It's graduation season! Of course, while it's meant to be a celebratory time, it also comes with the terrifying prospect of determining what's next. It's certainly a big decision: not only can your first job out of college set the course for the rest of your career, but it's also where you will be spending most of your waking hours. That means you'll be seeing more of your coworkers than your own friends and family, and that's a much easier pill to swallow if you actually enjoy working with them.
At the same time, it's hard to know exactly what to expect based on one or two interviews and what you might find on a company's website. The good news is there are sign posts, which -- if you know how to read them -- will make your selection much less of a gamble.
Consider these six important signals:
1. The client is king.
Take careful note of how the person interviewing you talks about management and clients. If they have a good relationship with them, you'll be able to tell. If your interviewer avoids questions about day-to-day work, or makes an off comment when you ask about work-life balance… run for the hills.
2. Trust your gut.
Sometimes you'll leave an interview and feel like you did the best you could, but that the interviewer wasn't very engaged or forthcoming. For example, if you ask for a description of his/her management style and the answer is, "I think it's good" followed by a blank stare, you probably don't want to work for that person. You should like -- and have chemistry with -- your team. Don't underestimate how important this is; it'll be the make or break when you have to work together at all hours.
3. Explore your options.
If one agency or company calls you in for an interview, it means they like your resume. Others probably will, too. Try to schedule a few interviews either with different teams within the same company and at different companies close together. The hiring process can move quickly, and you want to be sure you don't feel pressured to take the first offer that comes your way. It's also ok to ask for a day to think over an offer. It's nice to have options, and you want to feel right about your decision.
4. Ask about company culture.
You may get the same stock answer over and over: "It's a young, fun environment," or "We have company happy hours." Sometimes, though, you'll get some truly insightful answers. This is where you'll find out if your team has a tight-knit vibe, or if they just do their own thing. Teams that hang out outside of work often work well together and have fun on the job. This is also where you'll learn whether your potential supervisor really cares about your professional development and growth. Virgin Founder Richard Branson says, "Train people well enough so they can leave and treat them well enough so they don't want to." A company with this sort of ethos is what you want.
5. Work for passionate people
It's much easier to work for someone who inspires their employees. If they sound excited about the work they're doing, it will make each workday run more smoothly. Moods are infectious, and if your boss is always complaining, it's going to eventually have an effect on you. That's a hard environment to come back to every day.
6. It's a two-way street.
While realizing your value as an individual is important, you should also remember that there are hundreds of other college graduates interviewing for the exact same jobs that you are. Don't be arrogant in your interview. Make eye contact. Remember everyone's name. You have to prove yourself to them just as much as they should be proving themselves to you.
As the great philosopher Conan O'Brien once said, "If you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."
Keep that in mind when you're taking the first step towards the rest of your life. You get exactly as much out of your experiences as you're willing to put into them. Good luck and happy hunting.
About the Author
Andrew is a communications planning supervisor at MediaCom in New York, currently working on MARS Chocolate brands. In this role, he manages the development of several employees as well as the strategic planning process across brands like M&M's and Dove. Previously, Andrew has worked on high-profile accounts including Coca-Cola, Kohl's Corp. and MasterCard.