How Job Seekers Can Identify Their Best Company Culture

The one aspect of company culture that remains consistent is that it is completely subjective.  An environment that provides an ideal working condition for one employee could possibly send another running to the nearest help-wanted ad.  Considering how many hours per day we spend at our jobs, it is only natural for individuals to actively seek a work culture that fits, at least closely, with their working habits, personality, and lifestyle.

Yet, with this in mind, how can job seekers truly know what type of company is a good cultural fit?

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Identifying your comfort zone

The best way to figure out where you belong is to figure out who you are.  Think back to previous positions you’ve held. At what time was your morale at its highest, and when did you find you were searching for some shred of inspiration to get through the day? Perhaps you’ve found that working for a spirited company sparked your enthusiasm.  You looked forward to the luncheons and company picnics, and embraced the family atmosphere. Conversely, you may be the type of employee who preferred a more subdued environment; and while you like your coworkers, you view a litany of company events, not as a perk, but more as a pressure.

Although these are basic examples, consider objectively when and how you perform best.  Chances are these are also the instances when you have been the most content in your place of employment.

Discovering what motivates you

Do you find that your output and quality increase when you know you’re “under fire”, so to speak?  Perhaps you aren’t the most self-directed employee, but since we are being objective, it’s really nothing to be ashamed, especially if you’re aware of it.  If knowing the presence of your superiors is imminent while you work on a project is what keeps you on track, then seeking an organization with a practical, hands-on leadership style may be best for you.  On the contrary, if you are an autonomous worker who finds that constant intervention from superiors actually slows you down and hinders your creativity, you may want to steer clear of a “micromanaging” atmosphere.

Recognizing a company’s culture

If you’ve had a job search that has drawn on just a little bit too long, it’s easy to put company culture at the bottom of your prerequisite list.   However, not taking into account your own needs and how they would ultimately integrate with the company with which you are interviewing, is basically increasing the odds that you will be back where you started, seeking employment.

How can job seekers possibly identify a company’s culture without first accepting the job and actually working for the organization? 

Before you even enter the hiring manager’s office, be sure to check out the organization’s LinkedIn page and company website.  A company’s “personality” can really shine through on their website as well as via their social media presence.  You will likely get a strong idea of whether a company promotes a fun, creative disposition or a dignified, corporate sensibility.

What is the best way for job candidates to discover the more minute details regarding a company’s culture?

Once you have landed in the interview chair, take this opportunity to directly ask the hiring manager about their management style and what qualities the company seeks in its best employees.  You may also want to consider asking your interviewer what they like best about their job. Asking the right questions will help you draw a direct connection between your own preferences and tendencies and what would most likely be expected of you by this particular employer.

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The Takeway

While we may not automatically give first priority to factors such as company culture when considering a new job, ascertaining how we will ultimately fit within an organization will actually help to increase our overall job stability. After all, whether employee or employer, everyone is on their best behavior at first, but as time wears on, it is often difficult — or even impossible — to hide our true inclinations.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Have a Great Idea at Work? Getting Superiors to Approve Your Suggestions

Do you have a great idea for your company? Perhaps you’ve thought of a way to save on expenses or speed up production. Conversely, maybe you’ve already submitted an idea and had it rejected. Most managers encourage feedback and ideas from employees and staff members. However, even good ideas can be rejected if they are not presented correctly. Time is money, and for managers, if the idea doesn’t spark immediate interest while proving a certain amount of worth, your good idea may be discarded.

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Unfortunately, the majority of ideas presented by employees are never implemented. In his article, “10 Ways to get Your Boss to Support Your Ideas”, leadership expert, Dan McCarthy stated, “I’d compare [the chances that management will accept your idea] to baseball. A 300 average (three ideas implemented out of ten) and you’re an all-star.”

However, before submitting your next great idea to your superiors, here are some tips to help ensure that your suggestions will have a greater chance of crossing the threshold into realization.

