In the News, Watercooler

Figuring Out The Best Companies To Work For – For You!

Very few employers offer their staff three weeks of vacation and another two weeks for “site inspections” – travel to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador or Nepal and Tibet. But Natural Habitat Adventures does – and that’s why it makes my very short list of companies I’d join in a heartbeat.

My dream employers list is an eclectic one, culled from best places to work lists produced by Fortune, Outside and Working Mother magazines. Many of them reflect my hope to reach the pinnacle of the media elite. So yes, I’m ready to leave my cozy work-from-home freelancing perch for Fortune or the New York Times. And I’d gladly trade career and business writing for documenting travel to Africa or Latin America and the wilds of Wyoming, provided those travel companies pack me a job with excellent benefits and no requirement to get too close to the tigers or boa constrictors. Though the vistas may be less scenic, I’d also join Bain & Company and a few other consulting firms recommended by Glassdoor in their Employees’ Choice Awards (top 50 Best Places to Work) and Consulting magazine’s best employer lists.

Now that you’ve heard about my ideal employers, it’s time for you to write down your target list.

Why do you need such a best places to work list, you ask, when you’re already making a good living at a fairly decent job?  The world is unpredictable and change is constant so what looks steady today could feel uneasy or unwelcoming next month. Plus the list gives you something to dream about – and a prism to focus your networking efforts. Spend 15 minutes researching them on those slow days or an hour gathering recon after you’ve had a “I need out” week at your current gig.

Figure out what kind of companies and workplaces sing siren songs to you. A small start-up or a Fortune 500? A non-profit or a New Age all-natural employer? Do you care more about conscience or cash? Career advancement or work-life comforts? Friendly low-key culture or fast-paced, competitive mindsets? Independent travel or teamwork?

In an interview last year (2009), Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute, suggests job seekers ask themselves “What kind of values do I want to serve?” and “What kind of working conditions do I want?”

Think ahead to what will suit you in three to five years. What are your personal goals and hopes? Planning a family? Writing a book? Earn an MBA or MFA? Look for employers with great policies on maternity and paternity leaves, flexibility and tuition reimbursements.

Read Fortune magazine’s issue and peruse’s new list of best places to work. Read industry blogs and trade publications too for profiles and articles on smaller companies on the rise.

Don’t be afraid to dream big and aim high. Your list should include the standouts in your industry and the companies that are highly sought after – from Facebook to General Mills to the fine chocolatier in your hometown.

And don’t be shy about cluing some friends in on your aspirational list after you’ve developed it. The ideal employer list works best when it is shared – even if it means learning, as I did, that Natural Habitat already has a staff writer among its 40 or so employees.