You may have seen the recent news articles about Goldman Sachs employees raising concerns over their working conditions including 95 hour work weeks.
Whether these mammoth work hours should be expected of anyone is a debate for another day. The reality is that sectors and employers can have demanding norms or differing cultures. It’s important to ensure that your understanding of a career path of interest is grounded in the reality of what that might entail.
In this blog I want to tell you how you can find out about sector and employer culture. So that when you are exploring different career options or looking for jobs, you can feel confident that you know the realities of the positions you are interested in.
Reflect on what you value
Before looking into the detail of different employers and sectors, it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about what is important to you. It can be easy to be sucked into the prestige or high salary of a particular career. It’s worth taking a step back to reflect on what really matters to you.
- Do you have a lot of interests outside of work, so having regular hours that keep your evenings and weekends free for these is important?
- Are you competitive, how do you feel about part of your salary being performance-based?
- Do you want to travel as part of your work?
- Does dresscode matter to you?
- What would interest you in regards to socials and getting to know fellow colleagues?
- Do you want to work in a hierarchical structure or something flatter?
- Do you want to be able to work from home or flexibly?
- What kind of workspace do you want to work in? What kind of work day? Are you happy sitting at a desk all day or do you want something more varied?
- Are you interested in opportunities to continue to develop and earn qualifications?
Having a think about what working conditions and workplace style would suit you best and what factors are most important to you is a good first step. It may be that your passion for a particular industry or job role mean you would be happy whatever the working conditions. But if there are some key parts of what you want you working life to look like that don’t seem to match the norms of your target job – you might need to have a rethink.
If you aren’t sure what career options would suit you, these reflections can form part of wider thinking on your career choices. We have lots of resources on MyFuture that can help you with exploring your career options.
In particular you might find our career planning webinar useful which takes you through different workplace environments.
Find out about employers and sectors
Once you have an idea of what is important, there’s several ways that you can go about researching what working in different sectors or for specific employers is actually like.
Prospects is a great resource to get a feel for different sectors and jobs. They have over 400 job profiles that along with detailing where that particular job is advertised and the requirements of entry give good insights into working hours and what the job is like. The profiles are also a goldmine for additional links out to professional bodies and other relevant websites for your career of interest.
Employers can offer a lot of information directly about what it is like to work for them. Bigger organisations may have detailed information on their working culture. Employers regularly host events and attend Fairs with us where you can hear directly from representatives about what working for them is like. These events also offer you the chance to ask questions directly.
Even job vacancies can give you some clues. Some adverts can be quite upfront about the kind of environment they offer and it is important to heed these when considering if a job is worth applying for.
Glassdoor offers employees the opportunity to post anonymous reviews about their employers. Obviously you do need to take these with a pinch of salt as reviews may not be representative or even entirely truthful! But they can give you some insights into the realities of working at a particular employer.
Bear in mind you will need to register to access reviews, but this is free.
Another way to get insight into different career paths or a specific employer is to do a bit of networking. Bath Connection, our alumni networking platform gives you the opportunity to connect with Bath alumni. Having conversations with alumni who work in your areas of interest can give you first-hand insights. You could also try exploring professional bodies, industry blogs and social media to get the inside scoop on what a sector is really like.
Of course, reading about the realities of different jobs can be useful but first-hand experience can help to make your mind up. Work experience is a great option to see if a particular job is right for you. This doesn’t have to be a formal internship either, even a day of work shadowing can help.
Equally, insights from experience don’t have to be in a workplace setting. See if there are ways you could gain transferable experience during your degree or through volunteering. Reflect on what you did and didn’t enjoy and see how you can apply that to your career thinking.
At the interview
If you still have questions after researching and networking, the interview may be a good place to bring these questions up when they ask the typical question – Do you have any questions for us? You might want to ask questions about the work culture, performance–based criteria or development opportunities. Just make sure you aren’t asking questions that you could have found out through simple research!
Of course, I’ve got to mention the pandemic. The sudden shift to working from home will have changed the culture and environment for a lot of workplaces, in some cases permanently. It is likely that hybrid and flexible ways of working are here to stay but there is currently a lot of uncertainty about what this will look like. However some larger organisations are already announcing their plans for working arrangements, with some firmly pushing for a return to the office, some opting for entirely remote and many discussing a hybrid. It is worth keeping an eye on these developments in your areas of interest as they can give telling insights into employers' culture and attitudes.
I hope this helps to give you some ideas of how you can research the day-to-day realities and working culture of different sectors. Of course, I’m not endorsing that a dangerous or unhealthy work environment is something any of us should put up with. However, there is a huge amount of variety in what the norms of different sectors are. From dress code to working hours, from workload peaks and troughs to bonuses. There are all sorts of different things to consider. Most importantly it is worth taking the time to work out what matters most to you so that you can find a workplace and job that you enjoy and can succeed in.