How to Find an Employer Where You Belong, with Rhodes Perry

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 373:

How to Find an Employer Where You Belong, with Rhodes Perry

Airdate: November 9, 2022

Mac Prichard: 

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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Everybody wins when you feel accepted at work for your authentic self. 

You do a better job and enjoy your work more, and your workplace improves overall. 

Rhodes Perry is here to talk about how to find an employer where you belong.

He’s a bestselling author, podcast host, and award-winning social entrepreneur.

Rhodes is also the author of the new book, Imagine Belonging: Your Inclusive Leadership Guide to Building an Equitable Workplace.

He joins us from Milwaukee, Oregon. 

Well, let’s jump right into it, Rhodes. What do you mean when you talk about belonging at work? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Absolutely. There’s four key ingredients I often talk about, and the first is being seen. So, really being recognized for all of your talent, your genius, as well as the lived experiences that you bring to the place where you work. 

The second piece is feeling a sense of connection. So that’s having those strong and meaningful relationships with your colleagues and having that sense that your colleagues really have your back. 

Which leads to the third ingredient, which is feeling a sense of support. So you’re getting what you need so that you can be successful doing your best at work. 

And the last piece is what I think is what we’re gonna dive really deeply into in today’s conversation, is feeling the sense of pride and purpose. And pride really being knowing your values. Those personal values that guide you in life and as well as at work, and knowing that those are in alignment with your employer’s values. Not just the values that are on paper but what an employer lives out and really demonstrates day-to-day. 

Mac Prichard: 

What difference does it make, Rhodes, in someone’s career, and when they organize their job search around these ideas and look for opportunities that provide these four qualities? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Well, I think the really important thing right now is looking at the reality of what we’re in. Which is the great resignation. I like to call it the great reflection. Where last year alone, forty-seven million employees voluntarily left their jobs because of a toxic workplace culture, and when you dive deeper into that, that toxic workplace culture feeds into the costs of not feeling that sense of belonging. 

So many employees feel invisible, unrecognized in the work that they do day-to-day, feeling disconnected, discouraged, and even shamed for feeling those subtle acts of exclusion. So, it’s really really important for an employee to feel that sense of belonging. And because of this great resignation, because so many employers are looking for their next great hires, there’s a real opportunity for everyday people looking for their next great opportunity to really hone in on what their own values are and to be more discerning in their job search so that they can find an employer that aligns with the things that matter the most to them. So that they can feel that sense of belonging at work. 

Mac Prichard: 

In your work, Rhodes, have you found that job seekers today are making a sense of belonging with their employees an important priority when they look for work? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Absolutely. I think that that’s a key factor. Because there are more job opportunities, that could be an important part of the evaluation that a job seeker has when they’re looking for their next great opportunity. So, can they do the job? You know, hopefully, they’re looking for jobs where they can do the job, you know, that they want to do the job. And that third piece is, do they align with the values of that employer? And if the answer is no, you know, there are plenty of other employers where they may have that kind of alignment to really fulfill that last piece, that sense of purpose. 

The really important part, you know, to consider, in addition to finding a job where your skills align with doing the job very well, is really knowing your own values. Right? So that you can answer that last piece, you know, do your values align with the values of an employer? And sometimes, I think we forget that. You know, we might think, oh yes, I know my values. I’m in touch with what they are. 

But I would encourage your listeners to really kind of just take a moment and, you know, if there’s a piece of paper in front of them or electronically, you know, just writing down. You know, what are your top five values that are most important to you? And I think that that can help add some additional criteria in a job search that will set an employee up for success, so they can find an employer that really does align with the things that they value the most. 

Mac Prichard: 

I want to talk more about that and other exercises that you recommend to get clear about how to find an employer where you can belong. But one final question about employer’s right now, especially in this market, Rhodes. Do you think that employers are emphasizing belonging at work when they’re doing hiring these days? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Absolutely. I think, in particular, with the large-scale racial and social justice uprising since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, a lot of employers are recognizing they have to look at their culture. They have to recognize where they’re at now and where they want to be in the future to really have more of a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Those are important foundations to feel that emotional outcome of belonging. 

