The Best Job for You Isn't the One That Picks You

And Other Observations for Finding the Perfect Company to Work for

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In a Jan. 14 TalentWorks column, author Brian Brooker wrote about how companies can nurture and retain their employees. It's an insightful article. However, it leaves half the story untold: It doesn't address how job seekers can find that perfect company for themselves.

I've been working as an advertising copywriter and creative director for 15 years, have served on the board of Creative Circus for the last 10, and have taught and lectured to students and professionals throughout America, Europe and China.

Here are some observations that have helped me and others.

Ninety-nine percent of job seekers let their new company pick them
I suggest the exact opposite -- picking the job that's right for you. My method is harder because it requires time, discipline and research. Luckily, it pays off in a big way.

Nobody cares more about your career than you do
Actually, you're the only one. While you're paid to show up each day, you work for yourself. Never forget that as you conduct your search.

First, find the work you admire
This requires reading to identify which companies are doing whatever you aspire to do, as well as the people behind the work. Google them -- it's not stalking if it's done out of love. Then send them handwritten notes expressing your admiration.

You're going where the crowds aren't
You're avoiding posted jobs, candidates pushed by headhunters and folks who've heard a rumor. Instead, you're working on getting a company you admire to create a job just for you.

Interviewing is a two-way street
As you're questioned, return the favor. Landing a job won't mean much if you're miserable going to it every day. Every person you'll talk to has a reputation that precedes him. By networking on LinkedIn, Facebook and their ilk, it's easy to find out what all those reputations are.

Companies have cultures
This is true of even the bland ones. All of the following come into play: energy, d├ęcor, animals, civility, wardrobes, alcohol consumption, workload, communication. Do your due diligence and then decide if the place is right for you.

A leader says, "I'm looking to turn this place around"
The change-oriented leader may have fired a lot of people. After all, he didn't hire them. That's opened up money to hire you, but may have left wounds among those who remain. Check out the leader's relationships with other departments, ask about his or her vision and get specifics as to how they intend to achieve it.

More about this "vision" thing
I had the pleasure to work for Tony Granger, now worldwide creative director of Young & Rubicam. Tony knows what he wants, tells you point blank and expects you to deliver it. He holds winning Cannes Lions in high regard -- they're his report cards. In turn, they're yours, too. Marching is easier when you know the destination.

Star performers don't always make good managers
Look for a boss with a reputation for putting aside his or her ego. A good manager has goals for your success, not just his or her own.

You may love what the company does, but hate the place
If the vibe at a company doesn't feel right -- no matter what sort of work they do -- don't go there. You may be totally wrong for the culture.

The lucky make their own good fortune
Job-hunting success is about dreaming big, then sitting down with some organic decaf green tea (sweetened with Agave nectar) and figuring out the small, manageable, boring steps you need to take to make your dream job a reality.
Dave Holloway is VP-creative director at Publicis West in Seattle and author of 'How to Get the Advertising Job You Want.'
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