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July 21, 2015 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm searching for a new job. What are some tips or things to look out for so I can avoid being in another toxic work environment?

I'm currently looking for another day job that'll support me while I pursue artistic endeavors. My current job right now offers no opportunity for advancement and I have very little in common with my co-workers. They can be very immature sometimes. I understand there is no such thing as a perfect work environment that's free of assholes or bullies but I'm fairly certain that I can find a better one. The trouble is that I don't have a college degree so the jobs that I do find are blue-collar or menial jobs that are usually filled with some colorful people. Ideally I'd like to work with people who are team-oriented.

What are some strategies that I should follow or questions that I should ask when I'm in a job interview?
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune to Work & Money (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
1. Ask about the dynamics of the crew (and don't lead, just let the person answer however they want to answer). Even better, ask if you can meet the team!

2. Ask about turnover. If people stay for a long time, it's a good sign, and if everyone bails at less than a year, it's a bad sign. This is my favorite interview question and IMO the biggest predictor of how long I will end up staying.

3. Ask why the previous person didn't work out.
posted by rada at 7:16 AM on July 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Rada's questions are all good. You might also try looking for a type of job that has less interaction with coworkers, like some retail. For example, working in a bookstore. You'd have to deal with customers, who obviously pose their own challenges, but you'd probably spend less time actually talking to or dealing with coworkers than many other jobs. You'd probably also be surrounded by bookish types who might be a little more mature. Another possibility, since you're an artist- working retail in an art supply store. A grocery store like Whole Foods might also be okay, if you get a good impression from the team (something you could easily check out to some extent before applying). Something like Whole Foods would probably offer good opportunities for advancement to management.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:54 AM on July 21, 2015

I've learned to watch out for people who mention that things can get very intense at work... sometimes it's an acceptable intense, but if it sounds like they have huge expectations with equally huge consequences if you don't meet those expectations, back away. Especially if they don't seem to be very open to training, or allowing for you to learn on the job, they expect you to be a top-performer right away. These are jerk bosses.
posted by lizbunny at 10:32 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not to drive it too much towards retail, but I know a few folks in your general position who worked at Trader Joe's to subsidize school/artistic pursuits/soulseeking/etc and have heard generally good things about it. Everyone always seems in a genuinely good mood when I'm at the store. I was getting some samples at Sephora the other day and the woman bagging them up had the most amazing handwriting. I asked and she told me she was an artist, mostly graffiti and painting, and basically considered her job practice time. The salespeople at Lush Cosmetics are handpicked to be friendly and outgoing to the point where it's actually kinda obnoxious if I just want to browse on my own, but they always seem happy to be working there. The folks at my local Artist & Craftsman Supply all seem like a really good team of people I'd want to hang out with, and there always seems to be someone making art while I am there, both personal projects as well as things for the store.

Point of this ramble, some of the common threads I am seeing in these places:
1. They treat their employees well (as best as I can tell from observation,word of mouth, Glassdoor, etc). Happy employees are good coworkers.
2. They are targeted at certain demographics and tend to hire towards those demographics. They also, as businesses, have 'personalities' and specifically hire with that in mind as well. It's a group that's primed to get on well together.
3. They understand that for many of their employees, it is a Day Job and a stepping stone to bigger and better things, and are supportive of that. That's retail and service jobs in general, but some places encourage it more than others.

Also, I am just an internet stranger speculating, but from looking at your previous questions, I think you would benefit not just from a better work environment in general, but specifically from working with and regularly interacting with more people who are more like you, both coworkers and/or customers. As an extreme example drawn totally out of my ass, I think doing boring admin stuff at a busy creative firm would be better for you than being the one person doing more interesting design and web development stuff but at, I don't know, a construction supplier full of grizzly old men. Besides the general advice above for sussing out the environment, I'd try to direct your search towards places where you can be around other young, creative strivers. If it does end up being retail, you can visit and scope out the place. There's also sites like Glassdoor for reading up on working conditions, although the usefulness varies depending on the type of workplace.

Finally, there is a big leap from "no degree" to "stuck with blue collar jobs". Another extreme example: Bill Gates. Surely there's something along this spectrum for you.
posted by yeahlikethat at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2015

Ask about a typical day. Hopefully that will give you an idea for how many hours you'll work and how productive the team is. I'll warn you against advancing in retail; if you want to just have a day job, going salaried (management) in retail is not where you want to be, because you'll be living to work at most places. Moving up in retail means you sacrifice your life, at the majority of places.

Try to develop a conversational rapport with your interviewer, so you get a sense of their head space. I interviewed at a place where the guy could barely crack a smile and told me that if he left the place for lunch, he would probably never come back. But if I hadn't gotten him to that conversational point, he probably wouldn't have said that.

Don't be afraid to ask about or address what you want. I didn't want another 70-80 hour a week job, and I made it clear in my interview answers that work/life balance was important to me. And now I have that balance. Avoid trying to make your interviewer happy by giving answers that don't accurately reflect your reasonable interests. Good luck!
posted by coast99 at 10:40 AM on July 21, 2015

Maybe seek out employment at frame shops? They don't typically care too much about degrees, and it's specialized enough work that they're often looking for employees. It's at least tangentially in your field, typically pays at or better than retail, and the staff are usually artsy people who still have to be precise and mathematical so there's a level of... reserve is probably the wrong word, but the care required to succeed tends to rule out thoughtless types. Print and sign shops are also good options.

This type of place of employment will also raise the bar because they need specialized skill beyond having a warm body, so the job conditions are likely to be better as well since they'll be more motivated to keep a hard-to-replace worker. And yes, do ask questions like, "What would you say your workplace culture is like?" and "How many staff do you have? When did they join the company?"
posted by vegartanipla at 11:31 AM on July 21, 2015

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