A recent New York Times article by Adam Grant brings up an important point about the one question a job seeker should ask about every new job. Grant, Professor of Management and Psychology at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, suggests that applicants consider their prospective employer’s culture on fairness, safety, and control, and shares excellent guidance on extracting this information by asking people for stories that reveal the true underpinnings of how an organization operates.
In addition to fairness, safety, and control, I believe that there is a fourth dimension - a "mentorship culture." Every job seeker should equally, if not more, care about how supportive the organization is in helping its employees learn from each other.
Why is this so important?
When you are going to spend a few years of your precious life in an organization, you certainly want to make sure two key things happen to you:
- You learn new skills and enhance your current capabilities
- You elevate your brand by being known as good and dependable in a few knowledge areas
You will certainly stagnate in your career if you don’t ensure these things happen to you at your new employer.
An organization with a mentorship culture means employees are sharing their knowledge with one another very effectively, and in the process are raising the organization’s overall productivity and throughput. If, on the other hand, such a culture doesn’t exist, then employees end up wasting time "figuring out" solutions and bring down their own as well as the organization’s productivity.
So, when you appear for your next interview or are researching a new employer, ask this question: Do they have a formal mentorship program in their organization? Taking Adam Grant’s advice on seeking stories, ask your interviewer their story of how they got to where they are today, and look for signs within that story as to how the organization encourages learning and growing.