Tips for suggesting ideas to managers

  1. Research thoroughly. Before even thinking about going to your supervisor or manager, make sure your idea is thoroughly researched from every possible angle. Are other companies implementing something similar, and if so, how is it working?
  2. Know key personnel. As you develop a plan to reveal a new idea, it would be beneficial to first understand the personality or leanings of the person or people to whom you’ll be presenting and direct the presentation towards those individual(s). For example, a manager with an analytical sense will want to see charts, graphs and figures, while a more intuitive type of manager may prefer to hear the information verbally, as it relates to the facts.
  3. FOMO can be a powerful incentive. The “Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, is a common mindset which may actually work to your advantage while highlighting ideas being presented to management. While most companies will be hesitant to risk their reputations on new ideas without a fail-safe guarantee of success, they will also consider certain risks to avoid being surpassed by their competitors.
  4. List the benefits. How is this new idea going to benefit the manager and the company? Obviously, employees may have plenty of ideas and suggestions to help ease their own working burdens, but a manager will want to see how it will affect their job duties and the company as a whole. Will this new idea provide financial gain or savings, and if so, in what ways? Will it require hiring more employees or laying any off? Does it enhance production times?
  5. Conduct an experiment first. Find a way to conduct an experiment and use the results as part of your presentation. An experiment is a great way to show your plan in action while providing valuable facts and information that a verbal presentation on its own wouldn’t likely be able to accomplish.

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Ideas and suggestions are usually welcomed by upper management. However, remember that the majority of suggestions are never implemented, so don’t be discouraged if an idea isn’t accepted: Instead, concentrate not only on building upon and improving your idea, but solidifying its presentation as well.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Employee Self-Assessments: 4 Guidelines to Help You Prepare

While preparing for the self-assessment portion of an annual performance review is not a new concept, many who have been involved in the process itself, understand how it can be a challenging, sometimes even daunting, practice. In one of our recent articles, “How to Ensure Your Management Team is Conducting Effective Performance Reviews”, readers are offered a glimpse into the employee review process, from the employer’s point of view. Performance reviews benefit the employer by allowing them to assess the functionality of the company’s infrastructure as a whole, while also viewing individual departments and subsequent employees.

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Yet, the self-assessment is also an invaluable tool for employees, as it offers the opportunity for workers to gain a personal in-depth perspective of their own abilities, competencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Additionally, the self-assessment portion of the performance review allows employees a forum to spotlight some of their own achievements and strong suits, which may or may not have passed under management’s radar.

As it is crucial that self-assessments are approached pragmatically, we are offering a list of guidelines to ensure you are fully prepared to maximize the benefits of your next self-assessment.

  1.  Research and take notes. The most important part of a successful, professional and well-developed self-assessment is to make sure you have done your research and have taken notes throughout the year. Notes, both positive and negative, will help identify areas in which you have especially excelled, or those where you may need some more guidance. You may also include your own ideas for overall improvement.
  2. Rate your performance accurately. Before checking “excellent” on all of the categories, familiarize yourself with the company’s definition of excellence and other rating qualifications. Also, be honest when rating your own past performances and abilities. Acknowledging your own imperfections and recognizing areas in need of improvement actually reflects your own professionalism, and ability to proactively react to constructive criticism.
  3.  Emphasize the positive. As we know, the employee assessment isn’t exclusively based on identifying areas in need of improvement; it is also a time to highlight great achievements and successes throughout the year. Showcase accomplishments that you are proud of in a professional manner, and be sure to add references and notes that may apply. Explain or demonstrate how these achievements have been beneficial to the company. Perhaps they have positively affected the bottom line, reduced costs or improved sales.
  4.  Be professional. While the self-assessment is a chance for you to concentrate on your own achievements and abilities, it is still important to be as professional as possible. Remember that your superiors will be reading and evaluating your assessment, so this is just another opportunity to impress. Your self-assessment will also become a permanent part of your employee file; so be sure you have read the initial performance review guidelines so that you can properly cover all of the listed objectives.

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The Takeaway

The self-assessment segment of the performance review offers employees the opportunity to objectively view their work performance from the perspective of their employer.  It also affords workers the chance to honestly identify their own strengths and weaknesses and gain an in-depth view of their value as a team member. What is imperative, however, is to remain honest and professional, while remembering to highlight your achievements in equivalence to any areas in need of improvement.

Fred Coon, CEO


At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.

Workplace Analysis: Are We Seeing the End of Annual Pay Raises?