So, there is an increased focus on doing that work. Some employers are taking concrete actions. Right? And other employers are just getting started, and some are giving lip service to doing that work but don’t have a track record, a demonstrated record of having that commitment of really shifting culture. And that’s important for job seekers to discern. To try to find out what employers are actually doing versus what they’re saying and if the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is for a job seeker, it’s really important that they do their research. We can talk a little bit about some of those things that they can be doing to do their own investigation. 

Mac Prichard: 

Well, let’s talk about that in a moment, and let’s dive into how to find an employer where you belong, and the first step I know you recommend with your clients is to make sure you understand what it means to belong. How do you recommend you do this, Rhodes? 

You talked a moment ago about identifying five important values. But is that part of this process of making sure you understand what it means to belong? Or are there other steps you recommend too? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Well, I think what it means to belong is really looking at those ingredients that I shared. So, being seen, you know. So, for an employee to really consider how employers recognize all that they do in the workplace. So, being recognized for contributions, making sure that teams celebrate successes. We can talk about how to do that in a job interview to asses, you know, how that’s celebrated or not. Relationship building, feeling connected, getting the support that you need to do your best work. That last piece- feeling a sense of pride where your values are aligned with the values of the employer- that’s really, really key. 

Those are the four ingredients of belonging, and I think everybody’s going to have a different response to what that means for them. So, I think for your listeners, it’s to first really consider, do those ingredients align with them when they think about an employer, perhaps in the past, where they have felt that strong sense of belonging, or maybe they’ve never felt that in the workplace, but perhaps they’ve felt that within community or within family. 

That’s super key, and that last ingredient is, in terms of values, knowing what your values are. I think it’s taking time to identify your personal values and just assess, you know, in the last job that you had, did your personal values align with the values of your organization? Chances are, if people are searching for a job right now, they may be one of the forty-seven million employees last year who voluntarily left their jobs because of a toxic workplace culture, and if that’s the case, it’s very likely that their personal values did not align with the values of the organization. 

So there’s an opportunity that folks like that have right now so that they can find an employer that really does match or align more fully with their own personal values. 

Mac Prichard: 

We’re gonna take a quick break, Rhodes, and when we come back, Rhodes Perry will continue to share his advice on how to find an employer where you belong. Stay with us. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Rhodes Perry. 

He’s a bestselling author, podcast host, and award-winning social entrepreneur.

Rhodes is also the author of the new book, Imagine Belonging: Your Inclusive Leadership Guide to Building an Equitable Workplace.

He joins us from Milwaukee, Oregon. 

Now, Rhodes, before the break, we were talking about how to find an employer where you belong, and the first step you recommended was, make sure you understand what it means to belong. I’m curious, do you find that employers and workers define belonging at work in the same way? 

Rhodes Perry: 

I think both employers and employees are similar to kind of diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you had a group of, say, forty people in the same room, there would be wildly different definitions. I find it helpful to use the Center for Talent and Innovation. They’ve renamed themselves Coqual; using their definition, you know, those four ingredients we’ve already discussed. I find that that’s really helpful to share with people to have a common language around belonging to level set. To make sure that we’re on the same page and people typically can relate to that. 

The research that’s been done, and this is a report that was done in 2019; it’s called the Power of Belonging at Work, and that research is helpful because the sample size is very large. It’s statistically significant, and it pulls together those different definitions to try to have that kind of shared understanding of belonging. I think starting there is really key, and it’s helpful for organizations to think about what are the foundations to have this emotional outcome. Right? 

