Anyone starting a new job knows the awkward beginnings of trying to fit into a new work culture. Business majors talk about it all the time, but it applies to everyone. I started my internship with McGladrey in early January, nearly going through what sociologists like to call culture shock. When you start a new job, you’re faced with a multitude of new coworkers, who are each their individual person and likewise affect that culture. So how do you start the assimilation process and make your own place in the company or business? It might take some time, but eventually getting to know your co-workers and finding connections can be very rewarding both in a career sense and in a personal sense.
When I started with McGladrey it was my first exposure working for a national company, and every year they send new hires and interns from all over the country to go through a weeklong training program in St. Charles, Illinois. During orientation, I heard about the ‘company culture’ frequently. So what is it exactly? Here are the basics:
- A mission statement that defines the goals and aspirations of a company
- An established level of power distance between you and those in higher positions within the company
- The clientele focus
- The type of work performed
- The individual personalities that the company seeks
Now you’ve all heard it before, the cliché action verbs that everyone wants to put on their resume to try to stand out as a go-getter, an achiever, or someone with a keen eye for detail. All of this might stand out on your resume and get you to that interview, but to really lock in that job and prove that you would be a good fit for whatever job you are applying for you need to do your research and put yourself out there. Networking makes all the difference; it gives you a chance to meet your potential coworkers. Understanding a company’s mission when you walk in that door for your interview makes all the difference in the world. After all, how can you comfortably apply for a company and expect to be a good fit when you know nothing about it?
One thing I’ve learned with McGladrey is that there is a surprisingly low amount of power distance in the hierarchy. On my first day I was meeting with senior associates and partners whom I now work with on a daily basis. It was intimidating at first, but I knew right away that in order to survive the tax season as a tax accountant, I would need to work very closely with everyone around me. Every day I get assignments that I collaborate on with different people in the office. In a job like this, you have to be personable and you have to be humble, especially in an internship. I was told on a number of occasions that when McGladrey hires new interns, they assume that we know nothing and that we would have to learn everything. I once was told at our Christmas party that in the past, the interns who didn’t get a full time offer were the ones that didn’t exercise those exact traits. Remember, this is a new culture, you don’t really know anyone, you haven’t worked with them, and you are expected to put yourself out there and fit in. I’m not telling you to change who you are as a person, in many cases people discover that the company or its culture just aren’t for them. Public accounting in a nutshell has a surprisingly high turnover rate, probably because of the demanding atmosphere, especially during tax season.
On a final note, my tips to a relatively smooth transition into a new job are these:
- Try to meet everyone you can right away, talk to everyone, introduce yourself
- Do your best to attend and participate in outside-work activities
- Ask questions, never assume things about the work environment if you don’t know
- Never underestimate the usefulness of reading up or researching current happenings within the company (for example, McGladrey sends out a weekly newsletter and I make sure to put aside some time to browse through it)
For any of you starting a new job or internship soon, or are beginning their interviews for the summer: Good luck!
Of possible interest:
- What to Bring on the First Day of Work
- How to Handle a Competitive Work Environment
- Internship Faux Pas
- Company Culture: 5 Big “Little” Things to Consider When Interviewing
- Company Culture: What is it and Why is it Important?