It’s a brand new semester, my degree audit indicates that I’m even closer to graduating, and the feeling of “New Year, New Me!” is still in the air. I love beginnings; they make me feel all energized and ready to conquer.

However even though I love new starts, ironically, what I’m actually looking forward to is the end of the semester because that heralds one of the most significant beginnings in my life: starting my first full-time, “adult” job as a software engineer. Of course the only reason my present self can bask in the security of having a job lined up is because my past self worked her butt off last semester.

As I would expect after dedicating the entire fall semester to job hunting (to the point where I kinda turned a blind eye to some of my obligations), I was in the desirable situation of having several options to choose from. Interestingly enough, more than the blood, sweat, and tears I put into recruiting and interviewing, deciding who to sign with turned out to be the most stressful part of the process. I probably shaved a couple years off my lifespan with the barrage of self-imposed hypotheticals. As I think back to it, I never expected the final decision to be so nerve-racking or to consider so many factors when comparing companies.

Obviously I compared the standard factors such as salary, location, what kinds of project would I be working on, and made note of each company’s prominence in the tech world and its future outlook (didn’t want to go to work at a sinking ship.) Nevertheless, even though I drafted up numerous “pros and cons” lists, I wasn’t able to make a choice. This was because I was torn between places I wanted to work and places I felt like I “should” work. My friends, family, and even the general tech world had their own opinions about which job I “should” take, and it’s easy to accept their words as the “right” option. Of course, while their counsel is valuable, at the end of the day I had to really consider what would be best for me and where I would be the happiest. For example, even though I’ve been dead set on moving to Seattle after graduating, when the time came I started second guessing myself and wondering if I should move to the Bay Area instead. Lots of resources online and some people I knew made it seem like that would be the “right” career move for me. To be fair, the idea had merit – Silicon Valley is the promise-land of technology. But I realized that while going to Bay Area probably wouldn’t derail my career (most likely it would do the opposite), I knew that that happiest, working version of myself would be in Seattle. Not to mention that it’s a great tech hub as well.

As I started considering what I personally deemed important over what I “should” do, I began to ask companies more questions. One factor that was hugely important to me was the office space layout. I can’t work in cubicles and personal offices might as well be prison cells. Both of those layouts tended to be deal breakers for me. To other it may sound like I’m just being picky or high-maintenance, but office space layout really affects my productivity so I know it’s important. In addition to the more standard questions, I asked companies more specific and personally applicable questions like: What is the gender ratio on the team like? What does your company do to promote women and diversity in tech? What is the distribution of young people vs. older people? What is the generally policy towards working at home?  What do people at the office do together for fun? Is the weather in Seattle as depressing as people make it out to be? Is your company involved in any outreach efforts with the local community and schools? How easy is it for me to get involved as an interviewer? Sometimes I felt really weird asking these questions, like I was being unnecessarily probing, but I eventually learned to ignore that feeling because they were questions that really helped me understand that company and imagine myself fitting there.

It still wasn’t an easy straightforward choice, but by paying attention to what factors I personally valued and not just what I felt like I “should” do, I was finally able to make a decision I felt really good about. Considering that I’m not really a 9-to-5 kind of person and that I’m excited about starting my job next year, I’d say I ended up making the right choice.

Happy Thursday! :) 

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