The days of receiving an annual raise so a company can express its appreciation of your loyalty are certainly not completely extinct, however, recent data has shown its prevalence and frequency to be slowly, yet markedly, sinking.  A portion of this may be due to a growing decrease in company loyalty by younger workers’ tendency to switch employment gears at a notably higher rate than their much older counterparts.

In spite of this environment (and in many cases, due to this environment), it’s important for workers to know their worth in the job market. Having a clear perspective of your value as an employee will not only strengthen your confidence in requesting a pay increase, but it will offer your superiors and the company’s decision-makers an indisputable perspective on your actual value to their company.  Additionally, for every young worker eagerly looking toward the next employment horizon, there are those who wish to obtain a sense of stability where they are.

That being said, in those companies and institutions where annual or semiannual reviews are the norm, the overwhelming advice is to visit sites such as or and find out where you fit into the equation.  Knowing your worth is the key to maximizing your potential.

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On a parallel note, female employees are well aware of the fact that, where sufficient data exists to compare earning potential between men and women, they’re still only earning $0.80 on the dollar compared to men.  In this case, the fadeout of the annual raise may actually work to their benefit; and here’s why:

Changes on the Horizon

Companies moving away from fixed annual increases do not lessen your burden of remaining aware of your value to the company; in fact, if anything, it amplifies it.  The new corporate strategy is to provide bonuses for certain fixed accomplishments, profit sharing incentives for increased sales or productivity, and performance raises based on merit.

It doesn’t matter if the “reward” for landing the “Johnson account” is two paid weeks at the company condo in “San Tropical”, 2 percent of net sales, or $5,000 in cash; gender simply doesn’t enter into the equation when the rewards are fixed.

From the businesses’ point of view, this meritocracy is probably the most sensible approach.  It harkens back to bygone days where everyone was paid the same wage to start and if they were more talented and productive than their peers, they were rewarded with an increase in salary.

In a capitalistic system, hiring an employee is an investment.  If that investment pays off, that person enjoys an increased dividend.  If they continue to do the same reliable job without a significant improvement, shouldn’t they get the same reliable wage that reflects the amount of contribution that they make?

However, when you do make a significant new contribution, you should be prepared to enumerate your achievements and attach a dollar-value to them.  This system rewards competence, achievement, and innovation.

A meritocracy is also a reasonable system from the business’ perspective, since they get to pay for tangible results.  It does away with the expectation that people will automatically get a raise (albeit, usually a small one in the neighborhood of 3 percent) for the mere reason that they work there, even if they haven’t met their annual goals or requirements.

The Drawbacks

Those individuals who have reached the point in their lives where they are now winding down their careers may not see another raise before they retire.  If you can’t show growth, improvement, or new value, this system doesn’t seem to accommodate you.  Just “doing your job” means your remuneration stays unchanged.

The same could be said for “dead-end” jobs which provide no opportunities toward new territory.  If you can’t find a way to show improved value for the company—how you increased their bottom line—you’re in the same boat.

It puts the obligation back on the employee to earn their bonuses, raises, or perks.  Those who just “drift along” are certainly due for a shock!

Another drawback is making sure that managers review every single employee on time, or regularly, so that raises, bonuses, and rewards can be handed out when appropriate.  If a supervisor lags behind in his or her responsibility to complete reviews, it can trigger a great deal of ill-feelings. Once you switch to a reward system you must deliver those rewards on time.

That’s the sort of responsibility (or irresponsibility) that might mean a manager or supervisor doesn’t meet their own goals for a raise based on competency.  A meritocracy means that everyone must merit their rewards.

The Big Advantage

In any meritocracy, it is important to have a readily available list of expectations and goals for employees.  If you “improve (A)” you get reward (A); if you “develop (B)” you get reward (B); if you “increase (C)” you get reward (C).  This gives them very specific goals to shoot for so that they can obtain the greatest possible rewards for their efforts.

Let’s consider (A) as the collection rate on delinquent accounts; (B) might represent creating new software programs; and (C) could be an intangible, such as improving Customer Satisfaction.  The latter is important so that this aspect doesn’t get overlooked as they strive for more clearly defined rewards.

Ultimately though, it clearly indicates what the company deems to be important and worthy of an employee’s diligence.  It helps to eliminate misdirected effort and wasted time.  You could conceivably find someone who ordinarily might be considered a middle-of-the-pack employee, or even an under-achiever, who suddenly sees specific tasks and guidelines that could allow them to excel.  This could turn them into a top producer.

