Gaining experience at different organizations can be a real benefit to your resume and business acumen. However, you may get to a point where you are ready to settle down and make a long term commitment to one organization. Just because a company has been around for a long time doesn’t mean it is a great place for career advancement or that it is going to survive another fifty years. The key is to take a look at a few vital clues about the company to determine if it is a place of advancement and growth, or another stopping point on your way to somewhere better.
First, look at the organization’s growth in revenue over time. Cash is king, and if they have been able to build revenue and profit over the years, it is generally the sign of a strong foundation for growth. Revenue allows for the creation of new positions, new divisions, and new products; and definitely assists with advancement and longevity.
I like to look at organizations who move with the times by adding new products or services. They should display a consistent history of new product development, implementation of ideas, establishment of new departments or divisions, etc. It will not only be more interesting to work for an organization like this, but it also shows that they are aware of the world outside and have a commitment to making sure they stay in it. You would be surprised at how many companies ignore trends and shifts in their markets, and fail drastically because of it, even if they somehow survived the last fifty years. Reaction to current trends means the company will remain stable over time, and will have some longevity.
Next, try to find out what the employee count has been over the years. For a public company, this is fairly easy. For a private company, this may require some covert questions during your interview process that can help you understand the movement of employees through the past. Beware of companies that have fluctuated drastically from large to small to large again. It may show a lack of ability to anticipate the market and cause them to do large layoffs. It may also show they hire and fire as a knee jerk reaction, instead of a strategic plan of lean growth and stability. During the interview process, try asking how the company weathered certain economic downfalls and see if they had a good recovery plan, or if the recovery plan was mostly at the cost of the employees.
Also, look out for companies that haven’t grown at all. It may indicate there are well-trenched employees who are never going to leave and no positions being created, thereby no room for upward advancement. It may also show that their front door is a revolving door, and an undesirable place to work.
Another great indicator is the employees themselves. How long has the average employee worked there? If the average employee has worked there a long time, that isn’t always a great sign unless they have also advanced. Good signs of a company that holds advancement opportunities is when you hear long time employees that have risen through the ranks. If you discern that employees have worked there a long time but haven’t changed positions, it could be a great place or stable place to work, but not really a good place to build your career.
My final secret weapon for determining if a company is a good place for growth and advancement is take a look at their marketing and educational departments. These two departments, even in large companies, can be treated as somewhat superfluous and unnecessary. If the company has a sizeable and sturdy marketing department, I can usually tell they are in it for the long haul. Marketing helps the company exceed the competition, as well as adequately handle disasters. A company’s commitment to its marketing team shows a commitment to longevity.
The same goes for any sort of training, education, mentorship or coaching programs the company may have in place. These types of programs take a considerable investment, but can also show the company’s commitment to your growth and advancement as an employee. If the company culture can incorporate employee training, there is a high likelihood that advancement will not only be available, but expected.
A note about start-ups: just because they haven’t been around very long doesn’t mean they aren’t great places for advancement, experience and growth. You tend to get raised up the ladder faster than you would in a normal organization. If the concept is strong, the financial backing is solid, and the leaders of the company are smart, the start-up you helped build can become your meal ticket for long-lasting career. Don’t be fooled, this is an awfully large risk to take. However, it is a risk that I think everyone should try at least once as there is so much to learn from a start-up environment. Generally, the time to take this risk is when you are young and beginning your career, or well-established and can afford to lose a few years and dollars if it doesn’t work out.
When you are ready to settle down to a comfortable career, take a look at these components of the company before you accept that next tempting job offer. Make sure you don’t get tunnel vision and hone in only on their date of incorporation, or their size. To truly call a company home, longevity and advancement must be key factors of the company’s makeup.
by Sasha DeMarino