How to identify what you want out of a job

A year into my first job out of school, I found myself feeling content with my job but wanting more. As I embarked on finding and creating a path that would be more fulfilling for me, I found myself pretty confused on how to approach finding my second job. I hope whoever is searching for their second job, this article can help you along the way.

Identify what you want more from your current job

A good first question to ask yourself is whether you need to switch projects, teams, or search for another company. Sometimes, satisfaction with your current job may be very dependent on your immediate surroundings or it can be a fundamental structure of the company you work at.

Maybe you just need to switch projects

If you are feeling uninspired with your current project, maybe asking your manager to switch to another one or alternatively even creating your own project that you are interested in could be what you are looking for. Maybe your teammates are working on problems you are interested in and asking them to help out may be enough to feel more happy with your job.

Maybe you just need to switch teams

Alternatively, sometimes your team may be the reason why. Are you looking for better mentorship? Maybe the area of focus that your team works on was not quite what you were looking for. What if you want a manager that could better help you achieve your career goals? These are all valid concerns, and if you still enjoy the company culture, maybe a switch to a different team would be a good change of pace. Also, it is a lot easier to switch teams than to interview for a new company.

But maybe you need to switch companies

If you feel the company as a whole cannot offer you what you are looking for, this is a good opportunity to really consider what you want. Maybe the role you want at a company does not exist. For example, larger companies have very distinct roles for backend and frontend engineers, but startups tend to have more blended roles for full stack engineers.

Prioritizing yourself and your goals

If you do decide to switch teams or switch companies, the decision to leave your team can be difficult. Looking for a new job — when there are people counting on you — can make you feel guilty or even selfish. After all, working on a team means working in an ecosystem of people who you’ve built relationships with. When I went through it myself, I definitely felt responsible for my tasks and did not want my absence to affect the work-life balance of my coworkers. Plus, many of my coworkers had helped me develop my own skills and leaving felt as if I was taking their kindness for granted.

However, prioritizing your own needs is important, and coworkers who care about you and your growth will understand and support your decision to leave. Investing in yourself is something that you will never regret. In addition, you want to find the right fit for yourself, and by leaving, you give the team and a future person to find the right fit for them.

What values matter to you?

When you do decide that you want to search for another company, considering what you value in a job is most important. These values can be many things, such as the company mission, the tech stack, the company culture, location, and more. What is important to you?

Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

Company mission

  1. Do you align with the company mission?
  2. Is the industry space something that resonates with you?
  3. How do you see the company growing and is that what you want to work on for the foreseeable future?
  4. Can you imagine projects outside of what the company is currently working on?
  5. How can the company impact what you want to see in the world?
  6. What problem do they solve that currently exists?

Tech stack

  1. Do you see a future in the technologies that the company is using?
  2. Do you feel it is worth your time to learn the tech stack that the company has?
  3. Will learning their tech stack propel you further in your career goals?
  4. What are the benefits and pain points of their systems?
  5. How do they balance innovation with maintenance and technical debt?

Company culture

  1. Is the work environment conducive to you learning and able to do your work properly?
  2. Is there a good work-life balance?
  3. Does the company invest in mentorship and their employees’ growth?
  4. What growth opportunities do they offer?
  5. Do you agree with their company values?
  6. In the interview process, did you like the interviewers?
  7. Are the intersectionalities of my identity celebrated?
  8. Do your personal beliefs and values align with the company’s?

Company Structure

  1. How does the company award successes and address failures?
  2. How does their review cycle work?
  3. How do they help employees that are struggling?
  4. Does the management style suit you?
  5. Is it a large company or a startup?
  6. What stage that a company is in is comfortable to you?
  7. Can you work remotely or do you need to be in office?
  8. How do they handle remote or hybrid work?
  9. Can you stay at home for a portion of the week?
  10. Will you be compensated fairly?
  11. What are the pay bands for each level?

How does Gusto stack up?

After all of this deliberation, my job searching process led me to Gusto!

So, why did I choose Gusto? As I wanted to become a more senior engineer, I decided one of the important values I was looking for was mentorship. I wanted to work with other engineers who could support me in my learning and also help me in becoming more knowledgeable as an engineer. I knew that in order to do this, I needed to work on harder projects but also have the support in order to let me complete the projects and learn from them. Here at Gusto, we have a heavy emphasis on pair programming – something that has greatly accelerated my knowledge and skills. This has allowed me to learn from more experienced engineers and also gives me the support I need. I am able to take on more complex projects without fear, as I know that if I am ever stuck, I am a pairing session away from solving my problem.

I also decided to optimize for growth opportunities, as I knew that I wanted to grow my own skill set. From talking to friends and coworkers, it felt that going to a smaller company would provide me the opportunities to learn. I wanted to be on the ground floor building everything, as I believed that more exposure and experience in building products would bring about the most growth in my own abilities. Learning by building and making mistakes would be better. In addition, I also worked as a backend engineer, but I wanted to have a more blended role as a full stack engineer, to own the full end-to-end process. Here at Gusto, we are a late stage startup, which worked well for me. There is still a lot of high growth potential, which would allow me to work on high impact projects, which aligns well with allowing me to grow my skills. It’s important to understand your personal risk tolerance, and whether early stage or later stage companies make the most sense for you.

In addition, I wanted a good company culture. My previous company excelled in this regard. We had great work-life balance, wonderful events and perks, and people that were passionate and respectful of celebrating different life experiences. This experience was so different from what I had heard from friends working in other companies, and I knew this was something I would not give up.

Gusto is wonderful in this regard. Gusto cares about building products that drive a positive impact for society. We don’t just build products that drive revenue. One of the stories that stood out to me during the interview process was how Gusto employees are empowered to speak up with questions and concerns they have about the products and features we’re building and the impact they have on our customers. This was a big motivation in me wanting to work for Gusto, as it showed that Gusto is a company that cares about the products it builds, whether they should be built, and whether they are ultimately good for society. When I started working at Gusto, something that surprised me was how authentic people were with their lives and identities, as sometimes in different work environments, it can be hard for people of marginalized identities to live genuinely in front of other people. In my day-to-day work here, it is amazing to see others fully be themselves at work, which definitely makes me feel that people from all backgrounds are appreciated and celebrated.

Lastly, I really resonated with Gusto’s mission, which was to enable small business owners and make running their businesses easier, letting their business improve their life. As someone who has friends with their own small businesses and seeing the push to support small businesses due to the onset of COVID-19, this mission spoke to me, as it felt Gusto was really trying to use their efforts to help others. In addition, it was really easy to imagine how Gusto as a company would grow into other markets, and how they could add onto their products to continually improve their offerings.

You can find me working as a software engineer at Gusto, working on all things related to web development on the Pufferfish Expansion team. I hope this article is of some help to your job searching process and wish you luck on finding your next job.

Make sure to catch the next blog post regarding how the interview process works.