Getting Clear On the Type of Organization You Want to Work For
Choosing an Employer that’s Right for You Based on Your Unique Preferences

An important element of discovering your authentic career fit is defining your ideal employer.  This means getting clear about the type of organization you want to work for. 

In order to have a fulfilling career, it must match your top skills, professional passions and work style.  It is also crucially important to choose an employer that’s right for you.  In order to do this, you need to know what you want in an organization.  This career success guide will help you define your employer criteria based on your unique preferences. 

  • Employer Size
  • Employer Sector
  • Employer Culture

Once you know what you want, you don’t have to passively wait for employers to approach you.  With your “ideal employer criteria list” you can proactively identify organizations that match your personal preferences. 

Let’s look at each of the three categories individually, starting with employer size.


Power Activity:  Employer Size

What size organization do you want to work for?  Size is generally broken down into small, medium and large. 

  • Large typically means a big corporation with as many as a few thousand employees. Some global organizations have tens of thousand employees.
  • Medium usually means approximately a few hundred employees.
  • Small is generally thought of as having 100 or less employees.

What are the pros and cons of each?  Here are some general pros and cons.  Keep in mind, these are generalizations and the actual organizational culture depends on each individual employer. 

Also, the definitions of “pro” and “con” are subjective.  The pros and cons I’ve laid out here are based on the preferences I hear most often from my clients.  You may define them differently based on your personal circumstances.  Also, please note the pros and cons are not listed in any particular order of importance.  How heavily each factor weighs into your decision making process is up to you.


Large Organizations

Pros

  • Generally Offer Generous Pay and Benefits Packages
  • Both Internal and External Training Opportunities Widely Available
  • Opportunity to Meet and Interact with a Wide Variety of People

Cons

  • Multiple Layers of Management
  • Impersonal Atmosphere
  • Less Flexibility in Policies and Procedures

 

Medium Organizations

Pros

  • Opportunity to Personally Know Your Entire Chain of Command
  • Somewhat More Flexible than Large Corporations
  • More Personable Atmosphere than Large Corporations

Cons

  • Benefits Package may not be as Generous as Larger Organizations
  • Tendency to have an Emphasis on Bureaucratic Processes
  • May not have as much of a Budget for Professional Development, Conferences and Travel

 

Small Organizations

Pros

  • Opportunity for Close Working Relationships with the Entire Team
  • Generally Offer a More Innovative Working Environment
  • Flexible Work Schedule Options

Cons

  • Salary Generally Lower and Benefits Package Less Comprehensive
  • Fewer Resources for Professional Development
  • Limited Support Staff

 

I personally have worked in each of these types of organizations – small, medium and large.  The largest corporation I worked at was the Eastman Kodak Corporate headquarters in my hometown of Rochester, New York.  Kodak’s offices are huge.  So large in fact, I couldn’t even remember how to get around the sprawling complex, let alone know someone personally in each department. 

The mid-sized employer I worked at was still too impersonal for my taste.  For example, there were many layoffs during my tenure at this company.  This resulted in a tense working atmosphere in which most people felt like a number. 

In contrast, the small nonprofit I worked at had a collegial atmosphere and offered a great deal of flexibility in terms of schedule.  However, it had only a limited budget for training and professional development.  Therefore, while I worked at this organization, I pursued my own professional development through outside reading and attending networking events.  

As I’ve already mentioned, pros and cons are personal to each individual.  What size organization is right for you?  Much depends on your unique preferences.  It also depends on your personality and work style.

If you are most comfortable in a close, intimate setting then you’ll probably do your best work in a small organization.  If you are a “social butterfly” who likes to interact with and be exposed to lots of new people on a continual basis, you’ll probably fit in better at a large organization. 

Here are some questions to help you explore the idea of employer size:

Do I feel most comfortable in a small, intimate team setting or do I prefer a workplace where I am exposed to lots of new people on a regular basis?

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Do I rely on my employer to organize and fund my professional development or can I take responsibility for my own professional training and growth?

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Do I prefer a structured workplace with set policies and procedures or do I thrive in a more innovative culture?

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Do I place a high value on flexible work schedule/arrangements or would I trade that for a more comprehensive benefits package a large organization can provide?

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Choosing the employer size right for you is a matter of matching the organization with your priorities and unique work style preferences.  Now let’s move on to the second category:  employer sector.

 

Power Activity:  Employer Sector

In general, the workplace can be thought of as comprised of various segments.  These segments or sectors include:

  • Private
  • Nonprofit / Association
  • Government
  • Academia

What are the pros and cons of each?  Here are some general pros and cons.  Again, keep in mind, these are generalizations and the actual organizational culture depends on each individual employer. 