A lot of times, colleagues in my field talk about belonging as kind of this holy grail. Something that feels elusive, but it’s something important that we orient to, and in order to get there, we have to feel a sense of psychological safety and trust with our colleagues, and psychological safety is simply that definition of being able to take an interpersonal risk without fear of negative consequence, and that’s super super important in the workplace, knowing that you can admit to a mistake when you make one, knowing that you can offer constructive feedback when you have it, and without that, you know, so much of, you know, when we talk about values, whether they’re personal values or organizational values, you know, if people want to be creative or innovative, if you’re not feeling psychologically safe, that is absolutely not gonna happen, and it’s detrimental to the performance of an employee and the overall outcomes and results an organization wants to achieve. 

Mac Prichard: 

What’s your best advice, Rhodes, for understanding if an organization does provide that psychological safety and practices some of the approaches that are described in this report you cited? 

How do you discover that when you’re doing a job search so that you can find the organizations that do emphasize creating a place where someone can belong and especially before you accept the job offer? How do you do that?  

Rhodes Perry: 

Yeah, well, I think that we have the advantage of the internet right now, and so, I would encourage those folks who listen to your show, you know, and this is not new advice, I would imagine. But going to sites like LinkedIn, and if there’s a particular employer that you’re interested in applying for a job or, say, you got an interview- really reaching out to those current and former employees, and I would say, you know, those folks who previously worked for that particular employer who voluntarily left, you know, asking them, you know, if they would have a conversation about why they left the organization. And to ask them, you know, simple questions of how decisions are made or, you know, what the stated values are on an about us page or the purpose, and if those values were actually lived out in the organization. 

When trying to assess your question about psychological safety, you know, asking former employees, you know, when you made a mistake or when the team made a mistake, how did the group learn together? How did the group learn together through how to improve a process or do something different? Was dialogue like that welcomed? Was it kind of chilling, you know, if people did make a mistake? And that will be your number one indicator, you know, just safety alone. If that’s possible, safety alone is possible in that particular organization, and compare those conversations with conversations with current employees. Right? 

So, if you can reach out in advance to people that perhaps might be in a different department just to get a sense of organizational culture. To see if they would be open to chatting with you. That’s gonna give you a lot of information, and going back to what we were talking about earlier about values, that will give you kind of a sneak peek into whether organizational values are in alignment with your own or if they’re different and that might save you some time,if it’s a big no. Right? You may want to shift into a different direction. If it’s breadcrumbs that kind of indicate, oh, you know, maybe this is a good place to continue pursuing an interview or to go to the next interview or to accept that offer, those kind of conversations are really key. 

I think another piece of advice on that is to also look at, you know, and this is probably for larger companies, look at kind of media articles. You know, is the company or is the organization receiving accolades for doing something really well? You know, and is it related to company culture or values or the way that employees get to advance? Or is it different? You know, when you start to do that kind of external research through media, are there articles or reports about the company not performing or living up to the stated values that they might have on an about us page? That’s gonna be really, really valuable for a particular job candidate to look into. 

Mac Prichard: 

You’ve talked a number of times, both in this segment and earlier in the show, about the importance of identifying your values in order to get a good sense of not only who you are but also how you want your values to fit in the workplace. What’s the best way, Rhodes, to make sure that your values are gonna fit into a workplace that you’re considering joining? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Yeah, well, I think, you know, identifying them, number one; prioritizing them as well. Right? So, you know, if, for me, a strong track record around advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, that would be number one on my list. I want to work for an employer like that. That’s something I’m not willing to compromise on, but say you have ten values. Maybe there are some that are preferred, but, you know, that’s gonna be really important for prioritization.

Then, you know, if you are in an interview with a hiring manager, for example, you may want to ask them, you know, you mentioned that your company’s values are around advancing DEI. Right? Can you tell me a time when you saw the organization champion, you know, their values on diversity, equity, and inclusion? Maybe they did an event, or maybe they changed hiring practices, maybe they’re equipping their leaders with inclusive leadership practices and training and development. Right? 

