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Life is too short to work in a place that sucks

Culture isn’t always the first thing people think about when considering a new job or career, but it should be.

Years ago, some colleagues and I were trying to come up with a vision statement for our human resources department. We didn’t want to use “business speak,” or sound like everyone else, so after much thought and many revisions, we came up with this: Life is too short to work in a place that sucks. We loved it! Even if we weren’t able to put it on our business cards.

Although that statement never made it out of the conference room, it’s still what I tell people when they ask for career advice.

Work is important, and we all want to find work that’s satisfying and enriching. And, yes, we want work that pays the bills. But work should fuel your real life, not detract from the quality of it.

Not long ago, I met with a woman who was ready to leave the nonprofit world and was exploring what to do next. I told her to find a position where her personal values matched the company’s values because I firmly believe culture trumps all when it comes to finding harmony in our work and personal lives. If what matters to you is consistent with what matters to those around you and to your company, you’re likely to be happy.

However, finding congruency is a two-way street. You have to know yourself first. What do you value? Status? Security? The opportunity to grow and play to your strengths? Maybe you want a short commute. There are hundreds of different factors to consider. Write them down and take them seriously.

When I was starting out in the work world, I took a job as an office assistant. I was so excited to have my first office job! On my first day, my new boss showed me my desk and the filing cabinets, and where the coffee was.

“Oh, I don’t drink coffee,” I told him casually. He thought that was hilarious. When I asked him why that was so funny, he said: “I don’t care whether you don’t drink coffee. You’re going to make mine every day.” I quit about three minutes later. That interaction gave me a picture of what this place was going to be like, and it didn’t fit with the vision I had for myself. So I moved on.

Listen carefully to the stories an organization tells you about itself, whether it’s directly or through its behaviors. Most companies have mission, vision, and value statements. If those values matter to you, and they’re an active part of the organization’s culture, not just talked about, follow the signposts. Chances are they’ll lead you in the right direction.

Remember that woman who was exploring a new direction? Well, she joined CSAA Insurance Group as our corporate responsibility manager. She uses her rich nonprofit background to build partnerships that support our award-winning employee volunteerism and charitable giving programs. It’s a perfect fit.

So the next time you find yourself at a crossroads, remember to consider the power of culture to tip the scales in favor of a happier and healthier you. Life is too short to work in a place that sucks.

Marie Andel is the chief people and culture officer at CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA insurer. 

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