 

Private Sector

Pros

  • More Structured Environment
  • Greater Earning Potential
  • Generous Benefits Package

Cons 

  • Impersonal Environment
  • Formal Dress Code Policy
  • Not a “Mission Driven” Culture

 

Nonprofit Sector / Association

Pros

  • Opportunity to “Make a Difference”
  • Less Formal Culture
  • Greater Work/Life Balance

Cons

  • Lower Pay
  • Less Generous Benefits Package
  • Limited Budget for Professional Development

 

Government Sector

Pros

  • Job Security
  • Solid Benefits Package
  • Opportunity for Public Service

Cons

  • Bureaucratic
  • Political
  • Slow to Change

 

Academic Sector

Pros

  • Intellectually Stimulating Environment
  • Less Formal Culture
  • Relaxed Pace in the Summer

Cons

  • Pay can be Lower than Private Sector
  • On-Campus Politics
  • Positions can be Difficult to Get, Especially Faculty Assignments

 

What sector of the marketplace is right for you?  If job security is one of your most important career values, then you may feel more comfortable in a “stable” environment such as government work.  On the other hand, if you thrive in
an informal culture than the nonprofit or association sectors may be best for you.

Here are some questions to help you explore the various sectors and how much they appeal to you:

 

Is earning potential one of the most important things to me when choosing a job?

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Do I prefer a flexible work schedule and work/life balance over a high salary?

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Is job security a top priority for me?

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Do I want to dedicate my career to public service and “making a difference”?

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Do I enjoy working in an academic learning environment?

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Do I prefer a formal or more informal work environment?

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Is a comprehensive benefits package a top priority for me?

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Choosing the employer sector right for you is a matter of matching the organization with your personality, top career needs and unique work style preferences.  Now let’s move on to the third category:  employer culture.

 

 

Power Activity:  Employer Culture

When it comes to the culture of an organization, there are generally two categories – formal and informal.  Of course, there are gradations along this spectrum but in this guide I focus on these two main culture types. 

Generally speaking, large corporations tend to have a formal culture, medium to small businesses are less structured than big companies and nonprofits tend to be more informal.

One of the most obvious differences between formal and informal cultures is the dress code.  Big businesses tend to enforce a formal dress code everyday, whereas many smaller organizations allow casual dress.  Others still have a mixed policy, meaning they have a relaxed dress code on most days, but request that staff dress up when a client is scheduled to visit the office.

When I worked at a national nonprofit organization, I enjoyed the fact there was a relaxed dress code.  I could dress business casual or even wear jeans if I felt like it.  But, I remember I was slightly annoyed when one of my co-workers showed up to work in denim overalls and a “long john” shirt.  I thought this was taking the “informal culture” a much too far. 

What are the pros and cons of formal vs. informal?  Here are some general pros and cons.  Again, please keep in mind, these are generalizations and the actual organizational culture depends on each individual employer. 

 

Formal

            Pros

  • Professional Work Environment
  • Clear Path for Advancement and Promotion
  • Structured Professional Development Programs

 

            Cons

  • Strict Dress Code
  • Can Take a Long Time to Move Up the Corporate Ladder
  • “Stuffy” Atmosphere

 

Informal

            Pros

  • Friendly Environment
  • Opportunity for “Fast Track” Advancement
  • Flexible Scheduling Options
  • Relaxed Dress Code

 

            Cons

  • Can be Viewed as Unprofessional
  • Lack of Structured Policies can Result in Favoritism
  • Lack of Formal Professional Development Programs

 

Which of these organizational culture styles is right for you?  Here are some questions to help you decide:

 

Do I prefer a structured workplace or do I prefer a more flexible environment?

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Do I prefer a formal dress code or do I prefer a casual dress code?

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Am I ok with the potential for favoritism or do I need a clearly delineated career advancement program designed to ensure fairness?

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Do I want the opportunity to move up quickly or am I ok with steady, but not necessarily fast career progression?

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Do I thrive in a culture in which colleagues are very relaxed, friendly and informal or do I prefer a more structured and business-like atmosphere?

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Choosing the employer culture right for you is a matter of matching the organization with your personality, values and unique work style preferences.  Now let’s move on to identifying your ideal employer criteria.

 

 

Power Activity:  Ideal Employer Criteria 

Now that you’ve read through the three steps to defining your ideal employer, complete the following power activity.

Review each of your past professional positions and think about the culture each employer offered.  Think about your experiences in each type of organization and answer the following questions.  

What employer size was I the most comfortable in?

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What employment sector was I the most comfortable in?

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What type of workplace culture was I the most comfortable in?

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Your Ideal Employer Criteria List

Now review the answers you provided in all four power activities in this guide and use the information to complete your ideal employer criteria list.   

 

Ideal Employer Criteria List

 

My Ideal Employer Size

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My Ideal Employer Sector

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My Ideal Employer Culture

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As you can see, there are several important factors that go into choosing your ideal employer.  For a good match, the organization must meet your specific preferences for size, sector and culture.

Once you know the definition of your ideal employer, you can actively assess potential employers to see if they are right for you based on your personalized criteria.

If you feel you’d like assistance with getting clear on the type of organization you want to work for, I invite you to schedule a one-on-one coaching session with me. 

Click here to schedule your personal coaching session.

Now, let’s move on to your Career Success Guide to Determining Your Salary Requirements

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