Fine people have given everything they had to companies that through no fault of their own imploded (see e.g. Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, HealthSouth) or who are in the process of imploding (see e.g. The Washington Redskins, now being renamed). Since leaders, consumer preferences, and economics conditions change, this question is always on the table. What is true today might not be true tomorrow.

Bob Slater CaricatureSome law firms, for example, are highly profitable. Others are not. The objective of associates is to “make partner,” which requires doing outstanding work for a prescribed number of years (ranges by market but usually somewhere between 7 and 13 years). Absent insight into the finances of the firm, which partners are reluctant to share, one may toil for years only to achieve “the crock at the end of the rainbow,” to wit, disappointing compensation after all that time and effort. Spouses who haven’t seen a whole lot of their mate for the last 7-13 years are equally displeased with the outcome!

What, then, are you looking for to give you comfort that you have chosen your employer wisely? We’re assuming for this discussion that you know the type of work you want to do, and that the issue is which employer to do it with. We suggest you look for three things: Capable leadership (really smart people at the top), a compelling business model (ample profits and margins) and a supportive culture (where your contribution will be recognized).

So how do you know? Start by observing what is done versus what is said:

  • “The company is doing great,” but information on performance – and just about everything else – is closely guarded
  • “Our growth provides opportunity for advancement,” but the hours demanded are suffocating, pay is low, and turnover is high
  • “Employees are our most valuable asset” but the company picnic was just cancelled for the third consecutive year and coffee is now free for closers only
  • “We insist on integrity is all matters,” but cutting corners is condoned or even expected
  • “Our company is committed to a diverse workforce,” but company decision-makers are white and, more often than not, male
  • Loyalty from employees is demanded, but not reciprocated or rewarded
  • The walls are plastered with inspirational chestnuts from the motivational speaker du jour, but the culture is cutthroat versus collaborative

Observing is more challenging during this pandemic, when people are not coming to the office and casual interaction with top leadership is not happening as much, or at all.

But your challenge to glean the truth remains the same. So if observation alone doesn’t tell you all you need to know, ask somebody. Better to know the reality than grind on in ignorance. Climb a ladder that aligns your fortunes with a team worthy of your time and talent!


Look Out Above! The Young Professional’s Guide to Success has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, HR Digest, CBS News, and more. It is available for purchase on Amazon, or by contacting the authors directly for discounted bulk orders.

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