I field many questions from 1Y’s about firm culture, especially since Direct Supply, where I worked over the summer, is renowned for theirs. Many consider cultural fit an important criterion, but for some it is a second- or third-tier consideration. I would argue though, that finding cultural fit at a firm should be a foundational consideration for everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed my summer and could confidently accept my offer without shopping around. And I owe much of this to alignment between the firm’s culture and my own values and career goals.
Culture alignment made my life significantly easier both in terms of the work that I did and the networking that I engaged in.
Cultural Alignment and Work: Like many students, I came to school to switch careers. This summer I had a steep learning curve as I dove into a new role, company and industry. On top of all of this learning I was expected to uncover novel insights on a consistent basis. Luckily, because I felt comfortable with the company’s culture, I was able to trust my instincts when working, which was absolutely essential to making my way up the learning curve. I had to make a lot of judgment calls between my first day and my final recommendation and I could have over-analyzed the feedback I got along the way. But instead, I felt confident in most of my decisions, including my final recommendation. Business is fraught with assumptions, and when your values line up with those of your superiors and leaders, it makes choosing the assumptions to follow a whole lot easier. Without cultural alignment, the whole summer could have been one big ball of anxiety.
Cultural Alignment and Networking: Despite advice from members of the Class of 2016, I did not fully appreciate how much networking I would do during my summer internship. I met well over 100 people, regularly interacted with dozens of them, and worked closely with at least 30 professionals during my 12 weeks. And you know what made all of this much easier and enjoyable? Cultural fit. I was genuinely engaged and happy throughout the summer which made it so easy to say yes when my offer finally materialized.
Culture can mean different things to different people. For some, the people may be the most important factor: do I enjoy the people, or do they have similar personalities to me? For others, alignment with the firm’s goals may be most important. Alignment can be incredibly powerful and beneficial for both you achieving your goals and the firm achieving theirs. I would encourage you to reflect on what a good firm culture would look like to you and to seek out firms that align with you and your goals, no matter who you are or what your ambitions are.