As someone whose mind focuses largely on college life, academics, and sports on a weekly basis, it can be alarming to realize that in a couple of years I will be in the “real world,” earning money in a professional setting. For many people, this means showing up to the same office surrounded by the same people for five days a week. This office atmosphere of dress code and daily conversations will have a large impact on how you live your life. In order to make the most of this exciting time in your life, one thing comes into play: the culture of the company. 

Recently, I went through the internship search process to gain valuable experience before beginning my full-time search. Handshake, LinkedIn, and any job search engine imaginable came into play as I took the first step in my professional career. These websites led me to the individual sites of companies in which I was interested. Almost all of them had a section detailing what they were all about: values, purpose, mission, culture, and the like. While these are all important, the culture area should be something you spend a good amount of time on when considering if it is the right company for you. 

Some valuable questions you should think about when viewing the culture section are:

  • How much do they value employees?
  • What does a typical workday look like?
  • What does the typical dress look like for employees?  
  • Is this a company with which I could see myself spending an extended amount of time?

With all of these, you have to begin by knowing what you want. This will look different for everyone. Some may like to show up in casual clothes while others find themselves needing a business professional look to get work done. If you’re the organized type, make an Excel spreadsheet with categories that align with the questions above and rank the companies on a 1-10 scale to see which ones come out on top. If you’re more of a think-as-you-go kind of person, try to envision yourself in that exact environment. Could you see yourself there? Will you truly be happy?

While looking at these companies online can give you an idea of what their culture is like, nothing can replace the value of in-person interactions. This means taking advantage of opportunities to meet them if they are visiting campus or using your connections to shadow a current employee of the company. A company may be completely better than you thought online, or it could be sending vibes that create warning signals for you.

Getting a grasp of the company culture goes beyond the sales pitch each company gives at a career fair. Meet with employees in a setting that allows you to have an extended, casual conversation to learn about their day-to-day.. More often than not, you will leave with a greater sense of whether or not that company is one you should pursue. 

To give a personal example, I signed up for a luncheon with Southwest Airlines through Handshake when they visited campus back in September. The company brought with them three recruiters, and, for about an hour, they talked about their experiences working with the company. There were no more than about twelve students who attended, which allowed for a small, intimate setting. 

It is through this that I was able to gain a deeper understanding of how the recruiters feel about their jobs, beyond the speech that they came to deliver. This knowledge is what led me to apply and ultimately accept an internship with them. If I had simply left my research at their website, I likely would not have considered applying with them, and a great opportunity would have been left on the table. 

Of course, after doing all of these things there is the possibility you could get into a job and realize your initial thoughts turned out to be the exact opposite. As Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers basketball player, would say, “Trust the Process.”

In today’s world, job-hopping is becoming increasingly more relevant, and, if you go through the same progression in researching employers as before, you will eventually land on a company that feels more like a family. The traditional saying, “If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life” is absolutely true. The key to fulfilling it is to focus on the culture of that business and to find one that fits who you are as a person. 


Ronnie Ecoff is a junior economics and finance major. He has a passion for sports analytics, travel, and spreading positivity as he interacts with other students in the business world, Honors College, and housing communities. Ronnie is currently interning in the financial planning and analysis department with Southwest Airlines in the Dallas Ft. Worth Area and will be interning with risk management at PNC Bank in his hometown of Pittsburgh over the summer. His personal interests include analyzing the strategy side of sports and serving time helping the Type 1 Diabetic community, a cause that he is personally invested in.


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