What Kind of Company?
Knowing a company goes beyond being able to recite their
product lines and their CEO's resume. What you really want
to know is what it's like to work there. "Corporate culture"
refers to the general environment of an organization, and
every company has one.
Take two extremes: think of the culture of the infamous Apple
Computer in its heyday. People showed up for work in t-shirts,
jeans, and barefoot. There were "beer busts" every
Friday afternoon. Workers were so intent on making deadlines
that they stayed at work for hours on end, sleeping under
their desks if at all. There was an innovative, iconoclast
atmosphere, that permeated everything from the company's décor
to the management philosophy.
Contrast those images with what comes to mind when you think
of the IRS. You probably picture accountant-types in blue
suits and white shirts, an atmosphere where accuracy is the
first priority and innovative thinking is secondary. "Structure"
is the key word, and everyone knows exactly where he or she
fits in the hierarchy.
Most companies fall between these two extremes, and there
are many other factors to consider
beyond corporate structure and dress codes. As in most career
choices, there are no right and wrong answers. The only goal
is finding the best match between your personality and desires
and what prospective employers have to offer.
The best way to determine what a company's culture is like
is to ask the people who work there. If you don't know anyone
whose brain you can pick, either network
to find someone, or take careful mental notes when you come
in for an interview. Observation is a keen tool.