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Which “type” of company is best for you?

Marina Cilona

Careers Commentator
Workplaces can vary wildly and it’s important to find the right fit for you. Here are a few things to consider when weighing up your options.

Which “type” of company is best for you?

"Finding a job isn't just about saying yes to the first offer, or being led by the largest paycheck. It's also important to consider the type of business that will make you happy because that’s ultimately how you will thrive"

Workplaces can vary wildly and it’s important to find the right fit for you. You may flourish in a larger organisation with lots of structure, or be better suited to a startup environment. What’s more, the culture of a company often plays an important role in attracting and retaining employees. Here are a few things to consider when weighing up your options. 

Size does matter: Large companies vs startups

Company size impacts everything from the training you will receive to culture and the heftiness of your paycheck. Large employers have a lot of structure, there’s opportunities for mentorship and often when you’re asked to complete a project, there’s a blueprint for how it’s done. 

Startups are scrappier by nature and often require all hands on deck. There might be ideas flying around everywhere and no one quite knows what the work will look like unless you create a first version. This sort of environment requires creativity, and often the confidence to just do

Ask yourself if you want to be a generalist specialist (a ‘master’ practitioner in your specific chosen field) or a generalist (jack of all trades, but master of none)? Do you thrive on creativity? How do you weigh financial reward against social impact? Do you prefer to feel comfortable and competent in your role or continually out of your depth?

A larger company may pay you more, whereas a startup or social enterprise might try to supplement a smaller salary with equity or other perks. It’s important to balance a good pay packet with being challenged but potentially less financially well off. 

When you can balance these ingredients and find the right fit for you, you’re more likely to succeed in your role and achieve a sense of wellbeing at work.

How to assess workplace culture and why it’s important

The culture or general “vibe” of a company often boils down to one simple thing: Positive employee wellbeing. 

Countless studies have shown that employees value workplace wellbeing above all other benefits, including flex time, office gyms and free lunches and even financial incentives. And according to the Harvard Business Review, that wellbeing is created through a positive company culture. 

Organisations with a great culture boast engaged employees who consistently demonstrate higher levels of job satisfaction, reduced stress and greater loyalty. 

But how can you determine cultural fit from just one round of interviews which likely take place in the “good part” of the office?

A few key questions you can ask during your interview, include:

  • How would you describe the work environment here?
  • Do you encourage mentorship opportunities?
  • How do you approach work/life balance?

But just like you present a polished version of yourself during an interview, your employer will likely give an equally glossy response, so it’s also important to look around the office and do some sleuthing of your own. Personal items decorating desks or birthday trimmings indicate a more convivial office environment, rather than a strict down-to-business setup. Do the surrounding whiteboards or digital screens show the latest sales data or last Friday’s trivia results? 

Try to get a sense of the camaraderie between colleagues. Is there any laughter? Music? Or is the place dead silent? These subtle signs offer a good indication of the general culture.   

Fancy a bit of online stalking? You can also search a range of employer reviews to give you an idea of day-to-day life at major organisations. 

Finally, don’t forget to use your network to identify and connect with current and former employees. More often than not, they’ll be more than happy to share some insider tips to help you decide if the employer truly is a fit for you.

Other factors to consider

Certain industries are more traditional than others and can struggle with a lack of diversity as a result. Some, like the legal sector or healthcare, are older by nature and may not have experienced the innovation boom of, say, cryptocurrencies just yet. 

Although there are always exceptions (Tesla heading up an ageing automotive industry, Strike disrupting the old-school banking crowd), it’s important to consider how these factors might impact your experience at work. Will you form part of a minority? Does that bother you? Will you be easily frustrated by legacy technology or antiquated processes?

Remember, a job interview is just as much about your prospective employers being the right fit for you, as it is about you being the right fit for them.