A very wise man (my husband Tom) once told me to never trust a company that has a ping-pong table. At first, I thought it was quite an odd perspective, but after further investigation I understood what he meant.
Having a ping-pong table isn’t enough to make somewhere a great place to work, nor is organised Friday drinks or free fruit. But yet here I am, fresh into a new role with an agency that does indeed have a ping-pong table, provides fruit and arranges drinks nights. And I made that move as the world is only just beginning to recover from Covid, there’s a war on mainland Europe and we are heading into a recession with interest rates at 9% (as I write this…).
So, what on earth would make me want to change roles with all that uncertainty going on? Surely when there is turmoil everywhere we look, the calm security of a company you know inside out would be a far better decision? But yet, here we are.
Culture is king
The first thing to stress is I am immensely proud of the places I have worked to date. I am a huge believer in culture being everything, and as my career started to take flight, I made a conscious decision to put it at the top of the list (well obviously salary helps as you can’t pay the mortgage with a great culture, but you know what I mean). My previous role for instance was with a company who prides itself in looking after its team and putting them at the heart of all the decisions they make – which they truly do. However, I learnt I am an out and out office fan – I need the buzz of people around me and so ultimately couldn’t settle fully into a remote agency.
Once I realised that, I had a think about my next step. It’s more clear than ever now that work isn’t a place you go, it’s a thing you do. So my options, like so many other people’s, were much more open. I wanted to join somewhere I could make roots, grow with, learn and have fun. Agency life can be tough right? And it’s the camaraderie and fun that gets you through those days that haven’t quite gone to plan!
I knew Fountain by reputation, and so after a few drinks with a friend (who happens to be a Fountaineer), I wanted to find out more about who Fountain truly are and if they live the values they publicly display – after all, they have a ping-pong table.
Turns out they actually do.
Find your happy
Everyone who works at Fountain truly believes in doing the right thing. For their clients, for their team, and for their community. Things that a private company can easily hide away, like the gender pay gap, doesn’t have to be hidden as it’s 0.03% – in favour of women. Meetings aren’t hierarchal (in fact, nor is the agency) where senior management hold the spotlight and people at earlier stages of their career are not listened to or valued. We go out for drinks together because we want to – we want to spend time with each other, not because we’re having enforced, organised fun (which as we all know is the best sort of fun).
So, why am I saying all this? I guess it’s because as someone who has changed company in a time where the world is feeling less than stable, I want to pass on my words of wisdom and help others find their happy.
If you are thinking about pursuing a new role, especially in an uncertain time, here are my five top tips based on experience to think about as part of the process:
- Do your research - It may sound dull but have a look at things like the gender pay gap, how people engage with their organisation publicly, and how they are performing financially.
- Study people - Read the room during your interview. Watch how people are treated by the wider team. Do the men all stand up and walk out leaving the women to pick up the empty water glasses? Does the receptionist get ignored? Do people look like they actually like each other? Do they talk over each other or properly listen?
- Ask around – People know people. The world has become a smaller place, so chances are you’ll know someone who knows someone. Clearly don’t just listen to the one disgruntled person who isn’t a fan because of something that happened a lifetime ago, but get a general feel for what people think.
- Longevity - Find out how long people have been there for. Agency churn is a real thing, and it’s the same for many industries. If someone gets a long service award for lasting six weeks, all is probably not well.
- Do you care? - Would you feel proud working there? Do their values align to yours? Do their clients and the projects you’ll be working on interest you? Would you be happy to carry their branded tote bag in public?
The perfect fit
Nowhere gets it right 100% of the time, and some days will be tougher than others. But ultimately, I believe in order to really be happy somewhere, you have to feel like you fit in – that there is a ‘you’-shaped whole in their team. Values need to be aligned, tough times dealt with and culture embedded, not just stuck on the wall. You understand where you are as a team and, more importantly, where you’re headed together. And these are all reasons to move when the time comes, no matter what the global backdrop.
It’s also really pleasing to know Tom isn’t right about everything. Ping-pong anyone?