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Navigating the Workplace

As a college student, it's important to consider not only what you want to do after college, but where that work might take place. One of the big predictors of future job satisfaction is the degree to which you are satisfied with your work environment. Work environments include not only the physical environment, but your relationships with supervisors and peers, the level of formality of the workplace, and how your work is measured by your supervisors.

Evaluating a Workplace

Prior to accepting a job offer, you have an opportunity to learn more about a workplace.

Most importantly, your interactions with a workplace throughout the application process can tell you a lot about how they treat their colleagues. Did they stick to their hiring timelines? Did they answer your questions adequately? Were they able to provide you with employee handbooks or other documentation of workplace policies?

Similarly, an internship with an organization can provide you with a means to test out a workplace prior to accepting full time, permanent employment. When you interned, did they provide you with adequate training? Did they provide meaningful work for you to accomplish? How did your colleagues treat you? Even if you don't remain with this organization, you can get a sense of the way the workplace functions.

Outside of firsthand experience, it's important to reach out to your network to learn more about an organization. Professionals in your field may know people who work at your target organization or may have heard from former employees. This type of information can help you avoid potential pitfalls as a new employee.

Adaptation or Collaboration?

Typically, prospective and new employees are encouraged to adapt to a workplace, to "fit" in. In the Liberal Arts in Practice Center, we recognize that advice around fitting in to a workplace is not applicable to everyone. Workplaces, especially from the outside, can seem like homogeneous spaces that stifle individuality.

Instead of striving to fit into a workplace, we want you to become clear about what you're looking for in a workplace. What are the ways you work best? What values do you want to see expressed in your work and workplace? How do you prefer to communicate with others? Once you become clear about these issues, you can clearly communicate with prospective employers about your strengths and interests and find a workplace that matches as closely as possible.

In the Liberal Arts in Practice Center, we have tools and resources for you to identify your workplace values and interests, as well as understand your workplace identities. Make an appointment with Jessica Fox-Wilson to consult on these issues.