That’s gonna tell you a lot in terms of how that particular interviewer answers the question. If they’re struggling to answer it, it may not be as strong of a stated value as it might be on their webpage, for example. So that’s gonna be really, really important for a job candidate. So really, in the interview process itself, you know, really asking those behavioral-based questions to try to get concrete examples, and if it’s harder for folks to find those concrete examples, perhaps those values that you hold close to your heart aren’t as cherished within the organization as it might be stated on a website or elsewhere. 

Mac Prichard: 

Another recommendation you have for job seekers to find an employer where you belong is to recognize that you have agency now, you have power now, probably more than ever since maybe the early 2000s or even the 1970s because it’s a job seeker’s market. Now, you touched on this earlier, in the first segment, Rhodes, but how do you make the most of this opportunity when you want to find an employer where you belong? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Well, knowing that increased sense of self-worth is huge. Right? So, you have plenty of opportunities. There are so many employers right now seeking talented employees. So, if you have a skill, you know, you have something to contribute to a company, know that you have options. Right? 

So, if a company is ready to offer you a lot of money, you know, a new location, you know, that’s always nice. Make sure that this values component is a part of it because you can have all of those things and still feel emotionally exhausted and disconnected from your work if you’re lacking the sense of belonging, if you’re feeling some kind of sting of social exclusion. 

So, remember the power that you have right now. Enjoy it because, as you said, that’s not always the case in the job market. So, this is a real opportunity to shift and to make sure that you’re working for a company that has purpose and meaning. 

Because we talk about this as a great resignation, you know, I’ve heard this before, and I really like it; I think it’s a great reflection. I think it’s a time, and research bears this, that many people are reflecting on the outside roles that work plays in their life. So, if we’re spending the best waking hours of our day on the job, wouldn’t it behoove us to try to find an employer that really sees us and recognizes us and appreciates what we’re bringing to the job because, you know, we know that we’re good for an employer. We want that employer to be good for us as well. 

So, you know, use this opportunity when you’re being interviewed for potential opportunities, know that you can ask your questions as well, and, you know, these kind of behavioral values-based questions are really key, and making that request to talk to people inside the organization at every level to get a sense of how those values are embodied in the organization. That would be kind of my top advice for folks who listen to your show. 

Mac Prichard: 

Well, it’s been a great conversation, Rhodes. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Yeah, what’s next for me? You had mentioned my book, Imagine Belonging: Your Inclusive Leadership Guide to Building an Equitable Workplace. 

We also have a podcast called Imagine Belonging Network, and if you liked this conversation, we have lots of conversations like these. We talk about some of the thornier, the trickier concepts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and how we cascade this throughout the organization, and you get to get connected to lots of celebrated diversity, equity, and inclusion thought leaders. 

So, I really encourage people to check that out and also check out, you know, if they want to find my work. It’s really easy to find me at rhodesperry.com. 

Mac Prichard: 

We’ll be sure to include the URL rhodesperry.com in our newsletter and the website article about this show. Now, Rhodes, given all the useful tips you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to find an employer where you belong? 

Rhodes Perry: 

Know your values and know your worth. 

Mac Prichard: 

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Next week, our guest will be Gillian Williams. 

She’s the president and founder of Monday Talent, a national recruitment firm. 

Gillian’s company has a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and serves people in marketing, communications, and creative services. 

You see a job that excites you. While it’s not in your current field, you know you could do the work if given a chance.

Join us next Wednesday when Gillian Williams talk about how to get your foot in the door when you don’t have the right experience. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

How do you find a company where you feel connected, supported, and have a sense of pride in your accomplishments? Find Your Dream Job guest Rhodes Perry suggests identifying your values and researching potential employers to see if they share those values. Talk to current and former employees and ask specific questions about how teams function in the organization. Find out if the work environment is one that promotes safety, both physical and psychological. Rhodes also emphasizes finding an employer who truly values what you can bring to the job. 

About Our Guest:

Rhodes Perry is a bestselling author, podcast host, and award-winning social entrepreneur.

Rhodes is also the author of the new book,  Imagine Belonging: Your Inclusive Leadership Guide to Building an Equitable Workplace.

Resources in This Episode: