Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

The Crazy8 Chronicles — The Intangibles of Corporate Culture

In my job-search I viewed a lot of websites. I mean a lot–easily 150+. On a lot of these agency websites, you get their “Why you should work for us” spiel.

You hear some cool stuff. Agencies really are a fun atmosphere, particularly for young professionals. But today, I’m not here to talk about the stuff you see in employer branding–the baseball games, the “no office” approaches, the open-door policies,the agency-wide collaboration, the casual dress code, or the beer cart Fridays.

Today, I’m going to talk about the stuff you don’t see in carefully placed copy, I’m going to talk about the intangibles of corporate culture.

The subject of this blog post arose out of the response to my last blog post. Erwin Penland ended up posting it to their Facebook and it got some good comments on there. I had people individually e-mail me telling me they really enjoyed my blog post. People who I had never met before would see me and say “Hey, Ross right? I loved your blog post.”

That’s an example of what I think is an intangible aspect of a corporate culture. Everyone’s willingness to take the time out of their day to share their thoughts, to congratulate, to support, to compliment is more revealing of a culture than can really be described on a company website. Why? Because the things that are posted on employer websites are conscious–they are things the company has thought about. That doesn’t mean that they are unimportant, there’s just a lot of thinking, writing, and editing that goes into that description.

But what I experienced is intangible, it’s not able to be captured in text; It’s a manifestation of corporate culture, not a description. The distinction between manifestation and description is an important one. What happened on Tuesday was because EP has developed an awesome corporate culture throughout the years, and that was but one example. I see snapshots of EP culture throughout the day. I see it in the dynamics and bond on my own team; I see it in a busy agency professional’s willingness to meet one-on-one with me to discuss their job; I see it in the way the CEO, Joe Erwin, approaches leading his agency (fyi, he approaches it from a standpoint that he is there to serve us, and the agency is there to serve everyone we come in contact with); I see it in the creation of an internship committee that had membership from people all over the agency–from senior levels on down to entry levels; I see it in the way that my team gives me legitimate work instead of coffee&copies; I even see it in the boxes of conversation-starter questions cards in all of the common areas of the agency (minor details are always the nicest touches).

It’s those types of things that really define a corporate culture, and by extension, your work experience.

So how can you take the information in this blog post and make it useful for yourself? Off the top of my head, I can think of a few things.

  • Do you have multiple offers on the table for an internship or job? Request to do a shadowing experience at each of these employers. Just ask if you can spend a few hours watching a person do their work, or walk around the office. Does everyone go to lunch together? Does the work environment actually allow people to easily talk to each other? Do you see people talking to others from a wide-range of departments outside of their own? Do people smile and say hello as you walk by? Do they hold doors open for each other? Get a general feel for the way people interact and treat each other.
  • Did the employer do something that really set themselves apart? There were a few things that were indicators for me at EP. The first is that EP allowed me to do my first and final interview through the phone. They called me and said “We know you’re in Boston, so we’re not gonna make you come all the way down to South Carolina. Let’s set up a phone call with you and three of our team members. After our interview, one of the interviewers, Mandy Stinson, sent me a thank you e-mail for taking the time to speak with them. Also, the way the interviewers played off of each other and interacted really revealed a strong bond between them.
  • How are the gatekeepers? What I mean by a gatekeeper is the person that is the barrier between you and the rest of the company. This is usually going to be the internship coordinator or something like that. The gatekeeper will probably tell you a lot about the company. If they leave you with a great impression, that speaks well for the company. Likewise, if they leave you with a bad impression.

I really hope this helps you in some way. The culture you come into is so vital to your work experience so carefully consider that when you’re out there looking for jobs.

And yes, I did just write a blog post about the reaction to my blog post–proud over-thinking introverts, unite!


Ross Andrew Simons

P.S. Check out my other blogs! Here’s my intro blog, my 10 job-search strategies, and the blog post this is a response to.