Engineers aren't known for their anthropological acumen. What's anthropology you ask? Why it's the study of humankind; societies and culture and their development to be exact. 'But I work exclusively in the U.S. and I don't need to know about other cultures or societies, I interact with only one - American (or Canadian...or Indian...or French).' Think again. Even within your macro-societal group there are aggregate societies, aggregate cultures. Why do you think no two engineering firms are the same? It's because they have different cultures. Understanding culture will get you further in landing a new job or growing in the one you already hold.
Why? Because understanding culture allows you to build relationships that have value. Understanding a culture gives you the ability to fit in, a prerequisite for making a connection. Not understanding a culture leads to no connection and in the worse case, ejection or conflict. That's why so many wars and other atrocities have occurred throughout history. Different cultures with constituents not understanding the other culture resulting in conflict.
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Understanding the culture of the firm you're pursuing or interviewing with is essential if you intend success. Know what the firm's core values are. Find out how the employees dress. Obtain intel on how decisions are made. While in the interview process, pay attention to the attitudes, language, and interactions between the people you come into contact with. Learn what the firm's expectations are with regards to work accomplishment, vacation, and feedback. All of these elements combine into the culture of the firm.
Understanding the firm's culture is only one side of the equation. Does it equal your culture, the culture you associate with? If not, no amount of pay or size of signing bonus will make the coming conflict vanish. While it may not be a conflict of arms, it will surely be a conflict of mind and heart.
"Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got."
Peter F. Drucker
This article was originally published on Engineering.com and is reprinted in its entirety with permission. For more stories like this please visit Engineering.com.