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The Takeaway

Employers often looked at a meritocracy as a cost cutting measure, since they only pay for positive performance improvements.  Some jobs however don’t lend themselves to a meritocracy format.  A receptionist or a bookkeeper, perhaps, doesn’t possess a large amount of room to change the company’s bottom line.  Unless you can provide specific goals for them to target, it might be better to leave them on the older system.

More importantly, in the example above suggesting goals (A), (B), and (C), the items (A) and (B) seem to be clear-cut and settled, with little room for interpretation.  Goal (C) of “improving Customer Satisfaction” can be very subjective.  If you can’t find a clear way of measuring it, one employee might earn 3/5 and another could receive 5/5 for no discernible reason.  This can cause a certain amount of turmoil and resentment since it is going to result in a different level of compensation.

Be thoughtful and wise when you implement a new system like this.  Don’t jump in with both feet simply because it’s going to save the company money.  Explain it well; use the old system until a specific date so that no one is blindsided by the change.  This change is already occurring in the highest levels with the most costly employees, but it seems inevitable that it’s going to trickle down.  Be ready for it.


Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

8 Ways to a Stress-Free Job Search

The word “stress”, in and of itself, almost always has a negative connotation.  Our physicians even tell us that the key to a long life is reducing negative stress. It has become part of the paradigm of modern society that stress is bad, and while this is true in many ways, there are certain types of stress which may actually motivate us to do better. Submitting a project on time, reaching a sales goal before a competitor – or in this case, successfully completing a job search — may certainly be prompted by stressful emotions.

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While this type of stress may actually help us with our accomplishments, in its extreme, it can actually have the opposite effect, hindering our full potential.

You can’t eliminate stress altogether, but you can certainly put it in perspective.  Here are some tips for job-searching with a calm perspective:

1.  Stop the checking cycle.

It’s normal to anxiously await a response from a hiring manager following an interview or submission of a job application.  Of course, we know that constantly checking and rechecking your email or text messages is not going to affect the speed at which a message will arrive. It will however, lead to a habitual cycle that can significantly boost stress levels. Make sure your notifications and volume settings are active on all your devices, and then just put it out of your mind and go on with your day.  Another option is to designate a specific time – morning and/or afternoon – when you check your email messages, preferably no more than twice a day.

2.  Leave the past behind.

Refrain from becoming consumed with reviewing your prior correspondence, looking for misspellings or grammatical errors.  If that is the reason they’re not calling you back then move on to the next job and resolve to do a better job of proofreading next time.  Also, if you feel you could have responded better to certain questions during previous interviews, learn from your errors, and make your next interview count.

3.  Organization counts.

Staying organized can also help reduce job-search related stress levels.  Keeping either an Excel spreadsheet or a notebook of all the jobs you’ve applied for, along with contact names, numbers, and emails will ensure that you are not left perplexed and stressed when you do receive those call-backs.  This also includes having interview-appropriate clothing ready to go, as well as enough resume copies and a professional looking portfolio to go with you.

4.  Don’t be over-consumed.

An overly stressful outlook may cause you to feel insecure, which can then spill over into your demeanor and decision making processes.  A super-stressed job seeker may find themselves repeatedly calling a prospective employer in hopes of finding out if they’ve got the job; however, this is never a good idea.   If your interviewer said they should have an answer by next week, wait the allotted amount of time. If the full week goes by, and you haven’t heard from them, then it is appropriate to reach out to them with your inquiry.

5.  Be budget-smart.

If you are job-seeking due to the loss of a job, and are currently unemployed, this can certainly translate to an understandable amount of pressure, as well as adding a completely new layer of stress to your job search. If you are eligible for unemployment benefits, be sure you have filed appropriately and in a timely manner.  In either case, your finances may be tight during this time, so creating a reasonable, yet frugal budget may help you feel more in control during times of uncertainty.

6.  Don’t take rejections personally. 

Rejection is part of life; particularly when you’re on the hunt for a new job.  Jobs sometimes disappear because of a corporate policy shift; because the company has been acquired by (or is acquiring) another company; or because it simply became irrelevant.  Most often, though, it is because they found someone who fit into their corporate culture.  It doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough, or that you should take it personally.  They may have been a better fit; but somewhere along the line you’re going to be a better fit than somebody else.

