Why I Left Two of the ‘Top Companies To Work For’

LinkedIn was out last week with its list of top companies to work for.  It’s a list of 50 companies, nearly all of which will be familiar names.  When trying to figure out your first move, or your next move, these lists can seem an easy go to as the best place to start.  However, while I’m a fan and avid user of LinkedIn, I’d recommend giving this approach a second thought.

Recommended as a cheat sheet if you’re ‘looking to make a job move’ or ‘thinking about a new career’, their methodology is actually something of a popularity contest: gauging the LinkedIn community’s interest in a company’s jobs, employees or corporate information and as best as can be told from the accuracy of one’s personal updates, how long their employees stay at that company.

I’ve worked at, and since left, two companies that both appeared on an earlier version of this type of list.  Both were companies that developed meaningful products, hired and developed talented people, offered valuable employee benefits and supported employee efforts to improve their communities.  Their names were well known and employee numbers vast.  As proven by their list rankings, these attributes made them some of the most sought out companies to work for.

Tops for Who?

But what I realized over time is that while my colleagues and I held roles outsiders craved, these were the best companies for SOME PEOPLE to work for but not for me.  On the face of it, this was surprising.  The people I worked with were a lot like me.  Similar backgrounds, similar work styles and a similar drive.  I got lots of advice from them about the right next role for me – based largely on what they saw me do well and assumed I’d be able to figure out how to do well.  What I recognized belatedly is that while my skills were a solid match for both companies, my mix of interests and values were not.

While there are plenty of tools to figure out what you’re good at, digging in to understand your values and what those mean about the environments where you’ll thrive, how the things you gravitated to years ago and perhaps still do can translate into careers, and how to find the common themes across all of them takes some effort.  But it’s well worth it.  Meaning and fulfillment are eminently personal, so don’t fall into the trap of working for A ‘top company’ if it’s not YOUR ‘top company’.

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