By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Each company is defined by it, but not many know it by name and many don’t even know it exists! An important attribute when considering future employment options is the company culture, the DNA, if you will of the organization.
A company’s culture is the only truly unique identifier. Products and strategies can always be duplicated. Your company culture defines the way in which your organization interacts with one another and how the team interacts with the outside world. It’s the formula that guides the team, as well as inspires and motivates employees. When companies are going through the recruitment process, they’re not only looking for qualified individuals, but also individuals they want to work with in the future.
It’s not uncommon for job seekers to enter organizations without understanding the culture and come away disappointed. When considering a new prospect, be sure to investigate the institution’s culture! Consider these questions to guide you:
What should I learn? – Understand the organization’s purpose – not just what they said they’re doing, but how their purpose leads to decisions and what makes them proud. Learn how the organization operates. Different purposes and different organizational features can be more or less appealing to different people, and that’s okay! No two people in the job market are the same. When you understand how the potential employer operates, you’ll need to consider how well that matches your goal. Your target organizational culture is an important part of your aspirations.
How should I learn? – Read everything you can about the institution, but read with a critical eye. Read in between the lines, all the formal vision statements are filled with buzz words, but what do they mean? Discuss culture with people in the organization; see what it means to them. You’ll talk to people in the interviewing process. But you may learn different things if you meet others there that aren’t involved in your recruiting process. Their different experience with the institution will affect their views, so ask about situations where they’ve seen the culture in action.
When should I learn? – It’s hard to learn about culture at such an early stage in your search, but your impressions can guide to you your ideal workplace. Culture may come up in job interviews, although it may be complicated to do much investigation when you’re trying to sell yourself. People sometimes worry that discussing culture might make people uncomfortable and put a job offer at risk. The culture topic isn’t entirely off base and it’s necessary to know for future growth in the company.


If this culture concept is hard to grasp, just think back to the time when you were considering which college to attend. Why UM? The strong athletic department? The diversity that defines our campus? The love for the alma mater during this Homecoming season is a good time to reflect on our own school culture so Go Canes and get some soul searching done!