After months upon months of high-gear networking, sending out your resume, and interviewing, you finally have a job offer! After all that hard work, it's awfully tempting to accept the new position and put your grueling job search behind you.
But, unless you have thoroughly researched your employer and your prospective position, don't be so quick to jump on board. As anyone who has ever had a deceitful boss or a soul-sucking job will tell you, it's foolish to blindly accept your first offer. Though it's advisable to research potential employers before you even interview - if not before you apply at all - the bottom line is that you do your homework before you accept a job.
Begin by investigating the company as a whole. As you research, be particularly mindful of whether the organization is compatible with your moral and political beliefs, whether the organization has growth potential, and whether the organization is financially sound. The Internet, the library, and your alma mater's career services office should be helpful. It's also savvy to do a Nexis search for newspaper and magazine articles about the company in question. Specific, helpful publications include The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Fortune, and Business Week. Standard and Poor's corporation records and Dun and Bradstreet reference materials are also helpful directories. Don't forget to take notes!
Through your research you should be able to answer the following questions:
Though digging up this kind of data can be tedious, you'll be glad you did. You'll put your potential work in context, and you'll evaluate whether your prospective employer is financially dependable and aligned with your value system. After all, you don't want to take a job that you'll lose in a year when your employer declares bankruptcy. Nor do you want to have to quit when you find out you're morally opposed to the company's products, mission, production methods, or political agenda. Both outcomes put you right back at the beginning of your job search.
When it comes to the actual work you would be doing, don't be shy about asking nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts questions:
If your fact-hunting thus far leaves you satisfied with your prospective job, it's time for the final round of research: The quality-of-life evaluation. If you're seriously considering taking a job, it is imperative that you find out whether your new workplace environment will make you happy or leave you miserable. You will probably spend at least 40 hours per week at work - any occupational unpleasantness can cast a dark shadow on the rest of your life.
Talk to people who work for your potential boss, as well as people who used to work for the potential organization, but have since moved on. Emphasize that the conversations you're having are confidential (and uphold that promise). Ask questions that will leave you with a sense of whether your boss is a reasonable, rational individual and whether you will find the work environment pleasant:
research may seem time-consuming and annoying, but you'll be grateful you did
it. A fulfilling job can be not just a meaningful way to spend Monday through
Friday, but also a short-cut to great future opportunities! Selecting well
will not only reduce your chances of having to embark upon another job search
in the near future, but will also open doors for potential advancement and