How can you identify an environment in which you will thrive?
Your career is a long arc, and you’ll benefit down the road by taking thoughtful steps today. If you are interested in launching your career in transportation, here are some steps we recommend.
Learn what drives you.
Look internally. What drives you? In what environment will you thrive? What values are you looking for in a company? What is a challenge in the world you can’t ignore, and believe in addressing? Whether you’re about to enter the professional world or you’re already part of it, make sure the job you accept is one that leads to a rewarding and fulfilling career for you.
“What freedom do I have to pursue my passions/drive my path forward in this firm or organization?”
“What are the opportunities for professional growth here?”
Do your research.
How do you know you will be at home in a company? Taking extra steps to understand other employees’ experiences can be enlightening. Visit Glassdoor to read candid reviews from current and past employees. Use LinkedIn or other online platforms to contact companies of interest to ask for informational interviews. Don’t underestimate the power of these meetings—most industry professionals genuinely enjoy giving back, and this can give you an important window into how each company lives out the words on their website, how they select and develop leaders, how they handle challenges, how inclusive of an environment they are, etc. Bonus tip: look for an employer that’s as willing to learn from you as you are from them.
“What steps is your organization actively taking to promote diversity, and how are you measuring your progress?”
“What are you doing to make sure everyone in your organization is supported and included?”
“What diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence training has your leadership had?”
[If the firm has multiple offices or locations] How do offices stay connected? “Do staff work together on projects across offices or tend to work just with people in their local office? What types of projects would I have access to if I work in this office?”
Look beyond the position.
In transportation, there is a big difference between how public agencies, private firms, and academic institutions contribute to the industry. Do you want to work for a government organization responsible for developing and maintaining transportation systems in a specific community? Do you want to serve as a consultant supporting a variety of agencies undertaking transportation projects? Do you want to conduct the research that will be in tomorrow’s guidebooks?
We encourage you to explore the many options in front of you and process answers according to your own interests and needs. Ask questions to understand the financial focus, the professional support offered, and the leadership structure. Be able to explain your preferences to potential employers in a balanced, meaningful way, and don’t compromise.
“What is your mission and how do you see that play out here?”
“What is your financial focus?”
“How would you describe the structure of the firm?”
[for consulting firms] “How do you make decisions about which projects to pursue?”
Assess your offers.
If you’re comparing multiple offers, we encourage you to think about benefits and compensation in a holistic way, to be sure that what is offered matches the values and goals that are important to you.
As you get to know a company’s values, seek to understand how those values play into compensation decisions, such as retirement contributions, annual bonus allocation, paid time off, parental leave, and other benefits as well as the flexibility of those benefits. It’s important to not just compare annual salaries, but to understand the total compensation behind each offer.
“How large is the firm’s retirement contribution? Do I need to contribute my own funds in order to receive it? If so, how much? Is there a vesting period?”
“Who has access to a material annual bonus and how is it distributed?”
“How is PTO, sick, and vacation time allotted? How flexible is usage?”