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Job Seekers in the Driver's Seat: Now That You Have a Choice, Where Do You Want to Go?

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The most recent labor statistics show American unemployment at an all-time low. For the first time, motivated and skilled job seekers have multiple options when seeking employment. Most job hunters are no longer asking themselves, ''Can I find a job?'' but ''Which job is right for me?'' But what is the right job for you? The question is as important to you as it is to a prospective employer.

Our company is located in a rural area of southwest Montana with an unemployment rate of less than 2% and relatively high housing costs. However, we recruit and hire 10-15 people per quarter from all over the country and grow our business at more than 25% per year. How do we do it? We have spent a great deal of time talking with candidates and have discovered eight key areas that impact their decisions to accept jobs. And we've incorporated their needs into our company's operating philosophy, including the following:

1. Money is not everything.

Good jobs reward employees with more than money. Studies have shown that money is not the primary reason people leave jobs, so why do companies continue to think higher salaries will attract the best and brightest? We have found that things like incentive stock options, innovative health benefits, a company-run childcare center, and our dogs-at-work policy mean more to people than a base salary.

2. "A" players want to work with "A" players.

Our employees tend to be highly motivated, educated, and frequently the "top" performers at their previous jobs. They want to work with others like themselves. Ask your prospective employer how many candidates he or she looks at prior to making an offer (we look at 50+); it is a good indication of the overall quality of the workforce.

3. People like a challenge.

No one wants to be bored at his or her job and feel like he or she has nothing new to learn. How long it takes someone to get good at the job is normally a good indicator of boredom. Jobs that you can get good at in a month are probably not very challenging.

4. Good training.

We have all seen "sink-or-swim" environments where there is no formalized training for new employees. Ask about training. Is it "on the job," or is there structure and support? Companies that invest in training are investing in you and your future.

5. Good tools.

No one likes to work in an environment without the proper tools and technology. How often does the company upgrade critical technology for the job? Are tools and equipment maintained on a regular basis? The best employees want and deserve the best tools to accomplish their tasks.

6. Opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Dead-end jobs don't attract and retain great people. What are opportunities for promotion based on? What is the performance-appraisal philosophy?

7. Corporate alignment.

A place where everyone is "rowing" in the same direction will always be more successful than its competitors. Does everyone understand the company's mission and competitive advantage? Can all employees articulate it? Our company spends three full days orienting every new employee to our mission, vision, values, and strategy, as well as to the "big picture."

8. No one likes jerks.

Virtually every company has a few jerks. Some have many. Why would anyone want to work with unfriendly, untrustworthy co-workers? Ask around. Most companies have a reputation that is easy to determine. Our company undertakes an employee satisfaction survey every six months. The highest area of satisfaction for our employees has consistently been their enjoyment of and respect for their co-workers.

It takes a lot of extra time for a company to create a great work environment and hire great people. But you now have a choice. Find an employer willing to make this extra effort, and you will have a more fulfilling work experience and grow your career as the company succeeds.

About the Author

Dan Rice has perhaps the most diverse background and job role of any member of the management team. Since joining the company in January, 2003, Dan has taken on the roles of internal legal counsel, information technology manager, facilities manager, community relations lead, grant writer, and the project lead for the location, financing, design, and construction of our new 46,500-square-foot facility.

Drawing on his background in recruiting and human resources, Dan also works extensively with the human resources team to ensure a continuous flow of high-quality applicants and employees. He gained his experience running the day-to-day operations of a multi-state staffing company and has personally interviewed more than 10,000 applicants in his career.

Dan has more than 20 years of experience in legal, political, financial, and operational management of organizations of varying sizes. Prior to joining PFL, he served as a vice president and CFO of a multi-state staffing company which grew from $2 million to $25 million in annual revenues. During this position, he negotiated and completed the sale of the company to an NYSE-traded company. Previously, Dan worked as a practicing attorney, stock broker, and served as legal counsel to the Kansas secretary of state. He holds a J.D. from Washburn University and a B.A. from Wichita State University.

When not wearing one of his many "hats" at PFL, Dan spends time with his wife and three German shepherds, enjoying hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and playing in the creeks near his home.
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