Job searching is stressful. Especially if you’re between jobs and don’t have a source of income. That’s why many of us latch onto the first opportunity we can secure and thus find ourselves in yet another toxic workplace.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. When job seekers prioritize mental health, the job search becomes more intentional, exciting, and ultimately more beneficial for both happiness and long-term career goals.
Our last mental health article discussed how to recover from a toxic work environment and set out on the job search. The next step, which we discuss in this article, is finding a new job that’s a good fit for your mental health needs. This ensures you don’t end up in another toxic workplace. Below, we outline five steps to help you do just that.
We also speak with Psychologist Dr. David Ballard who shares advice on exactly what to look for in a role to make sure you secure a job that’s a good fit for your mental health needs.
1. Define what a “good fit” means
The first step to finding your match is defining your priorities and expectations. And remember: what’s good for others might be bad for you.
“There are some environments that are great for some individuals and a terrible fit for others,” Ballard said. “A lot of it is about the fit between the employee and the organization and the job itself.”
He said there’s one big question you need to consider when trying to figure out if a company is a good fit: do they have the same kind of values that you hold?
“I think another area of fit is the kind of demands and resources that are available and placed on workers in a particular organization,” Ballard said. “Are they a good fit with the skills you bring to the table and the kinds of issues you can handle particularly well?”
He said it’s also important to gauge how much flexibility you need in a job.
“Making sure that if you’re looking at an organization, that scheduling practices and number of work hours, and expectations for being available after hours or weekends or holidays,” Ballard said. “That those fit what your needs and expectations are.”
Some questions to ask when defining your “good fit” include:
- What are my values?
- Does the company share the same values?
- What type of roles and responsibilities align with my skills and strengths?
- What resources will I need to do my job well and maintain my boundaries?
- What are my expectations for when and how much I’ll work?
- How much autonomy and flexibility do I require?
2. Carefully review the job description
First things first with the actual job search—check the job description. Obvious, right? How else are you going to know what the job entails?
However, when trying to make sure a role will be a good fit for your mental health needs, you need to read between the lines. While reading through the job description, Ballard recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- How high stress does this job seem?
- What demands will you face?
- What does the scheduling look like?
- Does this role seem to permit flexibility or appear fairly structured?
- Do they have a fitness center? Do they mention wellness resources?
- How much PTO is offered to help you recharge?
- Do the benefits include mental health services?
- Does the job description mention employee training and development?
- Are there opportunities for growth and advancement?
- What type of actual work will you be doing day to day?
- What does it say are the organization’s values?
“If there are things that you think are really important for a company to be doing, whether it’s being involved in sustainability issues or taking a stand on social issues or investing a lot in the training and development of their workforce,” Ballard said. “Make sure the organization you’re looking at matches those needs and expectations.”
3. Network to understand the culture
There are no better resources for understanding what it’s like to work at an organization than simply asking current or former employees.
“In a toxic work environment or an environment that might not be healthy, you see employees with more physical health and mental health problems. You see low levels of job satisfaction. You see morale that’s really poor in an organization,” Ballard said. “People aren’t as motivated to give their best on a job and aren’t committed to an organization. So they don’t feel connected to the organization they work for.”
In order to find clues about this, turn to networking. You don’t need to come right out and ask if the organization is toxic. Instead, ask about current and former employees’ experiences there. A few questions you can ask here include the following:
- How long have you worked/been working here?
- What would you say is your favorite part of the organization?
- What would you say is the most challenging part of working here?
- Does this organization value flexibility or a structured workday more?
- Can you describe the culture?
By asking these questions in this way, you won’t be pressuring anyone to speak badly of the organization but also open up conversation for them to honestly share their experiences.
4. Look for clues on the organizational side
Ballard said there are also clues to what an organization is like if you zoom out to the bigger picture.
“When you have an unhealthy culture in an organization, you see higher levels of absenteeism and turnover, you see more accidents and injuries occur, higher healthcare costs,” Ballard said. “And you see a lot of problems with performance—so productivity is down, the company has a reputation for being a difficult place to work, or not a friendly place to work. Product and service quality might not be great, customer service and satisfaction might not be as good as they’d like it to be.”
A few ways to search for the organizational clues to a company’s culture include:
- Do a bit of sleuthing on LinkedIn to evaluate factors such as turnover
- Look into the benefits of the company—do they provide solid health insurance that covers mental health?
- Look up employee ratings on websites such as Glassdoor
“I think job seekers can look at things like Glassdoor or ratings of an employer to see what other current and past employees are saying about working there. They can look at the organization’s materials like their vision and mission and values,” Ballard said. “[Also] the kind of benefits and resources they offer in terms of wellness programs and amenities onsite and health coverage and so on.”
5. Interview the interviewer
The last big step to really understanding if an organization is a good fit for your needs is to simply ask the person interviewing you. When it comes to securing a job—especially if you are in a time crunch, bills are looming, and the panic is setting in—it’s easy to forget that you can also interview the hiring manager.
Be polite and professional, but make sure you are upfront about wanting to stay with the company long-term. That means you want to make sure it is a good fit for you as well as you for it. The following questions will help you accomplish this:
- What is the culture at your organization?
- What are some of the challenges your business is facing that this role will help?
- How would you describe your management style?
- How do you define success in this role?
- What do you value in an employee? And specifically to this role?
This Jobscan article about interview questions will also help you navigate this process.
When it comes to job searching, the initial reaction might be to rush through the process. But in order to break out of the toxic work environment cycle, you need to be intentional and ensure you are finding the right fit for your mental health needs.
That’s why our Job Seeker Tracker aims to help you put your mental health needs front and center during the job search. This free tool keeps you focused by providing the following:
- An application tracker to keep you organized
- Prompts to help you think through your workplace needs and values
- A job search mental health tracker
- Much more!