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Hit The Ground Running

Could Your Dream Job Be A Nightmare?

We talked to six recruiters to find out when the office culture should be a deal breaker in an otherwise perfect job offer.

Could Your Dream Job Be A Nightmare?
[Photo: Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock]

You’re offered your dream job at the company you always aspired to work at, doing exactly what you’ve always wanted to do, and at an amazing salary. But there’s a problem: You have concerns about the office culture and whether you will fit in. Do you take the job and hope for the best, or turn it down? Here’s what six recruiters say.

Why Fit Matters

Employers are increasingly concerned about cultural fit because it’s easier to teach people skills than the culture of an organization, says Rasheen Carbin, cofounder and chief marketing officer for nsphire.com, a job-matching site for employers and employees. In fact, he says, employees are more likely to get fired because they aren’t a good fit than because they’re incompetent.

Before you accept a position, Carbin says, it’s important that you honestly ask yourself if the office culture is a good fit for you. "It’s probably not going to get any better and it will just get worse, if the fit isn’t right," he says.

Find Ways To Manage The Mismatch

However, if you are willing to be flexible, there are ways to manage the mismatch. For instance, if everyone in the company goes to trivia night at a local bar once a week, Carbin says, you should try to participate, even if you aren’t a trivia master. "Don’t confuse the activity with the reason behind the activity," he says. "The reason is to get to know each other better in a less formal situation." If you pass on this activity, you could be missing out on opportunities to learn about the best assignments and get to know your coworkers better."

Be efficient with your time outside of work, recommends Ed Meindl, senior vice president of the IT practice at Addison Group, a staffing services firm. Make an effort to attend after-work events and have meaningful conversations with your colleagues, even if you only stay for 30 minutes. "You don’t need to stick around all night to make an impression," he says.

And, if after-work activities are truly unbearable for you, perhaps try to initiate a new activity such as a weekly group lunch, suggests Brie Weiler Reynolds, career adviser and director of online content at FlexJobs. Start with one or two willing coworkers, she says, and add to the group over time. You might actually find that some of your coworkers would much rather get together for lunch than after work.

However, keep in mind that it can be hard to join a group that already has a level of comfort, trust, and respect with each other, says Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster. "Getting to know your coworkers will require effort on your part, such as sharing ideas for and participating in activities," she says.

Don’t Ignore Red Flags

Another way to assess fit is to determine how your personal values stack up against the organization’s values. For instance, if you crave a high degree of flexibility but the organization is extremely rigid, this could trump everything else and help you realize it’s not a good fit, says career coach Andrea Raggambi.

Danielle Beauparlant Moser, managing partner at Blended Learning Team LLC, and coauthor of FOCUS: Creating Career & Brand Clarity, recommends you live as if you’re taking the job for an entire day. "Talk about it, plan for it, draft messaging around it, and see how it feels," Moser says. "At some point during those 24 hours, you’re going to have a visceral response." Moser had a client who was deciding between a high-powered, six-figure role with a prestigious law firm and a position with a family advocacy court. The client found that living as if she had chosen the high-powered role resulted in her waking up in the middle of night feeling completely nauseated, Moser says. Moser’s client took the family advocacy court role instead, and reports it was one of the best decisions she ever made.

Should You Trust Your Gut?

If you’re getting a sense that it’s not the best fit, Salemi says it's always better to trust your gut, even if that means turning down something you originally thought would be a perfect fit. "Red flags pop up for a reason," she says. "That’s why it’s so important to ask questions, observe, and take notes during the interview process to try to figure out if a company is right for you."

Moser agrees that following your gut is always the best response. "In my 20-plus years of coaching, I’ve never had a client say that following their gut led to a bad decision," she says. "It’s those that ignore the red flags that generally regret it professionally."

However, Meindl warns against trusting your gut alone. "Career decisions should take a lot of time, whether it’s researching companies, interviewing, or considering an offer," he says. "Every decision should be based on facts, first and foremost." Raggambi recommends making a list of what would make the opportunity "perfect" for you, and then rank them in order of importance. The key is to define your make-or-break values.

"Everyone has a line they aren’t willing to cross when it comes to jobs and work, but everyone’s line is different," says Reynolds. "If you know who you are, how you work, and how flexible you’re wiling and able to be, you’ll be able to make the decision that is right for you."

Often our dream job isn’t really based on reality, Carbin says. "Keep in mind, too, that your dream job is a moving target," he says. "Your dream job at age 25 will be different at age 39 and different again at age 50."

Lisa Rabasca Roepe writes about women in the workplace, parenting, and food and drink. Her articles have appeared in Daily Worth, Men's Journal, Eater, SheKnows, and Yahoo Parenting.

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