How to Find a Company That'll Help You Explore Your Passions and Find Your Path

Committing to a career path is always scary. After all, how do you know if a role is the role? What if you start feeling bored or getting stuck? Is it possible your real dream job is out there—you just haven’t found it yet?

Of course, there are all kinds of ways to explore your professional interests. For starters, you can take career quizzes and sit down for informational interviews with people who have roles you’re curious about. You can test drive a job by freelancing or volunteering.

But if you’ve done all that, and you’re still not sure, your best bet may be joining an organization that actively supports career exploration and growth.

With your company’s resources, encouragement, and support, it’ll be easier to put your skills to work in a few different ways—and eventually hone in on a job that gets you fired up.

How do you find such a place? Read on to discover four signs of a company that will help you use your skills in the best way possible, as well as what to ask throughout the interview process to make sure you’re getting the full scoop.

Sign #1: Lateral Movement Is as Common as Upward Movement

When companies talk about professional growth, it’s often about helping people move up the ladder in their respective fields. But if you’re not completely sure you’ll want to be in the same function in three, five, or 10 years, then that particular path might not be so appealing.

Instead, you may want to find an organization that doesn’t only promote upward career mobility, but also moving across functions or businesses.

LinkedIn can be a great resource to help identify companies that promote cross-functional career movement. Start by looking up 10 or so current and past employees at a given company and looking at their experience to see how linear their career paths have been there. Did they move across the organization, or did they either move up or move on to other companies?

Visibility of open roles to current employees is another great indicator of companies that promote movement within the organization. Cox Enterprises, for example, has an internal program called Compass that gives employees tools and resources—including access to internal job listings—to encourage a proactive and creative approach to their unique career path.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

  • Are open roles advertised internally? Are current employees actively encouraged to apply?
  • What are some ways people in this department have grown within in the organization?
  • How does the company make sure employees are developing in a way that’s exciting to them?

Sign #2: There Are Opportunities to Learn About Other Departments

There are few better ways to explore a potential job than experiencing its day-to-day work. When you actually get your feet wet, your expectations may not match up with the reality—for better or for worse—and that will help inform your decisions moving forward.

So look for companies that encourage inter-departmental learning: Some will let you shadow your peers, while others offer formal rotation programs that will let you cycle through the organization and try your own hand at a job.

Catherine Woodall says her experience with a rotational program at Cox Enterprises, called FORGE, gave her insight into careers she wasn’t previously aware of. “It gave me the opportunity to explore other Cox divisions and the career possibilities that I would have not otherwise thought about. Through networking with executives in different parts of the business and hearing their career stories, it inspired me to think about what’s next for me and where I wanted to go with my career.”

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

  • How often does this department collaborate with others?
  • Do you offer the opportunity to shadow people within other departments?
  • How does the company help employees learn about other roles and teams?

Learn more about working for Cox Enterprises and check out open roles!

Sign #3: Side Projects and Experiments Are Encouraged

Side projects are a great way to pick up new abilities outside of your core skill set and test your aptitude for a specific job. And while you can always start something independently, let’s be honest: Motivating yourself to work on something new at the end of a long day can be a challenge.

With that in mind, search for an employer that encourages side projects, like one that allows employees to spend a percentage of their time on whatever they want or that gives high performers opportunities to get involved with new projects. You’re far likelier to explore your interests when you’ve got time to do so baked into your 9-to-5 routine.

Regular hackathons can also be a great indicator of a culture of exploration. With free rein to experiment, participants can dabble in whatever intrigues them. Imagine you want to help train new employees. Your hackathon project could be designing a 30-minute product training session—not only will you get to practice the skills you’d be using in your potential future job, but you can show your supervisors what you’d be capable of.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

  • What’s the last project you worked on that wasn’t directly related to your main job?
  • What do employees typically do with any extra time they have at work?
  • Do you host hackathons? How often? How much of the company participates?

Sign #4: Other Employees Support Your Growth

Even with the company supporting employee movement, the process of finding your ideal role can be confusing, stressful, and maybe even a little scary. You’ll wonder if you’re making the right choice, whether or not you’ve found the right fit, and how exactly to transition (and that’s just scratching the surface).

That’s why you need people in your corner—and why companies that really care about helping employees develop their careers have champions across the organization to make this happen.

These champions commonly take the shape of mentors, whether it’s through a formal program or just a culture of higher-ups helping junior employees succeed. Cox Enterprises employee Monica Longoria shares, “…my mentor is always there for me through the hard times—and keeps me motivated in my role, cheering me on to be the best person that I can be.”

Many employers also have individuals or teams dedicated to talent management, learning, and development—do a little digging to see if this exists at the organizations you’re considering, and what sort of programs you might have access to.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

  • Is there any sort of formal mentorship program in place? If so, what does that look like? If not, do people often find informal mentors within the company?
  • Who is someone in the company who has influenced your career?
  • Who is in charge of helping employees develop plans for growth?

With the freedom to try new things and hone in on your ideal role, you’ll be far less anxious about choosing the “perfect” job that will set you on the right path forever. Feeling unsure about what you want to do is normal—and every role you try (even the ones you don’t love) brings you closer to the right one.

Photo of happy person courtesy of andresr/Getty Images.

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Daily Muse
The Daily Muse is the daily publication of The Muse, your ultimate career destination that offers exciting job opportunities, expert advice, and a peek behind the scenes into fantastic companies and career paths.

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