We’re in the middle of what experts (and the media) are calling The Great Resignation, which has seen employees “rethinking their priorities and their relationships with employers” (Linkedin). While flexible work arrangements, salaries, and working for employers who prioritise physical and emotional wellbeing are important, 86% of millennials (those between the ages of 22 and 37) said they’d consider taking a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Culture report.
This report was produced in 2018, before recent events accelerated and amplified these changes, and we’re seeing these trends becoming even more significant in 2022. So, whether you’re just starting off in your PR career, are thinking about your next role, or wondering whether there’s anything you can do to bring your values in line with those of your current organisation, here’s a few simple steps you can take to find a PR role that aligns with your values.
Know what your values are in the first place.
Seems an obvious place to start, but one that can sometimes be missed. There’s a heap of resources on the internet on how to identify your values. Once you understand what you’re working towards, you can then identify what’s non negotiable and what you have a little more flexibility around – or what you’re willing to work towards, if your current role isn’t exactly where you want to be.
Do your research
Where would we be without the internet? These days it’s exceptionally easy to find out things like:
- What do past employees say about the organisation? Check out tools like Glassdoor and Seek to read reviews. Don’t take every bad (or good!) review as gospel though – people with a really negative experience are statistically more likely to leave reviews, as are those with exceptional experiences. If you can, reach out to people who have previously left the organisation to get their personal opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly. Linkedin is a great resource for this.
- What are their published values, and how are they working towards achieving these? Companies like Spell and Outland Denim publish reports that highlight how they are progressing towards their sustainability goals, using real data to demonstrate their progress. It’s easy for companies to greenwash their contributions on their corporate websites, so don’t feel shy in asking for real world examples or data on projects they are actually working on.
- What’s their reputation like on social media? Check out hashtags related to the organisation to see if there’s been any negative press or scandals, and how they’ve been dealt with. Has the organisation responded with real empathy, and demonstrated actions to change in the future?
Overall, remember that every organisation is on a journey, and that the journey will never be complete. As long as a company is demonstrating their commitment to moving forward with real, actionable work, that’s a great indicator of where they’re likely to be in the future.
Shout your values from the rooftops
Be sure to include your values at every stage of your application, and highlight how they align with the values of the organisation. Add them to your resume, cover letter and ask questions during an interview. In the current market, candidates are in a strong position and you should be interviewing a potential employer just as much as they are interviewing you. In an interview, request specific examples of the organisational values in action, for example “can you give me an example of when the organisation valued innovation?”
Do their customers walk the talk?
A great recent example of a brand walking the talk is retailer Biome, who made the call to remove all Camelback products from their shelves after learning that the parent company who made the products was funding gun lobbies in the US. This is an example of a company who not only expect their organisation to operate according to a certain set of values, but are also only working with companies that do the same. Is your organisation turning away potential customers who don’t align with their values, or are their actions more performative than demonstrable?
Look at what behaviours are rewarded.
Who is successful within the company you’re looking to join? What makes them successful? If work life balance and flexibility are important to you, and the most successful people are those who stay until 9pm and are answering their emails on weekends, there’s a disconnect. This is also a question you can ask during interviews: “what makes someone successful here?”
Reach out to companies you admire
Don’t wait for a job opening. If there’s a company you really admire, tell them so! Reach out and share why you’re excited about what they’re doing, and why you’d be a perfect fit for their organisation. Nothing may come of the outreach initially, but start building a relationship and see where it takes you (PRs are great at this!).
Network in the right circles
There is an abundance of groups available for networking purposes these days, focussing on everything from women in business to sustainability in fashion. Once you’ve identified the criteria for the organisations you want to work with, start to move in those circles as it’s likely you’ll connect with the right kinds of people.
We recently interviewed Kelly Owens from Sling and Stone on the topic of finding a workplace that aligns with your personal values, and she had some excellent advice. Not all of us have the luxury of holding out for the perfect role at the perfect company that aligns seamlessly with our own personal goals. See your career as a series of stepping stones, and look at what each organisation has to offer. While all of your values may not align 100%, one or two aligned goals can help you feel comfortable in taking a position where you’ll still learn a lot and that will set you up for future career moves.
If you feel like your current organisation doesn’t align with your values, you don’t necessarily need to throw the baby out with the bathwater – it could be an opportunity for you to instigate change, or at least identify the things that you *don’t* want in your next role.