7.  Seek alternatives.

If you want to expend some of that nervous energy, continue looking for new job openings, and use your time to line up more possibilities.  In this case, it is certainly not naïve optimism to just carry on.  There are always new opportunities and alternative strategies when seeking employment.  Consider looking into webinars or online refresher courses to enhance your marketability, or work on building your professional network, which in turn, could lead to even more employment prospects.

8.  Find time for enjoyment.

A frenzied approach to job hunting isn’t necessarily going to help you reach your objective any quicker.  While your job search is most likely taking up a great deal of your free time, there is no reason you still can’t “take time off” now and then.  Enjoying a Friday or Saturday evening with friends; making time for enjoyable and healthy activities, such as exercise, yoga, shows, music, reading, cooking, or whatever it is that you enjoy most in life is crucial to your sanity and your overall stress reduction.  The job boards will still be there when you get back; except this time, you will have a clear mind and an energized spirit.

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The Takeaway

Everyone benefits from maintaining a centered approach to life, and job seeking is certainly no exception.  Remember not to get down on yourself; and don’t get into a panic because you didn’t get the first, or second, or the third job you applied for.  It’s a process, and there are resources out there to help you make it work.  Don’t worry… Relax… You’ve got this.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

When Should You Make a Lateral Career Move?

Moving upward is certainly not the only option when considering a change in your career.  A lateral (or sideways) career move is classified as a shift to another position of comparable salary and responsibility level.  Individuals who opt for a lateral career move can accept a new, but equivalent, job within either a new company or  their current organization.  While vast differences may not immediately prevail, these types of career shifts can often prove beneficial as time goes on.

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Changing careers, in any capacity, can be a complicated decision. Employees often decide upon a career move because their current job isn’t meeting their needs, whether financially, or in terms of personal and professional growth and fulfillment.

Yet, when considering a lateral career shift, there seem to be an additional group of factors to take into account.

Reasons for and benefits of making a lateral career move

In addition to a sense of monotony within their current position, an employee may seek a lateral change because options for rising advancement are not currently available. Perhaps, however, there is an available position that – while it may offer an equivalent pay and workload – will also offer the employee an opportunity to gain a new skill set and expand upon an area of expertise which will become useful to them once the prospect for an upward promotion arises.

In fact, when the move is made within the same organization, gaining a new skill set through a lateral employment move is not only beneficial to the employee, but also to the employer. The company now has a valued employee with confirmed abilities, newly acquired skills, and a proven dedication to the organization.

Conversely, a new job with a new company means the employee has the opportunity to create new contacts as well as acquire new expertise.  Even a horizontal career move can broaden the employee’s professional network and expand upon their skills and overall aptitude, ultimately enhancing their resume and making them a more marketable job candidate.

While lateral career moves may not come with an immediate pay raise, the general experience may lead to more lucrative opportunities down the road.

Considerations before making a lateral career move

Although there are numerous advantages to making a lateral career change, the decision should only be made following ample research and deliberation.

Does the new position offer a possibility for advancement and growth?  While income may not necessarily be the main consideration in this case, it is wise to research the new job as well as the possibilities and options it may provide in the future. Look to others within the same department or division, and if you find the job is a “dead end” and will never offer any upgrades, it might not be the right decision after all.

Is the career move being made out of sheer boredom or will it prove valuable in the long run?  While it might be fun and exciting to change careers, as with most things, even the new job will come mundane after a while.

How will this move affect your life and career goals?  If the move is one that relates to your current career, it can be considered an extension in your training and experience. If, however, it is too far removed or remote from your current job description, then this would not be a lateral career move, but a complete career overhaul.

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The Takeaway

As the advantages to horizontal career shifts become more plentiful, the practice itself is becoming more widespread and desired within the business world.

Yet, before choosing to make a lateral career move, be sure to do your research. Is your current employer stable enough to sustain your planned career changes? Will the move to a new organization benefit your current career goals? Carefully consider your reasons for seeking a lateral move, and decide if it is the best choice for your professional objectives, both now, and in the future.

Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.