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Before You Board

Before You Board

I’ve been traveling a lot these past few weeks – Austin, Colorado Springs, Seattle, New York, Boston. I enjoy and look forward to traveling, whether for work or pleasure. I don’t like the time away from home, but let’s be honest – it is good to get away, take stock of things, and not watch my twelve year-old become mortally offended when I ask her to empty the dishwasher.

The act of traveling itself can be a hassle – TSA, delays, bad weather, early mornings, late nights – but it is great for reflection. I have time to look around in an airport lounge, or open a book on a flight, that I don’t always have when I’m at home. One of my favorite past times in airports is the time honored art of people watching.

A lot of people travel in pajamas. Others in workout clothes. Lots of these people aren’t toddlers or personal trainers. I can’t help but think that if they wind up outside for some reason they are going to regret their clothing choices.

Each flight feels different. Connecting in Chicago or Atlanta means I will likely miss my next flight. Trips to Salt Lake City on Delta feel transient – no one seems to be terminating in Utah. Flights to Washington DC are full of defense contractors, serious professionals with their head down focused on work. Everyone in Denver is chatty, has hiking shoes and a Columbia jacket. People dress for fashion going to San Francisco and for business going to San Jose, even though those two airports are geographically close. Quiet Jewish men with yarmulkes are on the New York flight, and tech professionals in cowboy boots fly out of Austin. Vegas flights crackle with energy. I like flights with families to San Diego, but not family flights to Orlando (most of those parents look like they don’t like that flight either).

I look forward to certain flights more than others just for the feel of them. I feel at home in a crowd that reflects my personality or my interests. It’s easier to talk to people on some flights than on others. When I make these in air connections, the flight time goes faster and I return to earth from the sky having learned something new. Sometimes the flight attendant gives me the whole can of cranberry juice instead of just a cup of ice and splash of red water. I have even made business connections though that’s not a primary goal.

In the world of talent acquisition, the job seeker is the traveler. As you finish up your resume and start hitting those “Apply” buttons on career websites, think about your search in terms of flying. You are at the airport, you’ve had your coffee, and you are ready to board. Your pilot has told you how great the flight will be today, how the weather looks at your destination, and how long you will be in the air.

But how does it feel? If you are going to be in the air for five hours you want to know what the in-flight entertainment is going to be, how full your flight is, if there’s turbulence expected. The same is even truer for a place you could spend two, five, or ten years of your life. What are the employees like? What’s the growth plan for the company and sector? Are there formal career paths and mentorship programs? Is continuing education encouraged and supported?

Company culture is important no matter what your background or experience level in your job search. Do your homework and find out more about that trip, that plane, and the people on board before you stow that tray table, bring your seat back to an upright position, and hit “Apply.”

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