Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 15: missions, visions, and corporate cultures and finding the right career path for you for them

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 4, 2013

This is my fifteenth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-324 for Parts 1-14.)

I wrote of life and career choices and of forks in the roads that we take in Part 14 of this series. And I wrote there of how ultimately, we own and need to take active ownership of the life and career choices that we make as we approach and face those decision points. Then at the end of that posting I began a process of adding a business’ mission and vision and its corporate culture into this mix. I indicated that I would address that here and that is my goal for this posting.

Even the most gregarious and socially connected among us wants and even needs some time to ourselves, but fundamentally we as a species are social. Most of us live and work in communities of others, and when we work we enter into and participate in workplace communities – communities that are centered around the people who work with us at the same business as us, but also communities that can draw in clients and customers and others from the outside as well – people from the larger surrounding community who see value in what we do and in what our business does, and who develop relationships with us as a result.

Brand loyalty for specific products and services offered is only a part of this, and in that regard, I find myself thinking of business that I have frequented as a customer, and that I have worked at where I have seen customers and employees get to know each other as people. The look of recognition and the smile and remembered name only superficially begin to cover this; these relationships are often based on respect and trust – certainly trust on the part of those customers involved, that the employees who they know are looking to offer them value, and value to them as customers and end-users from among what this business offers.

• A business’ mission and vision, as perhaps formally stated in publically shared vetted statements, begin by addressing the role and position that this organization seeks to achieve in its industry, and in its marketplace, in creating and providing products and services of competitive value. A bakery seeks to bake the best breads and cakes, pies and pastries. A hardware store seeks to offer a best selection of products for its customers, and more than that it seeks to offer the best advice to help its customers find and secure the best products for meeting their specific needs and at a good price. This is all oriented around the marketable sources of value that this business offers as it seeks to be an effective competitor in its marketplace, and to succeed and thrive as a business for doing so.
• But mission and vision statements are also always social contracts too. They seek to stake out a place in larger communities that this organization can strive to reach, and as a socially connected entity, comprised of socially connected people.

This is very important to keep in mind when thinking about and planning and pursuing a career path. What we do is not just about the hands-on skills that we develop and exercise, and either as we directly take on work tasks ourselves or when we manage and supervise others as they do so. What we do as we work is also equally importantly about participating in a community – a community that is built around a set of social conventions and automatically assumed and accepted principles. And with that, I finally explicitly add that last key term from the title of this posting, into this discussion: corporate culture.

• Corporate culture can be viewed and understood in a variety of ways, all of which shed valuable explanatory light. For purposes of this discussion, I note that a corporate culture is a framework for social organization within a business, that lays out norms and expectations, based on the personalities of the people who succeed and thrive there, and on lessons learned from ongoing experience there.
• One of the functions of a successful corporate culture is that its norms and ways, usually simply taken for granted as “the way to do things”, limits and smooths out disagreements and conflicts by outlining basic accepted and expected patterns of behavior.
• When you work for a business with a mission and vision that are compatible with your own values and with a corporate culture that you find comfortable and supportive, you thrive.
• This is where you hold the greatest changes for positive recognition and for opportunity to advance along a career path too, to the extent that that organization can offer opportunity for advancement in-house, and to the extent that it can offer opportunity for gaining necessary skills and experience even if advancement does mean moving on.
• People can and do burn out on a job when they feel cornered into task responsibilities that they see as leading nowhere and certainly for them. But most of the time at the very least, interpersonal issues and challenges at least contribute to creating burnout when it does develop. It is not the hands-on skills-demanding work that we do that burns us out when we confront that challenge – it is interpersonal conflict and incompatibility, and conflict of values held.
• When I write above of values held, I am not referring to the perhaps tremendously inspiring wording of the official mission and vision statements, which can be very positive for any organization or type of organization. I am writing of the “as I do” and not the “as I say” side to them and how they are actually day-to-day acted upon and made real. And I am writing of the corporate culture and its values as actually lived, and of what that says about how members of that business’ community are or are not valued.

A great job and job title, and technically challenging and interesting specific job description-oriented work responsibilities loose some of their luster if you find them at a business where you find the interpersonal to be toxic. That leads to real burnout and with time regardless of monetary compensation provided.

So if you seek to offer unique and significant value as an employee and at whatever level on the table of organization, find a place where you can get the functional details settled to your satisfaction with title and compensation and specific work responsibilities that you would find positive and that you would derive satisfaction from. But at least as importantly look for a place where you can find what for you, would be a supportive workplace community with values and interpersonal principles and practices that you can be comfortable with and thrive in too. And if you find yourself facing a mismatch there, you will know. That is the time to start career planning ahead to find a more compatible opportunity and path forward, whether that would be at this same business or arise from looking beyond it.

• The important point here is to value yourself and your values, and to not simply allow yourself to slip into the frustration of burnout.
• In the right place for you, you can thrive and you can achieve your fullest potential where that by definition always includes a measure of happiness and job satisfaction, and a knowledge that you are accomplishing something positive and meaningful there.

I have been writing this in terms of working for others and in organizations set up and led by others. I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider startups and working at and founding them as paths to offering unique value through your work. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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