Your Guide to Finding the Right Work Environment for You

Finding a job can be tough — so sometimes you might apply for many jobs without thinking much about how you’d fit into the company culture or even without thinking about finding a job that is a fit for you.

But Val Nelson, a coach for introverts, strongly recommends thinking about your own personality traits as you search for a job. She learned the hard way that personality should not be overlooked during the job search. Working a job that isn’t a good fit can lead to burnout.

“We [not only] need to consider our strengths and interests when choosing a path but also need to look closely at what kind of environment draws out our strengths and what will hinder that flow,” Nelson says. “Too many women forget to think about the right environment and end up burning out, then blaming themselves when it’s just a bad fit.”

Finding your fit might seem overwhelming, but making it a part of your job search is simpler than you might think.

Understand your personality

Before you identify a work environment that is a good fit for your personality, you first want to gain a better understanding of your personality.

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Nelson didn’t know what was causing her to feel drained after work each day until she took the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator and realized she’s an introvert. She says that knowing whether you’re an introvert or extrovert is one of the most important personality traits to understand.  

Generally speaking, Nelson says introverts tend to thrive in work environments where they have time to think before speaking, they can work in a quiet environment (cubicles? No thanks!), the team values authenticity, and meetings have a clear purpose.

While introverts might dread participating in tons of teambuilding activities and working in a social, louder environment, extroverts might look for a work environment that emphasizes teambuilding and social interaction.

You could also be an ambivert — someone who is in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Nelson says ambiverts should look for work environments that provide both alone time and a collaborative environment.

Another important aspect of your personality to think about when searching for the right work environment is your creativity. If you’re creative, innovative and eager to come up with new ideas, you might consider working at a start-up. However, many types of workplaces value creativity — that’s why it’s important to do your research on the company throughout your job search process.

Learn about the company

Emily Miethner, founder and CEO of FindSpark, stresses that you should learn everything you can about the companies you’re interested in working for.

“My biggest job hunt advice is to spend more time on less applications,” Miethner says. “What you should spend your time doing is reading everything you can about the company, looking across social media channels, looking at other folks who work there, doing that digital research first to get a sense of what other people are saying, what they’re like and just trying to imagine yourself fitting in there.”

If, after you do your research, you think the company could be a fit, you’ll want to ask thoughtful questions during the interview process to see if you think you’d be able to be yourself there, Miethner says.

“When you’re interviewing for a job, you are also trying to figure out if it’s a good fit for you,” she says.

Two questions she suggests asking to help determine if the work environment will be a fit for you are, “How do the teams celebrate wins?” and “What does the company do to facilitate connections between team members?”

Miethner also suggests reaching out to people who work at the company or in the industry you’re interested in to schedule informational interviews. This way, you can learn about the work environment firsthand.

“If you’re really seriously considering a certain company, it’s a really good idea to actually talk to folks who actually work there,” Miethner says.

When reaching out to someone about an informational interview, she recommends reaching out to people who genuinely interest you (i.e. someone whose work you truly love), doing your research about the best way to reach out to them, and not being afraid to follow up if they don’t respond right away.

“Sending one message is like sending no message at all, so don’t be afraid to follow up on a different platform,” Miethner says. “Many people are nervous about following up. They don’t want to come across as annoying but most people will actually appreciate the follow-up.”

Maybe you reached out on LinkedIn but didn’t get a response. It’s OK to follow up via Twitter a week later if you notice the person is very active on Twitter. Email might be the most obvious choice for connecting with someone, Miethner says, but if you can’t find the person’s email address, you can look for other methods to reach out.

Consider the environment

If you’re creative and introverted, you might not love working in a large corporate environment that seems to have a very structured way of doing things. And if planners are your best friend and you love having clear procedures, you might not be a big fan of a work environment that is less set-in-stone and emphasizes always thinking of the next big thing, such as a start-up. However, every company is different, so it’s important to do your digital research, ask questions and try to imagine yourself working there.

It’s also important to think about who you’ll be working with. Miethner points out that making sure your personality meshes well with your boss is especially important. However, this can be hard to gauge before you’re hired — first impressions aren’t always accurate, especially in an interview environment.

For Claudia Dimuro, the team she worked with had a big impact on how she felt about her job.

“My first job out of college, I had a team that was very supportive and open to questions.  They understood I was new to the job, and I worked extremely hard in order to improve my work on a daily basis,” Dimuro says. “After my promotion, however, I was transferred to a team that was the complete opposite: they were demeaning and spoke badly of each other and of me.”

Your work space might also be an important factor. Maybe your personality is well-suited for an open-office environment or cubicles, or maybe you’d prefer to have a space that feels somewhat private.

Get another opinion

As much as we think we know ourselves, sometimes it can be difficult to recognize if a work environment is a good fit, and sometimes we might ignore red flags or aspects that bother us because, hello, we just really want to find a job.

However, Nelson advises that it can be valuable to take self-assessment tests or get a second opinion. If you’re getting a second opinion, make sure that person wants to help you find what’s right for you based on your personality, not your skills alone, she says.

Find your place

Maybe you’ve found a job and based on all of your research, you think it seems like the right fit. Yay!

But what if you start working and begin to feel like maybe the job isn’t the right fit for you?

Miethner suggests making an effort to connect with more people at the company and even reaching out to the human resources department to see if they have any recommendations of people you could meet.

“Especially if you’re at a larger company, maybe you haven’t connected with people yet who you feel very connected with,” she says. “You can then see if it’s really not a culture fit or if you just haven’t found your people yet.”

And if it’s not really a culture fit? That’s not your fault, Nelson says.

“If you find yourself in a job where it’s not working out, don’t blame yourself,” she says. “Over time, you’ll see the red flags more easily.”

When looking for a job, ask yourself, “could I be myself here? Could I thrive in this environment?” On paper, a job might be perfect — but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit for you. Finding your fit — not the job that you think you should want or that other people think you should want — is what’s important.