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My thoughts about returning to work after the "great resignation."

I left my full-time, well-paying job back in May 2021 along with millions of other employees. The reason why was crystal clear to me since my hair had been falling out, I had gotten control of my depression and I was exhausted. I left on good terms with that company and harbor no bad feelings at all toward them. I did it to myself and allowed things to keep going rather than asking for help. At the end, the only thing my mind and soul could contemplate tolerating was to not work at all.

Fast forward to now and I am refreshed, sleeping well, enjoying life and have had time to think about what it is I am looking for in my next, and hopefully last, position. Early in your career the things that are important to you, revolve around compensation and title. I am not "early" in anything in my life and have the benefit of experience to know what I want in a job, company and more importantly a team. I have grouped them into the common theme of must have, nice to have and NOPE!

I want to start with the NOPE list because these are red flags that I have seen before, and never resolve themselves in a beneficial manner.

  • Too much secrecy - if a group of people are holding on to information tightly it is a show of power over others. Move on.

  • Intimidation, bullying or the forming of "clubs." Please don't hate me, but I have mainly seen this in sales teams that are mostly populated by younger men. (One exception was a revenue rec team and that was eye opening!) Sales teams are competitive and driven to be the best, and that ego boost can flow out and establish a pecking order.

  • Not holding senior leaders in the company to the same standards as the newer or inexperienced team members. If there is a "rule" in the company, it needs to be enforced for everyone. There shouldn't be a VP exception.

  • Shaming, blaming and naming when something goes wrong. If there is a practice of naming a scapegoat for a failure or loss, when the proper thing to do is to absorb as a team, no one will be happy there. Gracefully exit.

  • Finally, a company that is "cheaping out" on their employees intentionally whether it is salary or benefits, will never be a comfortable environment. When you see that behavior you wonder if they also did that to you? Are you being undervalued? This breeds resentment and you want to stay away from there at all costs.

Are all the red flags missing? Then move on to the MUST which is a longer list than the NOPE list..

  • A team that works well together, enjoys working with each other and shares a collective vision. During my various stints with startups, this is the key success factor that I have identified. Do I understand the goal of the company and my role and my team's role in achieving that goal? Is everyone doing their part?

  • Realize that every employee is different and has unique strengths and weaknesses. Encourage your employee development and growth, even if that path would lead them away from you!

  • Transparency of the company results and objectives, from the top down.

  • Create an environment where a failure is not a disaster, but a chance to learn and do better. If employees aren't encouraged to take risks, the growth of the company is impeded by caution.

  • Hold employees accountable, while helping them reach their objectives. Is this in conflict with the idea of encouraging failure? Not at all. Accountability is more about doing what you said you were going to do, in the time frame you had to do it. If you fail, okay we can reboot and start over. But if you just don't meet your commitments consistently, there needs to be a consequence for that.

  • Encourage down time, family time and creative time. Support flexible working environments. Allow people to decline additional responsibilities without making them feel guilty. Show employees they are cared for at the human level, not just for the value they bring to the company.

This is the bonus round! If a company and position can fulfill the first two requirements this list puts them into the DREAM Job or SWEET! category.

  • If I have a manager that trusts me to do my job and we have good chemistry working together, and I trust them to do the right thing, huge win. You can sometimes have parts of this with your supervisor but not all of it. You may get along well but don't really trust them. You may trust them but you just don't "click" making things awkward.

  • A company that allows me to try new things, even if it is not aligned with the current goals, processes or systems. Supporting radical new thinking and branching out to try new ways of working is affirmation of my value to them.

  • A challenging environment is something that I need to do my best work. If I am bored, I will leave. Don't give me a cushy job where I shop or play online games all day. At the end of the day, I want to go home knowing I gave my greatest effort, and it worked out for the best.

What about the demographics of the company?

I have put a lot of thought into this idea that we can pick and choose our next career move based on what type of company it is, in terms of size or industry. That was narrowing my choices arbitrarily and placing the emphasis for my next role being controlled by the company profile. I am going to keep refining this list because I think these are the things that matter. I have always been a "startup" person, but I think that was because the startups fit these items on my list better than larger companies. However, I am open to being proven wrong!

What about you? What are you looking for in your next role or maybe even improvements in your current one? Sit down and take the time to write it out. Then edit it, cut things and add some more. Until you understand your needs around culture, environment, autonomy and team profile well enough to grab the right offer when it comes along.

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