Getting a Read on Corporate Culture

Updated: September 9, 2020

You’re off to a great start at your new internship—your co-workers are friendly, you’ve met every deadline, and your supervisor seems impressed with your work. But to be truly successful in your new role, you have to understand the corporate culture—and, more than that, you have to fit in. Simply put, corporate culture is the personality of an organization; it’s “how things are done around here.” It guides how employees think, act, and feel. For the most part, an organization’s culture is based on senior management’s values.

Want to better understand corporate culture? Here are our top tips:

  1. Research corporate leadership’s values. If you understand what your company’s leadership values, you’ll understand where the corporate culture is coming from. Start by reading up on the company’s history and skimming any bios on its “Leadership” page. Annual reports are also an excellent source of information, as they detail the company’s achievements, challenges, and changing values. You can also check out the corporate mission statement for a values snapshot.
  2. Look at the employees. Have most of your colleagues been around for several years, or was everyone hired in the last six months? A good culture supports its employees—and that means people stick around. You can also look at company perks, whether there are bonus or incentive programs, number of vacation days, and how much people socialize. Some companies are more parental, while others foster independence. There’s no right or wrong, but if you’ll want to adjust your expectations (and behavior) accordingly.
  3. Consider your supervisor’s leadership style. Being able to work with your supervisor is integral to your internship success. The sooner you can get a handle on his/her/their leadership style, the better. Many leaders possess a combination of styles. Some are more hands-on, while others prefer to step back. Some are mentors, some are advocates, and some are innovators. Once you understand your manager’s style, you’ll be able to tailor your work style and attitude accordingly.
  4. Model company values. Your ability to fit in with the corporate culture will have a huge impact on whether or not you enjoy your internship. For the course of your internship, the company is your community. Your happiness in that community will affect your job performance and your overall well-being. Companies tend to hire people who fit in, so model your professional outlook and behavior to reflect the corporate culture. You’ll be part of the team in no time.